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Student organizations work to provide election-related support to their peers

While many media outlets have declared former Vice President Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump has filed recount requests in many key states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, potentially prolonging the race for weeks.

The tight race in the Electoral College showcased the divisiveness and polarization of American politics, adding to the uncertainty of this upcoming political cycle. These factors have helped produce a significant amount of stress throughout Colby College’s student body.

On top of students’ academic obligations, navigating stressful periods can be difficult. The College luckily has a wide array of teams, clubs, and organizations to which students can turn for support. Student organizations have sought to play a role in helping students deal with post-election stress.

The Student Government Association (SGA) has been active on this front. In a newsletter last week, the SGA Executive Board reaffirmed the importance of everyone’s voice in the democratic process.

“During this time of electoral limbo and confusion over our country’s leadership, we know that it can be difficult to focus on our community. It can be frustrating to wait for election results, but every voice in our community matters. While we are waiting to hear about the future of our country, it is crucial that we remember to continue the careful work we have been doing to stay safe and at Colby,” they wrote.

 In an email to The Colby Echo, Senator Jackson Rockett `23 discussed SGA’s stances and programs in the aftermath of the election. Rockett reiterated the sentiments of the SGA Executive Board.

“I do not intend to speak for all of SGA in my interpretation of this aspect of the quote, but, as a body of elected representatives, I would assume that my fellow SGA members would agree that the democratic process is one to be respected and executed with the intent to incorporate all who exercise their right to vote,” Rockett said.

He explained that the SGA has instituted a robust program to help students, faculty, and staff manage post-election stress.

“SGA co-sponsored a post-election processing group for students, faculty, and staff on Nov. 4 with the Counseling Center. Additionally, SGA has been working closely with several different groups around campus, including Campus Life and the Pugh Center, to ensure that all community members have resources to process and understand the election,” Rockett said.

Throughout the 2020 election cycle, the political polarization of the United States has emerged as a major theme. Rockett noted that the nation’s political polarization has not impacted the operations of the SGA, but that the group has started to address the polarization in some smaller settings.

“In the case of this election cycle, we have not specifically tackled the issue of political polarization as a collective,” he said. “Perhaps the closest we have come to doing so has been the Campus Conversations working group beginning to organize and facilitate discussions about politicized issues, one of which pertains to debating gun control in the United States.”

Rockett has been very pleased with the efforts of his peers in the SGA to fulfill what he sees as their obligation to ensure student well being during this turbulent time.

“I think the responsibility to vouch for the student body about the stress of managing academic work while the future leadership of the country remains inconclusive falls directly upon SGA. Navigating an election in the midst of a deadly pandemic is nothing short of overwhelming. With that in mind, it is my hope that we, as representatives of the student body, remain vigilant and willing to address any impending concerns,” Rockett said.

Like SGA, the College’s Student Athletic Advisory Board (SAAC) has also tried to play a supportive role for students. Bret Miller `22, the Assistant Executive Administrator of SAAC, discussed the group’s stances in an interview with The Colby Echo. SAAC’s last meeting took place the weekend before the election, so they have yet to discuss the results as a group.

“[We are] letting people know that there are resources on campus that they could reach out to if they felt any kind of pressure or stress coming from the election,” Miller said.

Miller emphasized that SAAC’s primary objection is to support student-athletes.

“We want to support and serve in any way that we can. We think of athletes in general as one big team, and just finding ways to support each other, even if we’re not on the same team, is the most important thing for us,” Miller said.

Campus Life provided SAAC with a list of stress management resources, and SAAC passed these along to its members. So far, SAAC has not developed any resources specifically for student-athletes.

“We made a decision as an executive board to not talk about the election results too much prior to knowing anything. We wanted to be preemptive by letting people know there are resources out there for them, but at the same time, we didn’t want to jump the gun and expect the worst,” Miller said. “We try to make sure that the resources we provide are blanketed, not targeted. We want to make sure we support everybody and anybody, not just a certain section of people.”

Miller believes that in this turbulent time, SAAC should support all student-athletes regardless of their political orientation or personal background.

“With the climate that we’re in, people feel the need to pick one side versus the other and don’t necessarily think about the effects that this has. I think that a big thing that SACC has done leading up to this is organize a bunch of training sessions on diversity, inclusion, and equity,” Miller said.

Miller believes that by avoiding divisive statements and political polarization, SAAC can help produce a healthier political atmosphere around the College.

“I think making sure that we’re not being divisive within our groups is the most important part. And I think that was the big thing that we talked about leading up to this. And, in general, there are so many aspects of life that are polarized right now that we shouldn’t polarize another portion of life,” Miller said.

~ Matt Rocha `23

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