Photograph by Asma Balfaqih

How to Talk About Trump

Some students argue that while Trump’s policies discriminate, dropping this oppressive approach to dialogue is a prerequisite for a fruitful discussion.

Feb 26, 2017

Following the inauguration of the U.S. American President Donald Trump, NYU Abu Dhabi experienced the emergence of a largely anonymous debate about Trump that took place on the NYUAD Confessions Facebook Page. Some posts defended Trump’s policies, and this awareness sparked a debate among students about whether Trump voters and their opinions should be engaged with at all.
“Anyone who voted for Trump is fundamentally in opposition with the core values of NYUAD and does not deserve a space at this institution,” stated one anonymous post.
Arianna Stucki, Class of 2018, commented on the post, and told a story about her Trump-voting family members who are engaged in community work with refugees and immigrants — groups that are often depicted as victims of Trump’s policies.
“I think the more that we try to separate ourselves from the other people in our small community as a university, the more we say, You are not like us, because you voted for this man." said Stucki. "It’s more comfortable to say, The fault is on you, and whether it is or not doesn’t really matter; what matters is how we move forward.”
Other students echoed Stucki’s emphasis on dialogue, adding that for this dialogue to be productive, Trump supporters must share the same intentions.
“Continuing to propagate oppression is not any way to get towards a good, productive discussion,” said Shahinaz Geneid, Class of 2020. “You’re welcome to come and talk about [being a Trump supporter] but if you’re just … trying to express a violent opinion, then … I’m just not going to engage in that discussion.”
There have been attempts to move this debate away from anonymous forums like NYUAD Confessions. Dean of Students, Kyle Farley sent out an email to the NYUAD community on Feb. 22 to remind students of values like tolerance and seeking to understand different viewpoints.
“When you decided to come to NYU Abu Dhabi, you made the choice to join an incredibly diverse community, complete with the many complexities that arise from a student body from all walks of life. We must engage in constructive dialogue from a place of integrity, empathy, and humility in order to realize the full potential of this diversity,” wrote Farley, emphasizing that everyone, regardless of their ideological viewpoints, had a place at NYUAD.
On Feb. 10, Kamel AlSharif, Class of 2017, attempted to bring students together at the NYUAD amphitheater for a dialogue — however, due to a sudden change of timing, only one other person showed up.
“I’m currently in talks about doing something bigger that’s more formal,” said AlSharif. “Right now I’m talking to Bryan Waterman about something that involves faculty as well; I’m also talking to SLICE.”
AlSharif emphasized the importance of bringing the debate away from anonymous internet forums and into open discussion through productive dialogue. He argued that genuinely trying to understand each other’s opinions and arguments is necessary to achieve this open dialogue, adding that anonymous internet platforms encourage people not to do so.
Initiatives are being started to encourage an active and safe dialogue, but their success depends upon the involvement of NYUAD students. According to AlSharif, using these platforms will create a basis for productive dialogue, which trumps the NYUAD Confessions Page.
Jakob Plaschke is News Editor. Email him at
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