On the day after Election Day, Thomas Golembeski, a junior diplomacy and international relations major, woke up and proudly put on his “Make America Great Again” hat and “Hillary for Prison” t-shirt.
“I’ve worn this hat since March and I was not afraid to admit that I was a Trump supporter. I was very happy,” Golembeski said.
At the same time, Clinton campaigner, Teagan Sebba, a senior political science major and president of the Student Government Association, was rolling out of bed still in her pro-Hillary Clinton t-shirt from the night before, waking up with noticeably puffy eyes.
“It felt like a bad break up with a boyfriend and then you go to campus and everyone knows,” Sebba said.
This juxtaposed image is not unique to the morning after an election, where one side wins and one side loses. However, what happened during the three days following the election was unusual. So far on campus, there have been three reports of harassment or potential threats that are directly related to the election results, said Patrick Linfante, director of Public Safety.
The reported incidents included a student threatened with a water gun if they changed the television channel during election coverage, an unknown student wrote “Build A Wall” in marker in Aquinas Hall and a Trump supporter feeling unsafe on campus.
Public Safety was quick to point out that three incidents is about the weekly average for crime reported on the Seton Hall campus. What they said was out of the ordinary was the political nature of the incidents.
Last Thursday afternoon the entire student body received an email from Dr. Tracy Gottlieb, vice president of Student Services, addressing the bias incidents experienced on campus after the election. The email called for inclusiveness and respect on campus.
This was the first presidential election that many Seton Hall students were eligible to vote in. A lot of students were sharing sentiments that this feeling after an election was unusual. Analyzing reports of bias incidents provided by Public Safety, after the 2008 and 2012 election, there were zero, compared to this year’s three that are still under investigation.
“This election has pitted friends, roommates, parents, children, and colleagues against each other. I can’t remember another issue in recent memory that has been this divisive,” Gottlieb said in an email interview.
One student experienced this firsthand.
Amber Puig, a sophomore broadcasting major, was walking to campus with her boyfriend last Wednesday, Nov. 9, and said she expressed to him she feared the election would create a divided community. Later that day she said she was standing in the Arts and Sciences building, bent over to get something from her bag, when a male student walked by and allegedly slapped her butt. As he walked away Puig reports he said, “If my president can do that now, so can I”.
“It was a very worrisome experience because he was using Trump as an excuse for what he did. It is more scary because people think just because this guy in power made light of these situations, it makes it okay for day to day people to do those things,” Puig said. “It totally affirmed all of the fears I had about a Trump presidency.”
Puig reported her incident to a campus official, but not directly to Public Safety so it was not included in the three reports Public Safety received. However, Puig was not alone in feeling divided.
Golembeski said as he was walking across campus wearing his bright red hat, he experienced glares and eye rolls.
Self-proclaimed Clinton supporter, Tyler Hubbs, a junior diplomacy major, admitted that he was so angry on Wednesday that he walked up to someone wearing a Trump campaign cap and berated the individual.
“I felt anger, honestly. I am not a perfect human being and I don’t always keep my emotions in check,” Hubbs said. “I am fully willing to say that would not have ideally been the best thing to say, but I am taking it as an opportunity to now move forward and create dialogue.”
Hubbs said he was able to take his anger out in a more productive way later that afternoon when he was walking across campus and saw that someone wrote “Trump 2016” underneath Xavier Hall. He was on his way to class, but said he could not stop thinking of the graffiti during the entire class period. As soon as he was released he ran up to his room, emptied out his trash can and filled it with water. Grabbing a rag, he ran downstairs to try to erase the graffiti .
“I got a lot of support from people, but also anger from those who supported Trump,” Hubbs said. “I tried to rationalize it by saying whoever had written it was making an act of political expression. This bucket and rag were my ways of making a political expression.”
Other students also expressed their political views. Whether it be “Make America Great Again” written on the sidewalk or “Not my President” signs in dorm windows, students have made their beliefs known. These displays of emotions have triggered mixed reactions.
“People are overreacting…I didn’t do this after Obama was elected,” said Christina Dunham, a senior environmental studies and Catholic studies major who has supported Trump. “I didn’t cry about it.”
Golembeski, the student who wears his “Make America Great Again” cap on campus, said the incidents executed by Trump supporters are making him angry. “Just because Donald Trump makes bad comments, doesn’t make it right,” Golembeski added. “You can’t be an overzealous winner and then complain about people. It proves the stereotypes that go with Trump supporters.”
Sebba, the SGA president who supported Clinton, said these bias incidents sadden her.
“Right after election results came someone tweeted a picture of them flipping me off saying ‘Make America Great Again,’” Sebba said. “I would never dream to do that.”
However, Sebba said amidst the mean spirited comments on Wednesday, she stumbled across a group of students on the green having an independent prayer service with a message of coming together.
“I really appreciated the students welcoming me into their circle and holding hands with them,” Sebba said. “Hearing minority groups-black men, girls wearing hijabs-saying we can come back from this…There was one part where we said ‘I love you’ to each other and I knew we can come back from this.”
Students like Dunham don’t agree with that sentiment. She asks, “Come back from what?” This was the candidate that she voted for.
“I don’t get good vibes from that,” Dunham said. “I have no problem praying for this country. I would have prayed either way. I was praying during the election and before.”
However, students and administrators are saying that this is now apolitical and instead are shifting attention to a call for unity.
Even President-elect Trump looked right at the camera during his interview with “60 Minutes” this past Sunday and told any of his supporters who are harassing minorities: “Stop it”.
In the same vein, a peace vigil was held on the Green on Monday evening. Dr. Mary Balkun, a professor and chair of the English department, was one of the lead organizers.
“This is not about whether you are a Trump supporter or Clinton supporter. This has been nasty on both sides. I’m sure that nastiness on campus is not relegated to just Trump supporters,” Balkun said. “This is a moment for the community to come together and say what we are about- peace and love for each other. We will not tolerate incivility and violence on either side.”
Sebba emphasizes that this has to be a time that is not about what political party you support, but coming together and stopping violence. “A setback doesn’t mean our values have changed. We have to move forward together,” Sebba said.
Golembeski is going to go back to wearing his Detroit Tigers baseball hat, maybe his NY Rangers puff hat, and put the “Make America Great Again” one to rest for a little while. “It’s my way of saying let’s put the election behind us. Accept the fact that Trump is president and move forward together,” Golembeski added.
At Xavier Hall, Hubbs put down his bucket after wiping off the political graffiti and smiled. “Now more than ever- every single person who feels affected by this needs to stick together. Now it’s important to create relationships with others and connect with others. Even from such a tragic occasion, we can definitely rise above, like a phoenix from the ashes.” Hubbs said.
Public Safety wants all students to come forward and report all incidents. “If you experience any incidents, report it,” Linfante said. “Come to Public Safety, we are here to help you.”
Gottlieb has one more message for the student body.
“We take every report of incivility seriously and investigate to see if there is substance to the complaint. My hope is that all members of our community – students, faculty, staff, administrators and clergy – remember that at Seton Hall, we consider ourselves family. Families argue, sometimes heatedly, but always reconcile and come together again. We treat each other civilly and we respect our differences,” Gottlieb said. “I am sure the SHU community is up to this task.”
Siobhan McGirl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.