Approximately 150 people packed into an auditorium in the Golding Judaica Center to attend a discussion about the recent election results facilitated by Prof. Anita Hill, chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department.
The gathering was supposed to be held in Rabb 119, a seminar style classroom designed to accommodate approximately 20 people. The room was too small to hold the overwhelming amount of attendees. A mix of students, faculty and administrators trooped across the Humanities Quad to Golding 110, a lecture hall with a capacity of 120.
The event was publicized through the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) listserv and a Facebook event. Hill invited the community to come to “a special session to talk with fellow students, staff and faculty about where we are now and how we will move ahead,” she said in an email to the WGS community.
All students, faculty and staff were welcome to attend the event, regardless of their affiliation with the WGS department. The majority of attendees at the gathering were women.
Hill opened the discussion by expressing her concern and pain for the country. “It’s difficult for me to talk about,” she said. She opened the floor for students to speak about their reactions to the election on Tuesday, but asked a question to frame the discussion.
To guide the discussion, Hill asked, “As Americans, who do we want to be? In many ways, we see the kind of America we want slipping away from us,” she added.
However, she also articulated the meaningfulness of the support system the Brandeis community created. “Never underestimate the power of Brandeis,” she said. “Just by being here you’ve … already said that Brandeis is a caring community that not only cares but will stand up and respond to fight these dark forces.”
Hill made it clear that students offering their thoughts would be supported and listened to.
The first student to speak expressed the fear she felt after her parents had called her and told her not to come home to India for Christmas. Her parents thought she might not be able to come back into the United States in January. “I am just extremely scared, not just for myself because I have a home in another country … but for every single person who does not have a place to go back to,” she said.
Another student questioned how we can support those who don’t have a support system. She explained that it is easy to feel secure in a place with largely liberal views. An alumnus who later called in to the discussion described it as “The Brandeis Bubble.” Those who live in more conservative areas but have liberal viewpoints might feel lost or like there is no hope.
“A lot of pain, a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty,” is how a graduate student from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management characterized the feelings of voters in this election. He further explained that the Trump supporters he knew had voted for him out of a sense of fear. The Brandeis community needs to come together to get past the uncertainty and fight for what they believe in, he said.
Hill referenced past movements to emphasize the power of unity, including LGBT+, women’s rights and civil rights. The student social movements on Brandeis’ campus have been fractured for far too long, according to Sabine von Mering, professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Center for German and European Studies. “We need to work together … We have been silo-ing our movements,” she said.
The audience was invited to turn to the people next to them and get to know each other, so that in the future it might be easier to reach out. Attendees were asked to tell each other where they draw their support from.
One audience member brought up an idea posted in the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group that makes her feel supported. The idea is to wear a safety pin on a piece of clothing if you designate yourself as a “safe” person to turn to in an uncomfortable situation.
Hill draws inspiration and strength from her ability to look to the future and see opportunities where none existed before. “The ability to see beyond the pain, beyond the hurt, beyond the barriers and see the possibility and know that we have to be prepared to get there,” she said.
Jeffrey Lenowitz, assistant professor of politics, emphasized the necessity of voting in the midterm elections in two years. “All we need to do is convince some of those people who stayed home to come out and actually vote in the midterm election and we can make Donald Trump’s life a living hell,” he said.
This discussion was not the only event that took place on campus as a result of the presidential election. The Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF) held a meeting of support and discussion for anyone who wanted to attend on Thursday night.
Miranda Hurtado-Ramos ’19 organized a walkout on the Brandeis campus. “The People’s Walkout” references a series of peaceful protests in east LA by Chicanx students in 1968. College and high school students walked out and protested on campuses across the country starting on Wednesday.