So much has happened within the past few weeks in our country, and it was all happening while Siena students were still hard at work with school. Not even three weeks ago was the highly anticipated 2020 election day, and not even two weeks ago our new President Elect, Joe Biden, and Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris, were announced. This year’s presidential election brought on a lot of firsts, and a lot of stress, as most people seemed to have no idea what to expect, or still what to expect. With so much still flying around all of our heads, especially students who have so much on their plates, Siena hosted an online event for students and community members to “share thoughts, feelings, and concerns the week following election night”.
This event, or discussion rather, was hosted/facilitated by experienced and trained student facilitators Sami DeRagon and Nancy Asante, and supported by a few other students and administrators. This event took place on zoom of course, which created a very structured and organized discussion format, in which everyone could feel like they had a chance to share the thoughts they wanted to, as well as actively listen and learn from the thoughts of others. Overall, this was meant to be, and was, a productive conversation about what people in the Siena community were thinking and feeling.
Many different things were shared during this discussion. In regards to how people were feeling in the weeks after the election and its results, there were common themes of feeling that the pandemic that has been going on for almost a year brought this country a lot together, but still not politically. Knowing everything that has happened over the past few years, 2020 especially, most people involved in the conversation shared concern about how many people still voted for a system that is deeply hurting people, even if that candidate didn’t win. Along with that was also the common concern that just because a new President was elected, that does not mean that we are close to solving issues that exist, like systematic racism and the pandemic, but this was a step in the right direction. In terms of what people shared being hopeful about in this discussion, there were also some great ideas shared. One of the most predominant things shared that brought Siena community members hope was the record voter turnout in this year’s election, which was the highest it has been in over a century. This was a sign of hope to people because it showed that more people were going out to use their voice and right to have a say in the future of their country.
Some other great things that were shared during this discussion were how we can take things learned from this election and apply them to Siena, and the community altogether. As far as what we can do at Siena, it was discussed how important it is to have uncomfortable conversations with people or peers that may have differing opinions than we do. On campus, bringing different groups and clubs and perspectives together to collaborate and interact could really help bring institutional change. It was talked about that exposure to new perspectives is so beneficial, as people learn from each other, and may see things a way they never have before, no matter what they believe or who they support. Another great thing highlighted was that this could lead to the normalization of civil discussion and no hateful behavior on campus, as making everyone feel safe and comfortable in this community is so important, again, no matter what they believe.
Overall, the “Where Do We Go From Here? A Post-Election Reflection” event was a very productive, effective discussion for a variety of people in the Siena community to come together, and talk about all they were feeling after the recent, highly anticipated Presidential election. Conversations like this one are extremely valuable, and the importance of seeing and listening to people and problems going on in this world, no matter if they affect you directly or not, was one of the biggest takeaways from this post-election discussion.