As the dust clears following the election of Republican nominee Donald Trump, students at Yale are struggling to come to terms with one of the biggest upsets in American political history.
Bleary-eyed students walked to class Wednesday morning in various stages of emotional distress — some anxiously calling their families, others looking silently into the distance — on a surreal day at Yale.
Over the last day and a half, the emotional impact of Trump’s victory on Yale students — an overwhelming majority of whom supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in the election, according to a recent News survey — has raised questions on campus about how to proceed over the next few days.
Students gathered in La Casa Cultural, the Afro-American Cultural Center and Dwight Chapel over the course of the day to process their feelings about a president-elect who has polarized the country and injected divisive language into the national political discussion.
Individuals interviewed by the News said they were shocked and shaken by Trump’s resounding victory over Clinton, who pollsters and experts widely predicted to win the election by a landslide.
“Last night and this morning I guess it really hit,” said TJ Noel-Sullivan ’20. “I had an assessment [in Spanish] first thing this morning, and it was definitely not the easiest thing to transition into.”
Still, in an interview with the News, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said he will not let the election result detract from Yale’s academic mission. He added that his office does not plan to grant dean’s excuses to students who are upset about the election outcome.
“One thing we need to do during difficult times is keep focus on what we are all about: We are an educational institution, a research institution, and we need to do that work,” Holloway said. “Being as normal as we can in our day-to-day work is, I think, a healthy response.”
But for many Yalies, the day-to-day chores of academic life seemed like an afterthought amid the national political convulsion set off by Trump’s victory. On Wednesday morning, students said they were dumbfounded by the election of a scandal-ridden businessman who made his name in reality television and real estate.
“When the country is choosing between having a female president and a president who talks disparagingly about women on a regular basis, it’s pretty shocking to see the country make this choice,” said Abigail Schneider ’17.
Around 300 tearful students filled Dwight Hall after classes Wednesday to hear Shades — Yale’s only historically African-American a capella group — sing “We Shall Overcome” as well as other songs devoted to love and solitary, the theme of the event.
Isaac Scobey-Thal ’19, a member of Shades, said he and many of his friends are appalled that Americans have elected a first-time politician notorious for racist comments and a track record of alleged sexual harassment. He added that in light of the election result, students at Yale have taken a variety of different approaches with regard to their academic work.
“I’ve tried not to extend my work too much or put it off until later, because that’s not how I can best cope with it,” Scobey-Thal said. “But I think that people taking a day to cry and feel all their feelings — to listen to music, to be with friends and to put work out of their minds — I think that should be given to them.”
Other students interviewed also tried to prevent their feelings about the Trump victory from influencing their academic routines.
Noah Strausser ’18 told the News that in his classes on Wednesday professors expressed a desire to “move on, carry on and think about something else for a little bit.”
“I’m from architecture, and we’re a very small, tight-knit major,” Strausser said. “We know the professors really well, and we spent the first half hour of class to give everybody a chance to talk about how they’re feeling, and it was really great that we had that opportunity.”
Hudson Lee ’19 said he had to fight off the urge to read his friends’ election-night Facebook posts so that he could prepare for a midterm exam. He added that on Piazza — an online forum for students to ask their professors and teaching assistants questions — many students urged the professor to postpone the test.
“I had to snap myself back into reality to study,” Lee said. “I’ve pushed off my reaction till after this midterm.”
Still, not everyone at Yale lamented the election outcome. On election night, as dismayed Clinton supporters gathered on Cross Campus, a small contingent of Trump supporters — who make up around 5 percent of the undergraduate population, according to the News survey — stood watching Yale students gather on Cross Campus in the aftermath of an unexpected Clinton defeat.
A senior Trump supporter in Berkeley College, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash, said the distraught reaction to Trump’s victory highlighted a double standard in Yale’s political culture.
“[Students] talked about Trump not being able to graciously change over our democracy if he lost,” the student said. “Well, we’ve gotten five or six ‘F–k you’s just walking around this evening [in “Make America Great Again” caps].”
As Clinton supporters wandered around Cross Campus in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Berkeley senior added that he looks forward to confronting his liberal peers in class over the next few days.
“I think section’s going to be hilarious tomorrow,” he said.
Trump won by 279 electoral votes to Clinton’s 228.
Brittany Smith contributed reporting.