Three years later, Trump changed SPA


Asa Zirps

A poll conducted by the Rubicon recorded 76.3% of SPA students identifying as Democrat, 81.4% disapproving of Trump, and 69.5% believing Trump should be impeached. The poll had 59 respondents, of which 14 were ninth graders, 17 were sophomores, 19 were juniors and nine were seniors. 33 respondents identified as female, 23 as male and 3 as non-cisgender.

In the three years following the already contentious 2016 election, Donald Trump’s presidency has only become more divisive in the country. Controversial opinions and policy choices from Trump have added to this cultural division, and political protests have become much more popular in recent years. Trump’s election has also caused division and changes inside St. Paul Academy and Summit School.

Upper School Principal Max Delgado says that school policies and culture have changed in the six years that he has worked at SPA. Delgado said, “Different people can have different opinions about whether this was tethered to the presidential election.” He said that during the 2016 elections, former principal Chris Hughes created a space where for any election, “the day after the election results are announced we create… an optional open gathering.” In addition, the school has implemented Courageous Conversations, a concept intended to facilitate discussion on controversial topics. Delgado said, “[Courageous Conversations are a] helpful tool when talking about politics, especially in these times where there’s a lot of partisan divide.”

SPA kids want to be involved; they want to have a voice in politics. They’re curious about it. They have opinions and they want to be able to express these opinions in ways that feel safe.”

— Upper School Principal Max Delgado

However, Delgado thinks that, while the school climate has changed in the past three years, he doesn’t think it’s as a result of Trump. Delgado said, “I think our students are more engaged now. I think that political identity has become a strong part of our student identity.” He also said, “SPA kids want to be involved; they want to have a voice in politics. They’re curious about it. They have opinions and they want to be able to express these opinions in ways that feel safe.”  However, Delgado believes these things have happened gradually over a longer time rather than in the three years after Trump’s election.

The fact that students want to be involved in politics is further supported by a poll sent to all SPA students with a response rate of 59 students. Seventeen students, or 28.8%, said they were involved in a political club at school. 

Senior Will Rathmanner, who is the president of the Young Conservatives Club, disagrees with Delgado. He said “[Since the election,] I’ve noticed a lot more protest and a lot more political tension. Before Trump’s election, nobody had hard feelings against Obama, but as soon as Trump got elected the feelings of animosity grew.” Rathmanner restarted the Young Conservatives Club last year. He said, “I had felt a lacking sense of conservative unity in the school and a lacking identity, and I hoped that by restarting the group, we could find that commonality between me and other conservatives.”

While the Young Conservatives Club is an active force at school, it is a political minority, with 81.4% of students disapproving of Trump and only 13.6% approving. This is a large disparity even compared to the national average of 54.2% disapproval and 40.6% approval. The poll also showed that 69.5% of SPA students believed that Trump should be impeached.

Sophomore Kishori Patel, president of the Students for Social Justice club, says her club is open and nonpartisan. Patel said, “[The club members] all come from different political backgrounds and all have different opinions.” Her club is dedicated to social justice issues, bringing in speakers and posting information on how people can contribute to the issues on their club billboard. She doesn’t believe the club has changed much in the age of Trump. Patel said, “[Students for Social Justice] has always been keeping an open mind about others’ opinions and caring about the issues we care about.”