Jordan Moskowitz ’16 and Donny Alvine ’16 celebrated. Montsi Madrigal ’18 couldn’t believe it. Victoria Pitaktong ’17 said she’s still in denial. Zachary Hebert ’18 offered free hugs. Across campus, Bowdoin students reacted to Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States.
Ural Mishra ’20 is an international student from Nepal. He couldn’t vote in the election, but closely followed the results and expressed fear at Trump’s victory.
“I do not feel safe in this country. I know there are a lot of people who feel the same way,” he said. “Skin color is the basis for hatred. And now we have a president that’s all for it. He’s normalized it.”
Like Mishra, Aziza Janmohamed ’19 couldn’t vote in the election. She’s Muslim and a Canadian citizen, although her parents currently reside in Pakistan.
“He’s said in the past he wants [Muslims] to carry identification and maybe do a travel ban from all problematic countries, and those are all mostly Muslim countries,” Janmohamed said. “If he does place a travel ban on those countries, my parents live [in Pakistan], so does that mean my parents can’t come and watch me graduate? What does that mean for me?”
The election results broke in the early hours of Wednesday morning. On Tuesday night, many students gathered for public viewings in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, the Women’s Resource Center and David Saul Smith Union. At the Union, where students watched CNN on a large screen, the mood grew from tense to somber as the night wore on. The crowd initially cheered when Hillary Clinton was announced the winner in states like Colorado and Virginia. But as the electoral map began to favor Trump, cheers were replaced with groans.
In an election survey conducted by the Orient last week that received responses from 631 students, 88.6 percent of respondents indicated that they supported Hillary Clinton, while 6.6 percent of respondents supported Trump.
At 1:41 a.m. Wednesday morning—minutes after the Associated Press reported that Trump had won the state of Pennsylvania—Liam Gunn ’17, electoral engagement fellow at the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good, took to the microphone.
“It has been called, with Donald Trump elected to be our next President of the United States,” Gunn said.
His announcement was met with gasps from the crowd and many students broke out crying. Wednesday morning, students were left grappling with the news—and their emotional reactions to it.
“It was pretty depressing on campus [Wednesday],” said Nina Alvarado-Silverman ’19. “It really felt like a funeral.”
“I’ve never been in classes that were as silent as they were yesterday,” said Rowan Staley ’17.
Many students expressed fear and concern about Trump’s proposed policies. Pitaktong highlighted the racism that she believes Trump’s campaign embodied.
“My parents actually went back to Thailand years and years ago because of racism in Tennessee,” Pitaktong said. “They were always concerned about my well-being here, and I said, ‘It’s 2016, it’s fine.’ But I don’t think it’s fine anymore.”
Alexa Horwitz ’19 said the anti-LGBT rhetoric from Trump and his running mate Mike Pence was a serious concern for her.
“I came out last year, and I’m really proud of who I am and that’s not going to change,” Horwitz said. “[I’ve been] reading articles this morning saying the first thing he’ll do in office is make sure you can discriminate against LGBT people based on religious grounds … It’s a scary place to be in.”
Hunter White ’17 shared Horwitz’s concern for the gay community.
“I’m definitely upset about [the election result], even though I would definitely say I’m pretty moderate, probably not as liberal as the average Bowdoin student,” White said. “But [I’m] definitely still really upset and worried about my family. I have gay moms, so I’m worried about gay people in America particularly.”
While White was concerned by the results of the election, he emphasized the need to understand the factors behind support for Trump.
“A lot of students at Bowdoin are really interested in working in urban poverty, like urban education things, but rural people are really left out of everything,” he said.
Heather Gans ’19 admitted she was searching for answers after Trump’s victory. Like White, she thought it was important that Bowdoin students recognize the range of beliefs that exist outside of the College.
“Bowdoin is such a bubble. And I think it’s really important to get outside of that bubble and really understand people’s opinions,” Gans said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Hebert had an antidote for his classmates’ woes. He walked around central campus with a sign reading “Free Hugs.”
“I went to class [Wednesday] morning and the majority of my class was feeling pretty upset, like visibly upset, and so I thought this would be a good way to do what I can to change that,” Hebert said. “I’d say I’m averaging about a hug a minute.”
The McKeen Center and Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) led a discussion on Wednesday afternoon to help students process the election results. Originally scheduled to be held in the Smith Union conference room—which seats around 10 people—the discussion ended up moving to Morrell Lounge after Trump was elected. Hundreds of students attended, as did President Clayton Rose, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster and numerous other faculty and staff members.
Addressing the crowd, Rose advised students to engage with people who had voted differently.
“Blatant racism, homophobia, xenophobia, nativism, Islamophobia and admissions of virtual sexual assault … are completely unacceptable,” he said. “But there’s another thing going on. There’s a battle of ideas going on. And there’s a huge group of people that we know and we like and we love who are voting differently than some of us.”
Both students and faculty addressed feelings of devastation and discomfort during the discussion.
Director of Student Activities Nate Hintze said he struggled with how to address the election with his kids.
“I worry about what [example] this sets for our children,” he said. “Whether it’s OK to make fun of disabled people or say things [he does] about women.”
Assistant Professor of Sociology Theo Greene recognized the anguish that many students felt. The first time he voted in an election was in 2000, when George W. Bush beat Al Gore in a close and highly contested race.
“It took me hours this morning to prepare for my class and I still wasn’t ready for what I walked into and saw all these beautiful, sad faces,” Greene said. “But I also found myself deeply inspired by those sad faces because what I saw in those faces was incredible passion for politics.”
In a survey conducted in the spring by Professor of Government Michael Franz and his Quantitative Analysis in Political Science class, 32 percent of students surveyed said they felt unsafe expressing their political views on campus. Those who expressed that sentiment were on average more conservative than the average student.
Alvine wears a Trump sticker on his backpack.
“A lot of people have been calling me a bigot and a racist, stuff like that. But I don’t really let it phase me too much,” he said. “I do feel sympathy for a lot of people that did support Hillary, because I have family members that were Democrats and supported her and I can see their side of the argument, the things they find important.”
Moskowitz, who voted for Trump, also attended the discussion in Smith Union on Wednesday, but he didn’t speak up.
“I didn’t want to upset anybody even further,” Moskowitz said.
He noted that tensions have been high on campus following Trump’s victory.
“I was wearing my ‘Make America Great Again’ hat [and] I got a lot of dirty looks,” Moskowitz said. “No one said anything to me per se, but a lot of dirty looks.”
Bowdoin’s Trump supporters hope that students and other Americans who oppose Trump will eventually see the benefits of the Trump presidency.
“I really hope that the party can be able to come together and bring America together and show that this is the best outcome for the United States,” said Westly Garcia ’17. “Hopefully there will be a lot of progress and a lot of growth because of this. And we’ll be able to fix this kind of big division we’ve seen because of this election.”
Many students highlighted the importance of continued political engagement.
“I don’t think this is something that we should just take a few days and move on. I feel like it deserves more than that,” said Staley.
“An election is not meant to be the end of the policy process and the democracy, it’s supposed to just be the first step,” Gunn said. “There are so many ways you can get involved afterwards. And whether you like or dislike the person who is elected it still important to be engaged. To hold that person and all other elected officials at all other levels accountable.”
Surya Milner contributed to this report.