Presidential Primary Spurs Student Activism

In the months leading up to the United States’ presidential primary elections, politically affiliated student groups on campus have increased activities to galvanize support for their respective candidates. These groups, which support candidates like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.T.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-F.L.), have approached political activism by get-out-the-vote volunteering, fundraising and media interaction.

Hoyas for Hillary, a pro-Clinton group, has focused its efforts on a ground campaign both within and outside of the Georgetown community. Founded and led by Amanda Shepherd (SFS ’18), the group is officially affiliated with Clinton’s national campaign.

Led by former Hillary for Iowa intern Kevin Lo (COL ’16), several members of the group traveled to Iowa during winter break and volunteered for the “Get Out the Caucus” effort in support of Clinton’s campaign. Most of the group’s ground efforts during this period consisted of phone banking, knocking on doors and participating in campaign events.

Jack Dobkin (SFS ’19) traveled to Iowa and will also participate in Hoyas for Hillary’s upcoming trip to New Hampshire for Clinton’s get-out-the-vote effort.

“Something I think I’ve gained from these experiences is learning how to talk to people about the things I believe in,” Dobkin wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Most importantly, it’s just been a great experience getting to meet and talk to people that I probably never would have been able to otherwise.”

GU Students for Rubio, another student campaign activism group, chaired by Allie Williams (SFS ’19), is one of four student groups affiliated with the senator’s campaign in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. GUSFR has focused much of their efforts on local activism, which includes canvassing in the D.C. area, tabling on campus and recruiting additional members.

While the Georgetown chapter planned to rally for Rubio in New Hampshire, they were forced to cancel their trip because of insufficient funds from the national campaign. However, the cancellation has not affected the consistent efforts from the group.

“He’s the new face of the GOP,” Williams said. “He wants to do something for America that supports minorities and lower economic groups. He’s also just an amazing orator.”

Georgetown Students for Bernie focuses efforts both nationally and locally. The group actively works with outside media groups, making itself available for interviews and campaign events. During the fall, Al Jazeera America shot footage of the group tabling on campus as part of a story on Sanders.

The students have primarily engaged in phone banking on behalf of Sanders, targeting voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, reminding those individuals of voting dates and locations while advocating for Sanders. The students have also called voters in the DMV area, ensuring residents know how to register to vote.

Caleb Weaver (SFS ’16) — along with the two other co-founders of Georgetown for Bernie — is also working with GU College Democrats and Hoyas for Hillary to hold a mock Democratic debate.

Weaver said that he supports Sanders because of his boldness and unorthodoxy.

“He’s putting out Democratic policy that we want to see … and not saying to aim low, like a $15 minimum wage, universal access to higher education [and] getting big money out of politics,” Weaver said.

Unlike other campaign-affiliated student groups, Georgetown Students for Carly, which advocates for former Hewlett-Packard Company CEO Carly Fiorina, does not work with Fiorina’s official campaign, but with her super PAC, Carly for America.

Students from the D.C. area will travel to Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks to volunteer for Fiorina’s campaign, mostly attending rallies and following Fiorina on campaign stops.

While no Georgetown students from the group will be participating in such upcoming trips, Georgetown Students for Carly has been active in different ways. The group recently provided a screening of “Carly Fiorina the Movie,” which was created by her super PAC in order to solicit support.

Alexander Bobroske (SFS ’17), a chairman for Students for Carly in the D.C. area, said that he admires Fiorina for her ability to pull people together and for her knowledge in global affairs.

“I think she is the best candidate to pull all factions of the Republican Party together. … She also is the most experienced in foreign policy,” Bobroske said.

Despite these groups’ efforts to impact students, many students have said that they are uninfluenced by their activities. Jack Pelose (COL ’19) said that he has learned more about prospective presidential nominees from his own independent research and faculty members than from student groups.

“I have learned a lot about politics from professors and other adults at Georgetown, such as the [Institute of Politics and Public Service] of fellows,” Pelose said. “While I admit I enjoy talking politics with friends at Georgetown, most of my political knowledge has come from listening to adults via speeches, internet articles and lectures.”

Emma Pettinga (COL ’17) is not involved with any of the groups advocating for candidates and has not experienced any candidate-specific political discussions during her classes. Instead, she said that she prefers to receive information about candidates from print and digital news media.

“I am a government major, [but] mostly I just read The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Politico,” Pettinga said. “Not in the courses I am taking has [current events] been something [professors have] discussed.”

Paola Peraza (SFS ’17) also said that the political activism groups on campus have not influenced her. In addition to reading digital news outlets, she has formed many of her political opinions during informal conversations with friends.

“I think, in general, Georgetown culture tends to be on the more liberal side, which has influenced my thoughts, but that’s more just part of an informal setting during talks with friends,” Peraza said.

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