In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s historic upset over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, many people in the blue-voting county of Queens were left anxious about what a Trump presidency will entail, given the divisive rhetoric that fueled much of his campaign.
Queensborough Community College (QCC) hosted a forum in the Kupferberg Holocaust Center of its Bayside campus on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 22, to give students and faculty a platform to express these anxieties and participate in a free and open exchange of support and ideas about what to do going forward.
Kat Griefen, a professor from the art and design department, shared a petition to make QCC a “sanctuary campus,” following suit with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s declaration that NYC will be a “sanctuary city.” A sanctuary campus is a college or university that protects its undocumented students from unwarranted prying and intimidation from immigration and government officials, with the hope of preventing the deportation of undocumented immigrants, as the president-elect has promised to do in his first 100 days.
“They’re still a lot of work to be done in this country on the front of combating bigotry,” Griefen said. “Having sanctuary status won’t change everything overnight.”
Some Muslim students, like 20-year-old psychology student Khushbakhat Siddiqui, are equally worried about the prospect of facing day-to-day discrimination as they are about legislative discrimination.
“The day after Trump won [the election], I was scared to leave my house,” Siddiqui said. “I got bullied a lot as a child after 9/11 and I’m scared that a Trump presidency will bring a lot of that xenophobia back to the surface. I don’t cover up [my head], but I’m not white, so I’m scared people will see me and assume [I’m Muslim].”
Farbod Hadizadeh Moghadam, president of the Student Government Association at QCC, urged students to channel their frustrations into civic actions.
“This election brought the political side out of a lot of people, which is good,” Moghadam said. “But you have to channel those feelings into action if anything is going to change. Maybe we can’t change the world, but we can start by changing this campus [QCC].”
As the event wrapped up, one professor – who declined to give his name – encouraged people to embrace diversity of thought, and engage those who think differently than you so that debate can flourish, not be stifled.
“We need to listen to opinions that disgust us and are evil,” the professor said. “If someone has a venial opinion, I want to hear it so I know who my enemy is. Liberty and freedom of speech mean nothing if you don’t extend it to those whom you disagree with.”