By Daniel Clarke
(TEANECK) – The November election results triggered responses from President Capuano and, later, Provost Vodde, soliciting the campus community to come together and tackle the challenges of mending our divided community.
Two weeks later, FDU economics and finance Professor Dr. Adam Kessler asked the FDU faculty, “How could it happen here?” and proposed an initiative to answer that very question.
“Over the past months, our nation has gone through an emotional election campaign that has revealed significant divisions in our society,” Capuano said. “In times like these, both the nation and our University must rely on our cherished values that have stood the test of time and will prevail once again.”
Dr. Kessler offered the idea as a response to Capuano’s call for action, urging the faculty “to take initiatives in this matter wherever possible and in whatever manner they think best.”
“To state my own view of these events, I believe the president-elect has managed to reach some dark corners of the American psyche,” Dr. Kessler said. “For the first time in almost three quarters of a century, open racism, misogyny, tribalism and xenophobia have returned to the public sphere.
“These events could constitute an important turning point in American history with serious consequences for all of us, including our students and even the rest of the world. I am addressing you to urge you to do what we can as a community to try to mitigate the likely shocks that await us and, especially, to immunize our students against possible infection by the present public mood.”
Dr. Kessler proposed an interdisciplinary course that would analyze the different discipline-specific issues that resulted in the outcome of this election. The course would stay current and continue to scrutinize the actions of the government over the next four years.
“I see it as a moral and intellectual obligation of university faculties to closely examine this outcome, the events which preceded it and the circumstances in which such an outcome can occur,” Dr. Kessler said. “I believe it would be a serious error if, instead, we simply accept the outcome, consider it ‘normal,’ go about our business and fail to deal with the many unanswered questions which have been raised by the events of the last several months.”
Kessler said “the biggest error would be an attempt at ‘evenhandedness,’ what some people call ‘both-sidism,’ (i.e., ‘both sides do it’). The belief by some that ‘partisanship’ is failing and that reasonable, decent people must be ‘centrists’ and therefore ‘bipartisan’ creates the poisonous form of moral equivalence which is partly responsible for Nov 8.”
Though his email was sent out on Dec. 1, Dr. Kessler hasn’t gotten much of a response from the faculty, except one from Vancouver who said this restored their faith in Americans.
When discussing why indeed it happened here, Dr. Kessler spoke primarily of the perception of the populous as a result of ‘alternative facts’ put forth throughout the campaign and the media’s insistence of weighing both candidates’ words evenly.
“If you hit people over the head with a handful of very simple ideas – that has a big effect on them and an immediate effect on them,” Dr. Kessler said. “That, of course, was the big idea of Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister. I’m not myself an expert on these things, and that’s why I think there should be a multidisciplinary approach.”
Kessler was supportive of a broader scoped objective, but remained adamant that the present day Trump phenomena should be critiqued. Admitting that it may fit well in an existing CORE course, he noted that only with support from many different departments could a meaningful course be devised.
Confident that commitment by the university in such an institutional initiative would demonstrate its values, Dr. Kessler said, “I have no strong view of the structure of this, but something should be done.”