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Many unopposed candidates, low voter turnout in SGO election

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    SGO election infographic no preference

On March 21, the Student Government Organization announced the results of the Executive Board election. Several changes have been made to SGO Executive Board positions and the election process in the past few months. There was low student turnout for the election, which indicates that there are still efforts to be made by SGO to encourage more student engagement.

According to current SGO Co-President Nancy Yuan ’20 one notable thing about the recent election is that there are no longer co-presidents. Instead, candidates for president and vice president ran on the same ticket.

“We realized that because there are so many tasks that are involved with running SGO, it’s better to separate the two so that there are more defined roles for who will be taking notes and who will be setting up the agenda,” Yuan said.

Gilbert Orbea ’19 and Kat Capossela ’21 were elected president and vice president, respectively. They ran on an unopposed ticket.

Yuan also expressed that the Executive Board elections were held earlier in the semester to encourage more students to participate and to allow for a more extensive transition period for the incoming board members.

“We want to make this … open to as many students as possible to engage the student body,” Yuan said. “Since all the other positions [besides president and vice president] are open to any students on campus, we have a transition period to help the incoming chairs. While the president and vice president have prerequisites for at least one year experience in SGO or SBC [Student Budgeting Committee], the other positions depend on the time that people are willing to put in because this is a big undertaking with a lot of responsibilities.”

Akshay Srinivasan ‘21, class senator and newly elected chair of student organizations, also believes that having the election earlier was beneficial by allowing for a transition period, especially considering the quick transitions that happened after the special elections last fall, after a co-president, at-large senator, and the chair of student life resigned.

“I thought [having an earlier election] was necessary,” Srinivasan said. “Especially for exec board positions, it’s really important to transition. I know that last semester with the special elections, the co-presidents didn’t get much of a transition.”

According to Yuan, having the elections earlier in the semester allowed for the newly elected president and vice president to help with the spring budgeting that is related to what they will be in charge of when their term starts as opposed to the outgoing co-presidents.

“In the past, the outgoing co-presidents would do the spring budgeting for SGO for the incoming year which would be quite unfair because they won’t be there to run those activities,” Yuan said. “[My co-president] and I was helping the newly elected president and vice president with spring budgeting. This way, we’re able to transition them in, and they get a start on the activities that they want to run.”

According to Srinivasan, the earlier election was also potentially beneficial in that it had the potential to encourage more students to vote.

“Pushing it earlier might help because students are probably more focused because it’s not right before finals,” Srinivasan said.

However, while SGO voter records show that election turnout has been in the 500s since fall 2015, with a spike in participation in 2017 with 730 voters, only 314 students voted in the most recent election. That results in an overall turnout rate of 21 percent.  

“Voting is a voluntary thing; these votes aren’t compulsory,” Yuan said. “[Turnout] is based on students’ time and in the spring semester, many students are abroad. Getting people engaged in the voting process is something we’re trying to work on in terms of outreach to students.”

According to Srinivasan, the voter turnout being low for this election may have been because five out of nine of the positions were unopposed, including president and vice president. In the past three elections, the co-president race has been competitive.

Of the students who did vote, many selected “no preference” instead of voting for a candidate. Even for positions that were competitive, including chair of student organizations and chair of outreach, upwards of 25 percent of voters voted “no preference.”

“I think it’s important to have the ‘no preference’ option there so that we know if people are or aren’t caring about that election,” Srinivasan said. “I think the big reason voter turnout was so low, especially this year was because the president and vice president ran their race unopposed.”

With the changes made to the Executive Board and an implementation of a longer transition period for the incoming board members, SGO hopes to work towards increasing student engagement.

Reflection on the 2016 election

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When I tell people that I’m a conservative, their first assumption tends to be “Oh, he voted for Trump.” Now sometimes they do give me the courtesy of asking first, and my answer is always a) I couldn’t vote in the 2016 election as I was not yet of voting age, and b) I wouldn’t have even if I could.

Perhaps this is surprising for people to hear, but to me, much of what Trump stood for during the election does not agree with what I consider to be my conservative ideals. As a conservative I believe in small government, the power of the free market, and generally high standards of behavior from the representative of the American people. I also believe in the rule of law and the fair application thereof. During the election, one of the key policies that Trump pushed was economic populism and protectionism, including voiding such agreements as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership. As a believer in the importance of the free market, repealing free trade agreements runs counter to my beliefs, although the TPP did have a number of issues. Trump spoke of “bringing back coal” through government intervention, which again conflicts with my belief in the free market. Trump’s demeanor and statements throughout the campaign seemed to run counter to the high standard of behavior that is expected of the American president, the so-called leader of the free world.

