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Saint Mary’s students demonstrate in solidarity

| Monday, November 14, 2016

“I’m with you, I’m with you,” President Jan Cervelli said as she walked down the line of students holding signs reading “Latinx lives matter,” “love conquers hate” and “climate change is real.”

In light of the election of Donald Trump, sophomore Teresa Brickey said she noticed a growing division, accompanied with a growing feeling of hatred on Saint Mary’s campus.

20161112, cerivalli, Monica Villagomez Mendez 2Monica Villagomez Mendes | The Observer

“As someone on campus who has had to talk to students and be there with them and heard their fears — I’ve had to hold their hand while they’ve been crying — they’re afraid,” she said. “They’ve had interactions with peers on this campus that have not been positive. We’ve had some tangible things happen too, on Facebook and social media sites.”

Brickey organized a silent student demonstration for solidarity with students from Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross to show that students at Saint Mary’s will not tolerate hate for any group. Brickey said her goal was not to protest against the College’s administration, but rather to vocalize what students want from their administration.

“I understand that the administration is behind us and supports us, but they need to be more vocal about it,” Brickey said. “They need to publicly denounce these actions that do not coincide with our values of learning, community, justice, faith and spirituality because we stand for these diverse people, we stand for our students.”

The demonstrations occurred the morning of Cervelli’s inauguration as the 12th president of the College, but were not organized to protest against her or her presidency.

“We support Cervelli and we’re very hopeful, but we also want it to be vocalized that we will not be silent,” Brickey said. “You can see what we stand for, you can see what we want from our administration, you can see what we want from our new president. We stand with her, but we want her to stand with us.”

Brickey said protests and demonstrations like this one are an important right for Americans that people have fought for and one that should be utilized when important issues need to be challenged. She said many Americans this past week have denounced protests, but she felt this was the most appropriate manner in which to fight against issues surfacing across the country.

“This country, the possibilities, is what makes us great,” Brickey said. “Not what has happened, but what can happen, so I hope that administration hears us and sees us and feels our pain because these are not my experiences to share, but I can only help other people be validated. Some people cannot speak out for fear of their identities being attacked.”

Senior Caylin McCallick decided to join the demonstration to stand up for people’s lives.

“I think it’s important that people start to see things, reactions, not as tantrums. I saw on the news this morning they were calling [protests] ‘Tantrums Against Trump’ and I think it’s time that we listen to each other. … Just because we don’t experience it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” McCallick said.

Citing a quote by Sr. Madeleva Wolff in which she promises students “the discovery of [themselves], discovery of the universe, and [their] place in it,” Brickey said the current environment is not fulfilling that promise.

“How can we promise that to our students when they don’t even feel physically safe,” she said. “They don’t feel like they can vocalize their fears and their emotions in a healthy manner. How can we promise that?”

However, Brickey recognizes that Sr. Madeleva’s promise did not extend to a level of comfort or complacency.

“We were never promised … to be comfortable,” Brickey said. “We were promised to be challenged, and I think that by speaking out against these issues, we are challenging ourselves and we are challenging our peers to be better citizens, to really take a deep reflection on what our core values are, and what we, as Saint Mary’s students can do to better our community.”

Notre Dame sophomore Logan McAbee-Thomas attended the demonstration to make people understand why this 2016 election caused such a response in people. He said he wanted to help spread love in the aftermath of the election.

“I believe there is good in the world that is being overshadowed by a lot of hatred and a lot of anger,” he said. “We need to have a louder voice and a larger voice to bring awareness to people because the real issue is we’re not aware. A lot of people grow up and never have to deal with these issues of discrimination — racism, sexism, xenophobia, what have you. They don’t understand that it exists, or if they understand it exists, they don’t speak to them because they don’t have to undergo it.”

McAbee-Thomas said he does not want people to think protesting as a response to the election results is “whining.”

“We’re not whining about the outcome,” he said. “We want to spread the message that hate should not be tolerated in this country.”

Senior Maria Teresa Valencia said she wants to stand up for everyone who has been affected by the election.

“I’m here to stand up for people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of all faiths, women, people with disabilities and sexual assault victims,” she said. “I’m here to show solidarity with all those who are vulnerable to discrimination because of our political system not only within Saint Mary’s College, but throughout the United States. I am here to advocate for the vulnerable and the oppressed; especially for those living in poverty.

“I have chosen to speak up for those who fear these upcoming years in the United States. If it affects one of us, it affects all of us. We stand together and we will not back down. We deserve to be respected. We deserve to be heard. We deserve justice.”

Brickey said the demonstration aimed to show support to students who would have otherwise felt marginalized.

“The most important thing on this campus is our students, so we should validate them,” Brickey said. “We should validate their experiences, we should validate how they feel. We should support them.”

In response to the demonstration, Cervelli said she is proud of Saint Mary’s students.

“I am so proud of our students for expressing what we are at Saint Mary’s, and that this is a place where we show respect for all — all opinions, all beliefs — and that we work together to make that environment. We learn from each other and that’s what’s going to heal our country. I could not be more proud.”

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole