By Nia Scott
On Monday, East Stroudsburg University held a community discussion at the Science and Technology building at 6 p.m.
The discussion was originally going to be held in Beers Lecture Hall, but the unexpectedly high turn-out forced the organizers to move to the larger auditorium. Even so, the room quickly became packed with students, faculty, administrators and alumni.
The stated purpose of this forum was to talk about how to build unity on campus after the election.
The results of the election have excited some and scared others, creating a division amongst the American people.
As a country, we may be divided but on campus, our community strives to create unity and an environment that is safe for all.
The discussion began with Dr. Storm Heter of the Philosophy Department introducing himself as the moderator for the discussion. He explained the purpose of the discussion and then handed the microphone over to President Marcia Welsh.
Welsh talked to the crowd and offered a story about a friend. Her friend was a law student who tried to become a legislative page in South Carolina.
However, she was told that women could not hold that position.
Her friend sued the South Carolina legislature and won.
Welsh told the story in an attempt to remind the crowd that anyone is capable of anything. The government may not work in your favor, but ultimately, it cannot hold you back.
Just like Welsh’s friend, she explained, we can fight against injustice and seek progressive change.
After Welsh, Andrew Kissling, President of the ESU Senate addressed the students. He spoke about creating a safe campus.
“We want to continually promote a both safe campus environment, as well as a learning environment.”
He acknowledged the events happening around the country, and expressed his hope that we do not bring that kind of behavior to our campus.
“There are a number of things that are disrespectful, to say the least, that are going around in different parts of our country. There are a number of violent things, a number of racial slurs being thrown around, horrible hate crimes being committed, and that’s not something we want to bring onto our campus,” Kissling explained.
Kissling also talked about respect, and making sure that we all respect one another: “Make sure you have respect for your fellow peers, you have respect for the staff on campus, and the other community members.”
After Kissling, Dr. Kimberly Adams of the Political Science department spoke to crowd.
She began with addressing the students from a professor’s point of view, “We are doing this because we are trying to heal. We are doing this because we care about you students. Your happiness is our happiness, and when you are sad we are sad.”
Dr. Adams used her time to play a video that explained the electoral college. The video explained that many people have been questioning the electoral college because Hillary won the popular vote, meaning the majority of Americans that voted wanted Hillary, yet Trump is going to be President because he won the electoral college.
She touched upon some of the fears many people have like, stricter voting laws, access to contraceptives and abortion, the next Supreme Court Justice, and access to restrooms for transgender individuals.
Dr. Adams ended with a call to action to the audience: “In 2018, we will have midterm elections, where a third of the Senate is going to be reelected and all of the members of the House.”
Her message was clear, that if you want the government to change, get ready to vote.
Next to speak was Dr. Leitner from the ESU counseling center located in Flagler Metzgaar.
She invited students to come visit the counseling center if they want someone to talk to.
“The counseling center, which is located above the health center, is really a safe and welcoming environment for you to express whatever you’re feeling, whatever your anxieties might be, regardless of who it is you voted for,” Dr. Adams explained.
Before the floor was opened to the audience, Dr. Doreen Tobin, Vice President of Student Affairs, told students where to go if they are attacked or harassed in any way.
“My role is to talk about what happens if you go out and for some reason you feel that you’ve been harmed, attacked or assaulted in some way by somebody else on our community campus.”
After the opening statements, the floor was opened to students so they could express their fears and hopes.
A student Kennedy stated, “I fear that I’m going to lose access to my healthcare and that I won’t be able to afford my expensive medication.”
“I fear the socio-economic political landscape will change and regress. I fear racial injustice will continue. I hope racial injustice will improve. I hope the world will become a more loving, accepting place to live,” expressed another student Seth.
Several spoke about their fears for minorities.
One student said from the point of view from a person who came to America from another country, “This is not the America that I came to live in. This is not the America that I love.”
Dr. Cynthia Leenerts of the English Department voiced her fears, “I fear for my Muslim friends and students as well as my LGBTQ friends and students, I fear for the elderly, the disabled, for all the vulnerables.”
Another concern, echoed by several in attendance came from Dominique Washington, “My fear is that we don’t learn from this. That we don’t move forward and talk about what needs to be talked about.”
One student name Raven expressed concern that her race would suffer as it had in the past.
“My name is Raven,” she stated, “Not anything that starts with N.”
Although there were many fears and concerns from students, faculty, and the community, all of them seemed to have hope for the future.
Yilana Hernandez, a senior at ESU, offered this advice, “Be who you are, no matter who you are. Be you.”
She also said, “I hope we do not increase the division, but that we try to minimize it, especially on campus.”
The discussion gave many students a safe place to voice their concerns, and for them to find unity and safety knowing that others on campus feel the same way.
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