Fifty tattered American flags, part of Mel Ziegler’s “A More Perfect Union” exhibit, hung above hundreds of chattering Skidmore students gathered at the Tang Teaching Museum on Skidmore College’s campus election night. Raucous cheers erupted whenever the news anchors on the three large television screens in the center of the room announced Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won a state, while sharp “boos” or an unsettled silence filled the room whenever Republican candidate Donald Trump took a state.
Toes tapped and boots wiggled anxiously as students tried to finish their homework while keeping an eye on the results of what has been an especially volatile election.
“I’m wiggin’. This is horrific,” said one student to another as early results showed Donald Trump winning several states. Students, faculty and community members compulsively refreshed poll results on their laptops and smartphones, while television news anchors detailed results on the big screens.
Alexander Zimmerman, a 22 year old pre-med student at Skidmore, compared voting in 2016 to voting in 2012. When it came to the race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, Zimmerman said the possibility of nuclear war wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of his mind. This year, he said, is different; the stakes are higher.
Zimmerman’s family is made of survivors — his great-grandmother narrowly evaded the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in Manhattan in 1911, and his father’s family survived the holocaust.
“It is not a big jump from saying ‘No Mexicans,’ to saying ‘No Jews,’ he said.
The night was broken up by Skidmore’s a cappella group and other student musicians, as well as professors who spoke about the importance of down-ballot races. Students filled in hand-drawn maps on the walls with red and blue marker as the results came in throughout the night.
Zimmerman, like many millennials, supported Hillary Clinton’s primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, earlier this year. “I wasn’t fanatical,” he said. “It was more of an issue of trying to push Clinton to the left, particularly on economic and social justice issues.”
He said most of his friends who originally supported Sanders decided to throw their support behind Clinton.
“My opinions have less to do with being a college student and more to do with what I’ve been seeing with the right’s lack of empathy. It’s disconcerting that so many people buy into it,” he added.
Around 11 p.m., Skidmore professors turned down the volume on the sound system and took the stage to tell those in attendance that it looked like Trump was going to win.
The room became silent. Jaws dropped. Though the event was scheduled to run through midnight, the TVs were shut down and janitors began cleaning before the clock struck 11:30 p.m.
“I’m speechless,” said Billy Winter, 20, and a Skidmore student. “It’s terrifying.”
When asked what she was thinking at the end of the night, Mandee Mapes, 20, spoke between tears.
“I’m thinking about every single time somebody has noticed how dark I am,” she said. “Every single guy that has ever forced himself upon me. Every gay person I know who killed themselves. Every woman who has told me she has been assaulted or raped. Every black male friend I have who is scared to be out after dark.
“I’m thinking of my mother who wouldn’t be here if we had closed borders.”
“Misogyny in this country has ruined us,” said Joan Goodman, a retired adjunct professor and freelance artist. “We’re the mothers of this country, and we don’t have a right to run it?”
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239, [email protected] or @cady_kuz on Twitter.
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