Red and blue tablecloths, balloons and decorations for political parties decorated the L.A. Pittenger Student Center ballroom on Election Night.
Pizza and politics brought students together for a watch party on the night of Nov. 8. It was a collaborative event organized by the political science department, Student Government Association and University Program Board.
“Overall, student government thinks that it’s important that students not separate," said Lafayette Jordan, a junior political science major and SGA senator. "They should come together and celebrate the fact that people actually voted in the general election.”
Six televisions flanked the sides of the ballroom, providing students with live updates of the election from various news outlets. A single projector was the main focus of the room, providing key election alerts from CNN. Rows of chairs faced forward as students waited for polls to close, predictions to be made and results to be added to the electoral map.
“One of the things I’m hoping for is that an event like this will draw folks like that — students who don’t think politics is for them — and maybe help them see that they can engage the political arena. It’s an important way for them to address the concerns they have,” political science department chair Daniel Reagan said.
Although the election results were not announced before the event ended at 1 a.m., students like Sabrina Kilgore, a freshman speech language pathology major, recognized its unique dynamic.
“I think we need to focus more on everyone. I think we need to focus more on America as a whole. … I feel like we focus too much on this group or that group,” Kilgore said. “I think a lot of Americans genuinely don’t care what you're group in. Everyone’s having trouble finding jobs; everyone’s having trouble paying their bills. They just want some hope.”
Jordan saw the election results as a common denominator to bring students together under the same roof, no matter who they voted for.
“I think a lot of people at first would think that, ‘Why would a Democrat or a Republican ever be in the same room on Election Night? That’s something out of the ordinary.’ But I think that just shows a testament to our generation, that we can actually be in the same room and celebrate the election results together no matter who our candidate was. I think it does unify the students overall,” Jordan said.
Despite Kilgore’s political ideology, she saw the results of the election as a wake-up call for America.
“I think both sides of the political spectrum are gonna wake up tomorrow and think, ‘We’ve got [to] rethink what we’re doing because obviously more people are upset than we thought.’ So, I think it’s gonna be a big shake up tomorrow no matter who wins,” Kilgore said.
Patriotic decorations exploded throughout the Botsford/Swinford multipurpose room in the Johnson B Complex where residents gathered to watch the early results of the 2016 Presidential Election on the TV screens.
Students chatted with nervous anticipation, playing with red white and blue balloons, hanging up colored streamers and even constructing a United States of America themed photo booth as the electoral results started to trickle in beginning at 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.
The event – hosted by the Resident Advisors in Botsford/Swinford Hall – was a continuation of Botsford/Swinford's viewing parties of the presidential debates, which ran throughout the fall.
Brendan Hendrickson, a junior accounting major and Resident Assistant of Botsford/Swinford, said that the events are important for bringing residents together.
“We decided that we would like to really give everyone a place to watch, where they can feel free to express their opinions, be it for Clinton or for Trump,” Hendrickson said. “A lot of people are probably feeling very hostile, whether they’re on one side or the other. So we wanted an area where they can be safe and talk about this stuff.”
Students of all political leanings were present in the multipurpose room, and most said they were generally not surprised to hear of Trump’s early win in Indiana.
“I’m actually disappointed,” said Taylor Bell, a freshman psychology and English major. “But I felt like Trump was always going to win Indiana. I’m really scared that Trump is going to win, but we still have a long way to go, about 70% of the results, so I’m still hopeful that it’ll be Clinton.”
Ja’Brea Taylor, a freshman biology major, said she was also expecting the Republican Party to win in Indiana.
“You see all his signs around here,” she said. “I haven’t seen one Clinton sign in Indiana.”
As more results poured in, some students began to come to terms with how serious the election was getting. Asia Benson, a senior public relations major, said reality stated settling in late in the evening, and after learning of Trump's win, she was still feeling surprised.
“We were all kind of calm thinking that the two candidates would come out pretty okay,” Benson said. “But I think it was almost not taken seriously, because it went so late. This is night was absolutely unreal, I'm still shocked."
Lauren DeLorenzo, Sara Barker and Elizabeth Wyman contributed to this story.