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News, University News

Students begin rallying behind presidential candidates

Groups for Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, Yang plan engagement strategies to increase support

Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Students show their support for various presidential candidates on campus with chalk statements. Groups have formed around Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren and Yang for the upcoming 2020 Democratic primary election.

As the 2020 elections loom large on campus, students have begun to form groups around presidential candidates to increase student support.

Currently, groups have formed in support of Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I — VT), Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D — MA) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang ’96.

Students for Sanders

Student support for Sanders manifested on campus during the summer, “start(ing) in earnest in late August,” said Samy Amkieh ’21, one of the contributors to the newly-formed campus group. The group has yet to be formally recognized by the Student Activities Office.

A Brown Students for Bernie group existed on campus during the 2016 election cycle, but the members have mostly graduated since then, meaning the current iteration of the group had to begin recruiting from scratch and rebuild their relationship with the Sanders Campaign. A number of the students who helped form Students for Bernie this summer took a course called the Students for Bernie Summer School, which provided participants with tips for event organizing, canvassing and recruiting through a series of webinars, Amkieh said.

“We’re still so new. … There hasn’t been a chance for people to get really involved, but that’s going to change,” Amkieh added. In order to garner student support, Students for Bernie plans to focus on Sanders’ policies that are relevant to students rather than his personal characteristics. “We think Bernie’s policies are what make him stand out more and we want to bring attention to that,”  Amkieh said.

Students for Bernie plans to partner with the Alpert Medical School’s Democratic Socialist Association and the Students for a National Health Program to host an off-campus event to gain support for Sanders, though the PNHP cannot officially endorse him. The student group hopes to organize a similar event for undergraduates in the Spring.

Students for Warren

The Students for Warren coordinating group was formed in August of 2019. The group currently consists  of seven campus liaisons, according to coordinator Nathaniel Pettit ’20. The students hope that the organization grows organically and that those who join “have an opportunity to get engaged and take leadership (positions) and take the team in whatever direction they think is the best,” Pettit said.

The organization launched their social media outreach last month. The Students for Warren Facebook page has grown quickly, with almost 200 likes. “It’s exciting to see that there was a quick reaction and demand for a group like this,” Pettit said.

Students for Warren has been “bombarded by a bunch of community members and partners who are also working to get Elizabeth elected,” Pettit said. Students from Providence College attended the group’s kickoff event along with members of the broader Providence community. Students for Warren is planning a number of ways to contribute to the broader national campaign. Warren supporters on campus plan to drive up to New Hampshire on the weekends “to make sure [the group] can be a part of Elizabeth winning New Hampshire,” Pettit said.

On campus, the group hopes to work with existing University student organizations to harness their expertise. “That’s how you build a winning coalition,” Pettit said. Students for Warren plans to work with Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere,  a group that Petit also leads, among other student organizations that focus on topics highlighted by Warren’s platform.

Students for Buttigieg

The Buttigieg Campaign is represented on campus by liaison Phillip Yang ’21 , who is originally from South Bend, Indiana. Yang began supporting Buttigieg this summer when he signed up to become a campus lead. As of now there is no official campus group, but he has worked to share his enthusiasm for Buttigieg with other students. Yang is still waiting to hear back from the campaign to form an official campus group and plans to hold a kickoff meeting later this semester.   

Students for Yang

Students for Yang is also in its infancy. While the group is not yet officially recognized by the SAO, Tej Stead ’23 has been collecting signatures to gain official recognition. Stead got involved through the Yang campaign’s student outreach program over the summer, which hopes to recruit high school and university students to organize within their schools and communities.

To garner on-campus support, the group has posted drawings, stickers and posters all over campus. Resources given to Students for Yang by the campaign have “encourage(d) people, especially other students, to get involved with volunteer texting and to host in-person events.”

Stead believes that Yang’s status as a Brown alum should not be a factor in people’s support. “Supporting someone because they went to our school is kind of short-sighted, and so even though that may initially draw some to him, I don’t think that should be a primary reason to support a candidate.”

“The Yang campaign is in a different spot compared to the front-runners,” Stead said. While someone like Buttigieg is polling lower than the other front-runners, his campaign has significantly more donors. “It’s not feasible for us to carry out the same kind of things (they can), and so the campaign relies pretty heavily on volunteers,” Stead said.

The Brown College Democrats can not officially endorse any of the candidates or student groups, but they can offer support and pass on organizing information to Brown Dems’ members. The Brown Dems are currently spending their time phone banking for senate races and hosting debate watch parties. Engagement with the group has increased significantly since 2014, said Brown Dems President Zoë Mermelstein ’21.

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