Words By Daniel Hernandez
Art by Connie Zhou
Student organizations have their political machines in full gear heading toward Nov. 6.
Election season: A timespan marked by both partisan divisions and the passionate debates they elicit. Knowing the groups on campus and their events is half the battle. The other half comes from actually attending these events. Students from a wide array of organizations work together to positively affect their campus community through their event programming.
James Ward, president of College Republicans, thinks bringing former Rep. Artur Davis to SU will be a successful event. The College Republicans secured Davis, a former congressman for the state of Alabama, as their major speaker this semester. Davis will speak Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Watson Theater.
Ward described Davis as instrumental to the goals of the College Republicans as election season draws nearer. Davis supported the 2008 Obama campaign early on, but when Davis found himself increasingly aligning with centrist viewpoints, he changed his party affiliation to Republican in 2012. Davis’ personal experience dealing with moral and political uncertainty captivated the College Republicans’ leadership. He was chosen to help those still deciding where they belong and to help all voters make a better informed decision come Election Day.
In addition to bringing in Davis, the College Republicans are focusing the efforts on voter registration and informational tabling. The organization had tables at both Juice Jam and the student involvement fair, and plans to table in the Schine Student Center before the election. Confidence about the party’s principles allows the organization to tone down the usual political hard sell and focus on the specifics of SU. Ward’s aims to pick out the issues that students are most concerned about — things like the cost of education, unemployment, and interest rates.
“It all boils down to money,” Ward says. The College Republicans support Mitt Romney because they think he presents the best solutions to these issues.
The grassroots aspect of the 2008 Obama campaign was instrumental in turning the tide of the 2008 election. Colin Crowley, president of the SU College Democrats, divides the organization’s work into three components that constitute the group’s larger field campaign for this election season. The first facet of the campaign is voter registration. In the first month of school, the College Democrats registered more than 250 SU students as new voters. The second responsibility the organization has taken on is phone bank operation. They’ve been phoning people in the area in support of both local elections and the national Obama campaign. Lastly, the College Democrats are looking to finish strong by canvassing in the community. This will include door-to-door visits and interpersonal talks. Crowley describes the mission of the organization as “having a focus on things that actually make a difference.”
Challenges arise for the group due to the inconsistent nature of college students at SU. Dedication alone is not enough to have an effect. Crowley concedes there is less documentation on students as opposed to residents, which raises the bar for making an impact here on campus. The efforts by the College Democrats are in no way diminished in the face of complications that come with dealing with college campuses.
Specifically, college students are more difficult to track, increasingly difficult to get a hold of by traditional means such as phone banks or letters, and have some of the lowest rates of voter turnout. A daunting challenge facing the Democrats is students who support their candidate but may not actually vote. In addition to the general methods outlined in the field campaign, the group is targeting SU students by hosting a speaker this semester, and by sponsoring a political rally in conjunction with other student organizations.
Some organizations on campus exist to the further ends of the political spectrum than the political mainstream is used to. From the political dissatisfaction and financial anxiety that dominated the time after the 2008 economic collapse sprang the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The group, which abbreviates to PSL, has been very active since its formation two years ago. Study groups on Marx’s philosophy, protests of Hillary Clinton’s visit, and involvement in youth coalitions — even though they’re a small organization with a membership of only five students, they’re an active one. Derek Ford, an active member of the PSL, describes the group as having “one foot in the university and one foot in the streets” — they’ve been active in the off-campus community, as well as on campus. They’ve directed a majority of their efforts toward seeking justice for the deaths of several Onondaga County inmates. The PSL has participated in protests and they advocated for a grand jury to be convened for this case.
Peta Lindsay, the PSL candidate in the 2012 presidential election, will be visiting Central New York in mid-October. In collaboration with the Syracuse chapter of the party, Lindsay will visit a church in Syracuse’s South Side. Derek Ford and his fellow members think that the event is a great way for students to “come down off the Hill,” as he puts it. Ford also confirmed that the SU PSL members are working to facilitate classroom visits, where Lindsay would get a chance to talk about issues and to put a face to a party that often goes overlooked.