Student Organizers Speak: Elections and Social Change

Art by Cooper Jasiorkoski

In the aftermath of the presidential election, student organizers reflect on their political involvement and how to continue the fight for social change. For some, the focus remains on electing progressive candidates, for others this means taking a more local approach and investing in the practice of Mutual Aid

President of 5C Democrats, Nevada Lee SC ‘22 described her reaction to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris being elected. 

“Initially I was stoked about the election results,” said Nevada Lee SC ‘22, “I coordinated directly with the Joe Biden campaign so that definitely was big for me.” 

Lee SC ‘22 helped to coordinate phone banking for Joe Biden and other political candidates, with 5C Dems and in collaboration with other organizations.

In a heated student-talk debate leading up to Election Day, Diamond Pham PZ ‘22 skeptically addressed the focus on the presidential election.

“America’s domestic and foreign policies will still adversely affect the lives of millions here and around the world and be carried out under the guise of pragmatism no matter who is president,” said Pham PZ ’22.  

Sunrise Claremont Colleges Hub Coordinator Zoe Vavrek PZ ‘23 worked with her 5C club to coordinate phone banking for local elections.

“I was working to phonebank for down-ballot environmental justice champions including Abigail Medina for CA State Senate District 23, Kipp Mueller for CA State Senate District 21, Bennett Rea for Claremont City Council District 5, Miranda Sheffiled for Pomona City Council in 2020, Josh Newman for CA State Senate District 29 and Ben Reynoso for San Bernardino City Council’s 5th Ward,” said Vavrek PZ ‘23.

Lee SC ‘22 expressed her disappointment about some of the races she had invested in.

“I was sad that Kara Eastman PZ ‘93 and Debbie Mucarsell-Powell PZ ‘92 lost their congressional races and in general the Democrats lost seats in the House. That was something I was working hard for,” said Nevada Lee SC ‘22

Lee SC ‘22 and Vavrek’s PZ ‘23 clubs had co-hosted a phone bank in support of Eastman’s PZ ‘93 campaign last October. Eastman PZ ‘93 was running for Congress in Nebraska’s second district where she lost to Republican Don Bacon by about 5 points. 

Vavrek PZ ‘23 described her hopes for two of the elected candidates endorsed by Sunrise Claremont Colleges’.

“Josh Newman and Ben Reynoso won! We are so excited for these two leaders to take office and fight to tackle the climate crisis,” said Vavrek PZ ‘23.

According to Vavrek PZ ‘23, the main focus for Sunrise Movement now is holding Biden accountable. 

“Sunrise National is strategically being as vocal as possible before Biden chooses his cabinet to make sure that his government is held accountable to working people, not corporate lobbyists & CEOs.” said Vavrek PZ ‘23.

Lee SC ‘22 emphasized the importance of ongoing involvement in electoral politics.

“The fight is not done. In two years when I’ve graduated, the Democrats are going to be facing a very tough election. Usually the midterms are a swing. The change happens now when you register, when you work with your democratic party, when you start to register people. The work starts now. Get involved in every election,” said Lee SC ‘22. 

For students from Pitzer’s Black Student Union political organizing has meant focusing on the changes needed within our own institution. BSU Leadership Board member Kaila Teague PZ ‘22 described their work to ensure that Black Students are better supported at Pitzer.

“We worked to develop more meaningful relationships with President Oliver and various offices on campus, including the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Advancement, and the Office of Admission & Financial Aid,” said Teague PZ ‘22.

Pham PZ ‘22 explained why this localized political organizing is equally, if not more important than electoral work. 

“The Black, Brown, Indigenous, people of color, low-income, + other marginalized communities have never and won’t ever benefit directly from a president, we rely on our community and mutual aid organizations to help us…not some president,” said Pham PZ ‘22.

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