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As impeachment dominates D.C., students express tempered excitement

The Herald interviews 13 students amid public hearings for impeachment inquiry

As the public phase of the House of Representatives’ presidential impeachment inquiry commanded attention in the nation’s capital, students on College Hill tried to stay engaged with the news while focusing on more localized challenges: midterms.

“I would like to tune in if it’s playing at a time when I don’t have rehearsal, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Miriam Arden ’23. “People are worn out and have lost some of that initial vigor and hope that something is going to change.”

The public hearings phase of the investigation commenced Wednesday, about two weeks after the House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. William Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, was the first to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. He discussed a previously unknown phone call between Trump and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, about “investigations” into the president’s political opponents.

As proceedings unfolded in the Capitol, The Herald spoke with 13 undergraduate students around campus about the impeachment hearings. While not all had tuned into Wednesday’s political event, many students interviewed expressed excitement that the impeachment process was underway. Some spoke of their hopes of impeachment with fervor, while the vast majority cautioned optimism.

Elana Confino-Pinzon ’20, who concentrates in political science, discussed the prospects of impeachment with enthusiasm, but added: “I need to check my excitement and be more realistic about what could possibly go down and how it could affect the 2020 election.” She said that she had discussed impeachment with her friends, and did not expect the Senate to vote to remove Trump from office.

Students at the University’s traditionally left-leaning campus have reported concern about the Trump administration. In The Herald’s fall poll, 15.9 percent of University students responded that “current government leadership” is the most important issue facing the country today. Only “environmental/climate change” drew more responses, with 37.8 percent of the students polled, The Herald previously reported.

Nationally, college students overwhelmingly support an impeachment inquiry into Trump. An October Axios/College Reaction poll found that 76 percent of college students support an inquiry— a number that jumps to 97 percent among Democratic college students.

In interviews with The Herald, students described misgivings about the potential political ramifications of impeachment proceedings. Rose Carrillo ’20 expressed uncertainty about whether “impeachment would do more harm than good.”

In Carrillo’s experience, students have not necessarily paid close attention to the impeachment proceedings so far. “It’s not always the first thing that people are talking about, even within the bubbles of public policy and poli-sci,” she explained.

Arrington Harper ’23 agreed. “I thought it was a hot topic a while ago, but I haven’t heard anything about it in a while,” she said of impeachment.

Few students interviewed expect impeachment to result in the president’s removal from office. “Compared to the way people were talking prior to the 2016 election and after the 2016 election, I think that a lot of folks are really burnt out,” said Dylan Quintal ’20.5, who has stayed informed with National Public Radio’s “Up First” podcast. “It feels like too much to hope for that this will go anywhere, but I still am hoping anyway.”

President of Brown College Democrats Zoë Mermelstein ’21 voiced excitement that the impeachment hearings are “finally underway,” but stressed that for the Brown Dems, the focus remains on tangible advocacy work and community engagement.

“Rather than letting ourselves get too bogged down in the minutia of the impeachment,” she explained, “this semester we have really tried to focus our attention on advocacy and working to alleviate the effects of the administration through more issue-based work and coalition building.”

Brown Dems did not organize an official impeachment-centered event Wednesday night. Instead, they hosted an event titled “An Evening Discussion on Addiction, Recovery, and Policy with Tom Coderre,” which had been planned since the beginning of the semester. Coderre is a leading national expert on opioid addiction and mental health policy and a senior advisor to Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI).

The Brown Republicans did not respond to requests for comment.

—With additional reporting by Ben Glickman and Julia Grossman



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