Many members of the Kenyon community stayed awake until the early hours of Wednesday morning as the 2016 presidential election results rolled in, and Kenyon’s reaction to the election of Donald Trump was strong and immediate.
Some professors used class time to discuss the election result in class or watch speeches. A few pushed back assignment deadlines and exams. Still others canceled classes completely. Many students reported a somber mood in classes, with some finding it challenging to participate in discussion-based classes.
An email from Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 informed students and employees of election-related events, including a conversation with President Sean Decatur Wednesday and a political science panel discussion today during common hour.
More than 200 students gathered at a student-led open forum yesterday in Thomas Hall to share election reactions. The Kenyon College Working Group 2016, which aims “to promote transparency, communication, and trust between Kenyon’s students and administration,” created the event on Facebook Wednesday morning.
Students took to the impromptu stage, a table framed by a purple, white and green genderqueer flag and a LGBTQ+ flag, to share raw emotion, frustration, optimism and determination. Some struggled for words. Throughout Thomas Hall were sheets of paper printed with the words, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” referencing a Martin Luther King Jr. quotation. Members of the audience embraced and held hands, and some attempted to hold back tears. At one table, students signed up to volunteer with local charitable organizations.
“We need to go out into the community and ask them what their story was,” Chris Paludi ’20 said, urging students to engage with Knox County locals.
President Sean Decatur spoke an hour and a half later to a significantly emptier room. He described the pain he feels driving by Confederate flags posted around Mount Vernon, Ohio. “Part of the deal with living in a diverse democracy is you have to confront those with whom you disagree,” Decatur said.
Decatur later hosted an open conversation in the Alumni Dining Room, with 100 members of the Kenyon community, Chaplain Rachel Kessler ’04 and Jewish Chaplain Marc Bragin in attendance. Kessler and Bragin led the room in a cathartic sharing of reactions to the election.
Many students expressed shock at the election’s outcome, and sought guidance from professors and peers throughout the day. The mood in Peirce Hall yesterday morning was particularly somber: Students sat in Thomas Hall reading the New York Times with looks of disbelief, while some burst into tears. Multiple branches of the Kenyon community reached out to offer comfort and support to the student body, including the Discrimination Advisors (DAs), the Peer Counselors (PCs) and the Kenyon Chaplains.
Rita Carmona ’19 thought the election showed a particularly dark side of America. “Hillary was my only hope, and now I don’t know how to feel,” Carmona said.
Malik Ahmed Kahn ’19, an international student, was in Peirce Pub Tuesday night with a group of fellow students to watch the results come in. He felt troubled by the outcome of the election.
“All our lives, we have been brought up with the perspective that the U.S. is the flag-bearer for these left, liberal values,” Kahn said. “Now you see a demagogue winning the election, and it was very surprising.”
“I have seen great resolve today, and really hope that that resolve continues for four years,” Kahn added, “and that we all hold Trump accountable for any actions that he takes against minorities, against ethnic minorities and religious minorities. And I really think that people in this country will do that.”