Students, faculty, religious leaders and organizers of Get Out The Vote (GOTV) gathered two nights after the shocking presidential election to ask “what now?” Attendees sat in silence drinking milk and eating cookies awaiting what moderator Ralph Paz, secretary of GOTV, had to say. Those in attendance appeared to be primarily Hillary Clinton supporters seeking solace in each other’s experiences and emotions.
“This event is not about who you voted for and why. This is to come together and discuss our diverse experiences of the 2016 election,” Paz explained.
Students were reluctant to speak out at first, but as the event went on, more and more attendees raised their hands. Students snapped, clapped and sighed in agreement as they heard from others who shared their concerns.
Of the 50 people in the room, almost all of the students raised their hands to say they were first-time voters.
A student wearing a shirt that said, “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate,” said he felt empowered after voting for the first time. He felt that his voice was being heard. However, he felt uneducated to an extent because he did not know every item on the ballot like local races.
An international student from Peru expressed discontent with the electorate and voter turnout.
“To come here and see people taking voting for granted is sad. I hope nobody loses that zeal to keep going. Furthermore, I had a lot of friends here that volunteered at the polls. It gave me perspective to people step outside their bubble and voice their opinion. I encourage you to canvass, talk to people and get other perspectives outside your own small circle.”
Because of Florida’s importance as a swing state, students and faculty from out of state often register to vote when coming to the University of Miami.
Rabbi Lyle from the University of Miami Hillel recently moved to Miami from New York.
“I was surprised to see how many of my friends called to see if I was voting. Being from New York, they knew my vote was important. Getting that many messages and having people ask if I was watching the results showed me I had the potential to make a big difference. In New York, no one ever called me to ask about my vote,” he said.
Galia Bernat, a sophomore studying human and social development from Massachusetts, said she had been excited to vote in Miami, a key city in the infamous swing state of Florida.
“My vote counts a lot more here because of the uncertainty of the turnout. I felt a lot more connected to the election. My family was very proud of me that I decided to vote here,” she said.
Luke Franc, a freshman studying studio music and jazz, expressed his disappointment in the election results watch party in the Rathskeller on campus, specifically noting the chants between the College Republicans and College Democrats.
“I felt like I was watching a sports game based on how both sides were responding and interacting with each other,” Franc said.
At one point in the night, GOTV President Monica Bustinza got up on stage at the Rat to remind students to be respectful and enjoy the night together, but her voice was overpowered by chants of, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” some students in attendance said.
Camila Rodríguez-Rojas, a sophomore studying biology and Spanish from Jacksonville, Florida, is from a Mexican and Columbian background. Despite the large Hispanic and Latino population in South Florida, Rodríguez-Rojas said her identity affects how she feels at the university, especially after the election.
“I woke up and I cried. My mom called me and said to be safe because of the protests,” she said. “I walked onto campus and saw nothing. I saw minority students with a look of dead-in-the-eyes but I saw nothing … I felt a feeling of ‘you don’t belong here’ in the eyes of people wearing Trump shirts the next day … I was shocked at the campus and how it was so quiet. I wanted something more.”
People all across the country are voicing their frustrations through marches and peaceful protests and using the hashtag #NotMyPresident on social media. Many feel the need to disavow Trump for past statements or policy proposals that they do not agree with.
“Our president-elect is one person. There are 500+ other people that make decisions and have a say in policy and do not share his views. From a policy perspective, there should not be a fear of his rhetoric,” one student said.
CJ Voltaire, a junior from Pembroke Pines, Florida. majoring in Africana studies, spoke about the consequences of Trump’s rhetoric.
“I’m afraid of the atmosphere he created,” he said. “It’s not him; it is the people he is giving free license to be intolerant and hateful without any consequences.”
Bustinza spoke to the group about her plans to reach out to legislators and the Board of Elections to implement policy and administrative changes post-election. Bustinza said multiple registrations were mishandled and caused issues when students, faculty and family went out to the polls on Tuesday.
Dr. René Monteagudo, director of the Counseling Center, left the discouraged students on a positive note with some questions to think about.
“Remember the moment and remember your feelings. How do you put that into action? There are elections every year. There is something coming up sooner than four years from now. If you don’t feel good right now, if you feel frightened and sad, it is important to remember this experience and feeling and put it to work. You are the future. We are counting on you to get us through this right now,” he said.
In a letter calling for this forum sent out to students, Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely encouraged the student body to lean on one another and campus resources for help in the coming weeks.
“Our greatest strength is our community and we are here for you,” she wrote. “Do not hesitate to reach out to a faculty or staff member for support or if you just need someone to listen. Student Affairs has specific resources available for all students, including the Counseling Center. We encourage you to care for a fellow Cane and continue to be an actively engaged citizen.”