Student Forum Elicits Both Anonymous and Outspoken Post-Election Dialogue

Members of the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) experimented Friday with a new interactive polling software to encourage students to share their thoughts about the recent election.

The software, called Slido, allowed students to use their cellphones to post anonymous questions and thoughts during a “town hall” forum held in Smith Union. Popular posts were voted up. Some of the ones that rose to the top were then addressed by moderators Harriet Fisher ’17 and Reed Fernandez ’17, who asked people to respond out loud to them.

“We’re hoping it’ll be a new way of hearing new voices and giving all of you a voice,” Fisher said. Fisher is president of the BSG; Fernandez is vice president.

Although they could have just stuck to anonymous posting, many students and others did speak up during the hour-long event. The conversation moved quickly along. At the same time, comments and questions flashed across cellphone screens as students silently shared their thoughts or queries with the group or tapped on posts they found compelling.

A few anonymous questions included: “Why are people protesting in the streets?” “How do we begin to have conversations with people who have such opposing values and beliefs from us?” “Why are people scared of Trump?” “Should we give President-elect Trump a chance?” “Is it OK to shame our fellow students who voted for Trump because of his stance on economic issues?” “Is it immoral to deport people who have immigrated illegally to the US?” “Why are the tears of illegal immigrants more important than the tears of starving children in areas of the country that have been in recession for years?”

And they continued: “Will Trump voters who say they aren’t racist or sexist, but voted on economic issues or abortion, stand against racist and sexist actions?” “What can I do to help minorities who feel afraid right now?” “What is wrong with political correctness?” “For the person(s) insisting this was about impoverished people seeking respect and relief: what Trump policies do you think would improve their situation?” “I feel so ashamed right now, was I too optimistic about the state of our country—is there any hope left?” “How do we move forward when the US is so polarized?”

Some students answered anonymously: “Because they’re scared for their safety and futures.” “People want to show that Trump doesn’t represent them.” “I see people saying ‘his radical supporters’ yet they aren’t the ones out there blocking traffic and setting things on fire.”

The event, attended by about 150 students, faculty, and staff, also included live anonymous polls asking people who they voted for, what makes them hopeful, and a series of other questions.

 

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