Although some students expressed immediate distress and requested postponement of assignments and exams following the President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, the election did not hinder their academic performance, according to students and professors interviewed by the News.
Dozens of students reached out to professors immediately after Trump’s victory to express worries that concern about the election results would obstruct their ability to perform in exams on Nov. 9.
In their emails, many students cited fear about the implications of a Trump presidency — including mass deportations, a ban on Muslim immigration and an increasing number of hate crimes — and said their immediate academic performance would suffer as a result. Others anticipated that lack of sleep from staying up late watching the election results come in would hinder them.
In response to students’ distress, professors instituted several changes on a class-by-class basis. For example, a midterm exam in Physics 180 scheduled for last Wednesday was converted to a take-home test due last Friday. An exam scheduled for the same day in Economics 115 taught by professor Steven Berry was made optional, and the final will take up a larger percentage of the final grade for students who decide not to take the exam. Computer science professor Holly Rushmeier, after receiving many requests for postponement, delayed a Wednesday exam in Computer Science 201 to Friday, and professor Mark Mooseker gave students in Biology 102 the opportunity to opt out of a Wednesday exam.
Twitter users, as well as articles published in right-wing media outlets, criticized students’ reactions to the election results. In response, Berry wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday defending his students.
“They do the work, they learn the material and they are unfailingly polite,” Berry wrote. “I have the best job ever.”
Berry told the News that almost all students ended up taking the optional Econ 115 exam.
In a number of classes, including Latin 424, class attendance on Wednesday was also made optional.
Still, interviews with professors and students suggested that Yalies’ academic performance has remained largely unhindered.
Mooseker said the average mark for the Wednesday biology exam was in fact higher than most averages from similar exams earlier in the course. He added that the vast majority of students enrolled in his class decided not to opt out of the exam on Wednesday morning. Only three students, he said, decided to skip the test and have its weight added to the final exam. He said he was “very impressed” with the class’ performance.
Similarly, Rushmeier noted that the election did not have an effect on her students’ performance on last Friday’s rescheduled exam. During her class last Wednesday, she gave a “very well-attended” lecture that was not impacted by the election despite minor comments mentioned in passing, she said.
Some students interviewed noted that the chief source of their distraction was a desire to understand the election results.
“The main thing for me academically has been distraction just because I’ve been trying to learn more about this election, about what’s going to happen after Trump is inaugurated,” said Claire Rossi de Leon ’19, who took the Biology 102 midterm last Wednesday. “Just trying to keep myself updated when so much is going on has been the most difficult part along with all my schoolwork.”
Katie Shy ’19, another student in Biology 102, said she would not have done any better even if the exam had been postponed. Staying up to watch the election made her lose sleep, but Shy did not think that the results themselves took an emotional toll on her exam performance.
Tim Jeon ’18, a Computer Science 201 student, questioned why he was studying as the election drew on into the night. Despite the distraction, he told himself to move on and to “do what [he] needed to do.”
Sherry Lee ’18, a staff columnist for the News, said she usually adopts a similar attitude toward momentous events such as a presidential election.
“I’m the sort of person, whenever there’s a calamity, you can’t put your life on hold for it, you have to keep working,” Lee said.
However, last Tuesday night, as she tried to study for her “French for Reading” exam that was scheduled for the following afternoon, she felt that she could not “adequately prepare” for it and emailed her professor, senior lecturer in French Maryam Sanjabi, requesting that the exam be delayed. Sanjabi postponed the exam to Wednesday of this week, which Lee said was helpful.
For classes with assignments that proceeded as planned, some students found that a postponement of assignments would have positively impacted their performance.
In “General Chemistry Laboratory,” a lab report was due two days after the election, and the date stood as planned.
Still, Serena Ly ’20, a student in the lab course, said the election impaired her ability to focus on the lab report. In the aftermath of the election, she found herself unable to concentrate, noting that she could not help but read articles and have conversations with friends about the election in order to better understand it.
“The election undoubtedly had an effect on my performance,” Ly said. “It didn’t affect my thinking processes, but it did affect my mental state going into the lab report.”
The report, which usually takes Ly an hour to complete, took her five to six hours last week, she said.
However, Ly said she would not have wanted the lab report to be postponed, arguing the enforcement of deadlines makes a point that people must move on regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in.
CNN officially declared Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States at 2:47 a.m. EST on Nov. 9.