UMass Democrats hope to get more students connected

By William Keve

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The University of Massachusetts Democratic Party will be celebrating 30 years on campus this semester. With election season ramping up in Massachusetts, the UMass Democrats planned a series of speeches that took place on Tuesday, including visits from Massachusetts congressmen Joe Kennedy III and Jim McGovern.

Eric Smith, the president of the UMass Democrats, was in attendance. Smith joined the club as a freshman volunteering for Martha Coakley’s 2010 campaign for U.S. senator, which she lost to Scott Brown. Since then, Smith has come full circle with the Coakley administration, hosting an event where he supported her run for governor.

“I just figured this would be a really great outlet for me to meet fellow Democrats who are equally as involved and as passionate as I am,” Smith said.

Smith calls meetings every Wednesday in the Campus Center, where they discuss upcoming events and agenda items for the week.

The club usually focuses more on issue advocacy, as well as coordinating events with the College Democrats of Massachusetts and improving career development for their members.

“There’s a lot of giving,” said Smith. “But there’s a lot of personal benefits you can gain here too.”

Members tend to focus on issues that matter more to young voters and college students. Questions on taxation, immigration and the military often take a back seat to those revolving around financial assistance and health care for college students.

“Students should get involved here,” Smith said. “At a huge public university like UMass, decisions that people make on a federal and state level matter to us even more. It’s our money, it’s the rights that we have, and it’s our access to things as basic as the voting booth, to health care and equal rights for minorities.”

Smith was motivated to join the club because of his passion for health care reform and equal rights for members of the LGBT community, both causes extremely popular among college students particularly.

In addition to describing the affordability of higher education as a top priority on the UMass Democrats website, the group’s president is also the chair of the College Democrats of Massachusetts LGBT caucus. The group has used these issues to reach young voters in the past, endorsing net neutrality and equal rights for working women on its Facebook page.

UMass Democrats is an official Registered Student Organization on campus, along with their counterparts across the aisle, the UMass Republican Club. The club’s mission states the Democrats seek to “strengthen the Democratic Party through educating our members on the issues, cultivating motivated individuals into leaders and providing a forum for students to network and socialize.”

UMass Democrats are planning a volunteer phone bank to remind locals to vote for democratic candidates on Nov. 2, as well as a “Get Out the Vote,” campaign across Western Massachusetts.

William Keve can be reached at [email protected]