Now several weeks into his presidency, President Donald Trump demonstrated his intention to change America by issuing a slew of new executive orders and policies. Though students at Westminster College have reacted in a variety of ways, some have used his actions as motivation to improve the campus community.
The Diversity and Inclusion Center promotes conversation
Some say conversation is the first step towards action, and the job of Westminster's Diversity and Inclusion Center is to ensure it's a step that continues to happen—regardless of who the president of the United States is.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Obama, if it’s Trump or whoever comes in,” said Daniel Cairo, Westminster’s director of student diversity and inclusion. “We have a social responsibility to equip our students to be global citizens.”
Cairo said the Diversity and Inclusion Center works to ensure that every Westminster student has an inclusive experience at the institution, while also teaching those students to promote inclusion and respect the experiences of others. Though the Trump administration has upset many people throughout campus, Cairo said the center’s goals remain unaffected by it.
“It’s going to be a challenging time to mediate between divisive rhetoric that is happening around the country," Cairo said. "But we must continue to remind people that our responsibility here is to the students and to other members of this community, and we do that by acknowledging and [validating] their existence."
Cairo also said students need to do more than just engage in conversations; the next step for students looking to make an impact is to attend events that take action.
“If we show up to the things that are happening on campus, that will provide not only a platform but it will give guidance to students who want to be civically engaged,” Cairo said.
Feminist Club launches peer support network
“I’ve been really happy to see that there are conversations going on about how we can protect our students and how we can be a supportive community regardless of Trump’s terrible decisions,” said Sabi Lowder, president of Westminster's Feminist Club.
Lowder traveled to attend the Women's March in Washington D.C. in January and said she felt empowered by the conversation there.
“It was really cool to see a bunch of people in pink hats being excited and knowing that not everyone is bad, that there is good,” Lowder said.
Lowder said she has spent her time since the women’s march organizing efforts at Westminster to promote inclusion. This year, the Feminist Club is launching a new on-campus peer support network for survivors of sexual assault.
“We are running something called the Sexual Assault Peer Support Network which is supposed to be up and running by the end of February,” Lowder said.
Lowder said the goal is to bring the campus community together and encourage students to support each other. The program will include about 10 certified student advocates for victims of sexual assault.
“We’re making sure that with the peer support network, students on campus know that there are people who are advocates and are there for them,” Lowder said.
Republican Club promotes positive change
“Our main goal is not to force our beliefs, obviously, but just give our perspective so that not everybody is looking at it from just one side,” said Dawson Edwards, communications officer for the Republican Club.
Edwards said the group is focused on promoting positive change for the country moving forward under the Trump administration.
“The goals now are to get behind our president and to let everybody outside of the club know that even if we don’t personally believe in him, we have to as a country believe in him,” Edwards said. “Back when Obama was elected, we had people that disagreed with him and we had to believe that we’re supporting our country and not just looking at our own benefit.”
Edwards said that even though students may feel fear, it’s important to focus on the issues beyond Trump’s personality and not give up hope for positive change.
“We’re trying to look forward to prosperity and not negativity with the man that was voted in,” Edwards said.
Westminster’s Black Student Union takes action
“People are scared,” said Ebony Tyler, president of Westminster’s Black Student Union. “They’re not really sure what to do because our existence is being called into question—our humanity. It’s almost like people are trying to take that away from us.”
Tyler said Westminster’s Black Student Union hopes to create a safe space on campus for students of color and others who need one. In light of the Trump administration, the group is focused on promoting inclusion and education.
“Our goal for this semester is to be a lot more active in our community,” Tyler said. “Not just on campus, [but] outside in the community as well.”
The Black Student Union is working on organizing a clothing drive, celebrating Black History Month throughout February and volunteering at Cottonwood High School. Tyler said the goal of their program at Cottonwood is to show black students that they have a place in higher education.
Overall, Tyler said the Black Student Union seeks to move beyond just having conversations about issues and to do something concrete about them.
“It’s great to have these conversations, but that isn’t enough,” Tyler said. “If you want to see anything happen, you have to move forward. You have to act on it.”
Theatre students express themselves in Lauren Gunderson’s “The Taming”
Westminster first year Maggie Regier worked to keep Westminster socially engaged on Inauguration Day by organizing a performance of Lauren Gunderson’s “The Taming.” According to Regier, the goal of this performance was to inspire hope for the next four years.
“We the people do have power and change can happen and change needs to happen,” Regier said. “And it’s a time that we don’t just have voices in social media, that we take action and we make a difference in this world.”
Regier staged the performance of “The Taming” because the play's writer waived copyright fees for performances held specifically on Inauguration Day. An all-female cast performed the piece before an audience at Westminster's Courage Theatre.
Regier said the Trump administration has made her feel called to act.
“I’m using this as a fuel for my fire and a way to take action,” Regier said. “It has just informed me that my art is even more important and that it’s more important that I speak out and voice what matters to me.”