Recap of Election Night: A Shock to the System

In the early hours of November 9th, the Associated Press officially declared Donald J. Trump the victor of the 2016 Presidential Election. A series of key wins in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin were sufficient to carve out a victory.   Hillary Clinton picked up wins in Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, but fell 38 votes short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to secure the presidency.

The result came as a shock, since nearly all polls leading up to Election Day projected a victory for the Democrats with only the L.A. Times predicting Trump would win. Ironically, pundits scoffed at the L.A. Times for being historically unreliable. Even at the St. Mary’s election panel a few days prior to the election, Professor Brogan, Eberly, and Fehrs predicted that Hillary Clinton would emerge the winner. These predictions were in no small part due to the enormous get-out-the-vote machine the Democratic Camp had at their disposal and the clear absence of such an apparatus in the Republican camp.

In the days after the election, it was concluded that Trump’s camp was able to overcome such a massive hurdle due to the copious amounts of airtime major news outlets gave to his increasingly outlandish rhetoric.

While few expected the Presidential Race to end in a Republican victory, the battle for control over the House of Representatives and the Senate was expected to be close. The Republican Party managed to retain control over the Senate despite predictions in the days leading up to November 8th. The Democratic Party was expected to make a final push to capture the Senate.

The GOP saw wins with Senator Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Senator Marco Rubio in Florida, Representative Todd Young in Indiana, Senator Richard Burr in North Carolina and Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Notable victories on the part of Democratic Candidates included Catherine Cortez Masto capturing the seat in the Nevada race to succeed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Representative Tammy Duckworth beating out incumbent Mark Kirk in Illinois. At the closing of the polls, the Republican Party would maintain a slim majority in the Senate. The fight for control of the House of Representatives followed a similar narrative as the Republican Party would emerge with a sizeable majority.

In the aftermath of election night, many pundits and political analysts had to do a bit of soul-searching. The theme of the 2016 Presidential Election appeared to be a disregard for Republican candidate Donald Trump followed by disbelief at a victory in his favor. There was doubt over Trump running an even semi-professional campaign just as there was doubt over him winning the Republican Primary. It seemed even more unlikely that Trump would win the General Election.

A professor at St. Mary’s, who elected to contribute an anonymous quotation, stated that, “the only certainty is a deep mistrust for predictions by analysts”. The 2016 campaign will no doubt catalyze a serious re-evaluation of predictions in future elections.

Talking Heads: Election Reflections

“Talking Heads” is an ongoing dialogue among campus political groups that serves as an open forum for discussing major national issues. All political groups are welcome to participate in a respectful manner that is representative of their party’s platform. Each edition of The Point News will feature a new topic of discussion. This edition’s topic is election reflections. Responses were provided by Simon Kolbeck and Brendan Benge of the College Democrats (D) as well as Grayson McNew of the College Republicans (R).

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TPN: How did your party’s rhetoric influence their campaign/the outcome of the election?  What changes (if any) will be made to this rhetoric in the future?  

D: In one of the most nasty and divisive election cycles in American history, we as Democrats have been proud to stand on the side advocating for unity, respect, and hope for the future of our country. While it is true that the Democratic Party deserves its fair share of the blame for some of the ugliness surrounding this election, in general, we believe appeals to a higher decency, such as Michelle Obama’s now famous quote, “When they go low we go high,” will tell the story of Democratic rhetoric in 2016. However, while the tone of the Democratic Party this election cycle may have been a model for future candidates, our message to voters fell utterly short. For too many people, it seemed as if the Democratic Party and Secretary Clinton were out of touch with ordinary Americans.

R: There’s no sugarcoating Donald Trump’s rhetoric; it was disgusting, childish, and blatantly insulting to everyone. What I can say about him, is that Trump tapped into a vein of America that has not been struck for some time. He gave hope to millions of Americans—including some longtime Democrats—that they could “Make America Great Again.”

Many people questioned “Has America ever been great?” To those who voted for Trump, the answer is yes. The blue-collar white voters that voted for Trump have fallen from the middle class after offshoring made it cheaper for the companies they work for to outsource labor. They left these workers with nothing; they felt betrayed by their government who sat by and did nothing, even promoted it. Data show that it was these people who carried Trump into the White House, and if the Republican Party wishes to change this divisive rhetoric that is occurring, then we must stop pretending that these people no longer exist. They need to be represented, and it is that feeling of underrepresentation that led them to vote for Trump.

