By Jax DiEugenio and Emma Diamond
Staff Writer and Correspondent
Millions of votes have been cast and the majority of Americans have made up their minds.
The finale of what has been described by many as the most consequential presidential election in modern history is quickly approaching, and with it, a clear-cut political divide pitting friend against friend, student against student and American against American.
This political rift exists throughout the country, and the College community is no exception. The institution grounded in individualism, equity and inclusion for all students has also seen the side effects of another polarizing election season.
Ryan Lin, a freshman class council member and an undeclared major in the school of Humanities and Social Sciences, described both his positive and negative experiences as a Democrat-affiliated student at the College.
“I do believe my political views are well represented at TCNJ,” Lin said. “I am thrilled every day to see so many of my peers willing to stand up and have their voices heard by fighting for what is right.”
But Lin is no stranger to the polarizing climate now circulating as the election approaches.
“I do understand and have experienced that the political beliefs (and) cultural presuppositions of others may distort how they view me based on my own ethnic identity and/or political affiliation,” he said. “I have definitely been treated differently because of my political beliefs.”
From a different lens, freshman business major and Republican-affiliated student Jesse Lissaur feels that he is treated differently because of his beliefs. “I’ve really tried to distance myself from ill-intended people,” he said.
Yet, avoiding conflict can be challenging for Lissaur, as he feels that “these heated (political) debates, arguments, and fallouts are very common.”
In a college with over 6,500 full-time, undergraduate students, there are many different political viewpoints. Some feel that their political views are better represented on campus than others.
“I feel that my political beliefs are somewhat represented at TCNJ,” said sophomore biology major and Democrat-affiliated student, Alisha Srivastava. “A lot of thoughts and feelings I have about politics are similar to what some other students at TCNJ are thinking about.”
Alternatively, Lissaur feels that his views are not well represented on campus. He feels that as a conservative, he is a minority at the College — not just among students, either.
“I have found with my professors that they all either don’t involve themselves in politics or anytime they do get a little bit political, you know, it is always very liberal,” he said. “I definitely do feel threatened for certain beliefs that I hold and I am very careful about what I say. I think people are scared to death of being judged, and rightly so.”
Dave Heeren, a senior criminology major who works with Republican New Jersey Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, thinks that the College has some good student organizations for him to meet like-minded people, but still feels that most colleges tend to lean toward liberal views.
The seemingly volatile nature of this political atmosphere has caused a rift between those who share opposing viewpoints and a college campus.
Junior political science major Meagan Warner, who has worked closely along the campaign trail with New Jersey Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski, discussed her experiences with friendships between differing party lines.
“We disagree, but at the end of the day, we can still be friends,” she said. “We still have things in common and I do think there is a tendency to diminish the humanity of people who we don’t agree with.”
Warner further expressed her point on the matter, discussing how certain topics are non-negotiable.
“I think there’s a meme that circulates that says that ‘We can still disagree and be friends,’ and I agree,” she said. “We can disagree and still be friends, but not if we’re talking about racism, not if we’re talking about transphobia, not if we’re talking about sexism.”
Other people try to avoid political conflicts with their peers all together.
Heeren occasionally avoids bringing up his views around others with strongly differing perspectives.
“Sometimes, you don’t share what you feel because you don’t want to create problems that aren’t necessary,” Heeren said.
Despite aligning with the opposing political party, Srivastava said that she tends to “maintain my distance and decide not to argue with … those who I can no longer respect.”
With the election here, students at the College feel differently about how politics will influence their social lives, regardless of whether former Vice President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump win.
Lissaur believes that no matter which presidential candidate is elected, the College will still have a political rift.
“No, things are not going to change,” he said. “I think TCNJ will still be very divided.”