The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 21st

UNC organizations create events, resources to help students cope with election anxiety

UNC sophomores Nahyme Romero-Larios and Angela Feng react in shock to the increasing number of Pennsylvanian votes for Joe Biden on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Buy Photos UNC sophomores Nahyme Romero-Larios and Angela Feng react in shock to the increasing number of Pennsylvanian votes for Joe Biden on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

The first time voting in a presidential election has created a source of stress, on top of finals and schoolwork, for many students. For those experiencing anxiety, University organizations created election-related events and resources.

Mason Pack, a senior physics major, said because the election closely coincides with finals season, the stress of following politics and continuing to do schoolwork is only amplified. 

“You feel like you’re taking a beating and haven’t gotten a break and the culmination of the semester and the election — it’s a big collision of events," Pack said. 

Jack Gartland, a first-year public policy major, said they are concerned about the fate of human and civil rights this election, especially given the longstanding attacks that Black and queer communities face.

“As a queer person in America, really existing in 2020 is kind of dangerous,” Gartland said. “All I want to do is be able to love who I want and construct my gender identity in the way that I want to.”

While Gartland said the local political wins in their district were disappointing, they remain hopeful because of victories from candidates like Cori Bush, the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress, and Sarah McBride, the country’s first openly transgender state senator.

Resources available for students

To process election anxiety, campus departments, organizations and commissions held events this week for students to talk about what’s on their minds.

Two of these events, titled "Anxiety and the Election" and "Concerns and Aspirations," were offered on Monday and Wednesday by the Carolina Center for Public Service, Campus Y and the Office of Student Life & Leadership.

Ryan Nilsen, senior program officer for community engagement at CCPS, said these events were a way for students to discuss their experiences in a guided, structured fashion. The conversations were organized in a Living Room Conversations format, with a conversation guide and allotted talking time for participants.

“I have heard some strong feedback from participants, particularly related to the value of getting to know people they might not have otherwise known at all, or known in the way the conversation opened up, without the event,” Nilsen said in an email.

The creation of boundaries and inclusive spaces allowed students to talk about their fears surrounding this election, such as “a coup, voter fraud, voter intimidation or election-related violence,” Nilsen said.

While these events are over, there are more to come in the next two weeks.

  • The Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity has been holding panel-style and discussion-based events on the history of race, the future of the justice system and combating racism. The next event is Friday.
  • UNC faculty have also joined together for a six-panel series, Post-Election 2020: Carolina Law and Politics Experts Answer Your Questions, to talk about current legal and political matters surrounding the election. The next panel is set for Nov. 9.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services is hosting a drop-in support space on Nov. 11 for students to talk about their stress and anxiety surrounding the election, as well as to share coping mechanisms and offer support to others.
  • Student groups can submit election-related programs, resources or events to Election Carolina, the online hub for cross-campus events.

As the country awaits the results of the election, Nilsen said students who are feeling powerless can think about what they will do post-election to uplift themselves and their confidence in democracy.

Despite their anxieties regarding the present, Gartland said the future is up to their generation. From protesting for Black lives to contacting elected officials to educating one another, Gartland said the actions Generation Z takes will keep moving the country forward.

“No matter the outcome of this election, I think that Gen Z has shown the world that we are a voice to be reckoned with and that we are not backing down any time soon,” Gartland said. 

@cameronmilnee | @RaymondPang17

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