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With the nation poised for a dramatic shift in its top leadership, students, faculty and staff at the University of Richmond will gather to discuss concerns and questions about the incoming presidential administration on Thursday night before the inauguration.
Martha Merritt, dean of International Education, heads up the event titled “On the Eve of the Inauguration: Anticipating the Trump Presidency” from 7 to 8:15 p.m. in the Carole Weinstein International Center with three other professors: Stephen Long, Maia Linask and Daniel Palazzolo. The discussion for students, faculty and staff follows an earlier gathering held soon after Republican Donald J. Trump’s victory in November.
“We in International Education have received more questions than usual, especially from international students, about the possible plans and actions of the Trump administration, so we thought we would supplement the large event in November after the election with a smaller and more discussion-oriented event now that the Cabinet has been sketched in, and we have all had a little more time to process,” Merritt says.
Palazzolo, chairman of the Political Science Department, says the goal of the panel is to dive into three aspects of the transition into the Trump presidency: leadership, national security and economic policy. Palazzolo, who teaches political science, also spoke at the panel in November, discussing Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and various budgetary actions that might take place with the new administration.
Palazzolo says that the response on campus to the new administration has been mixed, depending on students’ political preferences and backgrounds. “Of course, compared with other presidents, Trump has an unsettling quality, partly because of his public statements, demeanor and promises or threats, and partly because of the uncertainty he brings to the presidency. So, we see this as a time to reflect and discuss the possibilities, limitations and puzzles of a Trump presidency.”
Political science professor Stephen Long, who will talk about foreign policy, says, “It’s very easy to get swept up by the waves of emotionally charged rhetoric that characterized the campaign season, but the reality of governance is totally different from campaigning. We will be talking about how the new administration might make that transition, given what we know about the history of the presidency as an institution and about Mr. Trump’s specific positions and Cabinet appointees announced in recent weeks.”
On what other questions might be discussed, Palazzolo says, “How do the president-elect’s decisions and choices, generally, compare with traditional expectations of presidential leadership and presidential transitions? What might be the consequences of Trump’s choices and policy statements for U.S. national security or foreign policy? What might be the consequences of Trump’s choices and policy statements for U.S. fiscal and economic policy?”
Sara Hyman, a sophomore at the University of Richmond (UR), expressed uneasiness about Trump’s Cabinet appointments.
“The fact that America is so divided is the most concerning aspect of this whole election, and I am nervous to put a radical administration in power,” Hyman says. She plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday because she wants “to be with like-minded people and feel a sense of solidarity with those targeted by some of the things [Trump] has said.”
Andrew Brennan, a UR senior and Trump supporter, says about the Thursday event, “I think it is, on its face, entirely reasonable and appropriate to have a panel discussion about the incoming administration on the eve of the presidential inauguration. [I will] be curious to see the tone of the panel and panelists and whether or not it is biased.”
Brennan says he thought that the panel in November was "inappropriate” because of assumptions made that most people were upset that Democrat Hillary Clinton had lost.
“I don't believe they would have held a similar panel had Hillary won,” Brennan says.
He plans to watch the inauguration live on the Mall in D.C. on Friday. “We’ll be celebrating!” he says.
In addition to the Thursday panel, there will be an inauguration watch party, sponsored by the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Sophomore Gardner Nash will be there at a table representing the Richmond College Student Government Association (RCSGA) and Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA) Legislative Affairs Committee.
“Our committee is a resource to help give students a voice in local and national politics, and we are looking forward to this session of the Virginia General Assembly. While elections are fundamental to our democracy, there are easy ways for citizens to shape policy every day,” Nash says. Though he expressed apprehension about the future, he says he is “proud to see the students whose candidate lost taking the Trump presidency not as a defeat, but as a rallying cry for renewed action.”
Cory Schutter, a UR sophomore, plans to watch the inauguration on Friday and then attend an event organized by three campus groups (WILL*, SCOPE (for Students Creating Opportunities, Pride and Equality), and MSSN (Multicultural Student Solidarity Network) to talk it over with friends.
Schutter says he feels that the reaction of fellow UR students has been “fairly sensitive and thoughtful.” Though he mentioned that there have been a few instances of high tensions between students, for the most part, he has observed “a lot of willingness to understand one another and uniting around what we hold in common.”
The Carole Weinstein International Center (courtesy of the University of Richmond)