President Bahls reflects on election results

Thea Gonzales

In light of the recent election results, President Steve Bahls observed that this presidential transition was different in terms of the amount of fear and pain that students experienced and wanted to address those emotions from the standpoint of the college’s president.
President Bahls spoke at Ascension Chapel’s weekly Reflection on Tuesday, Nov. 22 to voice out his thoughts.
“The upcoming presidential transition has caused many members of the Augustana community to express a level of fear that I have not seen before. They fear not being respected, discrimination, or even harassment, due to their gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identification, or religion. Some fear being relegated to some basket of deplorables because of how they voted. This fear is not irrational given the rhetoric of this campaign; many members of the Augustana community are in need,” Bahls said.
Throughout his speech, President Bahls urged students and faculty on campus to look at this election from a context of faith, not turning a blind eye to those in need. He encouraged members of the community to be aware of their privilege and even highlighted the foundation on which Augustana was built in 1860: “to provide recent immigrants the opportunity to take the first step on the economic and social ladder to bettering their lives.”
Sophomore Emily Graziano comes to Tuesday Reflection every week and expected him to speak out about the concern students on campus had given the results of the election.
“I think Augustana students are very involved and enthusiastic, which I think is a great thing. But some of the topics have become very controversial, and with a diverse campus like ours, it could lead to a lot of really intense conversations.” Graziano said, “I hope that students just continue to talk about it in a way that is respectful and encouraging of even further discussion afterward.”
President Bahls showed support of public discourse among people on campus and acknowledged that even though it might be difficult to have those uncomfortable conversations, the historic role of higher education as a center for discussion is integral now more than ever before. However, he also advocates for “responsible speech so as to avoid creating unnecessary wedges between groups on campus.”
Most of all, he emphasized that the college is completely behind those who feel fear of discrimination or harassment and wants students to feel confident that Augustana has their back, regardless of what will happen in the political realm of the country.
“Together, with our faculty and staff, we at Augustana can ensure the values of Augustana do not change. Even when politics and expediency might try to push us to change. Our shared commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity is as steadfast as ever. When external forces challenge these values, our resolve at Augustana will only be strengthened. We will do everything in our power to ensure respect for students and to protect students in vulnerable communities.”
At the end of his speech, Bahls left with an exhortation to those listening about being present and respectful in the community, as well as sharing his hope for the future.
“Members of the Augustana community have taken the responsibility and engaged in the hard work of learning the perspectives that it takes to make a difference in this changing world. So please join me in being present for those in need and being active in making a difference for the good of the college, our nation, and the world.”