Since 7:30 last night, many Penn students, faculty, administrators and alumni were glued to their screens, the election feverishly playing in front of them. As the votes came in, many watched in dismay as Donald Trump’s chances at becoming president increased. Until last night, this outcome was unexpected. Hillary Clinton was forecasted to win — or at least to go neck-and-neck with Trump — but as of midnight, Trump had an 84 percent chance of winning according to FiveThirtyEight, and in the wee hours of the morning, the election was called.
And so, Trump is the next President of the United States of America. We acknowledge that he is the first Penn graduate poised to make real change as leader of the free world, and that is a notable achievement. In certain ways, Trump has achieved what many Penn students want in their lives and careers — fame, fortune, political and social power. In many other respects, however, he has represented the absolute antithesis of what Penn and its students stand for — racism, sexism, xenophobia, narrow-mindedness and ignorance of the wider world. We wrote of Trump’s many weaknesses as a candidate in previous editorials and they continue to ring true.
So the question becomes, what do we, as the Penn community, do now?
Our first reaction should not be panic, which, whether on social media or otherwise, leads to no positive outcomes. Trump, whether you like him or not, won the presidency through the democratic process and clearly, many Americans support him. For many, a Trump presidency will change little in the short term, but for many others, it could change everything. In either case, fearmongering and irrationality are counterproductive. Instead of perpetuating hate through name calling, let’s come together as a community and work to advance our interests and make sure that the democracy in which we live does not unravel.
The Penn administration must acknowledge the gravity of the event and the effect it has on students’ morale and, in some cases, their literal existences. The Penn administration must acknowledge and support students’ needs in this challenging time. From a mental health standpoint, some students felt unable to properly prepare for midterms last night, or attend classes today. Although the University must remain nonpartisan, it is unfair that a student’s academic standing should be jeopardized because of the events of the election.
The Penn administration must also finally acknowledge Trump — even if they do not denounce him — because the current silence reads as a tacit approval. While Penn President Amy Gutmann did give a statement about the election at Wednesday’s University Council meeting, she avoided making any sort of comment on Trump. The current embargo on speaking about a man who is a Penn graduate, parent, donor and now U.S. President — but who is also widely denounced on campus — is inappropriate at this time, considering how events have unfolded. Even if the Penn administration is indifferent, that must be communicated to the Penn community at large, or else the administration runs the risk of being misinterpreted. Penn’s minority communities include demographics which have been denounced by Trump, including but not limited to women, LGBTQ students, Muslims, immigrants, disabled people and people of color. These communities are feeling threatened, and the administration has a responsibility to address their concerns.
We charge everyone to be more politically active and aware going forward — even when we’re not in the midst of a widely publicized presidential election. Perhaps this election signals the importance of taking the political process seriously, or at least not treating it like entertainment. We at The Daily Pennsylvanian share in this responsibility and will certainly reflect in the wake of this presidential election.
Most of the Penn community was not expecting a Trump victory, and this shows just how out of touch we — and perhaps much of the higher education community — are with America at large. We did not understand the other side, their fears and wants or the problems that they are facing in their communities.
Rather than calling people racists or bigots, we need to acknowledge and understand that they, in Trump, found a champion for their causes. We at Penn did not fully grasp their problems, nor did we address them. We should use this time to try and understand, rather than pointing fingers or furthering the divide in our nation.
That being said, the Penn community should not compromise its moral standards. Accepting Trump as president does not mean that we accept or condone his more inflammatory rhetoric. For those who feel unspeakably disillusioned by the reality of Trump’s presidency for the next four years, remember what you are feeling in this moment. Rather than cast blame or channel anger into unproductive criticism, use these feelings as motivation to fight even harder to uphold the principles that our president may not.
If anything, it is more important than ever to actively preserve the values of tolerance, inclusiveness and understanding that Penn students represent. Resist calls to “move to Canada” or disassociate yourself from the American people. What this election made clear is the deeply divided state of our country, and we must come together as a community to understand and actively engage with the perspectives of the rest of America, and to work toward a more unified future.
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