Trump began his presidency with the travel ban against immigrants from a number of nations in the Middle East and northern Africa. This rather rushed decision seemed ineffective at best and to be an attempt to target a specific group of foreign nationals based on their religion at worst. Regardless of any potential merits of this particular policy decision, such discussion was superseded by claims of Islamophobia, regardless of whether or not that was indeed the intention. The whole Russia investigation has been a blight on the administration and, in some eyes, continues to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the administration.

The attempts to repeal Obamacare were laughable, especially given the Republican control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. Trump’s response to the protests in Charlottesville over the summer, in trying to draw a moral equivalency between the actions of Antifa and white nationalists / Neo-Nazis, was incomprehensible. While the actions of Antifa often seem to cross the line into thuggery, as a member of the American Jewish community I found the comparison rather troubling. One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Trump is his behavior on Twitter which, along with his general demeanor, has often come off as immature and unpresidential. The current heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, both nuclear powers, weakens global security and the power of the United States.

That it is not to say that the Trump administration has been without its accomplishment. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was certainly a victory for those who wish to see judicial restraint remain a part of the high court for the foreseeable future. ISIS is retreating in Iraq and Syria, arguably in large part due to the increased commitment of the American-led coalition. A new tax plan is currently under debate in the halls of Congress, and while the current version certainly has its flaws, there is hope that the tax plan will bring increased prosperity to Americans. The approval of the the Dakota and Keystone pipelines brings hope that American can increase its energy independence, thus decreasing the necessity of its role in the geopolitical quagmire that is the Middle East, while still leaving the door open for private and state and local investment in renewable energy and green initiatives that will one day wean us off of fossil fuels.

But in spite of his promises during campaign season, Trump has not really gone through with many of the policies that were the hallmarks of his campaign. Throughout the campaign, Trump railed against China as a currency manipulator and blamed them for the loss of jobs of many Americans who worked in industrial settings. Yet in his time in office, Trump has instead pursued a much more measured and diplomatic approach to China. In his recent visit to China, he announced the signing of trade deals worth billions of dollars, a far cry from his previous promises to punish China. Trump has also demonstrated a commitment to seeking peace in the Middle East, especially in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So this begs the question, is Trump really the president we expected him to be during the campaign season, or is he the person we often continue to view him as? Indeed, it can certainly be said that Trump’s demeanor and behavior continue to be rather unpresidential. Many people liked him for this reason: he was an outsider, a non-traditional politician who neither spoke nor acted like the classic inside-the-beltway type. But arguably, Trump has not stayed true to those policies that mobilized the masses, those vitriolic speeches that brought middle America to the voting booths, that turned blue into red. In policy, Trump has simply acted as a normal Republican president would. Perhaps it is the power of the office that gives someone a new perspective on the world, and not even Trump could escape that. Many will admit that so far Trump’s victories have been few. He lacks any sort of signature policy or piece of legislation that can be shown to help America. But if we are to see three or even seven more years under Trump, perhaps we will see a great leader emerge, even if it takes a few decades of perspective to see. That’s what any true patriot wants.

Record Swattie Turnout Helps Democrats Win Local Elections

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On Nov. 7, Democrats came out victorious as Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden won two seats on the Delaware County Council. This was the first time in over 30 years that Democrats have secured seats on the Council, which has historically been Republican dominated. Many community members were involved in helping campaign for the Democrat candidates as signs that read “Zidek Madden Vote Nov 7th: Bring Sanity Back” were dispersed throughout the County. The Swarthmore College Democrats parallelled these efforts by campaigning on campus to students; their efforts were rewarded when Swarthmore College student voter turnout was the highest ever for a local election.

Taylor Morgan ’19, president of Swat Dems, was approached by the County Democrats and candidates after their win and thanked for the student turnout.

“I heard from the people at the polling place, and also at a victory party at the Inn later that night, from the County Democrats and the candidates, that this year was the most significant turnout of Swarthmore students for local elections. All the candidates came up to me at the victory party that night and were thrilled at the engagement and involvement of Swarthmore students canvassing, voting, and in other ways supporting their candidacy,” said Morgan.

Swat Dems’ efforts started way before election day and extended past the college campus. According to Morgan, the organization’s strategy was to provide information about the election, both about the campaigns of the different candidates, and on the logistics of the voting process, in order to actually help students to go out and vote on Nov. 7.

