After an eventful first year in office, student political leaders at Trump’s alma mater claim to have witnessed striking changes on Penn's campus. From spikes in political activism to an increase in the need for minority solidarity, Trump's inauguration has impacted life at Penn.
Penn Democrats President and Wharton sophomore Dylan Milligan said the club has seen an increase in membership and activity over the past 12 months. According to Milligan, this past fall 120 new members signed up to be part of the Penn Dems deputy board, 100 of which were freshmen.
“There has been a very robust backlash against Trump’s presidency from the student body,” Milligan said. “The energy we are seeing at Penn is indicative of a national anti-Trump energy.”
He added that Penn Dems members have also participated in a number of advocacy campaigns such as canvassing for the November 2017 Virginia election and protesting Trump's travel bans through marches on campus.
For College and Wharton junior Soomin Shin, the chair of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, Trump’s policies, especially his travel ban, have highlighted the need for more cooperation and unity between minority groups.
“Trump’s policies are harmful not just for Asian Americans but also other minority groups,” Shin said. “We’ve become more cognizant of the importance of forming long-lasting coalitions with minority groups.”
This sentiment of cooperation and motivation was echoed by the chair of the United Minorities Council and College junior Evanie Anglade.
“It’s really important for communities disparaged by Trump to support one other, forming an intercultural support system” Anglade said.
“Trump’s presidency has made me more passionate about the UMC mission of supporting the minorities at this institution and promoting cultural awareness and acceptance.”
Co-director of College Republicans Editorial Board Michael Moroz, a College and Wharton sophomore, noted a shift in the political atmosphere on campus, attributing it to increased political polarization in the Trump era.
“Even though there is less shock remaining after a year, I think there is still a bit of hysteria,” Moroz said. “There is generally an environment where you can get ostracized for holding a different opinion than the majority; issues that previously were calmly discussed are now harder to talk about.”
On both sides of the political spectrum, campus political leaders identified the 2018 midterm elections as their major focus for the upcoming year.
Milligan said he was optimistic about November’s elections and expressed hope that his organization can help Pennsylvania Democrats succeed at the polls.
“If we work hard, we can help Tom Wolf and Bob Casey keep their seats, and then help flip some congressional seats in the Philly suburbs,” Milligan said.
However, Moroz maintained that he was optimistic that Republicans could retain control of Congress, owing to his belief that Trump enjoyed an impressive first year as president.
“I think Trump’s first year in office went spectacularly well,” Moroz said. “Despite the occasional verbal slip-up, the actual policies that were enacted have been successful.”