When Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation became a reality Saturday afternoon, IU student Olivia Little and her roommates left their Washington, D.C. apartment and headed toward the United States Capitol Building.
Little, a senior in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ Washington Leadership Program, said the group first made it to the Supreme Court building. They passed a number of women sobbing as they made their way through the street.
“People were crying, but then there was just an energy, I guess,” Little said. “Overwhelming energy, pushing for, like, big voter turnout in the midterms in November.”
Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court in the most narrow vote margin since the 19th century. Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was clouded by multiple allegations that the judge had committed acts of sexual misconduct in high school and college.
One of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, faced hours of questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members.
Maggie Bott, a senior and head of the Middle Way House Chapter at IU, said though the Bloomington community was making progress toward believing sexual assault survivors, Ford's public questioning by senators may not have helped this development.
“I’m really hoping that survivors can still come to us at Middle Way House, but I think it’s going to be a lot harder for them to get over that barrier to tell somebody about their experiences,” Bott said.
Bott said she was inspired by the large number of people who showed up in Washington to support Ford and the other women who have alleged misconduct by Kavanaugh.
“I think it’s wild that people make the claim that it’s a scary time for men because we just want accountability and a safer world for everybody,” Bott said.
Krishna Pathak, a senior, said Kavanaugh’s confirmation was indicative of a “persisting and everlasting prejudice against women in America.”
From a policy perspective, Pathak said, it was troubling to see what appeared to be the White House overseeing the one-week FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. The investigation was commissioned after Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Judiciary Committee.
Not all IU students were opposed to Kavanaugh's nomination.
"I think the Kavanaugh hearing, and the confirmation thing, for a lot of conservatives is a multifaceted issue," freshman Geneva Mazhandu said.
Mazhandu said she saw the process as overly politicized and that as a conservative, due process was one priority influencing her perspective.
"By supporting Kavanaugh, I'm not saying I don't believe people who have been assaulted," Mazhandu said.
Junior Noah Davidson said Kavanaugh’s confirmation made him feel disappointed in his government, especially because of how narrow the vote was.
“It’s also, I think, a huge slap in the face to the #MeToo movement,” Davidson said.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. His Republican counterpart, Sen. Todd Young, voted in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Pathak pointed out that Donnelly voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court but did not do the same with Kavanaugh and said it was indicative of how he viewed the high court and its nominees. There were other options apart from Kavanaugh, Pathak said.
“Donnelly has a defense, in my opinion,” Pathak said. “A meritable, credible defense.”
Davidson said he doesn’t agree with everything Donnelly’s voted for in the Senate but that this vote changed his perspective on the senator.
“I think this vote in particular has really made me realize how important it is to have those Democrats in the Senate, even if we don’t agree with them all the time,” Davidson said.
Little said had Donnelly voted "yes," she would not be voting for him in November. He took a stand and won some of her respect, she said.
“I think it gives him legitimacy,” Little said.
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