Before the election, Swat Dems worked to enable students not only to vote, but also be involved in the campaigning process.

“I brought in two canvassing trainers to campus and hosted about 19 students who got trained to do paid canvassing. Secondly, we had a ‘Get Out the Vote’ operation which consisted of phone banking; canvassing around campus; dorm storming, which consisted of putting voter day information under the doors; tabling in Sharples to sign people up to drive shuttles; and to volunteer for campaigns,” said Morgan.

On the day of the election, Swat Dems were joined by the Sunrise Group and the Swarthmore Conservative Society to coordinate efforts to get people out to vote. President of Swat Conservatives Gilbert Guerra ’19 said that his group abstained from endorsing specific candidates but still believed it was important to get out and vote.

We joined in the Get Out the Vote effort by advertising it on our social media accounts and by tabling on the day of the election,” said Guerra.

Swat Dems also tried to incentivize students to go vote through food trucks.

“I researched two Black-owned businesses in the area, and I found two food trucks with the help of Andy Rosen, who is the chair of Swarthmore’s Farmer’s Market called Plum Pit Bistro and Catering, and The Sweetest Rose Cupcake Company. So we incentivized students to go vote through food catering. We encouraged students to get on the volunteer shuttles behind the food trucks before or after they were getting their food. And I think this really channeled a lot of students to get in the car and go down the street to vote,” said Morgan.

Morgan was also able to get community members to volunteer as drivers through connections from previous local campaign work.

“I was able to secure 17 local drivers who functioned as volunteer shuttles throughout the day, who used their personal time and vehicles to just drive Swarthmore students back and forth from the polling places,” said Morgan.

Morgan was hesitant to call the Democrats gaining seats a victory but is still optimistic about the future.

“I’m hesitant to call it a win because that implies that the challenge leading up to Tuesday is over, but on the contrary it has just begun. Delaware County, the college, and the community members have been facing complete obstruction and this is due to the Republican Machine. But now, we actually have people who recognize a lot of community needs and crises that are happening locally, that are at the table, and they can at least impart change that has for so long been obstructed. So to me, the ‘win’ means that there is a more likely chance that people will be able to access these changes, not necessarily that these changes will come,” said Morgan.

Morgan described the ‘Republican machine’ as a product of gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of district boundaries to provide advantage to one political party.

“Our district is the most gerrymandered district in the country. This is largely due to the regime of Republican machine in Delaware county. In college courses, Delaware County is held up as an example of what gerrymandering is and the dangers of it. And so the people that were elected, named Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden, have come out publicly against gerrymandering and have actually supported legislation that works at dismantling it. Also, Delaware County has the only for-profit prison in the state of Pennsylvania, and this is due to [Republican backing over the years],” said Morgan.

Peter Foggo ’21, a Democrat, decided to partake in local politics because of this Republican machine that Morgan described.

“I decided to participate in the local elections mainly because Delaware County has historically been controlled by Republican officials, but after the outrage following the most recent presidential election, I think that a lot of people in Delaware County realized that change was not only needed, but a realistic goal,” said Foggo.

Yasmeen Namazie ’19 echoed the importance of local politics bringing change to greater political platforms.

“I went out and voted because I understand the significance of local elections and their power in informing federal policy outcomes. After the Trump election, the Republican stronghold in the Senate and House has created a shortage in Democratic influence. As a Democrat, I want Democrats in local leadership to regain the House in 2018 and reverse the draconian policies implemented by the Trump administration: reinstate DACA, fund Planned Parenthood, repeal the travel ban, etc,” said Namazie.

Morgan hopes that this recent success will motivate students to get more involved in future democratic processes.

“To the group as a whole, I think that precisely because there was such a clear link between student engagement and victory, maybe students will be more likely to be involved in the future. And maybe, exactly this will kind of change the way students see the significance and effect of local politics,” said Morgan.

What Next? Fighting Against Trump’s America

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On Jan. 20, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. Being on a campus as liberal as Swarthmore, tense emotions were palpable within the community following the results of the election. Classes were canceled, tears were shed and a multitude of distressed Facebook posts were written. However, inauguration night seemed much less intense, with most students choosing to ignore it completely. Walking around campus, there was really no sense of panic or despair, a contrast to that which was starkly felt in the days following the election. I, personally, forgot it was the inauguration day last Friday – simply because no one had really been talking about it. I unwillingly caught a few glimpses of the ceremony while in the Ville, but other than that I spent my time watching a movie with a friend, it was a normal Friday night.

