Manhattan Chimes in on President Trump’s SOTU

by JESS SOLAN, Staff Writer

On Jan 30., President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. Trump’s’ presidency has always sparked a lot of controversy, and onlookers are not typically sure what to expect from him.

“Presidents usually use the State of the Union address to highlight their accomplishments of the previous year and set forth their legislative priorities for the coming year. So while the current president is not as conventional as past presidents, I still figured that he would take this opportunity to do just that,” said Pamela Chasek, Ph.D., a professor in the government department.

“He really didn’t set too many legislative priorities in any amount of detail, with the exception of the four-point immigration plan,” mentioned Chasek, “Unlike previous Republican presidents, he did not urge caution on budget deficits at all. He also didn’t address a number of issues including Russian election meddling, climate change, gun violence, the #MeToo movement, or China.”

While he did include other social issues in his address, Trump seemed to focus more around economics.

“We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history,” Trump included.

Though members of the democratic party were not expecting Trump to address topics that were considered more liberal issues, they were still disappointed to see that he did not.

“These things are always very carefully orchestrated,” said Thom Gencarelli, Ph.D, a professor in the communication department. “Those things are left out not for the sake of time, but for the sake of what they do to the whole of the narrative.”

Gencarelli was hoping immigration issues would be further discussed, and is not a supporter of Trump’s policies on immigration. He and others are concerned for the immigrant students on campus, as well as around the country.

“We are in a situation where there is a great deal of uncertainty…With respect to the immigrant student population, how does that kind of thinking affect their being here and trying to [succeed in their education]?” Gencarelli questioned.

Chasek is also concerned for immigration policies’ effects on students, as well as their effects on colleges in America as a whole.

“The most immediate impact on Trump’s policies for students at Manhattan College and colleges around the country are in the number of foreign students. Due to the uncertainty around the travel ban and the issuance of visas to study in the United States, there has already been a 7 percent decline in foreign students enrolling in US universities and a 40 percent decline in students from the Middle East…If they are deported, they will not be able to complete their education. Decreasing enrollments at colleges and universities could lead to cuts in programs, financial aid and increased tuition,” said Chasek.

Alannah Boyle, a senior peace studies and philosophy major, included that she wanted to hear other issues discussed, such as discrimination and sexual assault.

“I think that the State of the Union is always highly watched by a president’s base, and not usually watched by people that don’t agree with them,” said Boyle. “So I think the message probably resonated with his base which was definitely his goal.”

“I thought that the Democratic party was just kind of a mess. There was the people’s State of the Union, there was Joe Kennedy’s response, there was Bernie Sander’s response, so it was kind of hard to say what the Democratic party’s response was [as a whole],” Boyle included.

Chasek was most concerned about one topic in particular.

“He called on Congress to give government agencies the power to oust federal workers, hinting that if they were not loyal to the administration they should be fired. Many interpreted this to be aimed particularly at the Justice Department and the FBI due to the Russia investigation, but if you were to give Federal employees a loyalty litmus test, that undermines the entire purpose of career Federal employees who work to serve the country, not the President. Many work through both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Chasek said.

Chasek may not resonate much with Trump’s address, but she does still encourage ideological diversity among students on campus.

“What is most important at Manhattan College and in other communities is that we don’t let are different beliefs and ideas fracture the sense of community. We must all listen respectfully to each other and, in some cases, agree to disagree. We should open our ears and our minds to perspectives different from our own and do our best to understand.”

Boyle agrees that during this controversial presidency, it is still important that students stay united.

“I think leaning on our LaSallian traditions is very important,” Boyle included, “We’re all Jaspers, we have to protect each other.”