Article by Ann Manser
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
April 21, 2017
Panelists discuss activism, political change
at a recent University of Delaware forum, “Taking Action in the Trump
Era: Community, State and Beyond,” discussed ways in which activists can
work for political change and social justice.
The April 18 event was the third in a series of forums titled “What
Happens Now?” that began shortly after the unusually divisive 2016
Patricia Sloane-White, associate professor of anthropology and
organizer of the forums, told the audience in Trabant Theater that the
series began as many students and others in the UD community were
feeling alarmed about policies the new Trump administration might
pursue. The second forum was then organized to focus on President
Trump’s travel ban that had recently been announced and then challenged
For the third, and final, forum of the semester, organizers decided
to explore actions that individuals can take “to become agents of
change,” Sloane-White said.
“We wanted to end the year on a more positive and powerful note,” she said.
Speakers on the panel discussed their own experiences and views about
working and volunteering as advocates for causes in which they
“To be an activist, it has to come from a place of passion and be
rooted in your values,” said Savannah Fox, the Northeast Region advocacy
coordinator for the relief organization CARE USA. She encouraged
students to get involved in advocacy but cautioned that progress is
rarely easy or quick.
“It can take years, if not decades” to see that your work has made a difference, Fox said.
Both she and panelist Sage Carson, a UD senior who has advocated for
women’s issues and spoke as a representative of Planned Parenthood and
the organization She Decides Delaware, talked about the need to work and
build connections with local legislators and communities in order to
Charles Madden of New Castle County’s Office of Community Impact told
the audience that his concern was less with Trump as an individual and
more with what led so many voters to support him. Even in blue Delaware,
Madden noted, four of 10 voters favored Trump.
Those kinds of divides are why people should talk to one another and
try to understand opposing points of view, said Madden and Wayne
Batchis, associate professor of political science and international
relations at UD.
“I have students who voted for Trump and others who can’t understand how anyone could vote for Trump,” Batchis said.
He also described himself as fairly optimistic for the future, based
on his expertise as a constitutional law scholar. He encouraged the
audience to see the Constitution’s structure — with its checks and
balances and an intentionally difficult process for amending it — as the
reason political change is generally incremental and gradual. Unlike in
many other countries, the Constitution and legal precedent in the U.S.
strictly limit a chief executive’s actions, he said.
“Democracy can be very frustrating,” Batchis said, “…but there is evidence that our system is working.”
The forum was sponsored by the departments of Sociology and Criminal
Justice, Political Science and International Relations, Women and Gender
Studies, and History and by the College of Arts and Sciences.