Voting red on a blue campus


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters at the IX Center in Cleveland on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Davy Vargo

One day, Kent State sophomore aeronautics major Dillon Coventry was on campus carrying a sign advocating for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. He planned to have some fun taking a picture holding the sign and then showing his friends.

Then he passed some people in a residence hall.

“The look I got immediately was awful,” Coventry said. “For once, I’m an outcast on campus.”

Trump and his supporters have often been called bigots and racists during the election cycle, causing those on campus who support the GOP nominee to keep quiet to avoid hostile looks and words from anti-Trump supporters.

Nick Wolfe, a junior political science major and Trump supporter, said his friends are about 10 percent Trump supporters and 90 percent Clinton supporters.

“A lot of my more liberal friends, or my gay friends—they’re very, very, very for Hillary,” Wolfe said. “So they can become hostile.”

Wolfe said he attended last week’s rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Kent State to hear what she had to say. He wanted to avoid being close-minded like he said some of his Clinton-supporting friends are.

“They have in their head that Trump is this misogynist — he’s sexist,” Wolfe said. “Even if you bring up the facts, they don’t listen because it’s already preconceived in their head that this man is a terrible man.”

Wolfe said he finds it annoying when people base their vote on a standard that most of his friends who are girls violate.

“Girls are vicious, and they’re mean,” he said. “They call people fat — behind their backs and to their faces. They make fun of how they look, how they dress, what their skin is like — everything physical about them. They can do it and it’s totally fine —but then Trump says it one time to a woman who’s publicly bashing him and that basically sets the precedence for them for how they’re going to base their vote.”

As a political science major, Wolfe said he experiences professors who invite discussion — and professors who stifle it.

“If the conversation veered toward anything about Trump and supporting him, (the professor) quickly shut that down,” he said. Wolfe appreciates professors who allow both sides to be voiced.

Richard Robyn, an associate professor of political science at Kent State, said he hasn’t seen any examples of Trump supporters’ opinions being shut down.

He said he has noticed some of the students in his classes stay quiet about their support for Trump — and he wonders if there might be more hidden Trump support than pollsters even realize.

“I think (it’s) really important that students feel comfortable to be able to express what they want to express on campus,” Robyn said. “They shouldn’t feel that they’re being intimidated.”

He said that a lot of Clinton supporters and Democrats might value diversity, but believe there should be limits.

“A lot of democrats are probably wondering themselves, ‘Oh I didn’t know that even I’d felt this way, that there’s a certain limit to how I would feel about diversity,’” he said.

Isabella Diorio already voted for Trump — and said she might feel slightly marginalized sometimes because of it.

“I’m from Texas, so obviously up here I’m hated on a little bit supporting Trump,” the fashion design major said. “I understand both sides. It gets kinda heated sometimes because the majority of (my friends) are Hillary supporters and very, very liberal.”

Ben Bishop, a freshman pre-nursing major, said he was asked five or six times by Clinton campaign workers on campus if he was registered to vote and if he would commit to Hillary.

“I’ve never had anybody on campus come up to me and ask me, ‘Would you commit to vote for Trump?’” the Trump supporter said. “I think it’s kinda biased. You’re gonna get a lot of shade if you do say anything.”

Bishop, who thinks Clinton is a “robot to her donors,” said he thinks he’s picking the candidate who’ll best run the country. He went to the Trump rally in Akron and bought a hat.

But he thought better of wearing it around campus since he hadn’t seen anybody wearing anything for Trump.

“I was like, ‘You know, that’s kinda just asking for trouble,’” he said. “I have the hat in my room, but I haven’t worn it.”

Unlike Bishop who grew up Republican, Dylan Oney, a student at The University of Akron, is very far left-leaning. But when Clinton defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Clinton — the candidate he had talked against for months.

Now Oney wears Trump memorabilia around campus.

“I wasn’t considered to be a racist, or sexist, xenophobe, misogynist, et cetera, et cetera, when I was supporting Bernie,” the financial services and economics major said. “But now all of a sudden, because I switched over, that makes me a racist, sexist, blah-blah-blah.”

The sophomore said he feels that Democrats have a double standard when it comes to diversity.

“A lot of times you’ll hear Democrats and liberals calling people bigots when in reality all a bigot is is somebody that doesn’t support freedom of speech—doesn’t support a difference of opinion — that’s by definition what it means,” he said. “It seems to me that most times the Democrats are more willing to shut down freedom of speech than other groups.”

He said that the freedom of speech needs to be upheld.

“When you’re saying that ‘No, it’s not okay that you’re a Trump supporter, so you need to stop talking’ — that is the definition of bigotry, and we need to figure out a way to stop that,” he said.

Oney described a man on campus with a sign around his neck saying, “Bad hombres and nasty women for Hillary.” Oney patted the man on the shoulder and said, “Keep up the good work. Wall Street will appreciate it.”

While Oney feels free to state his views on campus, he knows people might be rude.

“One day I was wearing my shirt and hat that’s Trump related, and I went up to go get a sheet from the professor and as I was walking back to my seat, some girl looked at me and was like, ‘Eew,’” he said, chuckling. “I’m like, ‘OK, whatever,’ and then I just walked away.”

Josh VanGeest, a junior business management and a Trump supporter, said he feels fairly included on campus—with one exception.

“I have a lot of friends that work security, and when some of them worked for the (Republican National Convention) over the summer, they told them that you should have no Trump bumper stickers on your car because your car will be vandalized,” the business major said. “So I don’t have a bumper sticker on my car.”

Coventry said he feels like he can’t share his opinion with Clinton-supporting friends.

“If I do (share my opinion), I’m looked at as some hater or someone who is racist,” he said ruefully. “And by any means, I’m not.”

He said everybody puts him in that category just based off of what they hear about Trump on social media.

“If they know me as a person, they would know that’s not who I am,” he said. “I’m not a racist by any means. I’m not some sexist jerk…everybody’s also saying (that) all the time. And I’m not definitely not a hater.”

He said it’s rude of people not to let him state his opinion.

“I just feel like it’s rude of them for me not being allowed to share my opinion, but yet they’re allowed to share theirs,” he said. “Everybody has the right to stress their own views.”

Getting the reaction from the people who saw him walking with the Trump sign is more reason for Coventry to believe in expressing diverse views.

“I shouldn’t have to be scared to express my views around people and feel like people are going to look at me like I’m some awful person,” he said.

Coventry said that people have a double standard when it comes to including opinions and being fair.

“Something that people always forget is we’re all just students—we all want to be heard,” he said. “If you don’t let people express their views, then you’re not really allowing them to live up to what this country has allowed us to (do).”

Contact Davy Vargo at [email protected].