Lobby 7 gathering highlights hope, provides outlet for fears after election
U.S. presidents may come and go, but MIT will always be a place where people “work together to make a better world,” President L. Rafael Reif wrote in an email to the MIT community yesterday night.
Wednesday morning, following the election of Donald J. Trump to American presidency, posters bearing the words “Share Your Hopes” and “Share Your Fears” appeared around the pillars in Lobby 7. Throughout the day, the dome-capped hall thronged with members of the MIT community, writing and reading the thoughts displayed on the columns.
These thought-spaces were the initiative of Caroline Mak ’18, who together with friends realized shortly after midnight on Wednesday that the MIT community would need a cathartic medium for expressing their reactions to the results of the presidential election.
Mak said that being at the watch party organized by the MIT Democrats Club on election night was really helpful in motivating her to act. “I pushed myself to accept it faster than I would have on my own. I wanted to be prepared,” she said.
“People were breaking down and crying and it was really stressful,” Mak added. The posters were originally intended to simply be a sign welcoming passersby to a post-election gathering of students, but eventually they got the idea to use it as a venue for people to share their thoughts. Chris Peterson, assistant director at MIT Admissions, and President Reif both offered their support.
“My hope for this was to allow people to have a moment to talk about it, to have a moment to listen and process,” Mak said. “There are Trump supporters on here, writing that they hope for that too. They came by and they were visibly shaken because they’d never seen this before.”
Mak also highlighted that it is imperative for liberals and Democrats to not disregard the opinions and perspectives of Trump supporters as invalid simply because the former consider the latter racist or sexist.
“If Clinton had won, do you think we’d be having these conversations about their genuine concerns?” she pointed out. “I wouldn’t.”
“That’s democracy at work,” she asserted. “They felt like they weren’t being heard. And now they’re being heard, for better or worse, at the expense of a lot of people being afraid. And I believe everyone should be heard... we need to have constructive dialogue.”
The posters sported a range of statements, from “Thank you Hillary Clinton!” and “Hopeful that we won’t give up!” to “Make America Great Again” and “I hope weed stays legal.”
In addition to the posters, the MIT Puppy Lab relocated their weekly therapy dog session to Lobby 7 by request of MIT’s MindHeartHand Initiative.
The Tech also reached out to the MIT Democrats Club and the MIT Republican Club (MITGOP) for comment.
In an email to The Tech, MIT Democrats communications director Davi da Silva G said that he was “completely disgusted, but trying to look ahead to the work we have to do now.”
Jonathan Hurowitz ’18, president of MITGOP, wrote, “With a Republican government in both chambers of Congress and the presidency, as well as a likely conservative Supreme Court, I am looking forward to the enactment of several years of proactive, common-sense legislation as well as the repeal and replacement of hurtful measures like Obamacare and the Iran deal.”
In an email to the club, Hurowitz wrote: “As Republicans, and many of you, Donald Trump voters, you may be verbally attacked or harassed in the upcoming week. Please take the high road and remember to be civil to your peers.”
Before being revived by co-presidents Caroline Mak ’18 and Adam Hasz G, MIT Democrats had been inactive for over a decade. MITGOP has been active on and off since 2003.
“There’s more political engagement at MIT than people think,” da Silva said in an interview with The Tech before polls closed Tuesday night. He and his co-presidents brought back MIT Democrats to provide busy students who are interested in politics with “something to just plug into,” allowing them focus their efforts and get involved with the campaign without needing to expend too much time and effort.
There’s also a social aspect to the club, which da Silva hopes will help foster an atmosphere of acceptance, rather than antagonism, toward conservatives on a liberal campus in a liberal state.
In a similar vein, Hurowitz said that he hopes “the political atmosphere at MIT will be more open to positive, political discussion,” noting that he and other Republicans have at times been afraid to openly voice their political opinions.
Hurowitz estimated that 18 percent of the MIT community considers themselves conservative, and that roughly 90 percent of MITGOP members may have supported Trump over Clinton.
Last weekend as well as on Election Day, MIT Democrats arranged an MIT trip to southern New Hampshire, in coordination with the Clinton campaign office next to Toscanini’s. Da Silva said that about 15 students went on Saturday to knock on doors of pre-identified Clinton supporters or likely supporters.
The volunteers’ job was to encourage supporters in the swing state to commit to actually voting. Their job was not to convince Trump supporters or undecided voters.
The MITGOP did not endorse a candidate or explicitly organize campaigning efforts, according to Hurowitz, but he himself “passed on a substantial number of volunteer opportunities for Donald Trump in MA and NH.”
“My general reaction now is that I feel betrayed,” a student at the Lobby 7 gathering, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Tech. “This is not what I was promised about America. I never thought I would wake up and feel unsafe and that I would feel afraid for my friends.”
Around 11 p.m. Wednesday, a man walked down Lobby 7 and tore two of the “Share Your Hopes” posters.
A few professors granted extensions on psets in response to election results.