As 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump's chance of victory in the presidential election became more and more likely, students on and around campus reacted with hesitancy and shock.
As of 12:49 p.m. on Tuesday, The New York Times projected Trump had over 95 percent chance of winning.
“I had to leave the watch party at Harvest. It was too much,” Co-President of Penn for Hillary Sam Iacobellis said. “Regardless of what happens, I am extraordinarily proud of the work that we put in. I don’t regret a second of it.”
College senior Ben Fogel, a Republican, was also dismayed by the current atmosphere on campus.
“I have been going back and forth from Smokes and Harvest for the GPA [Government and Politics Association] watch party,” he said in an interview. “It is the most miserable and most depressing scene right now. People are actually extremely upset right now.”
Late Tuesday night, the site of the Penn Democrats watch party felt bleak, with very few people still in attendance. Over at Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar, as it approached 12:30 a.m., GPA President and College senior Sarah Simon led the final group of students from the restaurant; some held back tears while other carried posters and cardboard cutouts of candidates.
College senior and GPA board member Jack Hostager said that the overwhelming reaction of the night was one of shock.
“[The night] was about frantically looking at poll numbers, trying to piece together a path for victory for Hillary. It was trying to analyze a way out of the situation,” he said.
Founder and former president of GPA Louis Capozziwas also at the watch party. Capozzi, a former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist who is now a Penn Law student and graduated from the College in 2016, added that the shock from the election results was especially acute on Penn’s predominantly liberal campus.
“We, as Penn students in our bubble, don’t understand what’s happening out there in the rest of the country,” and tonight the country gave us a big middle finger and told us ‘get with the program’”
Together with Capozzi and Hostager was College senior and fellow for the Hillary Campaign Madison Lane. She had attended the watch party after a long day of organizing volunteers and canvassing neighborhoods in West Philadelphia as a last attempt to gain support for Hillary.
“I poured a lot of time into Pennsylvania,” Lane said. “So when they called that, it was pretty much the end for me,” Lane said. “We did everything we could.”
Meanwhile, at Smokey Joe’s, students gathered to watch the election returns.
Penn junior Jake van Arkel, sipping on a beer by the entrance of Smokes bar on 40th and Walnut Street, was content Smokes was not packed Tuesday night. Penn students trickled in and out, ordering pitchers of beer and staring at the television screens showing CNN’s coverage of election night.
As Trump began to pull ahead, many students expressed surprise.
“I expected Hillary to be winning by way more,” said van Arkel, a Philadelphia native.
Some students made their way out of the bar, realizing the election wouldn’t be called until early Wednesday morning.
“What makes me sad is that you see this divisive language throughout the election,” said van Arkel’s friend Anders Larson, a Wharton junior from Brooklyn. Larson supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the primaries - he was upset Clinton was trailing behind.
“The Dow is down 800 points, dude!” said van Arkel, referencing financial market fluctuations caused by the uncertainty of the election results. “Holy shit,” responded Larson.
Down the bar, another of their friends, a Wharton senior from Colorado who refused to be named, was surprised with the reported projections — despite having voted for Trump.
“I voted for Trump because it was voting between two evils,” said the senior, showing off his grey Trump-Pence T-shirt hidden under his button-up. He said he had spotted 2 or 3 other Trump supporters at Smokes on Tuesday.
As final results loomed closer, the Trump supporter took some time to reflect on what the projections meant for the future of the country.
“I think the country feels differently than a lot of people think.”
At Rodin College House, meanwhile, many students watch in confusion, frustration and disappointment as Trump won key states, including Pennsylvania.
“It’s just tough to see how far America still is from the America that we want to see and I think that’s the most difficult part for us," College Junior Nathan Korsen said.
Stragglers from the various viewing parties across campus trudged down Locust Walk in a manner that one passer-by described as “desolate”. The Quad, usually buzzing with activity and energy, was silent and deserted, reflecting the shock of students as they watched Donald Trump closing in on the White House.
A student at a viewing party in McClelland Cafe said he “didn’t think Pennsylvania would matter, but it makes me happy that I voted here.”
Iacobellis, of Penn for Hillary, said a Trump presidency is the biggest challenge that the U.S. has faced.
“Our country has survived the civil war, the cold war, the two world wars... we’re a resilient people. The republic will endure,” he said.
Hostager agreed, saying that he does not think it will be “cataclysmic.”
“We are stronger than one president and what one president can do,” he said.
Charlotte Laracy, Nicole Rubin, Remi Lederman, Esha Indani, Kelly Heinzerling, Rebecca Tan and Sarah Fortinsky contributed reporting.
This story was last updated on Nov. 10 at 8:49 p.m.
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