By Ellen Garnett
It was a somber day at Simmons College the day after the U.S. voted into office President-elect Donald J. Trump. Simmons came together in a huge way at Common Grounds Café to hold a community forum for students, staff, and faculty to vent their feelings on the results of the 2016 election.
President Helen Drinan and Provost Katie Conboy guided the forum and reiterated that it was not meant to alienate anyone based on their political beliefs, but rather provide a safe place for people to express their concerns and feelings about the new president.
“We are not powerless people,” said President Drinan. “We can continue to live the values of this community and the things we hold dear and stand up for them.”
Students and faculty alike stepped forward and spoke up about various issues and how the administration will address them to provide a place of support. One student brought up student debt, referencing the Dow Jones substantial plunge of 750 points on election night when Trump took battleground states.
Although President Drinan acknowledged she did not have all of the answers, she pointed to the safety nets in place to protect the U.S. economy, namely the checks and balances involved in the branches of government. She also suggested that the College could use its position as a liberal arts, women-centered institution to affect change.
“Simmons could become more political,” said President Drinan, citing the College’s role in organizations such as the Women’s College Coalition, the Women in Public Service Project, to name a few.
Students came forward to express their support for their fellow peers.
“It’s important to be uplifting student voices,” said Eust, a member of the Simmons College Alliance, an organization for the LGBTQIA+ community. “We still have our voices. We can still organize, we can still mobilize.”
Another student emphasized the helping hands at Simmons.
“Your peers of color support you and there are resources available,” said one Simmons student. who encouraged attendees to reach out to peers, student leaders, faculty, the administration, and the Multicultural Office, which serves as a safe place for students and faculty. “This community is always here to welcome you, your identity, your struggle, your pain. We feel it, maybe at different levels, maybe at different identities, but you are valid and this will not take away from who you are as a person or who you are at Simmons.”
Dean of Student Life Sarah Neill, also let the forum attendees know about the Counseling Center as a resource for students. The Center recently hired a new clinician to support counseling services. Members of the Simmons community were involved over the summer in developing a Bias-Response Protocol to deal with issues of discrimination at the College. It is already up and running, but there will be more information on this new policy soon.
Faculty members reached out to students to provide their own perspectives on the results of the 2016 presidential election.
“I would encourage us to really be aware of the waves of assault…that will be coming,” said Professor Gary Bailey, a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and of the Bias-Response Team. “As a black gay man, I get it…We have to be more than just bystanders. We are going to have to take action to stand up and speak up for each other.
Provost Conboy reiterated Simmons’ stance on discrimination.
“We will not have [hate speech] on our campus,” said Provost Conboy, in reference to the reported hate crimes involving Trump supporters throughout the country.
In response to the new Trump presidency, Simmons has introduced various activities to engage students and faculty in meaningful conversations and to help members destress. Dean Neill sent out an email to everyone outlining “Post-election Events” this week, which include conversations about how to deal with family members’ political differences over Thanksgiving break after the election, amongst other themes.