As citizens anxiously awaited the 2020 election results, America sat in political limbo. Amid a varied atmosphere, Taylor administration and students pledged to build bridges.
The fight for the presidency was neck and neck. As the tension rose, it was palpable across campus.
“It is having an impact, even walking through the Boren center (on Nov. 4) there is just a different feel to the energy level… people are hopeful that their side still has a chance to win,” Skip Trudeau, vice president for student development said.
The historic nature of this election is multi-faceted.
One facet is the record-breaking voter turnout, specifically in college-aged constituents.
Jakob Miller, assistant professor of american politics, hosted a COVID-19 safe election result watch party. While watching with his students, he dwelled on the significant voter turn-out rate.
“I think students are aware of the voice they have in our democracy, you can tell through the atmosphere,” Miller said.
In past years, Taylor students have been less inclined to participate in elections.
According to Trudeau, students are far more engaged in political discussions than they were 10 years ago, this is a positive trend. Taylor's administration understands the role it plays in American democracy.
“This election we have worked on how to engage in civil dialogue and understand that as people of faith, it is important to engage civically,” Trudeau said.
This facilitation of conversation hasn’t always been the case. According to Trudeau, Taylor learned quite a bit from the 2016 presidential election and felt they were better prepared for this election.
The main goal: to be present and to educate.
“We want to be present with students and wish to walk with them through the many challenges of life, including this election.” Greg Dyson, vice president for intercultural leadership and church relations, said.
Trudeau spoke of the importance of celebration and lamentation amid this season.
While being present, education must occur. Education about democracy allows more conversation to take place.
“One key way to have a more peaceful reaction to politics is to know more about it. The more you know, the more confident you can be in the system as a whole,” Miller said.
To educate students, Taylor implemented three notions: pre-election programming (run by The Booth), specified chapel services and counseling center measures.
Pre-election programming worked to set the stage for civil dialogue and educate students on the current political climate, creating space for politics and faith.
“I think students at Taylor want their faith to impact how they view the world and the way they view politics. This pre-election programming allowed us to do that in a practical way,” Grace Christodoss, a junior and student involved with The Booth, said.
This programming included helping students register for absentee ballots, create meaningful conversations around presidential debates and several other events.
“The goal of the pre-election programming was to facilitate conversation around the election, in a healthy way, and to engage in politics in a way that is glorifying to God,” Christodoss said.
Trudeau said he sensed a sadness and disappointment in the rhetoric on both sides, which prompted Taylor to implement a prayer and fasting chapel service focused on unity.
This service created space for students to process together, further unifying Taylor’s campus.
“We are all a part of God’s kingdom, a part of the same country, and a part of the same general political system,” Miller said. “Although we may have different beliefs on how to solve problems, our system was not built to cause harm to the other side. We need unity.”
The counseling center also prepared accordingly, making itself flexible and available for students. The center created a de-stress place, the grounding room.
Aside from the tangible measures observed, there is a certain posture needed for the days to come: building bridges.
Politics shape who we are and American culture, but they can not define the Taylor community.
“Our scriptural admonition to look to the needs of others around us should not be suspended, it should be heightened in the coming days,” Trudeau said.
The pre-election programming committee constructed a pledge regarding the election that has been signed by several Taylor students. A portion of it read, “Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbors challenges us to live and act differently in the world as his followers. We invite you to join us in committing to love in a way that is honoring to both God and one another in this election season and the weeks that follow.”
In this spirit of open dialogue and love, administration asks that students know they are open to having constructive conversation with any student.