 As an international student, I feel I have an “outsider-looking-in” vantage point from which to view this election. Therefore, in order to truly understand the individual experiences of minority Americans – from election night up until now – I sat down with three Swatties to talk with them about what this new president means to them. I talked to them about their emotional processes during this intense election cycle, and their preferred methods of reprieve.

 On inauguration night, I sat down in the ML lounge with September Porras ’20 where she passionately talked about her commitment to protesting. The mood in the room was friendly and casual, everyone around us was nonchalantly socializing and studying. You would never know that a political event as major as a change in presidency occurred just earlier that day, an oddity on a campus as politically charged as Swarthmore.

“I didn’t even remember it was inauguration this morning,” Porras admitted, “which is good because I can focus on things and not be too upset by what’s happening.”

 Although she wasn’t too concerned on the day of the inauguration, Porras spent election night covering the polls on Swarthmore’s radio station, WSRN, with her friends until 2:15 in the morning.

As a patriot, she felt particularly betrayed because she believes that what makes America great is its diversity.

“To think that so many people find that to be not American – that shook me,” Porras said.  However, as time went by, Porras found solace through protesting.

“[The protests] helped me a lot…everyone decided ‘we’re angry and ready to fight back’…it was a sort of catharsis.”

 Porras described her emotional process from election night to inauguration night as a journey from being “sad and devastated, to being angry and then ready to solve.”As to whether protesting is an effective mechanism of resistance, Porras offers the following.

“Protesting an inauguration isn’t going to stop an inauguration. We all know that…the point of protesting is to let the rest of the nation know that people care, … years from now when people look back on documents and photographs – you’re looking at a divide in a nation, this is documented evidence that people did care and people did fight,” said Porras.

The Sunday following the inauguration, I sat down with Mirayda Martinez ’20, who said that she was heartbroken when she realized Trump was going to win.

However, Martinez found solace in solidarity on election night.

“I left the viewing party and went off with a couple of my friends who are also undocumented minorities and Latinx students. We talked about how it would affect us. It was very upsetting and there was a lot of crying, but we let each other know ‘hey, we can get through this,’” she said.  

Martinez also notes the in-your-face nature of social media as it relates to the coverage of the new president.

“I try and stay away from seeing posts on Facebook, I kind of just ignore them – just because it breaks my heart a little bit more every time I see it,” she said.  

Martinez says she “definitely” still feels heartbroken and disillusioned, and it’s been that way “since the day this election started.”

 In terms of protests, Martinez says “I’m really happy that people are acknowledging that this is a problem.”

However, she points out that protesting without active action is not enough. “I feel like some people go to these protests and then the next day they act like nothing happened …Yeah you can go to a protest and show your support…but if  you’re not doing anything about it in your own life and you’re just going to these events that make it sound like you’re doing something – then there’s no point in you trying to join the movement,” said Martinez.

She also acknowledges the positive ways in which social media has been manipulated for resistance. “I definitely think it’s good when people post about [issues regarding the election] on social media because you are making people aware that these are issues that need to be tackled,” she said.  

Byron Biney ‘19 remembered that on the day of the election “people were looking at the results as they came in – this was still around the time Hillary was in the lead, but still any time someone brought it up I’d tell them to stop talking about it — I didn’t want to hear about. Something about it just made me feel very uncomfortable, the fact that we were choosing between Hillary Clinton and this he ominously references the newly elected president.

Like Porras, Biney was also broadcasting live with WSRN. “There were so many emotions in that room, I feel like I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life,” he said. Biney also expressed the need to be in contact with loved ones during the elections.

“This is a move which threatens so many different people based on their identities, so there was just a longing to be in contact with my family,” he said.

After  the broadcast was over, however, Biney spent time with his friends, “they were trying to create a safe space to relax and calm down, and I did what I could to contribute to that safe space” said Biney.

The night ended for Biney with him walking back to his dorm, “playing the saddest song on my phone, and crying quite a bit.”

Biney continued by describing his headspace. “America is a system that has never really been for marginalized groups…[the election] is just a continuation of having to create a place for yourself in a system that really doesn’t want you to begin with, and now that Donald Trump is our president it’s just more upfront.”

  When news about the inauguration came up on his phone, he ignored it because it made him feel powerless amidst the day’s events- “the inauguration was going to happen and Donald Trump was going to come out looking like a bowl of spilled milk,” he said.

“I definitely have a more cynical viewpoint where I feel as if the protests aren’t going to convince people who are Trump supporters to not be Trump supporters,” Biney said.

