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Stanford Dems to prioritize direct political involvement over speaking events

The Stanford Democrats are shifting away from an events-based structure towards a campaign-focused model for this year with the hope of creating opportunities for direct political involvement.

The student organization was founded more than a decade ago and has traditionally held on-campus events to raise awareness about the Democratic Party’s political stance. Now, the group is hoping to turn their sights toward grassroots frontiers.

Plans include additional voter registration drives, a newsletter focusing on major topics in Washington and an increased focus on assisting Democratic campaign efforts. Elections for a slew of new officer positions — such as voter drive and phone bank coordinators — will accompany the structural changes made this quarter.

Henock Dory ’14, president of Stanford Democrats, said he hopes the changes will help the group and their mission evolve.

“When there is a big election, there’s a lot of involvement,” Dory said. “But after that, it was just a big question mark. We’re starting to realize that we want to find a niche.”

In the past, the Stanford Democrats hosted events ranging from a discussion about the constitutionality of gay marriage to a panel on the government shutdown.

“There are already organizations on campus that do a very good job of putting together events,” said Natasha Patel ’16, vice president of Stanford Democrats. “We’re looking at where the gaps on campus are and what we could do to provide students with an opportunity to participate in the political process.”

The Stanford Democrats’ most recent peak in political involvement came during the 2012 presidential election, during which members were invited to participate in get-out-the-vote efforts.

The organization is planning to keep the electoral momentum going with efforts to get students involved in statewide and local campaigns, said events coordinator Sara Orton ’16. Dory added that the Stanford Democrats are also looking to solidify connections with local alumni.

Patel said she hopes the structural changes will encourage students to apply their abilities to the political process as well as learn new skills.

“I think there’s this general lack of the sentiment that the government is a place where we can solve problems, and a force for good,” Patel said. “Stanford students like to think about how they can solve problems through the private sphere, and less of how they could potentially solve problems through the public sphere.”

“Most of the major projects that I think our country has been able to provide its citizens with are projects that require the mechanisms of government,” she added.

Dory also sees a greater need for general political awareness on campus.

“A lot of the time, especially at Stanford, it’s hard to see how those decisions are going to be affecting you,” Dory said. “But I think we all have a duty … to force in a bit of time to learn about the people who are running for elections and issues that are big on the tickets.”

Contact Madeleine Han at mhan95 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Madeleine Han

Seunghwa Madeleine Han '17 is a sophomore at Stanford interested in English, international relations and the intersection of technology and human communication. She is the current head music critic and former news desk editor at The Daily. Contact her at mhan95 'at' stanford.edu to find out more.