Faculty offers advice and new sights

by Emerson Affiliated Faculty • November 10, 2016

Professors and administration reach out to the community

Moving forward in a time of strife

Paul Mihailidis, ph.d.

Associate professor

The morning after the US presidential election results that sent shockwaves around the world, I sat with my 6 year old daughter and we talked about why someone she thought was "not nice" could be our president. We talked about democracy and doing our best for one another, and it made me think about the ways in which we can, and must, respond: to act in support of inclusivity, equity, and caring. I read in Jacobin Magazine this morning:"But blaming the American public for Trump’s victory only deepens the elitism that rallied his voters in the first place. It’s unquestionable that racism and sexism played a crucial role in Trump’s rise. And it’s horrifying to contemplate the ways that his triumph will serve to strengthen the cruelest and most bigoted forces in American society. Still, a response to Trump that begins and ends with horror is not a political response — it is a form of paralysis, a politics of hiding under the bed. And a response to American bigotry that begins and ends with moral denunciation is not a politics at all — it is the opposite of politics. It is surrender." - https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/11/trump-victory-clinton-sanders-democratic-party/

I wondered how I could be naive to the many who lack mobility and feel marginalized across the United States, and how without understanding those perspectives, it is hard to respond in ways that will not continue to sharpen the polarizing divides that plague our nation.

I want my daughters, and all sons and daughters, to be able to respond. To act in the face of racism and sexism. To move beyond  “the horror of paralysis.” To find ways to bring people together in support of the elements of civic life necessary for our most marginalized communities to flourish. And while I'm scared for what the immediate future may bring, I'm hopeful that we can and will find ways to direct our "moral denunciation" into reifying the types of actions, caring, and togetherness that exemplify the type of society that we demand.


 Dr. Brenda J. Wrigley, APR

Marketing chair & associate professor

My first thoughts were of our Emerson community. The international students who must be very confused and worried that someone spewing hatred toward people of other faiths and nationalities would be elected president. I’ve researched these issues and written about them for 20 years, and while I am greatly saddened, I am honestly not surprised. All the forms of hatred and vilification that Trump espoused are, sadly, very much a part of American life. People of color, LGBTQ persons, immigrants, international students, Muslims, women and many others all have stories of hurt and sadness to share. Trump supporters are motivated by fear of change, of people they feel are different, and of globalization and shifting demographics. America looks different, and thank goodness it does. People from around the world are our neighbors, our friends, our research and professional colleagues and our mentors. Trump’s form of hate will be tested by those of us who believe in the best in others, not the worst. Our community is blessed with a spirit of diversity and inclusion. We need to find a way for Emerson to lead the nation in healing and restoring dignity to our country.


 Michaele Whelan

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Matthew Arnold's famous lines from Dover Beach,  "And we are here as on a darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight" capture the feelings of many Americans today.  But the call to love and human communion is always an anecdote to sweeping sadness.  Emerson voices and stories of hope, agency, and inclusion are needed more than ever.

 Mark Leccese

Journalism professor

"The journalism of facts and accuracy and intelligence will always be needed and wanted -- even though it feels under siege at the moment -- and this journalism needs to come from all of you here at Emerson who will soon be journalists, no matter what you cover.  Honest journalism changes the world, slowly but inexorably, one fact at a time." 


 Carole Simpson

Distinguished journalist in residence

It was 11:30 Election Night in Walker’s 6th floor TV studio when I just lost it.

I was providing analysis with Emerson Polling Society Director Spencer Kimball for WEBN’s Election Night Special.  When we weren’t on TV analyzing Spencer was crunching numbers and giving me the blow by blow. Florida was the first battleground state Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. Spencer suggested it was not a good sign.  The night wore on and on and Hillary lost state upon state.

When the day began I was happy.  All the polls stated Clinton would be our next president, the first female president. I came to school dressed in white with pearl necklace and earrings.  It was to be my little tribute to some of my favorite American historical figures, the Suffragettes, who wore white to protests where police beat them and put them in jail.

In 1849 women met for the first time in Seneca Falls, NY, to seek women’s rights.  That conference gave rise to some of the first women journalists.  They used their newspapers and pamphlets to spread the word that women were tired of being denied the rights of men, in particular, the right to vote.

