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Penn professors and students diverge from regular classroom discussions to election reactions.

Credit: Avalon Morell

Neither students nor professors could decide how to best handle class on Wednesday Nov. 9. While some professors charged through the curriculum, others paused to reflect on the election that ended in Donald Trump’s victory early that morning.

Much of Penn’s campus was tangibly rattled the morning after the election. Cultural centers opened their doors, the political science department hosted a panel to discuss the outcome and College Houses reached out to residents.

With this guidance already available, some students said they found the use of class time to discuss the election wasteful.

College freshman Shoshana Sternstein said the election “should be separate and shouldn’t get in the way of class time.”

Sternstein said none of her classes discussed the result of the election Wednesday, adding that she believes such discussions would not have been relevant to her courses.

College freshman Bobby Bailey said he spoke about the election in two of his classes, French and Africa in World History. He believes his 20-minute discussion in French was irrelevant to the subject matter of the course, but that his 90-minute discussion in history was related since the topic of race has influenced this election.

Bailey said that though he understands the importance of talking about the election, he ultimately thinks the conversations were not productive.

“The class discussion shouldn’t have solely been about lamenting Clinton’s loss,” Bailey said. “It should have been about looking forward to the positive possibilities within Trump’s presidency, and that aspect was pretty much absent from class discussions.”

But other students said they appreciated having class time to discuss the election.

College freshman Patrick Teese said he saw these discussions as a unique opportunity to learn, adding that he was discouraged from discussing politics in his high school.

College freshman Grace Hylinski expressed regret that the issue was ignored in her International Political Economy class. She said she had looked forward to hearing the opinion of her professor Edward Mansfield since he is preeminent in his field.

Hylinksi said the election was discussed in both her writing seminar and her French class. She said that while she does not believe the topic was pertinent to either class, she believes the discussion was merited.

“It is good to talk about the election to get people to move on from it because it was on everyone’s minds already,” Hylinski said. “Even though my class seemed relatively one-sided, engaging in a discussion about this influential event was a great way to get to know other people’s perspectives.”

Dean of the College Dennis Deturk said he stands by professors who chose to discuss the results in their classes. He allotted the first few minutes of his own mathematics class to reach out to students, many of whom he said were shocked and fearful.

Deturk added that he thinks in most cases, students have been glad to feel faculty support, and this makes up for the syllabi disturbances. He added that he believes it is the responsibility of the University to help students “make sense of things.”