By Rachel Hertzberg, Staff Writer
Thomas Great Hall, the site of Bryn Mawr College’s official election watch party, buzzed with excitement on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 8. Students gathered at patriotically adorned tables and helped themselves to president-shaped Pez dispensers. CNN’s election coverage was projected at the front of the room, and many people alternated between homework and watching the screen. Throughout the night, raffle prizes were announced, adding to the festive mood. As the party began, many students said they were uncertain as to the results of the night, although some said they felt confident in Secretary Clinton’s victory. By 8 p.m., the vast hall was crowded and sociable.
Early results started trickling in around 8:30, and the room responded energetically even though it was too early to definitively call any of the states. When it was reported that Trump was beating Clinton by one tenth of a percentage point in Florida, the hall rang with boos and jeers. Shouts of joy were heard when Clinton pulled ahead of Trump in North Carolina and Ohio. The room became especially elated upon seeing Clinton’s early lead in Texas. When Tammy Duckworth won her senate seat in Illinois, cheers broke out.
At 9 p.m., when Clinton won New York the room again erupted with joy. Trump’s wins in Nevada, Wyoming, and the Dakotas garnered boos and yells. At this point, one student from New York predicted that Clinton would win the electoral vote while Trump would win the popular vote. She and others expressed fear and concern over Trump’s populist support –regardless of the outcome of the election.
When Trump won Texas, the hall was filled with boos and one wordless scream. One student commented that she felt “really nervous. I didn’t think that Trump would be a firm contender, so coming here and seeing how close it is very surprising.”
Throughout the evening, several optimist students led the Anass chant when CNN showed Clinton to have a lead in various states. By 9:30, the room was so full that some people were sitting on the floor, and one student noted that she was pleasantly surprised at Bryn Mawr’s apparent level of political engagement. At around 9:45, it was announced that the Republican party would keep control of the House, and students responded with disappointed yells. Fifteen minutes later, it was reported that Clinton had an early lead in Pennsylvania, which led to another Anass.
By 10:15, Thomas Great Hall had become so loud that it was difficult to hear or understand the election coverage, but the viewing party in the Campus Center, hosted by the BMC Democrats, was much quieter and focused toward the NBC coverage on the television. The lights in the Campus Center were dimmed. People sat in armchairs, on the floor, and gathered on the stairs. Some were talking quietly, but most watched in silence. There were some muted reactions to the election coverage, but for the most part it was a subdued environment. To be fair, this quiet was in large part a reaction to the shift in the election. Contrary to most polls, Trump won state after state.
Although many in the Campus Center cheered when Clinton won Virginia at 10:30, and later when she won in Montgomery County, the mood became increasingly tense as the race tightened. One student was extremely frustrated to find out how many Floridians voted for third party candidates. When Trump officially won Florida, some muffled “No!”s rang out, but there seemed to be little fight left in the group of Mawrters. When the news coverage panned a crowd of crying Clinton supporters, one student watching the TV sadly called out, “Same!”
By midnight, many students had left to watch the election in their rooms or go to bed. As the key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania continued to be too close to call, the Campus Center was almost completely silent except for quiet groans and swearing. At several points, students became confused by the coverage, thinking that a state had been called when in fact NBC was simply showing a projection.
The energy in the room was even lower by 2 a.m.. There was some weak booing when Pat Toomey was victorious in maintaining his senate seat, and again when it became clear that the presidential race was over even though several states had still not been called. Many of the remaining students were visibly upset. Some, in disbelief, discussed the mathematics of Clinton’s loss, and others made phone calls to family and friends.
The next day, Nov. 9, dawned rainy and colorless. The campus was unusually quiet. People embraced each other in the libraries and hallways, offering words of comfort and support. Despite the difficult circumstances, there was a feeling of solidarity and communal grieving that offered some solace. Many professors took time during classes to discuss the results of the election, and it was unusual to hear a conversation that did not address the events of the previous night. A sense of shock and disbelief reigned on Bryn Mawr’s campus; there did not seem to be a consensus as to why Clinton had lost. There were numerous discussions about racism, third party voters, and economic concerns, as well as the fear and confusion about how to proceed. Many students went into Philadelphia to join protests following the election, while others found ways to attend events and organize on campus. On Friday, Nov. 11, the Bryn Mawr Dean’s Office sent a mass email to the student body, addressing the recent rise in hate crimes, and specifically the harassment of students around Bryn Mawr. The email encouraged all students to call Campus Safety if they feel unsafe.