Let’s Talk Trump: Forum discusses first year after Trump’s election

Michelle Marchante/News Director

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protests, news literacy and sexual assault were talking points during Student Media’s second forum of the semester, “What we know now: a year after the 2016 Presidential election,” following President Donald Trump’s election, hosted on Monday, Nov. 6.

Moderated by Antoine Hardy, the panel was comprised of Fred Blevens, a professor from the School of Communication + Journalism, SGC-BBC President Leonardo Cosio, Title IX coordinator and director of  Equal Opportunity Programs and Diversity Shirlyon McWhorter and SGC-MMC student lobbyist Zoe Van Slyke.

Pictured from left to right: Title IX coordinator Shirlyon McWhorter, Fred Blevens, a professor from the School of Communication + Journalism, SGC-BBC President Leonardo Cosio, and SGC-MMC student lobbyist Zoe Van Slyke discuss the first year following President Donald Trump’s election. Photo by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW

Cosio and Van Slyke decided to participate in the forum, they said, because it was a great way to communicate and discuss relevant issues with the student body.

“I think it’s important for students to be aware of what is going on, not just on campus but on the national level, politically, economically and in every way shape or form,” Cosio said to Student Media.

During the forum, both Cosio and Van Slyke said that SGA University-wide supports DACA students and are working to find different ways to support them, such as lobbying their congressional leaders.

SGC-MMC, Van Slyke said, has also passed a resolution stating their support for DACA recipients.

The resolution, written by Francesca Riccio-Ackerman, a senator of the College of Engineering & Computing, and co-authored by Joshua Mandall, senator for the School of International and Public Affairs and chairman of the Rules, Legislation and Judiciary Committee, is a “statement of sentiment.”

While it can’t mandate action, the resolution gave SGA the ability to create a questionnaire meant to help locate different types of aid, such as scholarships and grants, for DACA recipients.

McWhorter said that the University, like SGA, cares for its DACA recipients, but also wants to see students take more of an initiative in advocating.

“…To make our voices heard, that’s the most important thing we can do and forums like this are really good, but I’ll really like to see FIU at the forefront of this issue because it does affect so many of our students,” McWhorter said. “If you go to North Florida…it’s not that much of a big deal for them…but being in South Florida, this is a huge deal for us and all of us as minorities, this should be a concern for us. It’s this group today, tomorrow is that group, tomorrow is that group and the next day is my group.”

But, despite all the controversies surrounding Trump’s presidency, such as the travel ban, his presidency has brought people together, whether for the right or wrong reasons, according to McWhorter.

“…We’re having conversations that we had not been having regarding race, religion and different things like that, but then on the other side of that you have people who it has brought together…who some say have been waiting for an opportunity to display and to show sexists, racists comments and behavior…So, the question becomes when you look at the different groups it has brought together: who is going to prevail? Who is going to stick by what they believe in and stand up for what they believe in?…”

Van Slyke agreed with McWhorter that the election did bring students together, and when it comes to student protests, Van Slyke and Cosio have noticed that unlike other campuses, student protests at FIU have remained peaceful, even when there have been “inflammatory things” on campus.

Everyone in the panel also agreed that protesting and voting in the presidential election isn’t enough for change. Local elections are just as important.

The ability to distinguish fake news, something that has become increasingly difficult with the creation of social media, is also very important according to Blevens.

“We can mash a bunch of things here: social media, provocation, conflation of issues that don’t belong together, false equivalencies, this has been a rocking 10 months, “ Blevens said. “And all of this is really platformed on Twitter.”

The amount of space Twitter gives you to write, he said, doesn’t give enough space to contextualize anything.

“So we have basically created a constructive reality based on messages that are 144 characters long and some of the most influential people in the country are the ones driving it,” Blevens said. “…I don’t think it’s funny, I don’t think it’s healthy and I think the results we’re seeing here of all of these things I just spoke about is hideous.”

Twitter has changed its character count from 140 to 280, as of Wednesday, Nov. 8 .

Just because you don’t like something, it doesn’t mean it’s fake, he said. What makes something fake, he said, is false information.

One of the last topics brought up in the panel was sexual assault.

A string of sexual assault cases were brought to light throughout the year, ranging from the investigation into the University’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, after screenshots of a private group chat depicting “inappropriate” content were released, to the firing of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein by The Weinstein Company after several sexual allegations were made public. More than 50 women, The Guardian reports, have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual assault as of Monday, Nov. 6.

Sexual misconduct is a common occurrence on college campuses, according to McWhorter, which is why Title IX was so important under President Barack Obama’s administration. The new administration, she said, is reviewing and considering changes to the sexual misconduct reporting process.

These changes, according to McWhorter, range from changing the 60-day-to-report rule to no time limit and changing from a “preponderance of the evidence” standard which is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy to “clear and convincing.”

The administration, however, has not decided on any changes yet, she said, but no matter what is decided, it won’t change the University’s stance on sexual misconduct, according to McWhorter.

“…[H]ere at FIU, the Board of Trustees who run the University along with President Mark B. Rosenberg have said that Title IX sexual misconduct is very very important to FIU and we are going to abide by the rules and regulations,” McWhorter said.

Students who would like to discuss or report sexual misconduct can contact McWhorter at the Equal Opportunity Programs and Diversity office  located in PC321.

About the Author

Michelle Marchante
Michelle Marchante is the 2018-2019 Editor-in-Chief of PantherNOW. Majoring in broadcast journalism, she lives and breathes web, print, radio and TV news 24/7. You can connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM

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