Nov. 22, 2016
Following the election of Donald Trump, students at Murray State cheered, wept, protested and went to class like nothing had happened.
During his campaign, Trump said he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” but his promises in relation to minority groups were more memorable, Anna Vasquez, student adviser of the International Student Organization, said.
These promises include restricting immigration, especially for Mexicans and Syrians, and defunding Planned Parenthood, while his vice president, Mike Pence, voted against the prohibition of job discrimination based on sexual orientation and against recognizing anti-gay hate crimes during his time as U.S. Representative of Indiana’s 6th Congressional District.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2016
In the wake of the election, diversity resources and groups on campus are working to ensure students find the support they may need.
“We’re trying to make sure that people feel respected on campus,” Kelsey Crawford, student coordinator of the LGBT Ambassadors, said. “We also are trying to create spaces where people can come and release that stress.”
After the election, the office of LGBT Programming welcomed students, faculty and community members to a program that offered a space to express any feelings they had after the results came in. University leaders including President Bob Davies, Vice President of Student Affairs Don Robertson and Women’s Center Coordinator Abigail French attended to make sure students are aware of the resources that Murray State offers, Crawford said.
“We’re trying to put as much love out there and put as many resources out there and make sure people are aware of the fact that there is a Counseling Center,” Crawford said. “If you need that type of resource, we can help you get aligned with that. Or if you just need to come and have a place to relax that’s quiet and you know it’s a safe place to be, you can go to the LGBT office or you can go to the Women’s Center.”
The LGBT Ambassadors are also working to create a support group for students to be able to simply talk about how their day is going in a space where they can feel comfortable, Crawford said.
On Nov. 9, the day after the election, students gathered in front of Waterfield Library in a peaceful protest, shouldering signs that read “You don’t get to vote for my rights,” “Black lives matter,” “Pro-choice. Pro-women. Pro-freedom,” etc.
“We’re just speaking up because everybody who ever stayed silent in the face of something like this is how every big disaster in history has ever happened,” said Cole Lawrence, senior from Benton, Kentucky, who organized the protest.
From the office of Multicultural Affairs, Student Services Specialist Anita Chitule wrote in an email after the election, the office will continue to advocate for a campus environment that embraces diversity.
“The challenges for our students did not begin with the election, consequently, they have shown an amazing resolve to strive for excellence by focusing on their success,” she wrote.
In the Institute of International Studies, International Student Adviser Madison Lane said she and her colleagues haven’t heard any response from the international students since the election, but their first priority is making sure students feel at ease about their immigration status here as students and making sure they feel welcome here at Murray State.
However, some international students have expressed concerns related to their student visas, Vasquez, senior from Orange Walk, Belize, said.
“Students are coming in the office asking if they will be deported or what will happen with their student visa,” she said.
As a student worker in the Institute of International Studies, the people who work in the office just have to reassure them that they’re not going to be sent home because they are here legally, Vasquez said.
After graduation, international students have the opportunity to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a period after the completion of undergraduate or graduate degrees during which students may remain in the United States for up to three months while they try to find a job. If they cannot secure employment when OPT is over, they must return to their home country.
Some international students are worried they won’t be able to find a job here because some companies won’t want to hire immigrants, Vasquez said.
“When I found out that [Trump] won, I’m glad that I didn’t apply for that OPT,” she said. “For one, I figured that it wouldn’t be approved now because he doesn’t want any immigrants in the country, and then two, I get to go home and not experience everything firsthand. We do get affected — the entire world gets affected — but being here, you get to experience it at a different level.”
SAFETY PINS & SAFETY
Several offices on campus, including Student Affairs, Education Abroad and LGBT Programming, have begun offering safety pins for students to wear as a representation of solidarity with marginalized groups, Education Abroad Adviser Robyn Pizzo said.
“I think it represents the fact that I am an accepting person who, if you need anything, you can come to me or the fact that you can speak freely in front of me and I’m not going to judge you based on any minority status,” Crawford said.
She said the safety pins bring positivity and they identify the people who would stand with minorities and be in their corner.
There have not been any acts of violence reported related to the election and Crawford said she doesn’t see campus as physically unsafe.
“I think it’s more of the fact that people are not sure who supports them,” she said. “You have to kind of constantly wonder does this person I sit next to in class support who I am and how I identify.”
In the international community, Vasquez said Muslim students from abroad have had the greatest concerns post-election.
“There was this one girl who even emailed and asked if she should take off her hijab because she doesn’t feel safe walking around with it anymore,” Vasquez said.
She said she didn’t realize how bad it was until that happened.
“I think they’re kind of just waiting for the worst,” she said.
Originally published to JMC397ReportingforPrintMedia.wordpress.com on Nov. 22, 2016.