It’s been about three weeks since the United States elected businessman-turned-demagogue Donald J. Trump as our leader. There have been protests, Facebook rants and one article after another asking, “How could this have happened?”
But at the University of North Florida, students have remained largely unaffected. Campus remained clear of campaign signs, except for Election Day when Trump/Pence signs were lined up along the Kernan Blvd. entrance and the day President Obama paid us a visit. After Obama's speech, signs reading “I’m with Her” and “Do the Most Good” littered dorm hallways and students' bedroom windows.
“The mood on campus after the election was not noticeably different,” said civil engineering student Brandon Diaz. “I really don’t believe anything will change for us, at least not for a while.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, many Trump supporters “came out of the closet.” Students could finally sport Trump t-shirts, slap a “Trump/Pence 2016” sticker on their Yeti Tumblers and wear those lovely red hats.
“I am willing to give him a chance partially because he’s backtracking on many of the policies he was hardcore about during the campaign,” said history major John McCrone. “His new policy ideas like a ban on lobbying in Washington sound good, but I’m concerned about all of the cabinet and staff picks."
Students seem displeased about the white nationalist and anti-gay personnel Trump has surrounded himself with, but largely remain either indifferent or optimistic. “I see people just going about their normal lives,” said student Russell Fidler. “People in the [on-campus] game room are still the same, and I am personally indifferent to the outcome of the election.”
On Nov. 14, UNF president and former Jacksonville mayor John Delaney sent an email to students, staff and faculty urging them to “stay involved in issues important to our country’s future, while respecting the opinions of others.”
In the days following the election, campus groups like the Interfaith Center, the Women’s Center and the English Department offered safe spaces where students could voice thoughts, fears and decide how to move forward from here. Students who attended these events said they were worried about an increase of bullying and hate crimes on campus and discussed ways to promote dialogue and inclusivity among their peers.
Sports management student Drew McDonald said he hadn’t seen any unrest on campus, apart from the Black Lives Matter protest earlier this semester and the “Dump Trump” rally on The Green earlier this month.
UNF presents an interesting mix of ideologies - it’s nestled between the bustle of metropolitan downtown and the laid-back beaches, but also draws on the culture of Deep South. As the U.S. enters a new era of leadership, the calm nature of campus and general friendliness of students lead this student to believe the Ospreys will fare just fine.