“It’s almost as if they live in two different worlds.” he went on to say about the divide between Trump supporters versus those against Trump,

What effect does this have on protesting?  “Protests are more or less and expression of grievance and call to action, but Trump supporters won’t find those grievances valid – so what you end up with is people like Tomi Lahren saying it’s a gathering of cry babies,” Biney stated.

“I’m someone who goes to DIY punk shows, which are specifically made for marginalized groups. I see a lot of utility in the gathering of people from marginalized backgrounds and people actually creating discussions and expressing themselves through art or physical action,” said Biney.

Biney also acknowledges the fact that violence as a protesting tactic has become a very divisive feature of protests. He believes however, that marginalized groups are often inevitably considered aggressive or violent when they try and advocate for themselves.  

“[Protests] are the tools which they have, we can’t villainize those people just because they are using the tools around them.” His parting message for America: “My advice would be for people to stop treating these issues as if they’re new.”  

Oppression isn’t new, it just has a new face, and Americans must be ready and willing to fight against it as they always have.

The end

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The end is nigh.

Recently, I have been thinking about the end a lot as we approach the end of the semester, the end of classes, and the end of Obama’s presidency.

Time itself seems to be shrinking.   

These past eight years have been pretty momentous in terms of the amount of social change we were able to achieve. Though I can be overly critical of Obama’s administration and politics in general, I think American politics-as-usual has had a pretty good run. However, in the wake of the elections, politics-as-usual may be something in the past as both major American parties undergo serious reconstruction and re-conceptualize their respective directions.

On a personal level, despite the emotional rollercoasters I have been subject to, I had a pretty good semester as well. Sometimes, I worry that I, like America, peaked during this past semester, and everything is going downhill from here.

The future is always a scary prospect, and endings can be pretty shitty sometimes, but shittyness itself must end as well. The future may traumatize us and leave us with scars that we will never forget. Some of us may not even survive the immediate future. I am scared of what American politics may look like in these next four years, and, selfishly, I am also scared of how my next semester will turn out—but they too shall pass.

No matter what, it is our duty to continue to love one another and to remember those who are left behind. To paraphrase Professor Atshan, choosing to love is a political act because you are stating that you want other people to thrive. As American politics transforms itself under the new administration, we must not forget our mutual commitments to one another in creating meaning along with the love that we espouse.

The hackneyed Dr. Seuss quote goes: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” Why can’t we do both? I am happy that some have always chosen to love, and hence, I will smile. Similarly, I will always mourn the diminishing of love.

During the Democratic primary, I supported Senator Sanders’ insurgency of love. The pain of Bernie’s loss hurt for a while. The intrinsic fact that he lost did not faze me; the disturbing thing was that a movement rooted in love and solidarity seemed to have faltered in the face of larger and more heartless political mechanisms. Bernie is just a cute, old man that was nice enough to offer a helping hand and a vision to fix our broken shit.

Lest we wish to maintain the economic and political systems that have helped to produce our current cultural and political climate, we as a country need to radically rethink our priorities. Hyper-individualistic corporatism is simply unsustainable, and it continues to shock me that some choose profits over people. This distorted form of capitalism we live in now must end. To be clear, this particular form of capitalism that I speak of is one where larger conglomerates hold oligopolies and strangleholds on various sectors in the economy—one where money speaks louder than people’s voices under Citizens United.  

There once was a time when liberals and conservatives alike agreed that supporting people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and fighting for universal healthcare is simply the right thing to do. Now, somewhat paradoxical to their name, it seems hard to advocate for doing the right thing without the right labeling you as some radical communist. At the same time, many on the left choose to pay lip service to historically marginalized communities while sitting on a high pedestal of false superiority in a liberal bubble and fail to adequately interact and understand the struggles of the same communities they claim to advocate for. Both sides consistently demonize one another, and the mere conceptualization of having two distinct ‘sides’ is part of the problem.

Now, more than ever, we must choose to recognize each other as humans. More specifically, we must recognize the complexities and multi-faceted nature of everyone around us and acknowledge all of our commonalities and differences alike. We must wish to see others thrive for everything that they are and everything that we are not. We must choose to love.

All things must end, but love must live on.

Students activism on campus intensifies following Presidential Election

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In the wake of the presidential election earlier this month, student organizing and activism on campus has swelled to address the concerns brought about by the proposed policies of the president-elect.

