Student leaders react to contentious election


Brian Bauer

Alex Villanueva prepares for Illini Student Senate Meeting in the Illini Union on Wednesday night.

By Gillian Dunlop, Staff Writer

For many first time voters like Alex Villanueva, the events of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election created an atmosphere they didn’t want to be a part of.

“I’m pretty disappointed in many ways and disgusted in others,” said Villanueva the vice president external for the Illinois Student Senate.

Villanueva, who identifies as a Republican, was frustrated with his party’s candidate.

“I’m disappointed that I don’t have a candidate that represents me and the way I envision the Republican Party,” he said. “I’m disgusted by a lot of the things that Donald Trump has said, and I’m also disgusted by the corrupt machine that is party politics.”

Like many Americans, Villanueva decided to vote for third party candidate Gary Johnson as a way to make a statement, despite his party affiliation. However, he feels conflicted over the results.

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    “I am, to be honest, happy that my party has been selected to lead the government, but I’m very discontented with Trump,” Villanueva said. “I would take anyone besides Trump.”

    This election created an important conversation among voters, Vice President Internal Spencer Haydary said, including the executive members of the student senate, some of whom called this the most divisive election in United States history.

    “As an executive, I think this has been a really important election in the sense that it’s really created a lot of necessary dialogue within our student body,” Haydary said. “For example, within the Illini Republicans, specifically, it created a lot of necessary dialogue for what their members stand for and do not stand for.”

    For Ron Lewis, student body president, the election results created a hard situation “to see the country so divided.”

    “My position, as student body president, overrides my personal viewpoint. I need to be here for the students.” But he said, “it’s been a rough day. I have a lot of friends that were hurt by the reaction and that hurts me.”

    To some Americans, this election has brought to light some of the most divisive issues facing the country, forcing people to really think about what they want in the future.

    “(The election has) been an important point of reflection,” Haydary said. “I don’t think we’ll ever have another election like this.”

    Villanueva agreed, saying this election has highlighted some of the most negative aspects of America.

    “(The election) has now more than ever shown the deep divide of this country from the most powerful elites at the top to the poorest of the poor,” he said. “ By 2020 I hope we will see a candidate that brings it back together.”

    There are divisions over race, over the economy, among other issues and Villanueva said he didn’t think either candidate had a resolution to these issues.

    “Sadly, as a country, we’ve gotten what we deserve,” Villanueva said. “We’ve played into the partisanship, we’ve played into the divide and we’ve played into not learning from each other. I think we’ve allowed partisanship and hate and negativity and lack of patriotism and lack of embracing each other to poison the politics of this country.”