“Anxious,” “scared” and “hopeful” were a few of the words that Chicago’s college students used to describe how they felt on Election Night.
Three Chicago higher education institutions — Loyola University Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia College — held Election Night viewing parties, each with their own unique spin.
UIC took a casual approach to the night, showing live coverage on a projection screen at the Students Center East building.
Turnout for this event was thin; fewer than 10 people could be seen watching the coverage, yet some of those UIC students had a lot to say about the 2016 election cycle.
Collin Langer, 22, a biochemistry major at UIC, went to his school’s watch “party” in hopes of “raising awareness about the national debt.”
Langer is a competitor in the “It’s Up to Us” organization’s campus competition, where participants attempt to educate fellow students on the long-term national debt while gathering signatures for a non-partisan pledge to “take a stand for their fiscal futures,” according to the organization’s website.
“This election has taken away discussion away from actual issues that affect voters,” he said. “Generally, this election hasn’t been good for anyone.”
Loyola’s History Department hosted an Election Night “Viewing Extravaganza” in the school’s Damen Student Center cinema. The event began at 7 p.m. and brought a larger turnout than expected, according to event organizers. The 125-seat theater was filled to the brim with students and staff, with over a dozen people standing.
“It’s giving students an opportunity to come and learn about different aspects that I’m sure a lot of us are probably really clueless about,” said Valerye Chavez, 20, a psychology and criminal justice major at Loyola.
As students entered the venue, they were met with a giant projection screen showing live TV updates and free food. Every half-hour, a different speaker presented short lectures about a variety of subjects like gender and the election, criminal justice and American jurisprudence, and commentary on each U.S. region’s returns.
Alexa Lindsley, 21, president of the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, which sponsored the event, said the goal for the night was to get students more interested in the electoral process and to expose them to different experts on the subject.
“We really want people to think deeper about their political choices,” she said. “I hope that, through these speakers, they get a lot out of it and maybe find a new way of thinking.”
Loyola students patiently listened to each speaker, without outbursts, as the results shown on the screen behind them.
All of the events ended at 11 p.m., long before the election was called. Several students expressed their relief of the election’s long awaited end, and the strange reality that they would wake up to a new president.
Nicole Baranyar, 21, a social work major at Loyola, said she thinks, despite the winner of the election being decided at the end of the night, the issues brought on by this election will be far from gone.
“I’m apprehensive about the country’s reaction, either way,” she said. “I feel like there’s just going to be a whole new set of fears and issues after it’s over.”
Columbia College Chicago’s event, a school tradition, featured free pizza, student organization booths, games and music. As Trump maintained his initial lead, some student began to feel the tension.
“The way they’re (the media) are revealing the results right now is that Trump is winning, so that’s scary for everybody,” said Tom Spooner, 22, a comedy writing and performance major at Columbia. “This is a very liberal room.”
Spooner said some students earlier in the night jokingly yelled things like “go Trump,” and that after a chuckle, other students would confront the jokers and make sure they were only joking.
Kaela Ritter, 21, president of Columbia’s Student Government Association, said the turnout for the night was more than expected and that the organizers were trying to keep the event fun for all who attended.
“I wanted to make sure that everybody felt comfortable, no matter what (political) party they chose,” she said. “Politics can get really touchy, which is why we have the food and the games and the music.”
Later in the night, around 10 p.m., dozens of students cheered and danced as they watched live television coverage that showed Hillary Clinton winning California and taking a brief lead in electoral votes.
“This whole election has been a shit show,” Spooner said, a phrase used by several students throughout the night. “I just hope we are all safe in the end.”
The event ended before the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, was announced to the students, a result that many of them did not expect.