Students reflect on historic charges against Trump
April 5, 2023
SF State students and faculty reacted with a mix of joy and indifference this week as Donald Trump became the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.
Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court to 34 felony counts for falsifying business records relating to hush money payments to a porn star during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I’m feeling almost joyful, like karma is getting back at him, after all the shit he did in this country, to so many people,” said Yani Morales –– a psychology major and a student worker for the Veterans Services Office at SF State –– shortly after Trump appeared in court.
However, relief from Trump fatigue may not be immediate. The twice-impeached president seemed to revel in the spotlight as he blitzed back to Mar-a-Lago to address a throng of cameras. Trump approached the podium and delivered a sermon laced with martyrdom to his faithful congregation.
“This fake case was brought up only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election, and it should be dropped immediately,” Trump told a crowd of supporters at his Florida resort.
He added that “RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) and even hardcore Democrats say there has been no crime.”
Students caught bits of the court hearing and Trump’s speech to his followers on YouTube and other social media platforms between classes, but many quickly grew tired of seeing the former president in the news again.
“Let’s focus on other things in the world right now. Move on and shed light on other things,” said Morales.
“I see how people think it’s a big deal for the first president to be indicted, but I don’t think [the response] is going to be that intense,” said Tania Jiroudi, a political science major at SF State from Fresno.
Despite the possible severity of the charges looming over Trump’s head, his mechanisms and rhetoric to draw support from his followers haven’t changed.
“He has a way of moving people to action,” said Isabella Wallace, an SF State fashion design freshman. “It’s scary.”
“He’s not responsible for his popularity,” Wallace. “And after the Capitol riot, how could you not be worried?”
“By focusing on him cheating the system, people assume that the system is fair, to begin with,” said Gopal Dayaneni, a faculty lecturer in the Department of Race and Resistance Studies. “The media coverage isn’t helping us reckon with the fundamental moment we’re in and how we’re going to change it.”
“Trump is a distraction from anti-trans issues and youth protesting in Nashville against gun violence, among other issues,” Dayaneni said.
Some students expressed hope that the charges would lead to a prison term for Trump.
“Just knowing that this could actually get him in a lot of trouble was very exciting for me,” said John Fox, a student manager at the Mashouf Wellness Center. “I was surprised that it was actually happening.”
But he doesn’t believe the felony indictment will alter many minds about Trump.
“I don’t know if the indictment is going to change that much because honestly, I feel like the people who hate Trump will still hate him and vice versa,” Fox said. “The people who like Trump are still gonna like him after this.”
Morales is hopeful that Trump will learn from his time in the courts – possibly in prison.
“He should experience the criminal justice system so he can realize how fucked up it really is,” Morales said.
This report was produced by students in Professor Rachele Kanigel’s JOUR 300 Reporting class: Amanda Cangelosi, John Conterez, Sean Davis, Andrew Fogel, Sophia Osborn, Neal Wong and Zac Zavala.