TPN: What challenges did your party encounter in this election, and how will they respond to similar future challenges?

D: In hindsight of this thoroughly disappointing election, we Democrats failed in our appeal to white working class voters in states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Additionally, it seemed as though the Democrats and especially the DNC were unprepared to harness and channel the energy generated by the Bernie Sanders campaign.

R: The Republican Party faced one of its greatest challenges yet, Donald J. Trump. He was an outsider with moderate to extreme rightist ideas who ran with no political experience and won. Trump beat two parties in this election; firstly, he beat the established Republicans and won their nomination, and secondly, he beat Hillary Clinton and the Democrats to secure the White House. This signifies a greater problem for the Republican Party, but to gain more perspective on this problem, you must also look at the problems facing the Democrats. Bernie Sanders, a Democrat only in name, won 45 percent of the votes cast by Democrats in the primaries, relatively the same percentage of voters that Trump won in the Republican primary. After the General Election, Democrats only managed to hold onto five state house legislatures and lost the House and Senate once again.

While [there are concerns] about the fate of the Republican Party, which is now headed by a man who only calls himself a Republican, [there also concerns] about the fate of the Democrats. [It is probable that] both parties will undergo significant changes over the next couple of elections in order to pick candidates that better represent their constituencies.

TPN: What has your party learned from this most recent election cycle?

D: Democrats need to argue better and listen more. First off, while more arguing may sound like the last thing anyone wants to do after such a bitterly divisive campaign season, the Democratic message of progress, equality, tolerance, and compassion has clearly failed to reach many Americans. As a result, rather than give up on or water down these principles which reside at the very foundation of who we are as a party, we simply need to make more compelling arguments for why other people should also believe in them. For example, as one suggestion, we can start by returning our arguments to the basic belief that when we invest in our people and that when we strive for a society without racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other fear of an individual’s identity, we can build stronger communities. With stronger communities, we can all lead more prosperous lives.

Accordingly, along with arguing better, the Democratic Party has to listen more. The shocking defeat dealt to our party this election cycle exposed a much more alarming structural weakness in the Democratic Party at all levels of government. For instance, taking into account local, state, and federal elected positions, Democrats now control their lowest number of seats since the 1920s. Consequently this historic rejection of the Democratic candidates should wake our party up to the fact many Americans feel our party is out of touch. Therefore, moving forward, Democrats need to recommit ourselves to listening to what people across the country really have to say and what we can do in politics to improve their livelihoods.

R: Republicans everywhere have learned that Americans want change. Whether this administration is capable of carrying out that change, we do not know. What we do know is that Donald Trump is now the President-elect of the United States of America and we cannot continue to let his divisive rhetoric continue to divide us as a nation and prevent us from accomplishing effective work. Democrats and Republicans everywhere need to put wedge issues behind them and work together to achieve a common goal.

TPN: In what direction do you see your party moving?

D: Moving forward under a Donald Trump presidency, the Democratic Party will most likely head in one of two directions. On one hand, the Democrats minority in the House and Senate may actually work with President Trump on some shared policy goals, such as investments in infrastructure and child-care, while opposing the Trump Administration on other policies including immigration and tax cuts for the one-percent. Alternatively, Democrats may decide to uniformly oppose all of President Trump’s policy priorities—similar to what Republicans did in 2010.

Additionally, the Democrats are split into two camps, one being the more moderate and centrist wing and the other being the progressive wing of the party. We will see in the coming months whether the party leadership will continue to favor the centrist status quo or give more voice to the more progressive elements of the party. Given the failure of the centrist message in this election, we believe that the progressive elements in the party will gain traction and push the party further in that direction.

R: In this election we saw the blue wall fall. This is another indicator that a major party shift could occur within our lifetime. The Republicans need to find their new “true base” to move forward in order to unify and prevent another outsider candidate from becoming its nominee. They need to work together to better represent all Americans in the next election, and they must not hold onto the principles of old which have led the party for so long and which have created the situation we are in.

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Stay tuned for the next installment of “Talking Heads” when the topic will be the federal budget.

