Six hundred and sixteen grueling days have passed since Mark Everson became the first person to formally announce his candidacy for president of the United States, and the 2016 election season is officially over.
At the beginning of the night, the crowd at the UT Votes watch party filled the Student Activity Center legislative assembly room and loudly cheered as states were called in favor of Clinton. Those arriving late were forced to wait outside the door; facilitators were concerned about possible fire code violations. However, as the election swung in favor of Trump, the party’s mood became more somber and students began to leave. For many, the election became a test of their patience, willpower and ability to compromise as two of the most disliked candidates in recent memory, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, vied for the presidency.
“I’m a self-professed political nerd, and I am tired of this campaign,” said Zachary Price, UT Votes event coordinator and government sophomore. “I’m going to be happy when this is over, regardless of the result. Even people who were really excited about the first woman president or excited about a political outsider coming into office are just done.”
Student Government President Kevin Helgren said he thinks a lot of students feel the same as Price.
“I’m really comforted by the fact that students on both ends of the political spectrum have decided to take a really active role in this election throughout this process,” Helgren said. “Regardless of who wins, we’re all happy that the fairly toxic campaign climate is behind us,” Helgren said.
Helgren also said continuing the civic engagement seen on campus during the campaign is the most important thing the student body can do in the wake of the election.
Despite negative feelings surrounding the campaign at UT, civil engineering senior Isha Deo said she thought the U.S. would survive the election’s results.
“I guess I’m kind of relieved,” Deo said. “I just feel like one way or the other we’re going to pull through.”
Students gathered at various watch parties. UT Votes, a bipartisan group that promotes political participation, screened election coverage in the SAC.
“I really think that this campus shows that there can be a place for healthy debate, even if you disagree with people, and I have seen that a lot tonight,” Price said. “I am really hopeful that people will stay engaged. If we can keep everyone engaged and keep people respectful, we can start here and reduce the vitriolic rhetoric we have seen thrown out by both sides in this election.”
As it became apparent the race would be close, government junior Fabiola Barreto said she believed the UT campus would be united regardless of which candidate is elected.
“UT as a community has shown me that it is very strong,” Barreto said. “I don’t feel that Trump or Clinton would be able to divide this community, and that’s why I love being here.”
Business freshman Michael Roddey, who voted for Trump, agreed the University would remain united, but for different reasons.
“I think tomorrow, everyone will go on with their lives,” Roddey said. “People of our age don’t really care about [the election] and we’ll move on no matter what.”