Following a dizzying year of political campaigning, contentious debates and one of the most divisive presidential contests in recent memory, a capacity crowd of students, employees and community members came together in Lincroft on Nov. 8 to watch the grand finale of the 2016 presidential race during a college-wide Election Night Party in the Student Life Center.
Organized by students in the Brookdale Honors Program and sponsored by the Political Science Department and the Office of Student Life Activities, the party offered Brookdalians and their family and friends a free night of games, prizes, trivia, food and other activities.
As live election results streamed across two large TV screens in the front of the room, students from all sides of the political spectrum were able to talk, laugh and look back on the political year that was.
“Our students are stellar,” said political science professor and Brookdale Honor Program coordinator Jonathan Moschberger, who helped organize presidential debate viewing parties, voter registration drives, and other election-themed events at Brookdale throughout the year.
“They are actively engaged in the process. Going into tonight they knew the issues, and many of them have known for a while who they were going to vote for. They did their homework, they did their research, and they went out there today and cast educated ballots. I’m very proud of them.”
For many students, 2016 marked the first year they were able to cast a ballot for president of the United States. And regardless of who they voted for, election night proved to be a nail-biter.
“Honestly, my stomach felt like it was twisted up into a knot,” said Brookdale journalism student Zach Bordelon, who cast his vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton prior to the party. “I wasn’t full-on shocked, necessarily, more just surprised. I didn’t think it would go this way.”
The election returns were still being counted when the viewing party broke up around midnight, but students said they could see the pendulum swinging in favor of Republican nominee Donald Trump by the time they left.
“My initial reaction was numbness,” said Brookdale psychology major Christina Pitio, who cast her vote for Trump. “I was in many ways happy that the candidate I voted for won in the first election that I have been able to participate in, but at the same time I am a little scared because Trump is such an unknown.
“He has a conscience and he is very intelligent and I believe that that is going to play a big part in leading him forward, but I also know that he doesn’t actually know how to write or pass a law or how to operate in the political climate, so that makes me very nervous,” Pitio added. “In spite of that, I do believe in his potential to be a good president, to do the things he said he was going to do and to listen to the voice of the people.”
Regardless of the results, most students in attendance said they enjoyed being able to track the election with fellow classmates, and many felt optimistic that the country would be able to rebound and reconnect following a tumultuous campaign season.
“It may not be for a while, but of course I think people can rebuild ties,” said Bordelon. “Right now I think the wound is a little salty, so I don’t think people are going to be all happy-go-lucky anytime soon. But just like with every wound, give it time and it will heal… Unless it’s like infected or something, because you should probably get that checked out.”
For second year computer science major and Clinton voter Robert Leslie, the election result was disappointing, but the future is not necessarily lost.
“To be honest, I don’t care that he won,” said Leslie. “Yes I did not want him to win, but this is reality and it’s time to deal with the next four years… He better ‘Make America Great Again.’ After two and a half years of campaigning from 20-plus people, I just hope America moves ahead in the right direction.”
In addition to dining on massive party subs, red-white-and-blue cupcakes, candy, soda and other refreshments, attendees were able to participate in a series of trivia contests, prize giveaways and election-themed games, hosted by members of the Brookdale Honors Program.
Students were joined at the viewing party by Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy, Vice President for Learning Dr. Matthew Reed, Business and Social Science Institute Dean Patricia Gallo, interim Student Life and Activities Director Lauren Brutsman and members of the local media.
“To see this level of engagement, to have our students put this on for the campus community and create this environment for everyone to share their thoughts with one another and share this experience together, it’s just terrific,” said Moschberger. “Many of them were voting for the first time, and what an election to have as their first. They will never forget this one.”
Those sentiments were echoed by second-year accounting major and Brookdale honor student Paul Burch, who said he cast his vote for Trump.
“This was most certainly an incredibly divisive election, fueled by both sides demonizing the other,” said Burch. “While it was tense because of how invested everyone was in the outcome, I think experiencing it with classmates took a lot of the edge off. It was also great to see everyone participating in our political system and wearing their ‘I Voted’ stickers. It is very important for young people to get out and vote as well as express their concerns and opinions.”
Check out more photos of the Election Night Viewing Party here.