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DePaul faculty tackle election results in class

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The results of last week’s election have sparked a nationwide conversation about the American political system —from protests to an endless cycle of news articles, it seems that all anyone has been able to talk about since Tuesday is Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House. 

For many students and faculty at DePaul, this conversation carried over into the classroom on Wednesday morning.

Jill Hopke, who teaches journalism in the College of Communication, said her first class on Wednesday morning was “one of the hardest classes (she’s) ever had to teach.” She had covered the race in the months leading up to Election Day in a topical sense, focusing on political polls and fact-checking as they relate to journalism. But after Donald Trump was elected — defying most polling metrics — she found that the conversation became much more emotional in nature.

“I did have some students that were crying in class,” Hopke said. “My class is at 11:50 a.m., so it was about 45 minutes after Hillary Clinton had given her concession speech. And I had watched her concession speech myself in my office. So I spoke with a number of students that were quite emotional before class and during class.”

Hopke said she continued to stress the importance of the journalism in her class conversation, particularly related to the role of the press in fact-checking elected officials. Although she wanted to center the discussion around the class’ “general role as journalists” in the election, she also shared some of her own personal experiences in dealing with Election Day disappointment.

“I tried to provide some perspective and understanding about how this can be very difficult,” Hopke said. “Particularly for students that may have participated in their first presidential election. And one of the things that I shared with students is how I was 20 years old when former president George W. Bush was elected to his first term in office. That was the first presidential election I participated in, and that was a very pivotal moment.”

Some students found that having the opportunity to discuss the election results in class to be a source of deep comfort. Sophomore Elise Bang said a conversation about the election results came up in her class on indigenous religions in North America as they studied the ramifications of the Dakota Access pipeline on Native American communities. It was her only class in which the election was discussed, and she said she was grateful for the outlet.

“There were some people crying and getting emotional about it. And it was just basically we kind of came to the consensus that everyone’s scared, no matter what your political stance is,” Bang said. “Because there’s so much uncertainty. I felt like our professor was really good in telling us that she hopes we can find safe spaces and to show more kindness to each other throughout the whole thing. I think that was the general consensus of the room, that we have to be there for each other no matter what happens.”

Freshman Sloan Jones said she looked forward to going to her Intro to Political Science class after the election because she knew that there would be spirited discussion.

“I am really upset about the outcome of the election, but I don’t think that should stop me from going to class and receiving an awesome education because I have that privilege,” Jones said. “And I like hearing other people’s opinions about the election.”

She added that her professor gave the class, which was emotional after watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, a sense of perspective in regards to their role in democracy.

“He basically said that just because we don’t agree with what’s going on doesn’t make us helpless,” Jones said. “We still have a voice, we still can help other people. He basically talked about how it’s our job to make sure to step in if we see racism and sexism or anything like that. It’s not OK. He put a very positive spin on it.”

Similarly, Hopke said she urged her students to avoid becoming overwhelmed   by disappointment and consider their own roles in society.

Students who are looking for other resources may contact University Counseling Services or the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, among others.

“For many of us, ‘Take Care DePaul’ now has special significance,” Vice President for Student Affairs Eugene Zdziarski wrote in an email to students and faculty. “Take care of yourself by using the above offices and services; take care of each other by referring your friends to these offices and services, and please look out for each other.”

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DePaul faculty tackle election results in class