Westminster Community Calls for Unity After Presidential Election

donald_trump_by_gage_skidmore_12BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER

While anti-Trump protests continue to form across the country, and reports of alleged hate crimes surface in the news and on social media, the Westminster community is calling for students, faculty and staff to stand together and unite against all forms of hate and intolerance.

Associate Professor of Music Natasia Sexton emailed the campus Friday with an attached article from The New York Times reporting a recent outbreak of hostility toward minorities at universities across the United States.

“Even though we disagree about policies, I think that we all agree that hate and intolerance are unacceptable,” Sexton wrote, continuing, “The attached article in the NYT this morning enrages me and inspires me.”

Her email proposed the college create a promotional video to “take a bold step as an institution collectively” and promote positive institutional marketing.

“My hope would be that such a video would communicate that not only does Westminster stand against hate, but we firmly stand for human dignity for all — and that we acknowledge that our world is better and more peaceful when there is a place for everyone,” Sexton said.

Since Friday, more than 20 emails have been sent in the chain with comments such as, “I support her message wholeheartedly,” from retired English Professor Wayne Zade; “I want to join all my Westminster colleagues in their stand against hatred,” from Kent Palmer, professor emeritus of physics; and “I’m so far in, I’ve tipped over and landed on my head…” from Professor of Education Sue Serota.

Many more emails have been sent by students, professors and staff directly to the administration.

“Diversity is celebrated at Westminster and should continue to be celebrated — not attacked,” Olivia Wilson, ’19, said, explaining why she replied to Sexton’s request. “I want to show my support for all people here at Westminster — women, Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans and LGBTQ. I hope that Dr. Sexton’s email generated a lot of campus support, and I hope that community support can be manifested into something truly meaningful.”

Following Sexton’s email, the campus received a message from President Benjamin Akande about the future of our community and country. In it, he asked the Westminster community to approach differences respectfully.

“The question is not about an election — it is about what we will do next — how we will work together to find common ground and how we will impact our community and our world today and in years to come,” Akande said.

In an email sent to students last night, Interim Vice President and Dean of Student Life Dan Haslag encouraged students to talk to him, or any other member of the Student Life staff, as needed, especially to report any incidents of aggression.

He wrote that while he has confidence the student body will embrace our diverse campus, any acts of intolerance or disrespect will be “swiftly and firmly” addressed.

Haslag’s email stated that the community will be engaging in discussions over the next several weeks on ways to ensure a healthy and united campus. 

Unity was also a part of the conversation during Wednesday’s post-election discussion in Hermann Lounge with political science professors Tobias Gibson and John Langton, who shared their thoughts before opening the discussion to questions from a full crowd.

In his opening discussion, Langton said that the racial and ethnic divide in the country has been “stirred up and exasperated,” while Gibson mentioned his hope for healing, not just between, but within, both political parties.

When Fatihimath Shafa, ’18, asked what she could do as a Muslim woman to reduce the hate, Gibson replied, “My answer is be you and be here.”

When discussing “fear of the other,” which Donald Trump stoked throughout his campaign, Langton stated that in order to overcome it, “it has to start at the top, but the guy at the top isn’t that way.”

Yesterday, while appearing in his first televised interview as President-elect on CBS’s 60 minutes, Trump told his supporters who are using harassment, intimidation and abuse in the aftermath of the election to “stop it.”

“I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, because I’m going to bring this country together,” he said.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote and whose electoral loss came as a shock to many, including pollsters, also discussed the need for togetherness in her concession speech: “I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.”

When President Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday, he similarly urged Americans to come together.

“We have to remember that we’re actually all on one team,” Obama said. “This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first.”

Recently, countless company CEOs, school superintendents and state governors have echoed these calls for unity.

As Akande and Haslag mentioned in their emails, anyone experiencing concern can contact the Wellness Center counselors or chaplains at the Center for Faith and Service, and/or report incidents to Student Life.

One comment

  • Dr. Akande has it right (as usual). Let’s move forward together in a positive way. I wish we could get past “identity politics” which I think are inherently divisive. But, I think what has emerged from this election is the identification of a new group that feels neglected and oppressed–non-college education, low income white, blue collar workers who have been displaced from the jobs by technology and globalization. A challenge for both parties is to address the concern of these folks along with those of others. John


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