 

A Call for Unity: Coming Together Post-Election

On Thursday, November 10th, in the wake of the 2016 election, the inter-varsity club—alongside the St. Mary’s Black Student Union and Latinos Unidos—organized a march for peace and unity to reinforce the importance of community in a time of great divisiveness. The event began at 8p.m. at the Campus Center. The message was clear: all members of the student body were welcome to come and demonstrate the need for community support regardless of their political affiliation.

There was a significant turnout. Numbers swelled as passerbys stopped to watch before quickly becoming part of the event itself. Leaders of the clubs sponsoring the walk shared a few words, the sentiment being that despite the votes cast the on November 8th now is the time to come together and graciously and respectfully voice opinions. All of the speakers reiterated their belief that the walk was not a protest of the outcome of the election itself, but a demonstration of the solidarity between the members of the St. Mary’s community.

A poem by Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was shared, its message reemphasizing the need for all individuals to be positive members of their community regardless of one’s ideology. Candles were distributed to participants, creating a gentle atmosphere. The march concluded at the entrance of the Glendenning Annex where the participants shared a beautiful moment of solace and sang “Lean on me.” Once the walk ended, participants were ushered into the Glendenning Annex where they broke into small groups to discuss open-ended questions such as how to deal with those voicing differing opinions.

First –year Jared Oriole remarked that it was “great to see the school come together under the banner of unity, not the banner of a political group”.

This walk spoke to the underlying need to develop social capital in all communities across the nation, developing a web of connections that will survive the test of conflicting political opinions. The ideal of individuals coexisting peacefully regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and other differences is one that is not easily achieved, but events like this peaceful unity march serve as a reminder that mutual respect must be a part of the arsenal with which differences in political and social opinions are approached.

Forums Discuss Civility, Improving St. Mary’s

While much of the controversy over the Chick-fil-a boycott has subsided, at least in outward expressions,  many on campus have taken the aftermath to consider how St. Mary’s can be a safer, more open and respectful place where discussion about important and potentially divisive issues can happen in positive and constructive ways.  Several recent meetings and forums on this issue have facilitated discussions on the presence of prejudice on campus, the role of civility, the difference between  tolerance and respect, and what students, faculty and staff can do to build the type of community they would like to live and work in.

Dean of Students Laura Bayless called a meeting on Tuesday April 12 of the Student Affairs staff, made up of Residence life, Judicial Board, Student Activities and Health and Counseling offices. The meeting was also attended by a number of student leaders. The purpose was to discuss and brainstorm strategies for the coming year about the issue of incivility on campus, and find ways to expand the conversation to include the entire campus. Bayless said that “it was clear that the students needed to be part of the conversation, given that a large part of the incidents were related to students.” Bayless also expanded upon some of the unclearness that surrounded the incidents of harassment, saying that there were a few incidents that were “very severe and required investigation….some people may think this discussion is just about being polite, but that is not what I mean when I talk about civility.” While releasing details of the harassment and abusive behavior is not possible, Bayless stressed that these issues were something that demanded action on the part of Student Affairs. “I’m happy this conversation is happening,” she said. “Its an opportunity to help shape the community in ways that are important to us.”

One way Student Affairs is addressing this issue is through creating some new responsibilities for certain positions within Student Affairs, specifically the creation of a peer mediation program to possibly deal with issues around LGBTQ students, but also problems with harassment and prejudice on campus in general. Other ideas and plans involve programming during orientation, increased visibility of the ‘St. Mary’s Way’ and reaching students on this issue through SGA sponsored clubs and activities.

A forum on prejudice on the St. Mary’s campus was hosted by first-year Jessica McCarter on Wednesday April 13 as a response to the recent issues of harassment. McCarter is a student in the DeSousa Brent program and as part of the program students host different events on campus. McCarter said she wanted to host a discussion on prejudice because she is “interested in different types of prejudice on the St. Mary’s campus,” and was confused when some said they didn’t see prejudice happening on campus, wondering, “didn’t they see all the emails? Haven’t they been talking to people and hearing about this? I wanted to have an event to talk about what I was seeing with other students.”

At the forum, students that attended described several different types of prejudice they have encountered on campus introduced issues of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and even involvement in the DeSousa Brent program. Attendees said they have experienced prejudice at the hands of other students but also from faculty in the classroom. Said sophomore Brittany Davis, “There definitely is a lot of prejudice on this campus. We all come from different places….but civility doesn’t mean just sweeping things under the rug. We need to understand each other. Confrontation and awkward conversations aren’t always a bad thing.” Attendees agreed that having more conversations about race, gender identity and sexuality on campus would be one way to start to approach these issues.

