UK students gather to reflect on a tension-filled election season

A student lights another’s candle during a meeting for prayer and reflection on the night following the U.S. presidential election in front of Patterson Office Tower at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. UK’s chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the coordinating body of nine historically African-American sororities and fraternities on campus, hosted the meeting. Photo by Joshua Qualls | Staff

By Erin Sparks

UK students gathered late on Wednesday night following the results of the unprecedented and tension-filled presidential election.

UK’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, the governing body for historically African-American sororities and fraternities, called the campus to gather outside Patterson Office Tower for candlelight prayer and reflection.

“To all minorities and allies on UK’s campus, please join the members of NPHC as we reflect on the results of the election,” said a graphic that quickly circulated around campus.

President of the NPHC Patrick Smith expressed that the results of the election were “shocking” and he, along with other members of the organization, felt they needed to do something.

“The response that we’ve been getting from the minority community, specifically African-Americans hasn’t been that great,” said Smith, a marketing and business management senior. “Just walking around campus, you can see that people are actually real-life worried about what’s going to happen from this moment forward.”

Smith explained that he hoped the event would serve as a chance for students to make things positive, safe and comfortable on campus.

“It’s better that instead of reactive, we take a proactive approach to this and come together and first and foremost do a group prayer and also just reflect on what’s happening,” Smith said.

Tuesday’s election ended early Wednesday morning and declared Donald Trump president-elect. Although Hillary Clinton was able to clinch the popular vote, Trump swept many key battleground states and collected an unexpected 279 Electoral College votes.

The now president-elect is well known for his unprecedented claims that have left some Americans feeling uneasy.

“Just being a minority, I feel like that sets me aside,” said Sydney Humphrey, a gender and women studies junior who attended the candlelight gathering on Wednesday night.

As protests around the country have already begun, many are anxious for what will come next.

Jared Simpson, an accounting senior, said civil unrest is ahead.

“It’s not okay. Human life should always be treasured,” Simpson said, regarding his concern with Trump’s bold claims.

The night started with prayer and thanksgiving for the opportunity to convene and reflect. Vice President of NPHC Briana McClendon then opened the floor to students who wanted to speak about specific concerns or experiences.

One student spoke about a little kid asking if her parents would be deported under Trump’s presidency. The crowd, some moved to tears, embraced each story and concern with prayer, hugs and applaud in agreement.

Another student expressed his concern with young people’s lack of involvement in the election process. Agreement of frustration in peers who chose not to participate throughout the nomination and election process was clearly felt among the crowd.

Kennedy Cowan, a journalism freshman, explained her frustration with college students not fully understanding the voting process.

“I’m from Chicago. I definitely didn’t vote here,” Cowan said, remarking that a vote in Kentucky that was not for Trump would have had no effect. 

The general consensus among all was gratitude for the assembly and mutual support of students who could relate to their struggles and concerns.

As the night ended, many felt relief.

“I do feel better after tonight, just knowing that there is a strong community that has the same sort of mindset,” Cowan said.