Political views on campus

This article was written December 2016.

November 2016 marked a new era of politics. Despite controversy, lawsuits and incorrect published winner predications, President-elect Donald Trump took the presidential election victory with a 306-to-232 electoral vote, according to the 270 to Win website.

Immediately following the election, San Diego State students began using their classrooms and campus as means to discuss the election.

On Nov. 10, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members alike rallied around campus protesting Trump and intolerance on campus as well as in the nation, according to the Facebook event page for the protest.

While hundreds of students against Trump actively express their sentiments on campus, there are a smaller amount of Trump supporters who said they aren’t able to express their political views without feeling ostracized.

SDSU student and Trump supporter John Weil said he feels thrown aside by the university.

“It’s like I’m in a very small community of people (on campus) who are Republican,” Weil said.

Weil said most of the Republicans he knows don’t discuss their political views on campus for fear of judgement.

“(Professors) commented on their own political views in almost every single one of my classes, and I was extremely upset with the fact that San Diego State did not have a proper way to regulate what the professors talked about in class,” Weil said. “It was extremely unprofessional, and I actually have a lower view of San Diego State after that.”

Weil said because he doesn’t feel comfortable expressing his views on campus, he has a group of friends he actively discusses politics with.

“Without that we feel like we’re basically the minority in politics,” Weil said.

Weil said beyond his group of friends, he receives negative comments because of his views.

“Every part of my daily life is considered negative now just because I voted a different president than someone else,” Weil said.

Weil isn’t alone in his fear of safety.

On Nov. 9, a Muslim woman on campus was victim to hate crime, robbery and vehicle theft by two men who made comments to her regarding Trump and the Muslim community, according to a community safety alert sent to the SDSU community by the SDSU Police Department.

Weil said he did not pay attention to this hate crime on campus.

“I don’t check any of those emails or follow the on-campus trends because most of them are just a one-day fad where everyone posts on Facebook, which has no purpose and really no one cares to be honest,” Weil said. “They just want to comment on Facebook so they look like a good person, and it moves on. So I just ignore everything and go about my daily life, and so no, it has not affected me.”

Communication Professor Luke Winslow, however, said he feels it is his responsibility to address hate crimes and oppression.

“People like me are going to be fine,” Winslow said. “I have a good job, and I’m white, and I’m tall, and I get my healthcare through my job, and I’m kind of isolated. But if you’re brown, particularly if you’re a single mother, if you’re a Muslim, if you live in another part of the country, if you have an unplanned pregnancy, if you’re not as privileged, Trump’s presidency means something different for you. I’m not going to get beat up because Trump won. But someone else might.”

Winslow teaches multiple communication classes on campus, including Communication and Politics.

He said many of his students like to discuss Trump in particular.

“‘Why Donald Trump? What happened?’ … I don’t have a very good answer,” Winslow said. “But it makes for good discussions. … One of my students said something like, ‘He’s the devil.’ And I said, ‘Well, he’s not the devil. This is bad what he did and said. But he’s not the devil.’ And it’s important to make that distinction.”

Winslow said he worries about groupthink occurring because his class has a somewhat anti-Trump climate.

“I’m very careful to create space for all reasonable opinions to be heard and to feel valued,” Winslow said. “There was a student in this class I taught in the spring that was a vocal Trump supporter. There haven’t been any in this fall. I would bet that there’s probably several people that either voted for him or supported him in the class, but no one has said it.”

Political Science Professor Stephen Goggin said social pressure is a big deal on campus and in this election.

“That’s why you have ‘I voted’ stickers,” Goggin said. “We know social pressure can influence engagement and turn out and stuff.”

He said that political opinions can depend on those around you, college students included.

“People don’t like to rock the boat,” Goggin said. “Whenever you ask people their opinions, people want to not appear bad. This pressure can definitely influence what people say and make that different than what they’re actually doing.”

SDSU student and Trump supporter Jolene McKee said she tries to avoid discussing politics while on campus.

“It’s just kind of a headache sometimes,” McKee said.

She said she has experienced harassment on campus after the election results were announced.

“There was a day … I wore my ‘Make America Great Again’ hat and was harassed by students in my class, and my car was vandalized,” McKee said. “There was a professor who yelled at me down the hallway (because I support Trump). It is a bummer that you can’t openly discuss your political views just because it’s very liberalized.”

McKee said she doesn’t think faculty and staff do a good job at preventing incidents like hers from occurring.

On Nov. 17, California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy P. White sent out an open letter to faculty, staff and students of the CSU system.

“I write to provide assurance that we will continue to make every effort to provide a safe and welcoming campus environment for all our students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community,” White said in the open letter.

SDSU student Andrew Dyer said despite attempts to be inclusive of all ideologies, faculty and staff are still set in their own beliefs.

“We saw huge protests on campus against the police and after the election of Trump,” Dyer said. “There’s a lot of faculty, if not participating, on the sidelines of those protests. That was supported.”

Although he is a registered Democrat, Dyer said his beliefs aren’t fully represented on campus either.

“I think the college community is one that is supportive of progressive ideas,” Dyer said. “I think they’re not as progressive as they think they are. I see a lot of resistance to actual progressive ideas.”

Dyer said, however, when he talks to people on campus with different political beliefs, the conversation is always civil. He said he aims to find common ground.

“I know a lot of conservative students feel like their views aren’t welcome on campus, and they feel like they can’t speak out,” Dyer said. “But I do not feel my views are being suppressed in that way, if views are even being suppressed. It’s an if. But I understand why they feel that way.”

He said that the stigma against Trump supporters is due to all the controversy surrounding Trump during his campaign.

“If you consider yourself a Trump supporter, there’s a lot of things that go along with that, including this perception of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant bias, which everyday during the campaign, he was talking about these things,” Dyer said. “So whenever you come out and say, ‘I support Trump,’ people are going to rightly or wrongly assume you’re maybe Islamophobic or against immigrants. Whether or not that’s fair, that comes with the territory.”

Dyer said the passion in this election is why politics have become so personal.

“If I’m a Trump supporter, maybe my support for him doesn’t run as deep as some people’s hate for him,” Dyer said. “Some people dislike him at a level I don’t support him at. I think were I a Trump supporter, there’s no way people are even going to hear me. It’s just gone too far with his rhetoric.”

SDSU student Jack Sellas said as a Trump supporter, he feels people won’t listen to his views.

“The second you say one differing (opinion), a screen blocks off. ‘Oh, you vote for Trump?’ A shield comes on and blocks the whole thing,” Sellas said. “That does sometimes happen. … It gives people with different beliefs thicker skin.”

Sellas said he ultimately feels comfortable disclosing his support for Trump on campus because most people can hold a conversation without tension.

Student Will Fritz said students who support Trump should be willing to speak up.

“I had a roommate last year who was a Trump supporter, and he told me last year, ‘I don’t really say anything.’ He has a Trump hat, and he said, ‘I want to wear it, but I don’t want to,’” Fritz said. “Okay, like I think your political opinions are stupid, but they’re your opinions. On one hand I disagree with you, but on the other hand you should own it. It’s your opinion. Don’t be afraid to say it. You’re entitled to your own opinion.”

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