A reader wrote to ask for my views on what the Trump win means for academia, academic hiring in particular. I’ll be honest. I’m so shattered by this win (I was all-in for Hillary and as many of you know used my Professor Is In platform to fight for her campaign), and so devastated by the explosion of attacks on people of color, Muslims, and LGBT people in subsequent days, and so frightened by what the Republican dominated government means for myself as a Jewish queer woman, for my biracial children, for my conspicuously butch partner, and for all people and the planet, that I can’t even sleep normally, or eat normally, or think clearly. I’m in no position to make prognostications.
But I told the reader I would write something, so I will, even at the risk of stating the obvious. I think his win is catastrophic for higher ed in every possible respect. Because words are failing me so thoroughly (although I find myself edified by this analysis) I will limit myself to a bullet point list of outcomes I see as already happening or likely to occur. I hope I can write more eloquently in the future. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, as I’m sure that I’m only grasping limited ways that this will likely play out.
- Open, vicious, terrifying attacks on and threats against students of color, and their campus groups and organizations that exceeding the ability of bumbling campus police/security to control.
- Open, vicious, terrifying attacks on and threats against women students and their campus groups and organizations
- Open, vicious, terrifying attacks on and threats against queer students and their campus groups and organizations
- Open, vicious, terrifying attacks on and threats against Muslim students and their campus groups and organizations
- Open, vicious, terrifying attacks on and threats against Jewish students and their campus groups and organizations, and swastika graffiti
- Emboldened Republican governors and legislatures accelerating the defunding of state higher ed budgets
- The systematic defunding and dismantling of federal support for research, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, National Science Foundation, and so on.
- Chilled environment for debate and argument, especially combined with campus carry.
- An explosion of guns on campus, from an even more energized NRA.
- A further decline in tenure-line hiring as universities and colleges absorb these other cuts to funding.
- A more complete embrace of the corporatization of higher ed
- Threats to or dismantling of affirmative action.
- Increased surveillance of faculty speech and social media posting, with more open retaliation.
- Decreased enrollment of first generation and poc students due to a further decline in K-12 education, Head Start, and other preparatory and/or remedial programs.
- This list can go on but I’ve run out of steam. Please add in comments below.
Here is a widely shared Facebook status update by Michael Berube, from November 9. I think it captures the moment as well as anything.
“I believe I am supposed to be in Salt Lake City today through Sunday for the National Humanities Conference, hosted by the National Humanities Alliance. I woke up this morning at 5 am for a 6:30 flight, got the news I was afraid to get, and promptly cancelled my hotel. I will eat the airfare. I wrote a brief email to all the people I was planning to meet.
We have just lost the Supreme Court, and with it, abortion rights, gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, what remains of the Voting Rights Act, and any hope of fair redistricting. We have lost the tiny glimmer of hope that came out of the Paris accord. We have lost the treaty with Iran. Mike Pence and Paul Ryan have carte blanche to do everything on their very long to-do lists. I have to say I do not see much point in talking about the future of the humanities right now, least of all with the NHA, since there will be no National Endowment for the Humanities by this time next year. My apologies to all the people who are making the trip to Salt Lake City anyway, and I wish them safe travels.
And we have elected to the Presidency an actual real live fascist pig, all because I stepped on that one butterfly in the Cretaceous. I am sorry, everyone. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones as best you can.”
I also believe, of course, that the election will also result in a newly energized opposition and activism from students of color, women, and other marginalized groups and their allies. What the outcome of that will be, I don’t know. I do know that I have been to two rallies in two days on the University of Oregon campus. Yesterday the Black Student Union and other groups organized a rally in response to a blackface incident, and a horrific racist threat against one of the women who reported the incident. It was heartwrenching and inspiring. A lot of people, including white people, came, but not nearly as many as should have.
I urge all of you reading this to reach out to your people, especially to people of color, queer people, Muslims, and other vulnerable people you know to check on them and offer your support. Commit to activism to defend your values. Speak out bluntly and clearly in the face of bigotry in your family and friend circle. Commit to defend those who are under attack when you are out in public, and show this publicly by wearing a safety pin whenever you leave the house.
We are in a true crisis, and we must do more than talk about it and study it. We have to act.
Who else will be emboldened? University administrations who will continue to protect sexual predators among their staff and tenured faculty. Let’s not forget that.
Tabea Cornel says
I’m afraid that Trump’s attempts to promote isolationism might affect international hires as well. Trump’s wish that German and French citizens in particular should face “extreme vetting” in the future makes me reconsider my plans for an academic career in the US as a foreign (German) national, currently in grad school at an US institution.
Rose H says
Another small thing you can do that might make a real difference is contribute to Foster Campbell’s campaign at
He’s the Democratic candidate for Senator in the Louisiana runoff in December. He’s behind but in striking distance. If he wins, the GOP will only have a 1-vote majority.
I am a huge fan of your blog, but I don’t agree with the tone here. I am myself scared by Trump, I DEFINITELY didn’t vote for him, but some of my friends, guess what? They did. Their parents did. And sometimes, I must painfully admit, with some reasons.
But this is not my point – the point I want to make is that the more I teach in higher education, the more I see students incapable of reaching out to what is different from them, to the point they do not want to LEARN anything, and as soon as I introduce them to new styles, new techniques, new ideas, they shut off. Is this the example we want to give them? Is this the society we want? People incapable of living in a world where diversity (REAL diversity, not the Harvard-like utopia) is a fact? What your friend did, by canceling all the events, is just irresponsible. “I have to say I do not see much point in talking about the future of the humanities right now, least of all with the NHA, since there will be no National Endowment for the Humanities by this time next year.”? This is just childish and stupid (and – let me add – annoyingly narcissistic).
I think that we should fight for what we hold dear, but also learn to be more responsible for what we do, and respect people – intelligent people – who, maybe (likely) making a mistake, decided to vote for Trump. In your post, the only missing thing Trump is not responsible for is Third World War (hoping he won’t be, really).
I am not happy, but I am not going to sit and cry because of that. I am not so naive to know that I hold the truth, nor that good can come from the unexpected (I have a lot of episodes to prove that). I also value democracy and respect the people too much not to concede them some potential mistakes.
Frankly speaking, sometimes, looking at academia, and the lack of diverse opinions in it (just the first hit: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/opinion/academias-rejection-of-diversity.html?_r=0), makes me wonder who is the real fascist here.
With great respect for your work, and no intent to be polemic.