On Nov. 15, over 100 students crowded into the Scheuer Room for the first of two interest meetings dedicated to coalition building and strategizing about avenues for action both on campus and beyond. The second of these meetings took place two days after the first. The organizers of the meeting, Priya Dieterich ’18 and Aru Shiney-Ajay ’20, hoped that these gatherings would provide a space to effectively channel the fervor for action that has grown within the student body in recent weeks and generate ideas about how to fortify the college community for the coming years.

“Aru and I independently had the idea of holding a meeting to connect different students who want to organize.  When I found out about her meeting, we joined forces and co-facilitated these two meetings.  I have seen and heard about — and personally felt — so much anger, frustration, and energy in the last week or so, and I wanted to help us collectively make the step towards concrete action,” Dieterich said.

In her description of the event on Facebook, Shiney-Ajay emphasized the intersectional focus of the meeting and the diverse motivations that brought students into that space.

“People from vastly different political and personal backgrounds stand against Trump — from groups focused on identity to groups focused on party politics. In order to effectively organize, we must, at least, be aware of various efforts. Tactical disagreement is encouraged,” she wrote.

A brainstorming session among the entire group was followed by small-group discussions in which more concrete action plans were formulated. Topics raised in these discussions included an increased institutional support for college staff, a student-led course derived from reading lists released by Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a renewed campaign for fossil fuel divestment, and a social justice academic distribution requirement.

“A lot of really great ideas were brought up at the meetings: [ideas] about how we can organize both on campus and off, about how to leverage our power and privilege as students, about how to responsibly and respectfully plug into existing activist work in our communities, about how to honor our commitments to social justice as an institution,” Dieterich said.

Among the plans voiced at the Nov. 15 meeting was a school-wide walkout scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17 at noon. Swarthmore joined over 80 other colleges across the country in campus-wide walkouts, which were organized by students in coordination with Movimiento Cosecha, a nonviolent movement dedicated to protecting the rights of immigrant populations in the United States.

At Swarthmore on Wednesday, hundreds of students gathered in front of Parrish Hall to demand that the college become a Sanctuary Campus, thereby providing institutional support to undocumented community members. The specific stipulations of a Sanctuary Campus include measures such as a special advisor for undocumented students, financial support for legal procedures that undocumented students may need to undergo, and a commitment to protecting undocumented community members from law enforcement officials such as U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Just after noon, in front of an audience of students, faculty, staff, and other community members, Jordan Reyes ’19 led the group in chants and served as a sort of moderator for the student speakers at the event, all of whom drew upon personal experiences as undocumented or Latinx people whose security is directly endangered by the Trump administration.

“This event was, more than anything, a showing of solidarity and support for any group that may be targeted in the coming months and years, more specifically the Latinx community and undocumented students,” Reyes said, following the event.

Wednesday’s walkout was just one of a series of actions that students have undertaken to pressure the college to become a Sanctuary Campus.

Killian McGinnis ’19 was responsible for drafting the petition for a Sanctuary Campus that has, at the point of publication, garnered nearly 2,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other community members. The petition will be presented to the Board of Managers at their upcoming meeting this Saturday, Dec. 2.

McGinnis says that the she is hopeful about the prospect of a Sanctuary Campus at Swarthmore.

“Students, faculty members, and administrators alike have devoted time and collaborative energy to thinking critically about what it would mean to make Swarthmore a Sanctuary Campus, and I would be surprised and disappointed if the Board’s decision didn’t reflect the widespread community support of the initiative,” said McGinnis.

In addition to creating the petition, McGinnis has been collaborating with a group of students who identify as undocumented and Latinx, co-led by Miguel Gutierrez ’18 and Ivan Lomeli ’19,

to formulate a faculty resolution to support the movement for a Sanctuary Campus. According to Lomeli, this resolution outlines the ways in which members of the faculty and staff at the college can continue to support the undocumented student population.

Lomeli underscored that the effort to make the college a Sanctuary Campus is critical to alleviate the acute threat that a Trump administration will pose to undocumented students, specifically pointing to the vulnerability of students who are protected by Presidents Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President-elect Trump has denounced as an unconstitutional overreach of executive power, and which he has publicly promised to overturn. DACA allows undocumented young people who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 to obtain a protected status, work permit, and social security number for two years at a time after a lengthy application process that costs $465 and is most often underwent without an attorney.

“The undocumented population on campus, of which most but not all, benefit from DACA, worried about what would happen if their benefits were taken away. Many, including myself, were discouraged from studying abroad to prevent being stuck outside of the country in case DACA was removed,” Lomeli said.

