On Nov. 8, a new age of presidential administration took the seat in the Oval Office. No longer would the President of the United States be required to uphold the same requirements of self-control, social media civility and political correctness. The fact of the matter is one year with Donald Trump as president has led the nation into uncharted territory where headlines, protests, economic stability and the lack of social-control roam freely day to day.
While some students and faculty members chose not to express their opinions, others shared their reactions in regard to the Trump administration’s one-year anniversary.
One Year of Pure Chaos
On the night of Nov. 8, 2016, students congregated in classrooms, homes and dorm rooms awaiting the results of one of the most debated elections of the 21st century. While many students expressed their concerns across several social media platforms, students such as Aleira Martin, sophomore ad/PR major from Fort Worth, was a bit scared of the potential catastrophes that could occur with a president labeled as a bigot, racist and misogynist on the throne of authority. According to Pew Research Center, 69.6 million votes were cast by millennials. Of those 69.6 million, a net increase of 7.5 million eligible voters within the minority demographic rose from the 2012 election.
With countless protests and social media alerts bombarding her phone, Aleira’s fear grew. She said she honestly did not think he would make it that far.
“I was distraught when I heard the news,” Martin said. “I was just like ‘Wow, this is actually happening. A lot of things are happening, and even though he isn’t doing anything to help the black community, he has hurt several members of other communities like the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], and it’s very distracting that all of this is happening and it’s only been a year.”
Martin said one thing she noticed is how confrontational people became when stating their opinion.
“I think people have become more rowdy and willing to state their opinions,” said Martin. “I will say that some members of the black community have stepped up to help other communities that they see need help because it seems like all minorities are on the short end of the stick when it comes to this presidency so far.”
Under this administration, The Atlantic argued Trump has an inability to understand views held by the minorities and has instead treated them as a threat. On Sept. 5, President Trump announced an end to the Obama-era project protecting undocumented adolescents in the United States. The end of DACA was near and protestors began to rally. Since the election of Trump, Splinter News reported more than 50 protests including the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, A Day Without Immigrants on Feb. 16 and Not My Presidents Day on Feb. 20.
Prentice Ashford, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said the announcement of the end of the DACA program was devastating news to students and faculty. After being bombarded with constant questions such as “What do we do from here?” “What’s going to happen to me?” and “Am I going to have to leave?” Ashford said he had to learn how to handle new concerns every day.
“I can’t think of a day that goes by, while school is in session, that Trump or the administration or anything of that nature hasn’t come up. Every day we talk about some aspect that has come up,” said Ashford. “I try to remove my bias from any conversation we are having. Generally, the advice we give to students is ‘you’re safe here.’ There hasn’t been an executive order that we have seen yet. We try to reassure students and give them the only advice we can give.”
Ashford said the discussions around the office have become more heated since the inauguration. Like night and day, Ashford said some students have found a special boldness in their voice while others have been more inclined to inch toward fear – the fear of saying something wrong.
“I have definitely seen a shift in students’ boldness or fear of saying things within the past 365 days,” said Ashford, “and that has shifted the way I view student response whether positive, negative, pro or against. Some things happen or things I say, I can see where they came up with the courage to say that. Our president allows it, so of course they’re allowed to say it without fear of repercussion, but then there are students who have this voice and say, ‘I’m afraid. I’m afraid someone might cuss me out or shut me down, and that’s directly because of this administration.’”
Within the first couple of days after the election, some felt an unspoken tension creep into the classrooms of the Hardin Administration, College of Business Administration and Onstead-Packer Buildings. Rallies, such as the OMA demonstration on Nov. 16, 2016, allowed students to express their fears and concerns on national and local issues.
“My previous three years, four years here, students were a lot more open to expressing themselves because they didn’t feel like people were going to ‘build that wall,’” said Ashford. “In general, students are becoming more unapologetic with their voice and that’s all students: black, brown, white, international, domestic. They are finding the courage to say ‘this is who I am’ because they aren’t sure if they’ll be able to say that for long. Students are coming to terms with who they are, what they are, why they are quicker.”
One Year of Progress
Although left-leaning students feel conflicted and concerned for what their future holds, others feel just as bonded by silence – Trump supporters, themselves.
Members of the ACU College Republicans group cohesively believe that although Trump may not be the best public speaker, he is making a radical statement for other Republicans to follow.
Jonathan Ladd, a member of the College Republicans, said the primary reason he voted for Trump was based on public policies that adhered to his needs.
