Many students on college campuses here in Philadelphia and across the country reacted to Donald Trump’s election with protests, candlelight vigils and creating “safe spaces” to process what some thought were surprising results.
But these reponses are mystifying to many Republican students who are in a more celebratory mood.
“I think the tone on campus is gloomy,” said Austin Severns, a senior at Temple University. “There’s a lot of protests. People seem visually upset about the results of the election.”
But not his friends in the College Republicans club. The group commemorated the election results with a cake decorated with a message in red icing: “Hillary is not president.”
“We were very happy about the results,” said Severns who is the club’s president.
But why didn’t the cake say “Donald Trump is president?” Apparently, not every club member was happy with their party’s candidate, but they could all agree that a Clinton defeat was a cause worth celebrating.
Severns falls into that camp and said he has not felt uncomfortable being a Republican on a largely liberal campus where roughly 2,000 protesters chanted “enough is enough” two days after Trump’s victory.
“I think it’s a natural and a responsible reaction to the democratic process,” Severns said.
Those who did back Trump say they feel insulted by posts on social media calling his voters racist, mysoginistic and homophobic. And they think students who are grieving the election results with vigils and safe spaces are over-reacting.
“This is life and somebody got elected who you didn’t want,” said Paige Gianfortune, a junior at Temple and secretary of the College Repulicans. “It’s four years. Thankfully, we live in a country where there’s checks and balances.”
But while they struggle to understand the reactions of their liberal classmates, the conservative students WHYY/NewsWorks spoke to say they have not experienced much harassment on campus.
Sean McVan, a senior at West Chester University, said on Election Day, he was approached by another student who asked him about the t-shirt he was wearing, which had an American flag and the name of McVan’s fraternity on it.
“Then he proceeded to go over to someone in the corner and say, ‘I thought it was a Trump shirt. If it was, I would have thrown hot coffee on him,'” McVan said. “That was the most I ever had to deal with with someone being pissed off about Donald Trump.”
Still, the incident bothered him.
“I wasn’t even wearing a Donald Trump shirt, but it was just kind of shocking to me that people would ever cause violence or anything like that on other people just because of a political view,” he said.
Matthew Freney, a sophomore at St. Joseph’s University, said he wore his red “Make America Great Again” hat every day the week of the election — just to see what kind of reactions he’d get.
“There was a man from the neighborhood who was jogging through and he stopped me and said, ‘I know you’re happy about the other night,'” said Freney. “I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, of course, I was incredibly happy.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s see what we can do. We should really give him a chance.'”
Freney thinks there are more people like the jogger who feel the same way.
“I think there’s been an unspoken majority of people ready to move on and see what happens,” he said.