Students expressed feelings of unease after Donald Trump officially became president last week.
Trump was sworn in Friday, prompting demonstrations that drew millions worldwide. On campus, some students described the transition of power as “surreal” and “confusing.”
“Up until now, it's kind of felt like a joke,” first-year Georgia Lala said. “So watching it happen—everyone was live-streaming it on the day—[it] was very hard to concentrate because it just didn't feel real.”
Sophomore Katie Tsang said she was concerned about Trump finally assuming control of the executive branch.
“The scariest thing about him actually being in power now is that Obama now doesn't have the power to put precautions in place,” she said.
Trump's inauguration speech was a return to his "exclusionary rhetoric," sophomore Kat Tan said.
“It underscores how this might not actually be an act—this is how he actually sees the world,” she said. “People can't even fool themselves into thinking 'well, he just did it for the votes,' because he's president now, and he's still saying those things.”
Moreover, Tan said she was nervous about the “continuation of lies,” pointing to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who spent part of his first briefing in the role making a false claim about the size of the inauguration crowd.
Trump’s support may be “wavering” among many Asian Americans, Tsang said, noting some in that community share more conservative values.
“Now, Trump's going on about how China should take care of North Korea, and he's starting to talk about ending economically beneficial relationships with China in favor of Taiwan," she said. "That's all alienating a lot of Chinese Americans who were very strong supporters of him.”
Sophomore Aaron VanSteinberg, an Oklahoma native, said that although he knows a number of Trump supporters, their reactions to Trump’s inauguration were muted compared to past inaugurations.
“I didn't see the sort of triumphant thing that during the Obama era we've taken for political victory, like in 2009 and 2013, when everyone was talking about them,” he said.
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A “dark cloud” of emotion hung over many who opposed Trump, Tan said. She added that the women’s marches across the world were evidence for the “pain” that they felt after the election and inauguration.
An estimated 500,000 protestors participated in the Women’s March on Washington, and at worldwide marches, the total attendance was estimated to be nearly four million people.
While acknowledging the historical significance of the protests, Ananya Chaurey, a first-year master's student in the Nicholas School of the Environment, conceded their impact on the administration may be limited.
“I think the protests were a natural reaction, but it's not like it's going to change anything for the next four years," he said.
Echoing that sentiment, first-year Linh Bui noted that the marches were not enough to change America.
“The marches do unify a large chunk of America, though," she said. "I believe that people should unite to work together rather than to cause division.”
Tan said that even within protests like the Women’s March, it is important for organizers to listen to marginalized groups, such as people of color.
“Some people's voices speak louder than others, but that doesn't make their lives anymore relevant or valuable,” she said. “It has different implications for everyone, and the people who are resisting have to keep that in mind so we don't fracture.”
Ultimately, the future of the nation is beyond the identity of the president, first-year Peter Sun emphasized.
“The system is not just about Trump,” he said. “There's a lot of uncertainties about what's going to happen. Rather than emphasizing the fear, maybe just sit and watch and do your own homework on how you might be able to foster a change or demonstrate that you are against this—like the protests—if something bad really happens.”