At Wellesley College, political discussion is easily accessible, and this election cycle has given rise to political groups representing the multitude of views present on Wellesley’s campus: Wellesley Students for Bernie, Wellesley Students For Hillary and the Wellesley College Republicans. All groups are focused on representing their candidate on and off campus, and they are completely different in organization and ideology. However, they are all dominant forces on this campus when it comes to furthering the political process at Wellesley and beyond.
This week, Wellesley students for Bernie launched their first official meeting of the semester at a center table stocked with information, posters and stickers in the Lulu Fireplace Room. Approximately ten students attended at the peak of the meeting, and the casual atmosphere was largely representative of supporters of the Vermont senator. When a large group came to the table, Netanya Perluss ’19 gave information about canvassing and phone banks to occur in the coming months. The groups acts largely independent of the Sanders Campaign, merely acquiring resources provided on the campaign site as well as from a recent Wellesley alumna on campaign staff.
“It’s a way to empower individual groups. Resources are provided online,” Netanya Perluss ’19 said, stating that the lack of intervention from the larger campaign is reflective of the grassroots nature of Senator Sanders’ campaign.
Although there was not a large physical presence at the meeting, the group has had a strong online presence since the summer. Recently Wellesley Students for Bernie released a short video featuring several Wellesley students holding handwritten signs stating their reasons for supporting Sanders behind a simplistic background accompanied by folky music. The video has since become viral, and various news groups such as The Washington Post and Politico have featured the group’s video declaring support for Sanders.
Members enthusiastically discussed the importance
of a strong online presence for their group and for the Sanders campaign.
“We have a strong online presence, and we are trying to make a physical one,” Claire Devlin ’18, the other member in charge of putting together this meeting along with Perluss, said.
In the coming months, Wellesley Students for Bernie members plan to continue canvassing and get people excited about the upcoming primaries. However, they plan to maintain their presence online.
“You can have strong communities online. It facilitates sharing information and sharing of articles,” Perluss explained.
Other groups on campus have also been active in the political process; however they have focused their energy on advancing their group in the physical world. Most notably, Wellesley Students for Hillary has been making plans to canvass in the Massachusetts area, phone bank on campus and express their support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ’69.
Although the group is actively celebrating their candidate on campus and online, their mission is not to change the minds of students on campus.
“We are not out here to change minds,” Hannah Lindow ’16, president of Wellesley Students for Hillary, said.
However, Lindow does agree that it is important to support the candidate unapologetically at Wellesley and off campus as well.
“It is our responsibility at Wellesley, as well as outside of Wellesley, to support our candidate,” Lindow commented.
Wellesley Students for Hillary has been doing just that by participating in canvasses weekly, holding phone banks and holding weekly discussions in order to learn more about their candidate and her stance on issues.
“This is something I’ve been trying to do in my presidency, in part arming people with good tools to answer various questions that students have about Hillary’s candidacy,” Lindow added. Throughout this semester, the group plans to continue its role as an invaluable asset to the campaign in the upcoming Massachusetts primary on March 1.
While the Wellesley Students for Bernie and Wellesley Students for Hillary groups have been actively supporting and campaigning for their candidate physically or online, the Wellesley College Republicans group has been waiting for the primary race to be decided.
“We’re not really involved in supporting a certain candidate since our members support different candidates, but as we get closer to the general election we’ll start having canvassing, phone banking and other opportunities to support the Republican ticket,” Alexis Zhang ’16 the president of the Wellesley College Republicans, said.
The group has biweekly meetings and has maintained a presence on campus by hosting debate watches co-sponsored with Wellesley Students for Hillary, Wellesley Students for Bernie and the non-partisan group Committee for Political and Legislative Awareness. In the past, the group’s members have also been involved in general elections such as the campaign for current Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. Alexis notes that involvement of college work has been important to the political process because they are responsible for a lot of the field work involved in campaigning.