Election Working Group Aims to Keep the Peace
Dr. Danielle Vinson, Co-Chair of the election working group, shares the ways Furman will be supporting students during the election.
With the 2020 presidential election just days away, an Oct. 27 email from Furman announced the formation of an election working group. According to the announcement, this group composed of students, faculty and staff will help develop a discussion outline that can enable civil discourse surrounding the election. The election working group was first formed when Furman Provost Dr. Ken Peterson contacted the group’s future Co-Chair, Dr. Danielle Vinson. According to Vinson, Peterson wanted to form a group that could “think through any issues or concerns that Furman needs to be aware of” leading up to and following the election.
For many students, stakes are high in this election, and the University wanted to preemptively address these high levels of stress. The election working group knows that the election is another added source of anxiety on top of students’ everyday stress. According to Vinson, it is good that Furman recognized this emotional tension early on and that the University is taking steps to address these issues before they become unmanageable.
Additionally, Vinson acknowledged that social media also serves as a source of incivility leading up to the election, as she reflected on the high levels of hostility and racism witnessed during the 2008 presidential election. As a result, the election working group will be “looking out for targeted or marginalized groups on campus,” according to Vinson. The 2016 presidential election was another difficult time for many students on campus. Vinson recalled there being a line at her door the morning after the results, and many minority students confided their anxieties to her. In light of previous need, the election working group includes members from all areas of campus, including the counseling center, providing help for students needing a source to confide in following the election.
During their first meeting, the working group discussed its main objectives during election season. Their most important focus is remembering that “we are still a community,” and that this election can serve as an “opportunity to learn from differences,” shared Vinson. Furthermore, the working group can also help the university think about how to deal with specific instances of incivility, as it will remind students how to respect each other. With this year’s election being “personal on both sides,” the working group is striving to find ways to “help students put things into perspective,” said Vinson.
An Oct. 28 email from President Davis echoed the working group’s mission to maintain community following the election. Davis reminded students that regardless of election outcomes, “we will still be the Furman community.”
Students are encouraged to use all resources on campus, including the election working group, if they feel burdened by the upcoming election. Furman will also be using the election working group to figure out how the administration can address student concerns during the election. Ultimately, the administration urges students to reach out to trusted mentors if they need a safe space to talk.