Students experience post-election trauma on college campuses

In the week following the presidential election, college students across the country are experiencing distress because their preferred candidate did not win the election.

In the wake of Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton’s loss to Republican Party candidate Donald Trump in the general election, campus counselors have offered “healing spaces,” “cry rooms” and meditation spaces for students to recover from post-election distress. Some professors have also cancelled classes or given students the option not to take or postpone exams when in distress.

KCCI in Des Moines reported that the University of Northern Iowa students and faculty gathered at three sessions to discuss the election and their fears. Spokesman Scott Ketelsen says that no money was spent on those sessions. Students and faculty at Iowa State University held a rally, and University of Iowa student groups held related events. The schools say no extra funds were spent on the events.

“This election was somewhat unique,” Ketelsen said. “It wasn’t like previous elections, so the response wasn’t like previous elections. And that’s OK. But people have to be able to sit down and have open dialogue and honest communication with one another.”

Demonstrations also shut down Interstate 80 in Iowa City for approximately 30 minutes after more than 100 people protested Friday evening. Iowa State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Nathan Ludwig said troopers quickly cleared Friday’s protest, and that the event could have posed a threat to public safety.

In addition to the Iowa university protests, The University of Michigan at Flint sent three separate emails in the span of five hours on Wednesday to console the campus community about the election outcome and to give advice on where to find counseling and other local resources.  One email also announced a “vigil” on campus.

The increase in counseling visits has drawn a large number of critics, including one Iowa state senator, who has publicly denounced the “hysteria,” calling the trend “incredibly annoying.”

State Senator Bobby Kaufmann has proposed the “Suck it Up, Buttercup” bill when his legislation resumes in January in the wake of how colleges have handled students’ distressful behavior following Clinton’s surprise defeat.  Kaufmann believes that state universities that spends taxpayer dollars on post-election grief counseling, or “coddling,” for distraught students should not be tolerated.

The bill would target state universities in Iowa that use taxpayer funding to fund post-election related sit-ins and grief counseling deemed “unnecessary.” The universities that do participate in such post-election recovery activities will be subject to sanctions, such as a budget cut for double the amount they spend on such activities.

“That’s a waste of taxpayer dollars, and that also doesn’t prepare kids for life,” Kaufmann told “Fox & Friends” in an interview the day after the election. “In life, there’s winners and losers, and when your car breaks down, your kids get sick or you have to take a second job to pay your mortgage, you don’t get to go to a cry zone, you don’t get to pet a pony. You have to deal with it.”

In the wake of the nationwide student protests, according to an article in The Washington Post about post-election shock among Yale University students, one economics professor at Yale argued that his students “don’t melt.”

The professor, Steven Berry, said the day following the election that he permitted his students to choose to opt out of the second midterm exam for personal reasons and transfer the weight of the exam entirely onto the final exam. While some of his students did email him expressing concern of consequences because of the election, almost all students showed up for the exam the following day.

While half of the country celebrated Trump’s victory, the other half of the country reacted with anger and sadness. As some spaces have moved toward a culture of politically correct speech, critics have fired back, claiming that administrators are “coddling” students and depriving them of views that clash with their own in order to create the “safe spaces.”

If college students are not satisfied with the election outcome, should they react publicly on campus with violent protests, act like “babies,” or set an example of nonviolent protests to avoid serious consequences?  Should state universities offer grief counseling at taxpayers’ expense, exam opt-outs, and class cancellations to students in post-election distress?  Should universities also impose sanctions against students to deter post-election protests on campus?  The answer lies in legislation within the individual states.

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