The notion that college campuses are hermetically sealed bubbles cut off from the rest of the world is not really true, local students and faculty say, especially when it comes to the Trump administration.
The Blade spoke with local LGBT folks involved in academia to get a sense of how the White House drama has impacted local campuses.
The biggest issue at the University of the District of Columbia so far has been Trump’s on-again, off-again immigration ban, according to Jay Jamorr Morrow, the college’s webmaster and facilitator of its LGBT support association TAG, which stands for the Alliance Group.
“Last semester we had a lot of different forums on immigration issues because it affected a lot of our students,” Morrow, a lesbian, says. “We had lots of students whose families were coming from overseas for graduation who weren’t sure they’d be able to attend.”
The travel ban went into effect June 29 following a Supreme Court ruling that restricts travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and limits all refugee admissions for 120 days. The court is expected to revisit the issue in the fall but it allowed this scaled-back version to go into effect.
That was, of course, after graduation season, but talk of it and an earlier travel ban that was in effect for a week in January, had students unnerved Morrow says.
The mood on the George Washington University campus the day after the election was “just dead” according to Andrew Magie, a 20-year-old, gay Templeton, Calif., native entering his sophomore year this fall.
He guesses the student body there is about 90 percent liberal and perhaps 10 percent middle to right politically. Subsequently Trump’s win had a stultifying effect on students, Magie says.
“Everyone was very down,” he says. “There was just a lot of sadness and anger on the left at the way the election ended. Since then, I don’t want to say there’s been any backlash or any type of ‘ha ha’-type stuff from the Republican (students). I haven’t felt the campus change in that manner. … It’s just that the Democrat (students) just felt a lot of hurt and anger and the more we’re seeing, like with the trans ruling that came out this summer, it’s like more of those feelings just continuing.”
Magie hasn’t declared a major but is considering double majoring in political science and physics. Because he had so many of his general studies courses completed with AP work in high school, he’s already had several political science classes.
Although he’s not involved in any LGBT groups on campus (“I helped found and lead the gay/straight alliance in my high school and felt I had done my time in that respect,” he says), this summer he did an internship in the LGBT Health Policy and Practice program at the school. Conversations there were often political and almost wholly anti-Trump he says.
Professors regularly use examples from the current administration in class, Magie says. He also says Trump’s actions and tweets have provided lots of fodder for discussion among students and faculty. He guesses that because George Washington University has a strong political science program and because it’s located in the District, students there are perhaps more politically engaged than in other parts of the country.
“I would say that because Trump’s tweets are so constantly outrageous, they constantly have sort of permeated throughout the campus,” Magie says. “I hear it all the time and even in my classes. … They’ll compare something in the course material to something Trump is saying or doing. That’s been a constant at my time at the university.”
Magie says there have been no campus demonstrations against Trump that he’s aware of, but he participated in the Women’s March and knows other students who did as well. He says students inclined to protest are joining in the bigger protests as opposed to have campus-specific protests and that it’s not unusual to see anti-Trump T-shirts on campus.
At other schools, it appears to be a slightly taboo topic.
Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center at Georgetown University, said in an e-mail that Center personnel “generally does not comment on political impact.”
The issue also did not come up in “The Best 382 Colleges,” the Princeton Review annual book, just out, that uses an 80-question, optional survey given to 137,000 college students all over the country, to rank the five most LGBT-friendly and -unfriendly colleges (Bryn Mawr is No. 1 this year; Missouri’s College of the Ozarks is the least; several D.C.-area schools were among the 382 considered but none made either the best or worst list).
While the list doesn’t ask questions about Trump, Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of the Princeton Review, says geographic patterns one might guess — less LGBT-friendly schools in the Bible Belt, for instance — do tend to hold.
“There is a good deal of consistency,” Franek says. “Several schools on our worst list, like Gordon College is a Christian school in Massachusetts or Brigham Young University in Utah or the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, it’s not surprising that some of these states are more conservative or that students would be more religious at some of these schools.”
What about Liberty University, Virginia’s uber-conservative Christian college where Trump gave the commencement address on May 13? It didn’t rank high enough academically to qualify for Princeton Review consideration, Franek says. See the full list online at princetonreview.com/best382.
Magie says the country is in a weird time politically and that even though college students are young and haven’t seen as many administrations as older Americans, there’s still a sense among them that this is unchartered terrain.
“I’m quite independent and very much in the middle politically but I don’t even consider Trump a Republican,” Magie says. “I think he’s — I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s just appalling. The stuff he does doesn’t even seem like real policy or that there’s any real foundation to anything he’s doing. All he seems to be doing is this crazy stuff just to keep himself in the media. It’s almost like he’s campaigning for 2020 but right now. It’s really strange and kind of horrible for everyone who has to be on the wrong side of what he’s doing.”