On the night of November 8, 2016, students across Elon University’s campus were enthralled in what would be a long, shocking night in history — Election Night 2016.
Students filled each leather chair and couch in the Great Hall to watch the results together, tuning in closely as each state was called. As North Carolina fell to Donald Trump, some shrunk into their seats, some shed tears and some quietly celebrated the victory.
Some students were too apprehensive to leave their own rooms, spending Election Night with a small television screen and a few roommates in their apartments.
“I just wanted to lock myself in my room and wake up the next morning and see what kind of world we were living in,” said sophomore Michael Kaether, a Trump supporter and member of Elon's College Republicans.
While Kaether celebrated a Trump victory in the early hours of Nov. 9, others were filled with dread.
“I was in my apartment crying with my roommate,” said senior Monique Swirsky, a member of Spectrum, Elon's queer-straight student alliance.
A month later on Elon's campus, the mood is somber, the reactions mixed and emotions high.
Where to Turn
As the election results slowly settle at Elon, opinions from both sides of the political spectrum have been expressed. Many marginalized groups on campus have expressed fear of a Trump presidency, citing numerous instances where the President-elect's supporters seem emboldened to commit discriminatory acts. Congruently, Trump voters say they are being painted with a broad brush and that they are misunderstood.
With various stressors and fears prevalent in many individuals on all sides of the political beam, Elon Counseling Services is an available resource for students. Marie Shaw, director of Counseling Services, says that many students have turned to counseling resources for guidance prior to and since the election to help work through their concerns.
“If anyone’s struggling in terms of coping with the election, dealing with their feelings about it, with dealing with family or friend dynamics — we could certainly help them with developing coping plans and provide that support for students,” Shaw said.
Shaw explains that while the recently colloquialized term “Election Stress Disorder” is not verified as a psychological disorder, election related concerns have proven to be common stressors. While Shaw realizes that politics can usually be separated from one’s day-to-day life, she believes this unprecedented election has made that a bit more challenging.
“This election really does seem like it’s been extremely different, and I think the biggest part is just how much the hatred has come up,” Shaw said. “It’s something that I think certainly impacts people on a more personal level, differently than other elections.”
While coping with election-related stress, Shaw urges students to prioritize their self care, and to step away from politics when needed.
“It’s okay not to talk about it, it’s okay to take breaks. Just making sure [to do] basic self care,” Shaw said. “Exercise, eating healthy, sleep and sometimes — if need be — turning off media if they’re getting too much so they’re thinking about it all the time or talking about it. Finding ways to take breaks to recharge.”
Many students are optimistic that once Trump officially takes office in January, the country will become less divided.
“There are some things, obviously, that he said throughout the campaign that he shouldn’t follow up on — either because they’re ridiculous, or they’re not feasible or they offend too many people,” said Kaether. “Any fears or concerns [I had] have all been dismantled since he’s been elected.”
James Donnell, a sophomore who supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, recognizes the occurrences of hate crimes and language being used since the election. But also he believes that this will not set a precedent for the future.
“I think when you just look at the candidates [Trump] ran against, you don’t have to normalize it. You don’t have to tell your kids, or whoever’s watching [Trump], that that’s how the president’s supposed to act,” he explains. “You can just look at the opponents and see that’s clearly not how you’re supposed to act.”
While Swirsky had her concerns regarding a Trump presidency, she has become more hopeful for a change in rhetoric and policy plans in the Trump Administration.
“Where my hope is, is that I have seen a lot of people come together since the election to say this racism, this sexism and this bigotry is not okay and this is not normal,” she says. “That moving forward people will continue to say this is not normal — and maybe be more politically active in the future.”