As Southern approaches the end of the semester, both professors and students have admitted that this past year has been undoubtedly challenging. This semester, students and professors are not only managing classes during a global pandemic but also during possibly the most substantial presidential election in our lifetime.
In an Instagram poll of 173 students, 61% of students agreed that the current political climate affected their mental health while the other 39% disagreed.
Southern Accent spoke with the Senior Advisor for Diversity, Unity and Inclusion Stephanie Guster about the ways Southern is helping students understand the importance of the election and how to effectively deal with the aftermath.
Guster, in collaboration with Vice President for Spiritual Life Joseph Khabbaz, developed PEACE week—a week meant to emphasize the need for personal, environmental, academic, community and eternal peace. PEACE week and Revival Fall Week of Prayer have merged together to create opportunities for students and employees to embrace peace during a week of high political controversy.
“What I’m hoping Week of Prayer will do is center us, everyone, in an understanding of what God is calling us to do as Christians…regardless of who wins or loses the presidential election.” Guster said.
Senior elementary education major Giselle Velasquez expressed her worries about how the results of the election will affect Southern’s campus.
“I hope that whatever happens with the election, it won’t create any tension between students on campus. This semester has already been overwhelmingly stressful because of COVID-19. I just want to get through the last few weeks of the semester in the most peaceful way possible.” Velasquez said.
While tensions may be high in the political sphere, Guster wants students to emphasize the importance of empathy. There are students who might feel celebratory about the results of the election, while others may be feeling disappointed or defeated. Some students may be in a state of uncertainty when it comes to the election results. During times like these, it is important for students to communicate with each other in the most appropriate way, according to Guster.
“Unity is a choice,” Guster said.“Conversing in a civil matter about the values you hold and expressing them in a way that is rounded in scripture and allows opportunity to come alongside with someone who views differently than you is a choice you’ll have to make.”
For students who are currently feeling uncertain and distressed about the election’s results, Guster provides a helpful analogy.
“This election is the midterm progress report. It is not the final grade. It may give us a current indication of where we are, but it also gives a greater revelation of how much work there is yet to be done. Regardless of who wins, there is work to be done.” Guster said.
Both Khabbaz and Guster urge students to participate in this week’s Revival Week of Prayer activities. At the Vespers tent, students and faculty have had the opportunity to hear from guest speaker Pastor Myron Edmonds every night this week at eight. Each evening students also have the possibility to receive PEACE packs and gifts.
Most importantly, Guster wants to encourage students to remain civil, physically active and prayerful this week and remember that this election is not the end.