STORRS – Dozens gathered on Inauguration Day in the University of Connecticut’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center to share words, poetry and music and encourage civil discourse regarding social and political issues.
Students, faculty and local community members of different ages and backgrounds attended, and one speaker said he was making a plea to their human soul.
“If you care about people, if you’ve experienced pain before, continue to be in the work of social justice,” he said. “If you feel the pain, share the pain as well as share the triumphs.”
Research center director Dr. Glenn Mitoma, an Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Education, said that like other presidential inaugurations, this year’s is a time of change and anticipation.
“Many of us have concerns, and I share many of those concerns about the direction of policy in this country, but also more fundamentally a direction of tone,” he said. “Along with many of my fellows in my community, I have grave concerns.”
Mitoma said that he is particularly concerned about how President Donald J. Trump’s administrative policies might affect the international students at UConn.
“UConn is a global community. We have people from all over the world here, some of which are documented and some of which are not documented,” he said. “I think those are the students and others I’ve been hearing most anxiety from. To lose that global connection would certainly deprive all of us of the opportunity to learn in a broad and inclusive environment.”
While some audience members voiced concerns, others said they rejoiced over Trump’s victory.
“I was scared that this election would be the end, but I’m here, safe and sound, and I’m not scared anymore,” a speaker said. “We won, and Donald Trump is about to become our 45th president, and he will make America great again.”
The event, called “The People’s Inauguration,” was sponsored by the Dodd Center, Human Rights Institute and the Student Coalition for Social Justice, founded last semester to promote social activism on campus.
Coalition president and senior Amelia Subervi, a double major in Psychology and Human Rights, said the event was organized to keep alive hope for continued preservation of human rights under the Trump administration.
“I just really hope that we can get past that and he [Trump] can just make policies and recommendations that would still be inclusive,” she said. “Inclusive of all the American people and not just a selective group of people.”
Mitoma said he was heartened by the turnout at the event and pleased with how civil it remained throughout.
“There are variety of voices, not all of which are opposed to Donald Trump, that were a part of today’s conversation,” he said. “But I think we did so in a way that was respectful. I think people listened to each other with a genuine, open spirit, and that’s the kind of thing that gives me hope that we’ll continue to persevere and to grow as a community.”