Furthermore, DACA impacts a student’s life beyond their tenure at the college. Lomeli pointed out that, were DACA to be repealed, its beneficiaries would no longer be able to work legally in the United States.

“The list of workplaces that sponsor employees to citizenship is very small and not at all promising,” he said.

Lomeli stressed that the walkout, the petition, and the faculty resolution affirmed a feeling of support and solidarity from the college that was much appreciated, and he, like McGinnis, hoped that this support would translate into a formal decision by the Board of Managers on Saturday.

“The faculty and staff, along with the many people whose energy and hope have been put into this Sanctuary Campus movement, await the response of the Board of Managers. If the Board of Managers chooses to ignore our plea, it will have to silence more than just the undocumented students on campus as there is a community standing behind us,” he said.

In addition to the movement for a Sanctuary Campus, a diverse array of student groups on campus have organized other solidarity actions in direct response to the presidential election and in support of those who will be most affected by the election.

In one such display of solidarity, students and several members of the administration met on Wednesday to participate in a national day of Jewish resistance declared by IfNotNow, a movement of American Jewish youth dedicated to progressive political causes. Marissa Cohen ’17 and Mira Revesz ’17, who organized the action, stated that it was meant to call on the Jewish establishment, the U.S. government, and any other institution claiming to represent the interests of young American Jews to prioritize human rights and dignity above all else.

“We stood as Jewish students and allies to uphold the lesson of ‘never again’ for every targeted community and challenged our communal institutions to do the same. We ask these institutions to condemn Trump and Bannon and stand up against anti-Semitism and white supremacy of any kind,” said Cohen and Revesz in a joint statement.

While the spike in student mobilization is discernible to many in the college community, it is not without precedent. Professor of sociology Lee Smithey drew connections between the kind of energy he is currently witnessing to the spring of 2013, often called the “Spring of Discontent,” which was also marked by heightened student mobilization and activism, saying that he sees the two periods as united by a distinct sense of fear and threat. However, Smithey was careful to note that the stakes and the particular political conditions of the two periods are markedly different.

“The presidential election is a much higher profile, really world-historical event, so the concern and even fear among many people is more widespread. It has stirred concerns about student experiences as well as larger national political concerns. President-elect Trump’s rhetoric about ending DACA, for example, has brought these worlds together: our daily life at the college and national politics,” Smithey said.

Smithey also emphasized that this period of student organizing in the face of the election is still in its infancy, and will likely evolve to meet the urgent needs and concerns of that will become more apparent as Donald Trump takes office.

“It feels a little early to characterize what student mobilization, or faculty or staff mobilization for that matter, is really like or is going to be like,” Smithey said.

However, while acknowledging that the full picture of student activism has yet to come into focus, Smithey expressed cautious optimism at the ability of the student body and the Swarthmore community at large to address these needs in an intersectional, multidimensional way.

“I do recall being impressed during that first organizing meeting at what seemed to be a real willingness among the students there to work in cooperation with one another across different groups and different interests and different concerns. That will take careful work — to continue with that kind of strategic care — and I think it will be really interesting to see if we can sustain that.”

In the final weeks of the semester, the work of student organizers will continue to include, among other endeavors, phone banking against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the state-sponsored violence against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a solidarity march through the town of Swarthmore, and, no matter what the decision of the Board of Managers, the realization of a Sanctuary Campus at the college. Thus, while it remains to be seen how student organizing will adjust and respond to the impending presidential administration, the current climate of activism shows no signs of cooling in the immediate future.


Anti-Trump supporters start colony in Antarctica

in Columns/Opinions/Satire by

Feeling absolutely disgusted and worn out over the results of the presidential election on Nov. 8, several Hillary Clinton supporters started a new nation in Antarctica to avoid having to live under the reign of President-elect Donald Trump. This move, initiated by Hollis LeMise, former resident of Ohio, has, at the time of writing, already garnered 200,000 supporters, with 4,000 already moving into the new colony.

“I come from Ohio, a state that technically was a game-changer on election night,” LeMise said. “I’ve been grappling over the fact that I live with a bunch of Trump supporters around my neighborhood, and I decided that I just can’t stand it anymore. Frankly, I’d rather go live with penguins than live with Trump supporters. I want to apologize to the people of the United States and allies around the world for the mess that my stupid state has helped create for all of us. I am creating this colony to do my part in providing an alternative life for those of us who were sensible enough to vote against our President-elect.”