President Joseph Urgo also held a special President’s Forum on Wednesday April 20 facilitated by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Sybol Anderson and Director of the Library Celia Rabinowitz. The forum was titled “Building a Better St. Mary’s” and was well-attended by students, faculty and staff a like. Urgo remarked at the opening that while “everyone is in favor of civility…passionate feelings stretch our civil instincts.” Anderson echoed these sentiments as well, saying, “the thing I’d like us to think about today is the conditions under which our discourse becomes uncivil…the recent climate on campus has been uncharacteristic of the story we tell ourselves and world about St. Mary’s.”

The forum was conducted through general questions posed to the audience that were then answered by members of the audience. Some of the questions asked the audience to reflect on what exactly is happening on campus right now, what civility and respect are, and what students, faculty and the administration can do to encourage better discussions and a better atmosphere on campus.

Many students talked about a sense of division and apathy they feel from others. Senior Kyle Jernigan, Editor-in-chief of The Point News, said, “There seems to be a correlation between incivility and apathy. There is a disconnect between the people who are involved on campus and the people who aren’t.”  Sophomore Joshua Santangelo said, “the population of people who care is dwindling…separate groups keep separate.”

On the issues of civility and respect, opinions ranged. While some felt that civility was not enough and ultimately St. Mary’s needs to strive for a fundamental sense of respect for every person, Assistant Professor of History Charles Musgrove talked about how civility “reminds us we have responsibilities to each other, no matter if we have differing views, or don’t like each other.”

In some cases where passions might stress relations, he said, “we’ll take the false kind of civility anyways.”

Students and faculty committed to trying to break down some of the barriers they see on campus just by being friendlier, which although a small thing, can lead to general “good feelings” on campus, as junior Marshall Betz described it. Anderson also suggested “reaching out to people that aren’t as involved and inviting people to leadership roles.”

Others suggested more all-campus events, putting the St. Mary’s Way on syllabi rather than, in Professor Emeritus of English Michael Glaser’s words, “burying it in the course catalog,” and having more orientation events related to respect and open discussion of hard issues.

At the conclusion of the event, Urgo said, “I’m gratified by the impatience with civility. We can do better than civility.” He also spoke to the idea that people at St. Mary’s came to this place to accomplish something purposeful and meaningful. He concluded by saying simply being nice to each other, while important, is not always enough to facilitate deeper connections, conversations and respect on campus.

 

Urgo Urges For Campus Civility

Dear St. Mary’s College Community:

In conversations with students, faculty, and staff over the last few weeks, a recurring theme of civility on campus has emerged. Simply put, the word on the banks of the St. Mary’s River is that people are becoming less nice.

I’m told there are fewer greetings on The Path and more ear buds cocooning playlists that have left their owners insulated from passers-by. There also seems to be a rise in mean-spiritedness. These issues are prickly because while we want everyone to be nice to one another, we all have the right to be asinine sometimes.

So, this message is not about being selfish or hoarding the jellybeans. That’s human nature. When I think of civility I think more of the work it takes to create, maintain, and participate in a community.

I am thinking more specifically about cleaning up after ourselves, holding the door for others, looking people in the eye, smiling, and (remember the old lesson?) treating others as you would want to be treated.

At college we study the best that’s been thought, said, created, imagined. That’s a high bar for behavior. Under observation, how will the critics assess our contribution? High quality? Worthy of national distribution? Or, destined for rubbish and not even recyclable?

I don’t think we need to be nice all the time. I agree with the idea articulated by Abbie Hoffman, a defendant from the Chicago Seven trial a generation ago:  “When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men [and women] have is to speak out.”

We always need space for dramatic articulation. At the same time, this is our home. Let’s not soil where we eat. Civility has its place in our learning environment as a key component in creating and maintaining our community.

As news about our institution is sent into cyberspace via YouTube videos, Tweets and Facebook pages, we all have a hand in shaping the content of OurTube. Let’s reflect on our interaction with others, just for a moment, and decide how we want St. Mary’s story to be told throughout the community, the state of Maryland, the country—and the world.

