It has now been over a week since Donald J. Trump was elected president, and across the country, people have both celebrated and grieved his victory. Protests and rallies have spanned 3,000 miles—from Los Angeles to here in Boston. With the country in such a divisive state, violence and hate-motivated speech have broken out on college campuses across the country.
In the last week at Boston College, students have come together in solidarity, hosted safe spaces, and rallied against Trump. Among some BC students, there has been an outcry of emotion and fear, notably in social media posts and in a rally held Monday night by Eradicate BC Racism.
The Graduate Student Association voted unanimously on Wednesday morning to internally approve the idea of turning BC into a sanctuary school. At a “sanctuary school,” undocumented students are protected by the university. This comes after Trump promised to deport 3,000 illegal immigrants in his first 100 days of office and to repeal Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA currently allows young undocumented immigrants, including undocumented college students, to apply for temporary protection from deportation.
Craig Ford, the executive director of the GSA, said he will now begin to work with other student leaders to draft a formal petition. Russell Simons, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) president and MCAS ’17, said that the idea has been presented to him in the last couple of days, but as of right now, UGBC has no official plan to push the initiative.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Eradicate Boston College Racism released a bias, oppression, and hate crime report form. Eradicate is looking to inform allies, collect data, and direct students to support.
While student groups have lent support over the last week, there have been several alleged incidents of hate speech reported at BC. In the last week, students on both sides of the political spectrum have been verbally attacked or targeted for their views on the election.
According to Dean of Students Thomas Mogan, last Tuesday, the Office of Residential Life filed a report between two roommates who were involved in a verbal altercation. According to the report, a derogatory comment was made toward one of the roommates, which led to the incident report.
Mogan noted in an email that the Office of the Dean of Students does not normally release these reports, but because of the gravity of the situation over the past week, students must be made aware of the resources available. He encourages students who have been victims of bias-motivated intimidation or actions to report their experiences to Residential Life, the Office of the Dean of Students, or BCPD.
Over the past week, several professors have chosen to discuss the election with their classes. Eve Spangler, a sociology professor, surveyed her students to assess their feelings following last Tuesday night.
Students shared their personal experiences of hate-motivated speech, but Spangler did not feel comfortable sharing the students’ names.
“This is really different for different social classes.”
—Deborah Levenson-Estrada, sociology professor
One of her students—whom she characterized as a white, wealthy woman—lives in a Mod adjacent to an all-male Mod. On the night of the election, when the results were announced, the men in the adjacent Mod started to shout, bang on pipes, and celebrate Trump’s victory. When the female student leaned out the window and shouted “Hey, some of us are trying to sleep here,” the men replied with a derogatory comment: “Shut your f——g mouth, you c—t, Trump is president now.”
There have been other incidents, according to Spangler.
A gay student was walking across the lobby in McElroy Commons. He passed by a group of three white, male students, who watched him cross the room. As he walked by, one of the men allegedly said, “God, I’m so glad that Trump is president, ‘cause now I can say I hate f-gs.” Another added, “Yeah, f-g bashing is going to be okay now.”
This hate and discrimination do not only apply to anti-Trump supporters, however.
A male student in the Carroll School of Management, who is known among his friends as an outspoken Republican and Trump supporter, was also allegedly the victim of hate speech and threats following the election. The student chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
Following election night, the student said he heard three people say that if they saw him, they would “assault” him and punch him in the jaw. The student said several people also told him that they did not want to speak to him because they were upset with him for voting for Trump.
Deborah Levenson-Estrada, a sociology professor, also chose to discuss the election in class. She found that students have felt threatened based on the incidents that have occurred on and off campus. She described her students as scared, both of the future and of the discord caused by the election’s result. Levenson-Estrada did not release the names of the students for privacy reasons.
One of her students described her job in Student Services at a school in East Boston. The school has a large Latino population. The student said that at work the day after the election, a little girl came in crying because she was afraid her mother would be deported.
Another of Levenson-Estrada’s students said that their friend needs an operation that is currently covered by insurance obtained via the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. They worry that their friend will not be able to receive the necessary treatment if Trump and the Republican Congress repeal the law.
An Asian-American student in Levenson-Estrada’s class said that her mother called her on the night of the election and warned her to be careful on Wednesday morning.
“This is really different for different social classes,” Levenson-Estrada said.
About 400 students and staff came together to protest Trump at Monday’s rally. Students spoke about their feelings and experiences following the presidential election.
Rusty Cosino, MCAS ’19, whose parents are both immigrants, said that those who were thinking of leaving the country because Trump was elected are cowards. Instead of emigrating, he encouraged students to come together to support each other.
“Remember this moment and remember how you feel,” he said. “Let it drive you, don’t let it stop you.”
Armani King, MCAS ’20, spoke about how her parents called her the morning after the elections—they were scared for her safety.
“I tried to tell my mom that I’m a strong black woman,” she said.
King encouraged students to call their parents at the end of the night and let them know that they are safe. She said her parents think that she is alone, but she is not alone because she has a supportive community at BC.
As the rally was going on, however, the divide between students was still there. One student walking through O’Neill Plaza mentioned to his friend, “look at this b——t.”
Another rally was planned for Wednesday afternoon but was cancelled because the organizers, which included FACES, felt that Monday’s rally accomplished what they set out to do.
Although the rally aimed to provide students with a supportive space to talk about their feelings and experiences, students struggling to navigate the cultural climate have also turned to other resources for help.
According to Boston.com, Samaritans, a local suicide hotline that several students volunteer at through PULSE and 4Boston, received a 40 percent increase in calls on the night of the presidential election. The number of texts the hotline received doubled.
Jian Zabalerio, MCAS ’20, had her first placement at Samaritans on Saturday night. Throughout the night she received 15 calls, while on average, a student will receive around eight, she said. Three of the calls concerned the election directly, but she described callers as feeling cornered, trapped, and helpless. They felt as though the results directly affected them, she said.
Students working the hotline are not allowed to give advice, she said. It was difficult for Zabalerio to hear these emotionally charged experiences and have to hold back words of encouragement.
Craig Burns, the director of University Counseling Services (UCS), said he was not sure whether more students have been seeking therapy in response to the election. He did note that students have been more interested in talking about the election and the cultural climate during therapy sessions.
Burns explained the process for getting an appointment at UCS—students who are interested in seeing a counselor as soon as possible will get an appointment that day, while students interested in setting up a regular therapy sessions may have to wait a few days.
In addition to its normal therapy sessions, UCS is inviting students to come to a post-election conversation hour. The meetings will be held in Gasson 001 on Thursdays at noon for the rest of the semester.
Students can attend one of the meetings or all of them.
The goal of the sessions, Burns said, is to provide students with a place to talk about their reactions to the cultural climate.
“It is a space to process individuals’ responses and feelings about not just the election but the climate more broadly from an emotional and mental health perspective,” he said.
Burns said it is hard to advise students on what exactly to do or how to respond to roommates with differing viewpoints.
“There’s such a range of where people are on these issues,” he said. “I think people of good will on either side of the political issue should be able to have civil discussion about their experiences and beliefs and to keep an open mind about the validity of each other’s experiences.”
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff