Changing political rhetoric

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor

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The 2016 election and subsequent inauguration of President Donald Trump came as a shock to many, as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was favored to win. On college campuses, where political activism tends to be higher, the effects of Trump’s election have not gone unnoticed by students.

Through a series of interviews, UNI students expressed what changes they have experienced in the campus political rhetoric climate since November of 2016. Some students reported seeing no obvious changes, but rather an undercurrent of politically charged tension. None of the students surveyed agreed on whether the campus political rhetoric has gotten notably better or worse.

Alexander Newkirk, a history third year graduate student, said, “I would say I don’t think it’s gotten worse or more chaotic necessarily, but I think people have become definitely more aware and cognizant of political issues.”

Newkirk further explains, saying, “There’s a general…vibe, you know? And you definitely get a sense from people that things are a lot more heated now in a certain sense.”

Freshman sociology and anthropology double major Jameka Mosley, echoed this sentiment.

“I think it’s been a lot of subliminal things that’s been going on, but nothing like too crazy,” Mosley said.

Newkirk says political topics can’t be spoken of because ideological polarization that leads to debates. He said debates get more heated than usual.

Sophomore social work major Sashay Carroll also said there has been a recent surge in heated political discussions.

“I feel like I have to be more cautious,” Carroll said. She says she doesn’t see this as a change in the campus political climate.

“In my Social Welfare of the World class last semester, we were talking about it when [Trump] was first elected, and it is really heated because people have really strong opinions about it,” Carroll said. “I think that it’s just a topic that people just agree to disagree on.”

Samantha Connor, a first year deciding major said the campus political climate has gotten a lot worse. She says there has been increased polarization among students who choose to affiliate themselves to a political party.

“If a student makes a comment that is blatantly liberal, a Republican student will say, ‘Disregard them.’ Or you’ll either just see in your classes these looks of like, ‘Oof, did you really just say that?’” Connor said. “There’s the polarization happening, and you’ll get into heated debates and no one’s really right or wrong…It becomes a yelling match because no one’s willing to listen to what the other side has to say.”

Newkirk thinks the biggest change is the growth in political awareness among the student body. He cited the student rally that occurred on Nov. 16 after the 2016 elections on the Maucker Union rooftop as an example. The Northern Iowan reported around 50 students were in attendance.

“There necessarily wasn’t any concrete political platform; it was just people airing, you know, grievances and stories and concerns about the future of discourse in America,” Newkirk said.

Other students have noticed the political conversations growing in intensity online.

“We have this UNI Confession page on Twitter, and it’s anonymous. You can send tweets into that page — they’ll just put them out no matter what it is,” said Mosley. “And I think a lot of people put their opinions of either Trump or what’s going on in the minority community, or the campus in general…That’s how they get their opinion out there because that’s such a large audience.”

As of press time, the main UNI Confessions Twitter account has over 14,000 followers and has been active since January of 2014.

Nikia Watson, sophomore political science major, added to Mosley’s comment.

“I just feel like it makes it very easy for people to share their real opinions on things versus if you were to ask someone to their face, they won’t probably say what they really mean,” Watson said. “Plus, since the page is anonymous, it does give people a platform to just share how they really feel, rather those thoughts are ignorant or not.”

Despite this, Watson feels the university is doing a good job at pushing for better diversity and inclusion on campus.

“The vision of the university has changed — they made it their goal to increase diversity here and we’re doing more things with promoting more ethnic students and more multicultural events,” Watson said.

But junior Spanish and psychology double major Ashley Sanchez said she does not feel supported by the university.

“This semester I’ve mainly just seen a lot of faculty not being able to take a stance due to it being too political,” Sanchez said. “But we’re past the point of it being too political.”

Sanchez cited recent actions by the Trump administration to increase Immigration and Customs Enforcemnt (ICE) raids, border patrols and the attempted travel ban as being a cause for her concerns.

Sanchez said she wants to see more than verbal support for students in the Hispanic and Latino community; she wants to see political action. Her sentiments were also supported by Janine Baeza, senior psychology major. Baeza said that she feels more uncomfortable now, and that she wants to see more support through actions, rather than in words.

But the political climate on campus hasn’t been noticed by everyone. Christopher Boranian, a senior majoring in technology management and manufacturing design, said he hasn’t noticed anything changing at UNI.

“I’d probably say, for the most part, everyone had kind of gone on with their regular business,” Boranian said.

However, according to history graduate student Alex Pauls, the political rhetoric has heightened on campus since primary season. He says students have become more set in their ways, “whether they follow a conservative, a liberal, a progressive agenda.”

“And any discussions you might have has become pretty contentious, not surprisingly,” Pauls added.

Although these UNI students have all had uniquely different experiences of the campus political climate, the conversations are still continuing at the university level.

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