UMass for Bernie launches ‘dorm-storming’ campaign

By Shelby Ashline

(Student Group UMass for Bernie Sanders held a rally opposite the Student Union. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)
(Student Group UMass for Bernie Sanders held a rally opposite the Student Union. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

Organizers and supporters of the unofficial student group UMass Amherst for Bernie Sanders have taken to knocking on dorm room doors across the University of Massachusetts campus.

The process, which organizers refer to as “dorm-storming,” was designed to encourage more students to register to vote. As Feb. 10 is the last day Massachusetts residents can register if they intend to vote in the March 1 primary, the timing is crucial, says UMass for Bernie organizer Christopher Saccardo.

Through dorm-storming, supporters of the group will provide voter registration forms to anyone who has not yet registered, or offer a link to the registration website.

“It’s like a super, super effective version of canvassing because you can just go from room to room,” Saccardo, a graduate student studying education, said. “I think, compared to regular canvassing, students will be much more receptive.”

The idea was first brought up during the group’s regular Wednesday meeting on Jan. 20, Saccardo said. He and other organizers put together a Google drive spreadsheet where supporters can sign up to go dorm-storming on their own schedule.

“Right now, we’re just hitting up the big towers: Kennedy, Washington, (John Quincy Adams),” Saccardo said. Whenever a supporter covers a location, which can also include his or her own dorm, he or she updates the spreadsheet and reports in at the following meeting.

“We’ve been just tabling in the Campus Center,” explained UMass for Bernie Organizer Brennan Tierney, a sophomore legal studies and political science major. “But we thought that a really good way to show our group’s engagement was to start going out and knocking on doors.”

Saccardo estimates that through their tabling efforts, UMass for Bernie has already registered at least 400 people to vote.

However, despite the fact that those involved with the group support Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid for the presidency, Tierney emphasized that the dorm-storming is done in a “non-partisan fashion.”

“Overall, we just think it’s important to get people participating in democracy,” Tierney said.

Together, driven by their political viewpoints, Casey Pease, Elliot Jerry, Saccardo and Tierney launched the Facebook group “Umass for Bernie Sanders” – along with a page, “UMass Amherst for Bernie Sanders,” and a Twitter account, “UMass for Bernie” – over summer break.

“One day I was like, ‘This is sweet, but we should actually mobilize,’” Saccardo continued, explaining that he and Tierney gradually gathered students together and organized weekly meetings, which take place each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Machmer Hall Room E37.

Saccardo said that meetings typically attract 20 to 25 students, although other events that the group organizes have attracted greater numbers.

“A lot of people who work in the group also do phone-banking and canvassing in New Hampshire,” Saccardo said. The group also organized a rally last October in support of Sanders, which drew a crowd of more than 300 people.

Saccardo and Tierney said that because of the temporary nature of the presidential campaign, they did not seek to make UMass for Bernie a registered student organization, which would need to be standing.

However, months remain until the general election in November. In the meantime, UMass for Bernie supporters will work on dorm-storming, tabling, phone-banking and canvassing.

According to Tierney, they are also working with University Union to organize a debate between supporters of both Sanders and fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.=

“We just want to have a constructive debate amongst the student body,” Tierney said, adding that it could serve as a good opportunity for students to solidify their views before the election and to get their questions about each candidate’s policies answered.

Tierney hopes the debate will be held prior to the Massachusetts primary on March 1.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Shelby_Ashline.