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CUNY reactions to the election

Photo by Christina Cardona
Photo by Christina Cardona

On Nov. 8, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. The election results however, have left different communities across the country, including the LGBTQ+ community, Muslim Americans and undocumented immigrants, concerned and even fearful. These feelings are reflected in some student organizations around Queens College.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to students across the state following the election.

“After the harsh and ugly rhetoric of the campaign, many of you are concerned about what might happen next. Let me be clear: This is the State of New York, not a state of fear. We will not tolerate hate or racism. We have been and always will be a place where people of many backgrounds have come to seek freedom and opportunity,” he said in the statement.

On Nov. 16 a Unity Wall was created on the outside of the Student Union Diner. QC students were encouraged by the Student Association to write on sticky notes their concerns about the election, as well as their hopes for the future.

Student Association president Japneet Singh came up with the idea when he was on Facebook and saw that people started a similar sticky note wall at the Union Square subway station. He said he felt inspired and wanted to do something similar on campus.

“It was such a divisive and brutal election campaign from both sides. I know as Student Association we had to do something in order to give our students and faculty a way to express themselves and just feel secure. But it wasn’t easy coming up with what to do just because a lot of people were worried and concerned after the election to even express their opinion,” Singh said.

He said that he feels the Unity Wall was a channel in which they were able to express themselves freely and didn’t have to worry about what others have to say.

“I hope it brings the campus closer. No matter what candidate people supported—at the end of the day we all are human,” Singh said.

QC students who support Trump expressed their opinions through chalk graffiti around campus days before the election.

CUNY student Chris supports Trump and feels that his supporters have a bad reputation.

“I think it is absolutely unfair of people to put his supporters in a group calling them racist, sexist and aggressive just based on a few incidents. I consider myself a supporter and I am in no way a racist or a sexist,” he said. “You cannot judge a whole group of people in a huge movement based on a few bad seeds.”

Chris also generally supports Trump’s idea of having stronger borders.

“No smart, well-established country should have weak borders. I’m not only talking about the wall that he proposed between the U.S. and Mexico, I’m talking about all of the United States. We need strong borders and need to do background checks and research on who enters our country,” he said.

Other students, however, have expressed fear about the policy proposals that could come from a Trump presidency.

The LGBTQ+ community has expressed their concerns about policies that Vice President elect Mike Pence supports.

“On the campaign trail Trump has stated that he would pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which will affect LGBTQ+ community by allowing discrimination by federal employees,” Austin Lynch, a history major and president of QC PRISM, said.

Lynch said that PRISM’s reaction to the election was anger and fear. They are angry that Trump won and are fearful of what he is going to do as president and what his supporters are going to do to them and their loved ones.

In the past, Vice President-elect Pence supported policies that were not supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. He opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and has suggested money go to a type of therapy for “those who want to change their sexual behavior.”

“Our future vice president is a crazy religious nut job and has the potential to be one of the most influential vice presidents in U.S. history,” Lynch said. “His views on conversion therapy are wrong and dangerous, he basically believes in torturing LGBTQ+ people in a futile attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation.”

Another group of people that received a lot of attention during Trump’s campaign were Muslims.

Trump stated on the campaign trail he would support a ban of all Muslims entering the United States. He has also said in the past that he was open to establishing a registry of all Muslims living in the country.

Dr. Ali Mermer, the Islamic Chaplain of the Queens College Muslim Students Association, said that the reaction from MSA was mostly calm.

“Before they came to me, I went to them. We met in the common area, the prayer rooms. In a friendly atmosphere we spoke and discussed the results. My mission was to calm them down at first, I could trace the disappointment on their faces,” Mermer said.

Mermer said that he laughed when Trump said he wanted to ban Muslim travel to the U.S.

“To me, it is not the reality of America. We cannot tolerate any discriminative action from the state, particularly directed to a minority. I don’t think the general public will accept it,” he said.

And as for Muslims registering in a database, Mermer said he thinks freedom of religion and freedom of speech is the blood of this country, and Americans cannot accept discrimination.

“Anyone who is involved or would like to get involved in any suspicious activity, they are already in the database,” Mermer said. “Let’s see if [Trump] is going to do it, I doubt it, it would definitely cause a big controversy in society.”

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken released a statement to the CUNY community about immigration concerns that were brought up during the election.

“Our immigrant community helps define who we are, where we have been and our future at this university. It brings passion, ambition, creativity and, perhaps most important, the dreams that are, in fact, the American dream. At CUNY, we have an unwavering commitment to providing opportunity to low income and underrepresented students and immigrants, a point of honor and strength that makes our mission so vital,” he said in the statement.

Milliken continued and said that this mission will not change. He said CUNY would continue its Citizenship Now! Program, which provides an array of one-on-one legal services, referrals to needed social services, reviews of legal status and assistance with applications.

CUNY hosted a Facebook live session called “Immigrants Matter @ CUNY” on Nov. 21, in which senior CUNY attorneys, student affairs directors and staff answered legal, financial aid and immigration status questions asked by immigrant CUNY students.

During the session, University Director at CUNY Rachel Stephenson addressed a few programs available to undocumented students at CUNY such as DREAMers at CUNY, a student led organization that advocates for equal access to higher education for undocumented students.

Stephenson mentioned the Dream.US Scholarship, which is only open to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students. DACA is an immigration policy started by the Obama administration in 2012 that allowed certain undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

Hundreds of students at CUNY are recipients of this scholarship, in which their tuition is paid for.

“A number of students with the scholarship may be wondering what would happen if policy changes nationally take place, and I want to let you know, even though most of you have already heard from the president of Dream.US, that the scholarship foundation is committed to seeing through their commitment to you. So regardless what happens with DACA the scholarship will remain in place for current recipients of that scholarship,” Stephenson said.

At the end of the session the senior vice chancellor of university relations and secretary of the board of trustees, Jay Hershenson, read the last line from Milliken’s statement.

“We hope all affected students will take advantage of CUNY and college resources and appreciate the great importance we place on providing you with the support and services that will help you build your futures and strengthen our university and our city,” he read. The hosts of the session also welcomed CUNY students who had any questions or concerns to email them.

“People who have chosen America, like myself I am an immigrant, chose it for freedom. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come here, why should I?” Mermer said. “America is a country of democracy and freedom, you can express yourself freely. You can practice your religion freely. America is the country of principles, not presidents. Presidents come and go, but principles remain.”

Christina Cardona

Christina Cardona is senior majoring in Media Studies and minoring in Journalism. She covers soft news such as events, and enjoys arts and entertainment articles. When she is not persuading everyone she knows that girls can do anything boys can do, she enjoys doing yoga and is a neighborhood dog walker. You can email her at christina[at]theknightnews.com.

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