Professors breathe sigh of relief upon Biden’s win

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Photo: Lizzie Heintz

Demonstrates carry a peace sign flag on Boston Common in reaction to Joe Biden’s presidential victory on Saturday, November 7, 2020.

By Dana Gerber, News Editor

Political science professor Mneesha Gellman was hiking in the woods with her family Saturday morning, trying to distract herself from the ongoing election, when the texts came in that Joe Biden had emerged victorious after days of vote counting. 

“Text messages started pouring from my neighborhood in Jamaica Plain, where apparently people are out with pots and pans, beating them in celebration, and musicians are going through the streets playing out loud,” she said. 

A far cry from the solemn mood that pervaded campus in 2016 following Donald Trump’s unexpected win, professors described feelings of satisfaction when it was announced this morning that Biden had beaten the incumbent with a win in Pennsylvania. 

“The knot that was in my stomach that I had all week—it’s gone,” said journalism professor Cindy Rodriguez, who found out about the results while flipping between news stations. 

Rodriguez said these results represent a rejection of Donald Trump and his ideals. However, she also expressed anxiety that Trump would continue his unevidenced claims that the election was rigged. 

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“I know that there’s a lot of work to do so I don’t want to diminish that in any way, but today is a day to celebrate,” she said. “All the people who protested, who marched, who signed petitions, who spoke out, who used their platforms on social media, all the people who’ve been organizing and doing the work and donating, and everyone. We all have to celebrate.”

Gellman said while this day has been a win, she is still worried about how the president plans to fight this result in the courts, as well as the likelihood of a Republican-controlled senate.

“I do feel a sense of relief on a personal level, but I have a lot of concerns moving forward,” she said. “The sense of closure on the election still, I think, is a long way off.”

Though Biden has more centrist political beliefs than her, Gellman said she was happy that Trump is no longer in a position of power. 

“I do feel a sense of hope that the egregious, racist, xenophobic, sexist agenda that has been implemented in the last four years will be rerouted to an agenda that is more democratically oriented,” she said. “We need to remember that there were 60 million plus co-citizens in this country that did cast their votes for Donald Trump, so I have a lot of questions about how we do the deep work, the deep culture change work of healing as a society to address the kind of grievances people must hold in order to feel like Trump is the sort of person who would solve their problems.” 

Alden Jones, a writing, literature, and publishing professor, said she found out about the results among friends, and wished the celebration could have been more widespread. 

“I was at a five year old’s birthday party, and one of the parents checked their phone and sent a wave of happiness through the crowd,” she said. “This has been such an endless waiting game, so I was really wanting there to be a definitive moment where everyone was running out into the street at the same time, but I’m just glad the results went the way they did—even if we didn’t get to celebrate in the way that we did when the Red Sox beat the Yankees.” 

Jones said she had faith Biden would reverse the ways Trump chose to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she hopes that the anticipation she felt because of the election will diminish now that the results are final. 

“[This] means that the grown ups are back in charge, and things might feel a little more normal,” she said. “I’m also really happy for my students who came of age during this crazy, unusual, despotic government, who are finally going to see how it’s supposed to work.”

Rodriguez said that while Biden is in office, he must make progress with systemic issues like wealth inequality and police brutality that have plagued the Trump administration. 

“This has been an American nightmare the last four years,” she said. “Donald Trump—I start to cry, thinking about all the people he has hurt.” 

Rodriguez also echoed Gellman’s message of hope for a more equitable society. However, she said civic responsibility does not end with Biden’s election.

“My message will always be to my students, you have to be hopeful,” she said. “It’s not a president that makes the country, it’s the people of the country, so we have to be more engaged, and again, do our part, whatever that part is.”