Student reactions to Kavanaugh confirmation echo a polarizing process


Source: Fred Schilling/Sipa USA/TNS

Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in on Saturday. Northwestern students on both sides of the aisle had mixed reactions to his confirmation.

Daisy Conant and Danielle Spitz

After weeks of breaking news notifications about the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Saturday’s announcement abruptly put an end to an intense confirmation process.

In a contentious 50-48 senate vote, Kavanaugh secured the ninth seat on the Supreme Court.

Though Kavanaugh’s confirmation seemed all but assured in a divided Senate, Weinberg sophomore Sophie Angus said the news still surprised her.

“How could they think through what he’s done and possibly think he’s a good person to make decisions for everyone in the country?” she said.

Communication freshman Lily Feinberg said she immediately feared what Kavanaugh’s confirmation meant for survivors of sexual assault, and she could hardly focus during her theater rehearsal once she heard the news.

“This is setting a really bad precedent for when women come forward,” Feinberg said. “Even when you are brave enough to come forward and talk about your experience, it’s still not going to be validating, and you’re still not going to be respected or taken seriously.”

At a U.S. Senate hearing last week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified against Kavanaugh. Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, joined Ford with accusations against Kavanaugh, though they did not testify.

Weinberg sophomore Kassandra Ogbodu said Kavanaugh’s confirmation not only jeopardizes the gravity of sexual assault charges but also the legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself.

Ogbodu added that she was particularly put off by Kavanaugh’s unstable temperament during the Senate hearings.

“You like to think that you’re safe and you like to think that there are powers above you that are in your best interest,” Ogbodu said. “So for someone who is not emotionally sound, as he showed throughout the [hearing], making very big decisions for all of us really doesn’t feel great.”

Source: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Zuma Press/TNS
A woman protests the Kavanaugh confirmation outside the Supreme Court building. Female students reflected on what the confirmation means for sexual assault survivors.

For Feinberg, Kavanaugh’s confirmation only reinforces the Supreme Court’s trend of becoming more polarizing.

“(The Supreme Court) … has become so party-based and partisan that no decision that’s made on the court anymore is legitimate as it used to be,” Feinberg said. “The Court is crumbling and it’s becoming much less respected and a much less sacred entity.”

Not every student on campus viewed his confirmation in such a light, however. For Weinberg junior and College Republicans secretary of events Dominic Bayer, the vote to confirm Kavanaugh came as a relief after weeks of partisan fighting.

Although the accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh gave him pause, Bayer, a former Daily columnist, reaffirmed his support for the justice following investigations by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s and the FBI, though Democrats criticized it for its narrow scope.

“It was a very emotionally charged process, which I believe was just further tearing people apart on both sides of the political aisle,” Bayer said. “Justice Kavanaugh definitely deserved confirmation to the Supreme Court given that I think he is somebody who is eminently qualified for it and has the right judicial approach.”

Medill freshman and Republican Matt Shelton expressed similar caution regarding Kavanaugh’s character but said he was ultimately pleased to see another conservative justice sit on the Court.

Looking to his party’s elected officials for guidance, Shelton said the fact that U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Susan Collins (R-ME), whose positions on the judge were both scrutinized, voted to confirm Kavanaugh bolstered his faith in the confirmation process.

But while the news reinforced Shelton’s trust in his party, it did the opposite for Ogbodu, who said she predicted that Kavanaugh would be confirmed.

“The fact that I wasn’t surprised was a big surprise for me,” Ogbodu said. “It kind of brushes aside a very big problem and I feel like we’re going back in history as opposed to taking the steps necessary to move forward.”

Email: [email protected], [email protected]
Twitter: @daisy_conant @danielle_spitz