“I think the Trump presidency has had its ups and downs. The economy has been doing really well,” said Ladd, sophomore political science major from Maytown. “The Dow (Jones Industrial Average) is increasing every day, and even though legislatively he hasn’t gotten some things done, he has gotten some things done through the use of executive order and he has done well to not overstep his bounds in that respect. Overall, I think he’s been very good from a policy perspective.”
Under the Trump administration, Forbes magazine reported the stock market’s increase of 20.4 percent since the inauguration, leading to an increase of 2.3 percent in the country’s gross domestic product value and a rise in manufacturing jobs up to 138,000 through the end of Oct. 17. Ladd said he feels confident in his vote one year later.
“Trump wasn’t my first choice in the primaries, but when it came down to it, I voted for him,” said Ladd.
For many young Republicans, the persona of Trump is more mesmerizing than any policy embedded through Congress. Trump’s perceived ruthless demeanor and patriotic character make him stand out among any current politician known today. As Alexander Shanales, freshman biology major from Lubbock, said Trump was the best image for what a president should be – an all-American.
“This is the very first time in history that we’ve had a very patriotic president,” Shanales said, exulting his voice in pride. “It’s very refreshing to hear someone say ‘America first,’ to stand up to the globalist elite and look out for the people in the West Belt and middle America that everyone seems to forget about. It’s great to see someone who isn’t like a European bureaucrat to stand up for the people, by the people like the founders intended.”
Tyler Hasenjaeger, junior political science major from Weatherford, said he has felt more alienated for his beliefs during this year alone. The constant glares and insults spit at him for voting for one man has made him feel unwelcome in his classes. Today, many conservative supporters like Hasenjaeger said they are timid to speak out. Because of the protestors in Charlottesville, Hasenjaeger believes society labels all Trump supporters as “bad people.”
“I have been in classrooms where I have been demonized for having right-wing beliefs, and I’ve had friends who stopped being my friend because I was a conservative,” said Hasenjaeger. “People talk a lot of trash about conservatives not just behind their back, but to their face. Conservatives would rather not get down on that level and fight back. We’re just trying to get by.”
After being called several names for expressing his beliefs and reasons for voting in favor of the GOP, Hasenjaeger, as well as other students, has wondered what the reason is for so much hate. Is it worth going to a school or attending a class where your beliefs are not as valued as others?
“If I have right-wing beliefs, I shouldn’t be demonized because that’s my opinion, and we’re supposed to have different opinions in school, and we’re not supposed to demonize different opinions at school,” said Hasenjaeger. “So, when I say ‘more guns are better than less guns’, and a professor gets up and calls me an ‘idiot’ in front of class and embarrasses me, and I’m supposed to sit there and listen. And later, I’ll call my parents and they’re confused why they’re sending me to school and paying tens of thousands dollars and have to listen how my teacher is trashing my beliefs as a student. It’s not that we’re attacked constantly, but it’s enough to where we know we’re being attacked and it’s definitely hurting a lot of conservatives for being conservative.”
Removing his hat, Hasenjaeger becomes silent. Acceptance is what Hasenjaeger desires and pain is what he has received. While still faithful to his beliefs, students like Nick Cartwright, senior political science major from Bourne, said the atmosphere the university has settled into is completely contradicting to what he experienced three years ago.
“Everything is completely different. ACU was very conservative at that point,” said Cartwright. “Then, Trump wins and everyone is so polarized and defined in what they believe.”
Ladd, who is black, said although he hasn’t seen any polarizing issues on campus, he has tried to remain upfront on what he believes and why.
“I don’t think Trump is racist, and I when I enter I classroom – maybe it’s the way I present myself or whatever – but I try to show people what I believe at the moment I enter a classroom no matter if people believe or agree with me or not,” said Ladd.
Dr. Neal Coates, professor of political science, said the issues and actions arising during this administration is not necessarily the fault of the president, but rather the actions people have decided to take for themselves.
Even as a political science professor at a predominantly conservative university, Coates said he uses his classes to show all sides of the argument and not allow for it to get out of hand if students disagree.
Shanales said conservatives get a misconception of being the type of people who only want our side to win and unfortunately, there are people like that.
“But, I will say there are people on both sides that want the dialogue and Socratic method, if you will. We want to hear from each other and find the best solution. You know, the great thing about America is you’re allowed to not like the president,”Shanales laughed. “We can disagree and that’s what makes this discourse great.”
As students and faculty walk along campus, one can see how their different views segregate them. With three more years left, one can only wait until the next moment Trump strikes.