Having lived outside the US for nine years before coming to RPI, I wasn’t really ready for the media maelstrom called the 2016 Presidential Election. While my friends and I followed the news—my parents normally would go through the process of scheduling times to go into the embassy to send in their absentee ballots—there’s a totally different level of fanfare, drama, and coverage that surrounds you when you’re actually in the States. And I definitely am not one of the people who predicted one, let alone all, of the different twists and turns that took place over the course of this election cycle.
I tend to keep my political views pretty much to myself. Part of it is being a person who’s in a position where I’m supposed to be a neutral voice representing the views of the members of the student body who elected me. The bigger aspect of it is that I genuinely don’t really identify with any political parties as a whole or with the hyper partisan nature that is most discussions about politics, on a national or local level. However, one thing that I think most people can agree on is the need for less heated argument and more discussion of ideas surrounding politics in America. And regardless of how you feel about the election results, I think everyone can agree the small amount this has increased is a definite positive result.
There’s been a lot of talk and controversy surrounding President Trump’s administration. It seems to have crystalized around his recent Executive Order barring travel from specific nations, among other measures. Having grown up away from my home and having parents who both moved to the United States as adults, to an extent I understand the importance of safety and the importance of knowing that you’re welcomed somewhere. Uncertainty in events, especially when it relates to the government and your ability to be in, or travel in and out of, the country are huge sources of strain on a person. Starting my eighth semester here at RPI, I’m pretty comfortable saying this place feels like home to me. Rensselaer’s always been an interesting place, where we’ve paid more attention to our mutual pursuit of knowledge and thoroughness than any differences in origin, ideology, or beliefs.
While the Student Senate is the elected student legislative group on campus, we aren’t a political group. Any public stance we take or decide on has to be looked at through the lens of whether or not it’s our job to take public stances on national issues that some of our constituents will agree with, or not. It’s a hard position for a student, who probably wanted to be involved in projects improving campus or classes to be placed in. However, we did ask to be considered leaders in our community, and leadership does come with certain weight and expectations. It is important for us to always show our support for international students, and all members of our community, rather than when it’s just “hot right now.” Senators and the other students working on Senate committees are in a unique position to do this, in the projects we work on and pursue along with our individual actions, which I urge all senators and members of student government to do.