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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Students, faculty share concerns on Trump presidency at town hall

University leaders lead a townhall on campus climate Tuesday in the wake of this month's election results. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer
University leaders lead a townhall on campus climate Tuesday in the wake of this month’s election results. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer

University officials said they plan to encourage more dialogue on campus surrounding the election results after a town hall meeting on campus climate Tuesday.

Students and faculty voiced their concerns about topics like feeling unsafe on campus and fossil fuel divestment to a panel of administrators in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom. The town hall was one of the ways officials have reached out to GW community members since the election.

In the weeks since the election, students and staff have participated in protests, vigils and a walkout that totaled about 400 students in protest of the rhetoric used during President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and out of concerns for their futures under a Trump administration.

Provost Forrest Maltzman said in an interview that these discussions should occur regularly because people learn from talking to each other.

“It’s important for us to make sure that we continue to have these sort of conversations, and lots of ideas came up here,” he said.

Here are some of the big themes from the townhall:

1. Open to all dialogue

Administrators encouraged students to cross the aisle and diversify who they spend time with instead of isolating themselves with one group of friends.

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said that when he met with Michael Tapscott, the director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, Tapscott suggested having students get out of their comfort zone by attending a new event with a new group once a week.

“We can’t lock ourselves in our positions and in our niches and refuse to come out and share and express our concerns, but until we do that, we’re gonna be spinning our wheels,” Tapscott said.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost for diversity, equity and community, discussed her time in college when she heard opposing views in a classroom dialogue about the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles during the early 1990s, which took place in response to the acquittal of four white police officers accused of brutality against King, a black man. She said exposure to different opinions decreases partisanship.

“You really want to take advantage of that,” she said. “Those conversations shaped the rest of my life and shaped the work that I decided to do.”

Some students were frustrated by the call to communicate with the other side, saying it would not accomplish much. Others used the open forum to ask others to understand their situations as either immigrants or defenders of sexual assault victims.

A few students brought up concerns that professors were not treating their conservative opinions with respect. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, said the school strives to teach and grade policy assignments based on how a plan would function, and not on the partisan implications.

“If I hear that anything else is going on, I would want to know about that because that wouldn’t be what we are doing,” she said. “It’s not the position you take. It’s your ability to do an analysis of the position that we are trying to teach.”

2. Consistent research and values

One student asked how GW would balance between developing as an “educational bubble,” unopened to new ideas from the new administration while still protecting students from threats.

“Have you guys thought through or anticipated how the relationship with the next administration would look like considering, I would argue, some of their values do not align with GW values?” she said.

University President Steven Knapp said that GW’s policies would not change because of the new administration.

“What we do as an institution is driven by the interests and talents and the commitments of our faculty and students,” he said.

Maltzman added that presidents do not regulate what universities research, meaning the new administration should not impact GW’s scholarship.

“I cannot envision our faculty, and I can’t envision our students saying, ‘Boy we’re going to change the facts of our research based off of who is in the White House,’” he said.

3. Utilizing available resources

All administrators encouraged students to set up meetings with themselves or their offices to discuss any issues they’re facing as a result of Trump’s election.

Thomas Falcigno, the executive vice president of the Student Association, also urged students to meet with him or SA President Erika Feinman.

“We’re always willing to do that and always willing to work with students,” he said. “We hope to support you in that.”

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