One week after the election of Donald J. Trump as president, Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences held an emergency post-election meeting in Regis Hall to address the concerns of the student body, particularly of those who feel at risk in a Trump presidency.
Almost 150 students and faculty attended the town hall style event on Nov. 16, which featured presentations given by faculty and public discussion.
“Everyone has passion [since the election],” said Fr. Thomas Regan, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re here to combine that passion with competence.”
Regan praised Loyola’s faculty for sharing their knowledge and fostering discussions in the classroom.
“For many people, this is everything that they hoped wouldn’t happen,” said professor Hector Garcia, the director of Loyola’s Latin American and Latino Studies program, and one of the first faculty members to speak. “The question for us is: ‘how do we connect through difference?”
The beginning of the event focused on messages of hope and reassurance.
“[Trump’s plans] don’t do any good in reality,” said Dr. Reinhard Andress, professor of German language and literature.
Andress condemned President-elect Trump’s rhetoric against whom he called “vulnerable people” but said he would make his voice heard “for the worst of Trump.”
Dr. Amanda Bryan, a professor of political science who studies the Supreme Court, told the audience, “Don’t be afraid.” Although President-elect Trump will replace Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat has been vacant since his death on Feb. 13, 2016, and may have the opportunity to fill even more seats because Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer are close to 80 years old, Bryan said, “The Court respects precedent and public opinion … Politics are short-lived; our institutions are long-lived.”
Not everyone felt as confident in the justice system.
“I worry that people are being too optimistic,” said biology professor James Calcagno, an audience member who expressed concern that professors can’t effectively convey their opinions in the classroom. “We, as professors, can’t speak out without students going to the dean. We need more opportunities to make our voices heard.”
The rest of the presentations focused on the potential consequences of President-elect Trump’s plans and how the community can get involved.
“People don’t realize the scope of Islamophobia in this country,” said professor Marcia Hermansen, director of the Islamic World Studies program at Loyola.
Hermansen said Muslim students could be endangered by President-elect Trump’s promises to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the country. She reminded faculty to be understanding of Muslim students’ concerns.
“If a Muslim student requests extra time to complete assignments, it may be because they feel threatened,” she said.
President-elect Trump has also promised to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and is expected to appoint Myron Ebell, a climate change denier, to head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“If Obamacare is repealed, millions who rely on it will lose their health insurance,” said Dr. Joy Gordon, professor of social ethics at Loyola.
Gordon said climate change “should not be a partisan issue,” and that “we can’t put a climate change skeptic in charge of the EPA. We all need to fight climate change together.”
Dr. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, who studies migration and Latinos in the United States, told the audience that President-elect Trump’s plans to repeal President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which prevents children who immigrated illegally under the age of 16 from deportation for two years, would put undocumented Loyola students at risk.
“Even though DACA may be cancelled, Loyola’s policies that protect undocumented students will not be undone,” she said.
A petition sponsored by professor Tisha Rajendra has been created to make Loyola a “sanctuary campus,” which would aim to ensure equal treatment of undocumented students, even if the Trump administration follows through on its promise to deport up to three million undocumented immigrants.
“Even saying things like [deporting millions of undocumented immigrants] is a problem,” said Rajendra. “The time will come when it will be impossible to be neutral, and it will be up to us to make our voices heard.”