According to Jackson Burushito, LeMise’s partner in the initiative, the new nation, loosely called the Untied State of America, will ensure a shelter for everyone interested in running away from the U.S. Each igloo will feature basic furniture and heating facilities to keep residents warm. The ice blocks that make up the igloo will be coated, so that the heat will not melt the house down. If the resident wishes, he or she will also be provided a therapy penguin to appease the resulting shock from Donald Trump’s victory.

“Hollis and I want to provide a space for our fellow citizens to run away from the reality and come back when things are better,” Burushito said. “We want all Americans to understand that Antarctica will be a place of mental freedom and relief, and will allow citizens to have some therapeutic time to smoothly register the fact that our nation has elected a complete buffoon to lead this country.”

The initiative quickly went viral, garnering the attention of many all over the world, including various world leaders. A spokesperson for Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, applauded the efforts of LeMise and Burushito, and offered to help them create a colony that could follow a model of government similar to that of Norway. A spokesperson for Guoni Thorlacius Johannesson, President of Iceland, expressed similar sentiments. The most impassioned statement, however, came from the spokesperson for Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

“I hope Americans realize that Canada is not a simple go-to country that people can just simply run away to because of an election,” the spokesperson said. “We are not your counselors who will listen to your own set of problems just because you think we don’t have any. We are starting to empathize with Mr. Trump’s fascination with a huge wall because we are about to think of building one of our own along our southern border. We applaud Ms. LeMise and Mr. Burushito for their efforts in taking the matter on their own hands instead of bringing a poor country that happens to share a border with America into this mess.”

LeMise and Burushito are currently expanding the project to cater to every American interested in moving to Antarctica. They project that roughly a quarter of the U.S. will follow through with the project and participate.

“I am a stalwart advocate of the principle that the best thing to do when you’re under a tremendous amount of stress is to simply run away and never come back—or come back after a long time,” LeMise said. “Through this project, we are making it easy for everyone who is interested to run away from problems and come back whenever they feel like it.”

Disclaimer: This article was written purely with a satirical purpose. The information presented in this article is thus false and completely untrue.

On the election and moving forward

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Everyone responds to stressful events like the recent election in different ways, but as we all go about our separate lives, the Phoenix wants to remind the community that we must stand together in times of strife. We urge all members of the community to practice radical kindness as we move forward as a community in the coming days. Regardless of your views or opinions on the election, it is important for all to recognize that members of our community are feeling incredibly strong emotions at this moment. The Phoenix strongly encourages you all to prioritize your self-care. We also want to emphasize that we cannot despair, give up, disengage, or absolve ourselves of responsibility to our society.

In light of the developments of the last 24 hours, the Phoenix would like to offer itself up as a space for the community to reflect. If you find writing to be cathartic or otherwise have thoughts and feelings you would like to share, please email them to editor@swarthmorephoenix.com.

With regards to the results of the election, the staff of the Phoenix agreed that the most important thing for us to do is to keep a sense of hope alive. Whatever happens in the next four years, we have decided that the best thing for us to do as a publication is to hope for a better tomorrow, and for a better future. Our community does not need any more divisive rhetoric or thoughts, words, and actions that cause harm to individuals. We recognize that this may be particularly difficult at a time like the present: it requires you to step outside of yourself and think outside of your own experiences. Gloating is never productive; neither is excessive hate nor excessive blame. When all’s said and done, the Phoenix wants to operate as an institution that protects people from violence, from hate, and from oppression. As a publication, we will keep fighting to ensure that voices that are historically underrepresented are heard. We will continue to pride ourselves on being the voice, the eyes, and the ears of this campus. The Phoenix asks for your help and support in this endeavor.

Lots of members of the community are expressing frustration and disbelief at the outcomes of the American democratic system. While we agree that it is important to critique and engage in discussions about the shortcomings of these structures, the Phoenix strongly encourages the community to keep in mind the values and principles of the democratic process. Many (but not all) of us were able to vote and have our voices heard. This is extremely important, even if large portions of the country disagree with us. However, the Phoenix is extremely disappointed in the fact that the electoral college has, for the second time in recent memory, selected a presidential nominee that is not representative of the popular vote. We feel that the electoral college’s decision goes against the mission of the United States’ professed democratic values—it should represent the people, not the product of gerrymandering and other petty political concerns.

Moving forward, the college must create a campus environment that is supportive of all of its members. The Phoenix believes that the decision to invite W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Charles Murray to campus a week after the most tumultuous election cycle our generation has ever seen gives us a particular responsibility to bear: we are responsible for taking control of the conversation and we have the power to shape it.

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