As election results were announced in the early hours of Wednesday Nov. 9, Geneseo students, staff and faculty responded to the outcome and assessed the impact of student voter turnout with mixed emotions. Donald Trump and running mate Gov. Mike Pence won the United States’ presidential election, and Republicans now have control over the House as well as the Senate.
In Livingston County’s local elections, Greg McCaffrey was re-elected into Livingston County’s district attorney’s office, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer won in New York and Republican Congressman Chris Collins won in New York. In addition, Republican Charles A. Schiano won a seat on the State Supreme Court, Republican Catharine M. Young won the 57th Senate District seat, Republican Patrick M. Gallivan won the 59th State Senate District seat and Republican Joe Errigo won the 133rd Assembly District election.
Members of Geneseo faculty and staff supported widespread student participation in the election, despite some of their criticisms in the U.S. voting system.
Associate Dean of Leadership and Service and Campus Voter Registration Coordinator Thomas Matthews commented on the Geneseo Taskforce of Voter Registration and Engagement’s initiative to increase voter registration among Geneseo students in order to encourage civic engagement.
“It’s a bigger issue about students becoming active in their community as citizens of our democracy,” Matthews said. “For all its bad points, it’s still what we have as a way of life and we hope that students are going to make the changes that are needed.”
One thousand two hundred and five individuals were registered as on-campus voters this year and 984 students showed up to on-campus polling, according to the Voter Taskforce.
The college has become much more outspoken about promoting civic engagement, according to adjunct lecturer in English and Languages and Literatures Wes Kennison ‘79. Students are also becoming more involved in local politics than they have in the past, especially due to the controversy over the Social Host Law, Kennison added.
“Students would complain to me about that, and I would simply say, ‘If you feel aggrieved, then you do exactly what people have always done: register to vote, run for office, get involved,’” he said. “The thing about Geneseo students now is that you guys are actually organized well enough to do that. In my era, we would think that was a really good idea and then not quite get around to it.”
Assistant professor of English Gillian Paku, who moved to America from New Zealand 17 years ago, spoke about the difference between the U.S. Electoral College system and New Zealand’s proportional voting system.
“Whether or not you actually form a coalition, if you’re in a government made up of proportional representation, the assumption is that you are going to have to respect other views,” Paku said. “Here, I think it’s astonishing—given the size of the population and the range of lifestyles that people are living—that it all comes down to a choice of two and the whole thing is win or lose. I think it pushes the political rhetoric to the extremes because the sound bites in the headlines play better if they’re extreme.”
Paku emphasized the importance of civic engagement despite the limited choices available in the U.S. presidential elections.
“Across the country, I think it’s really important that students appear to have shown up and, whichever way it was, that they cared,” she said. “The fact that they cared means that their concerns will be listened to more than if they didn’t vote. I’m super excited for any student to get out there and exercise their right.”
Geneseo’s international students also criticized the U.S. party system. The small number of parties cause less representation, according to international student English and Arabic double major junior at Paul Valery University in France Lucia Gonzalez.
“The electoral system is really different. For example, here you only have a two party system. There’s a third party, but it’s clearly a minority,” Gonzalez said. “Whereas in Spain, for example, there are a lot of parties, and I think that they represent more different concerns of the people. You have a right wing party and also a left wing. But then you have more variance.”
Gonzalez also commented on how the U.S. electoral system may discourage some individuals from voting because they are not voting directly for a candidate. Gonzalez stressed the importance of participating in elections, however, despite this aspect of our voting system.
“I think that voting is really important. First, I come from a country where you couldn’t vote because we had a dictatorship until 1975,” she said. “People died for our rights to vote, so we have to use it right. In the U.S., you only have to vote once every four years—it’s not really a strong [responsibility] that we have to do. And I think that it’s a right that we have to try to express.”
President of Geneseo College Democrats senior Kelsey Van Etten said that she and fellow club members were shocked by the results of the presidential election. Van Etten added that she is unsure the millennial vote impacted the election significantly.
“I know that millennials in general did go out and vote … I’m not sure that it was enough of an impact to cancel out the older generation,” Van Etten said. “I hope that they had some sort of an impact.”
If millennials solely voted, Clinton would have won easily, according to an article published online at Bloomberg.com. The article goes on to say that not enough millennials voted in swing states, causing Trump to win the majority of votes in those states.
In regard to the local election, Van Etten believes that students did not focus on local politics as much as national politics. This is consistent with past elections, she added.
“I always find that students and millennials don’t really know a lot about local politics,” she said. “They focus on the [presidential candidates] and they don’t really focus on the congressmen or the locals or anything.”
President of the Geneseo College Republicans senior Adam Dohrenwend does not believe that the outcome of this election will have any significant impact in individuals’ private lives.
“I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference in our personal lives. I think people get really worked up,” he said. Dohrenwend went on to express his discontent with Trump’s rhetoric, calling it “shameful.”
“I think a lot of the things he said are indicative of an unfortunate part of our history and our populous,” he said.
International relations major junior Holly Drasser believes that Trump’s presidency will have a positive impact on the country.
“I really believe that his thought process, just because he’s a businessman, is going to help the economy,” Drasser said in a phone interview. “We have always had a history of having a politician be the president of the United States, and I think that having a different view on things and having his experience and career in the economy and in the financial system is a benefit.”
Communication major senior Nick Wood believes that Trump’s presidency will reflect racist and xenophobic values. He hopes U.S. citizens unite after this election and show respect for one another.
“We’re still a country of people who want to be part of the world and respect people,” he said. “So the best thing we can do is to keep showing that—keep showing respect for people, stand behind people, stand behind each other, keep preaching love instead of hate and open your mind.”
Editor-in-Chief Emma Bixler, Managing Editor Nicole Sheldon and Associate News Editor Malachy Dempsey contributed reporting to this article.