Students at George Washington University, whose main campus is four blocks from the White House, have been told to prepare for “election related disruptions” and to stockpile a week’s worth of food and medications. Though most of GW’s 26,000 students are attending classes remotely for the fall semester, a small number are living on or near campus.
Christy Anthony, director of GW’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, sent emails to students late last week advising them to prepare “as you would for a hurricane or a snowstorm.” The email told students that the election may not be decided on November 3. “Some may want to celebrate while others may protest,” it said.
In a statement reported by the publication Inside Higher Ed, Crystal Nosal, a university spokesperson, said the email was sent after D.C. government officials advised they were preparing for a “very active election season.” Peter Newsham, the city’s chief of police, has said, ‘it is widely believed that there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins.”
Josh Ingersoll, a GW graduate student who lives 40 minutes west of campus, says “it felt kind of surreal” when he received the email on Friday. “It’s disheartening getting that email and seeing all the storefronts in D.C. boarded up in preparation for Election Day tomorrow,” he says. He adds that he thinks “everything will work out,” though “there could be protests in the streets” this week. He says he has discussed with friend that protesters could come from either side of the political aisle, “but personally I’ve seen more activity from white supremacists.”
In Rochester, Ingersoll’s hometown, there was a public moment of silence held for Daniel Prude, a black man with schizophrenia who died of suffocation in March after police restrained him with a mesh hood. “The Proud Boys showed up,” he says. President Trump famously referenced the Proud Boys in his first debate with Vice President Biden when he said the group, which is associated with the white nationalist movement, should “stand back and stand by.”
Ingersoll says he’s been pleased with how the GW administration has handled communication with students throughout the pandemic and racial justice protests. “They’ve made sure we’re aware of anything that could change our ability to safely access the campus,” he says.
That’s helped students feel safe. “Most people are going to grab a couple of extra boxes of mac and cheese and a couple extra gallons of water,” he says. “Nobody seems to be panicked.”
For more on preparations for election day unrest, read this.