In a newsroom staffed with college students, young reporters mostly women crowded around a desktop computer to watch Christine Blasey Ford’s opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“She’s nervous,” one student murmured. The women tried to imagine themselves in her place and couldn’t quite picture it.
As Ford described being pushed into a bedroom and how she felt the weight of Brett Kavanaugh’s body on top of her, many women began to tear up. Others scoffed in disgust. One student offered to turn it off.
At Kent State University, located in northeastern Ohio, journalism students viewed the hearing on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court between classes and followed it through social media.
While campus faculty viewed events through their memory of the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, students experienced the clash of conflicting accounts for the first time. Most current college students were born between 1996 and 2000.
The 10:30 to 11 a.m. break between classes allowed the student journalists to catch this glimpse of history. At some moments, there were audible gasps in the room as Ford spoke. The women looked each other in the eye and shook their heads. This story a young woman being assaulted at a high school party is all too familiar.
One in five women are sexually assaulted in college, and more than 90 percent do not report their assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. For the students listening to Ford’s testimony, the scene she described wasn’t foreign. Parties are a weekly occurrence on college campuses.
Outside the newsroom of journalists, inside the bubble of campus, it was an entirely different world. Students rushed to their classes, glued to the screen of their phone (which was more likely to be playing Netflix than a Supreme Court hearing).
Inside the cafeteria, the hearing played out on televisions scattered throughout the building. It was largely ignored.
“I bought my lunch and I was like, I’m just going to sit here because I don’t have time today to be extremely pissed off,” said Ruby Callen, a senior.
Her friends sitting at the table with her agreed. The thought of Kavanaugh’s and Ford’s testimony inspired anger. They were all busy. Watching the hearing, they said, would just make them madder.
“Even today, if something like this would have happened to me, I would have been terrified to bring it up,” Callen said. “So, the fact that she’s trying to bring it up and people are like, ‘Why didn’t you say something sooner?’ For very obvious reasons of how uncomfortable every girl is on a college campus on a regular basis.”
When asked if they thought Kavanaugh would eventually be confirmed to the Supreme Court, each of the four women nodded.
“A huge part of me really, really wants to be like, there’s no way, but yeah, he’s probably going to get put on the Supreme Court.
Notably silent was Kent State’s political student organizations. The college Democrats stayed busy with a voter registration drive, while the college Republicans had no comment on the hearing.
In classes throughout the week, students had grappled with who to believe as more developments unfolded. What happens when the accusations center around hazy parties and alcohol? No one really had the answer.
But as the Supreme Court nominee awaits his fate, life on the Kent State campus continues on.