Still, it took until 1920 for the Constitution’s Nineteenth Amendment to be ratified granting women’s suffrage.

As women entered politics in large numbers in the 1970s, I was awaiting the day I would see a woman become president.  Hillary, an old friend, seemed to be the one with the background, credentials and smarts to make the “giant leap” for womankind.

When she lost, I was devastated, but more devastated by whom she lost to.  How could it happen?  But it did happen.  I no longer mourn for Hillary and the Suffragettes.  I mourn for the United States of America.

 


 Cindy E. Rodríguez

Senior journalist in residence

We all will process the news of a Trump presidency differently. There's no right way to feel, but it's important to express ourselves. Democracy must extend beyond the ballot. Protesting and speaking out is vital. For journalism students, it is crucial to have an understanding of the sentiments of voters and to avoid making generalizations about "those people" who elected Trump.

The news is still sinking in. It will not be easy to witness the Trump family moving into the White House or to see Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions in cabinet positions. Many of us will likely shudder at Trump's choice for the Supreme Court. It will be hard, but know that we can still affect change if we mobilize and strategize.

If it's any consolation, know that you live in a progressive state, the first in the nation to legalize gay marriage before the Supreme Court declared marriage equality a Constitutional right. We can't ignore the realities that exist outside of the confines of our progressive bubble, but Boston is an intellectual center, which makes it a perfect place to organize. ¡Ádelante!


 Cristina Kotz Cornejo

Professor, Visual and Media Arts

I came out in College during the Reagan Presidency and during a climate of extreme homophobia and fear. In spite of the struggles of that time, the AIDS crisis, race and class divisions and an economy that favored the wealthy, we fought for our rights and made the kind of progress that I thought I would never see in my lifetime: the election of President Obama, the passage of Gay marriage, and the potential that we could have the first female president. This election is a reversal of all that came before and an eye-opening statement to just how divided and different we are. We now have to recommit ourselves to the struggle.

 

Sylvia C. Spears, Ph.D.

Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

Today, we opened up space on Walker 10 for members of the Emerson Community to sit together in this very challenging moment in this country’s history, a time when we, as a nation, are so profoundly divided. Throughout the day, students, staff, and faculty streamed into the space we call “Common Ground." The  hushed tones of speech. the solemn faces, and the many tears revealed the depth of our collective pain and despair. Today, we may shed tears but tomorrow we will return to our collective work of helping this country and our community here at Emerson to live up to the ideals of e pluribus unum, out of many we are one.   


 Rich West, Ph.D.

Professor, Family Communication

Cognitive dissonance theory broadly states that people experience a mental imbalance between two claims.  As I watched the clock turn to 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, dissonance clearly overwhelmed me. 

On one hand, we elected a man as President who has managed to insult everyone from a Gold Star Family to the disabled.  We elected a man who maligned immigrants, women, people of faith, African Americans—nearly every cultural group except, interestingly, white heterosexual males.  

This sort of man was clearly a candidate I we/could never vote for.

But, then a second thread of thinking occurred to me:  What a democracy we live in!  While many Emersonians have shared their punch-in-the-gut feelings, I continually remind myself that we live in a country where over 100 million people voted without violence, excessive fraud, and threats to our national safety.

Dissonance aside, let’s admit it:  Democracy is usually messy (Think about the 2000 election).  To some, Donald Trump is an arrogant tyrant.  To others, Trump’s win is a testimony to the democratic process.  Regardless of your view, angst and sadness should be placed in context because in four short years, the voters will, once again, take part in this 240-year-old awesome national experiment.


Elise Harrison

Director of Counseling and Psychological Services

Walking through campus today,  I felt the heavy hearts of the  many members of the Emerson community.  For many, the disappointment of loss has hit very hard. Many of you are grieving. The pundits and polls did not prepare us for this outcome. At times you may feel waves of sadness or fear. Feelings are exactly like waves; some come in lapping at your feet and some like tidal waves.  
 
And like waves, even the largest swells recede again and give us a chance to breathe and recover. It is a time to reach out to other people for help and comfort when you feel vulnerable. It is also a time for each person to dig deep within themselves and find their inner strength and resilience to convert disappointment into hope, and fear into acceptance of the differences between us. Let's be there for each other.