On Tuesday, Nov. 3, students assembled in dorm rooms, attended socially-distanced watch parties and congregated in dorm lounges to watch the year’s most anticipated event: the 2020 presidential election.
With Democrats, Independents and even self-proclaimed “never Trump” Republicans forming a coalition to back former Vice President Joseph Biden against incumbent President Trump and his fervent supporters, this election proved to be the most highly contested yet.
The election’s importance weighed upon students, as they waited for more than three days for the news that Biden would be the 46th President of the United States, with Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice President.
Senior Spanish and Communication major Christina Iglesias shared her anxiety about awaiting election results.
“It was overwhelming to focus on schoolwork while staying informed about the election,” she said. “Every other minute I was checking the news to see if anything had changed. I ended up deleting my social media accounts until the winner was announced on Saturday because the situation was making me incredibly anxious and I couldn’t focus on my work.”
Sophomore Accounting, International Business and Spanish major Colette Termaat reported similar feelings.
“The first night watching the election was really stressful because things weren’t looking as good as they did and I didn’t go to sleep until about 4 a.m. after Trump had his address,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would get any work done for the rest of the week because I was on my phone checking election results almost every minute of every day from Tuesday to Friday.”
On Nov. 3, the day before the election, University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. sent an email to the Villanova community, urging members to remain respectful.
“Although we may not always agree with one another or feel the same way about key issues, let’s promote good citizenship, be respectful and remember that at the end of the day, we are all Villanovans,” he said.
For the most part, students reported the campus living up to this expectation.
“I didn’t really feel any tensions between Biden and Trump supporters mostly because I’m not friends with any Trump supporters,” Termaat said. “I did, however, unfollow quite a few people on Instagram throughout the few days of the election week.”
“I remember walking past what seemed to be a Trump party in St. Monica’s lounge – a few people wearing MAGA hats and cheering pro-Trump slogans,” one student, who wished to remain anonymous, recounted. “Although I definitely felt uneasy about it as a Biden supporter, I tried not to let it get the best of me and didn’t say anything to them.”
If one word could describe the campus reaction to Biden’s victory, it would likely be relief.
“I found out Biden won five minutes after I woke up Saturday morning,” freshman Economics major Basia Holowenczak said. “When I heard that Biden won, I was just overcome by a sense of relief. Biden winning will not automatically solve the divisiveness in this country, but I have so much relief knowing our country will have a president that won’t try to divide us further.”
Termaat had a similar experience.
“I was in my apartment doing my laundry when I heard the results, and I immediately started crying and then my roommates and I blasted “Party in the USA” and were dancing to ‘Mamma Mia’ for a good half hour, and it just felt like I had a giant weight lifted off my shoulder that I didn’t even realize was there for the last four years,” Termaat said. “From what I heard on campus everyone was super excited and I think everyone’s just glad that we got to be a part of the state that really decided the election, which felt really good for most people our age being first-time voters in a presidential election,” Termaat said when asked to describe the campus climate as a whole following the results being announced.
On the Monday following the announcement of election results, students reported being able to focus better in classes, with the dread and uncertainty about the future replaced with hope, certainty and optimism.
A major source of this optimism? Joe Biden’s VP pick – Kamala Harris.
“I couldn’t be happier about the significance of having the first Black and South Asian woman in the White House,” Holowenczak said.
“Politics can be boring again,” Termaat said.“I really don’t want to have to be as involved as I have been. However, I also see people our age being way more politically involved than our parents were and more than their parents were. I think this election has pushed all of us to become really educated in our politics and push further than ourselves in understanding how the world works in our country works.”