Joseph Urgo

President

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

 

Student Trustee: Who We Are at St. Mary’s

The name St. Mary’s College of Maryland is steeped in meaning and tradition. We have long identified ourselves based on the sense of community people experience when they come here, or when they visit. As an institution, we have never doubted who we are, or what we do.

We are a community built on the foundation of openness, kindness and caring. We are active in the world, both on the small and large scale. In many ways, we already make such a difference in so many places.

However, over the years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that reaches to every level of the campus community. People are beginning to care less about each other and about what this institution does. Many people who see a problem will complain about it, and then expect someone else to take care of it.

When walking down the path, most of us stare straight ahead, for fear of making eye contact with a stranger. There’s certainly not the culture of saying hi to everyone on the path these days. Heck, a number of people simply turn up their iPods and tune out the world.

Just the other day, someone came up to me during my office hours and said, “as a whole, we just don’t care any more.” While I wouldn’t go that far, she had a good point, and she’s not the only one I’ve been hearing it from.

I still know that we have a wonderful community when it comes to integrating new students into the campus culture, or banding together for the occasional service project. People are still passionate about the clubs they’re in, or the sports teams they play for.

Academics are certainly not falling to the wayside, as we continue to excel as the “Honors College” of Maryland. In no way am I implying that we have become an apathetic institution. I’m just saying that we need to rise above what is expected of us and open our eyes to the world of possibilities before us.

Margaret Mead once said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” What I see when I walk down the path everyday is a small group of thoughtful people. There are two thousand of us, which in our insulated life by the river may seem like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things is really quite small.

The best thing about changing the world is that it doesn’t require titans or legendary figures such as Leonidas or Caesar. Ordinary students such as us can make a difference by being mindful of our actions. To live mindfully and in the present can help bring about a cultural transformation.

For now, all I ask is that we begin with small actions. When we pass a stranger on the path, say hello. Instead of stepping over a piece of trash, pick it up and put it in the next trash can. When people ask you for help, thoughtfully consider it before making a decision, and whenever possible, choose to help them.

If you feel as though you have the time, maybe even look into doing something larger. Get creative with how to better our community, no matter how big or how small the action may be. By bettering ourselves as a group, we put ourselves in better positions and better states of mind to go forth into the world and make a difference.

To quote Gandhi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Much love to all, and I’ll see you on the path!

Board of Trustees Meets, Gives Updates Regarding Campus Community

On Saturday Oct. 3, the St. Mary’s Board of Trustees held their annual quarterly meeting. After an executive session during which the Board discussed the presidential candidates, the meeting was opened to the public.

Among the first items brought up was the new emergency student fund, which so far has helped more than 21 students. Trustee James Muldoon offered the, “serious appreciation of the Board to that effort.”

Professor Bob Paul, president of the faculty senate, gave an update on the Core Curriculum. The Core, which is now in its second year, will soon have students fulfilling the liberal arts in the world requirement through internships, studying abroad, completing a course with a significant experiential or service learning component, or completing an independent study.

He also commended the presidential search committee on their efforts to include the campus community. “Faculty feel they were very central to the process,” he said.

Student Trustee Debbie Travers gave an update on student issues on campus. She addressed the concerns students had brought to her attention about Bradford Persistent Agent, including problems downloading the program and concerns about slower computers. Students have a meeting set up to address the problem. Travers also overcrowding, explaining that Queen Anne residence hall had been hit especially hard with many students in study room quads and forced triples. The College is currently at 103 percent capacity.

The Buildings and Grounds committee gave an update on Anne Arundel Hall, explaining that the new site will protect ecological and archaeological interests. The plans for three out of the four new buildings are currently on schedule, and the plan for the fourth, the proposed Interpretive Center building, is currently being revised.

The committee also announced that Goodpaster Hall  was awarded the Project of the Year Award by the DC Chapter of the U.S. Green Buliding Council and the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’s (AIA) Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design.

The Enrollment and Student Affairs committee announced that there were 492 students in the class of 2013. The class met the academic standards of the college, with scores well within the ranges of previous years. However, the ratio of out of state students dropped significantly, from around 25 percent to 14.6. The ratio of first generation college students also dropped, from 22.2 percent  to 17.1, which the committee explained was expected with the current financial crisis.

Eugene Robinson, an Associate Editor for the Washington Post and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was confirmed as the commencement speaker for the class of 2010.