Columbia and Barnard are both known for being politically active campuses. With the primaries in full swing and the presidential election right around the corner, you might be looking for how to get involved with political organizations on campus. Let Spectrum’s list guide you!
Columbia Political Union (CPU)
- What it is: Columbia’s only multi-partisan political organization with the mission to “increase political involvement, create a forum for open discussion and debate, and cover campus politics.”
- General body meetings: CPU does not hold regular GBMs. It hosts events twice a month, ranging from debates to talks by invited speakers. Recently, it had two Columbia law professors talk about impeachment and a debate between Columbia’s student partisan groups.
- Upcoming Projects: CPU is in the process of reviving its fellowship program that involves a weekly post reviewing a TV show or article. It is currently planning for its Liberty Gala at the end of the semester. It is also looking forward to hosting a Columbia/Barnard democratic debate between representatives of student political groups and any student who might want to get involved.
- To students interested in joining Columbia Political Union:
Rosalie Moss, BC ’20, director of the Columbia Political Union: “CPU is a really great way for people who don’t necessarily want to commit to a certain political party or partisan group to get involved in politics on campus. It is a great opportunity to gain more exposure and to talk to people who don’t have the same beliefs as you do.”
- How to get involved: Head on over to Facebook to learn more, and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries. It is currently seeking a treasurer and a vice president; apply here if you are interested.
Columbia University Democrats (CU Dems)
- General body meetings: CU Dems’ general body meetings are every Wednesday from 9 to 10 p.m. in Lerner Hall 569. It welcomes all students regardless of their experience in political clubs and uses a circle format during meetings to induce conversation. To facilitate a connection with club members, the executive board enjoys out-of-club activities like going to JJ’s for a late-night snack after some meetings. Get notified about CU Dems’ GBMs on its Facebook.
- Upcoming projects: Every fall during break, CU Dems organizes a campaign trip. Last semester, it traveled to Virginia and worked on state-level campaigns for Amy Laufer and Josh Cole. More recently, its first-year council, led by Nikita Leus-Oliva, CC ’23, rallied members to participate in the protest advocating for the overturning of New York’s enforcement of fare evasion laws. In the spring, the club is hosting its fully-funded annual lobbying trip to Washington D.C. in which students can apply name-blind to go and lobby for a bill of their choosing. In the future, the club hopes to bring in more speakers with an emphasis on pre-professionalism for their members.
- To students interested in joining CU Dems:
Nada Zohayr, president of CU Dems, CC ’21: “We’re open for any sort of collaboration from other clubs on campus. We’re always here to help be there, support in any way that we can.”
Alex Siegal, vice president of CU Dems, CC ’21: “As far as college democrat chapters go, we’re uniquely situated in that we are not formally under the umbrella of the College Democrats of America. It puts us in a unique place where we can debate what we think the future of the democratic party can and should be.”
Columbia University Libertarians (CUL)
- What it is: CUL is a non-partisan, libertarian group that provides a platform for intellectual battles of ideas through open, respectful dialogue. It seeks to identify and evaluate Libertarian principles and discuss their nuanced applications.
- General body meetings: GBMs are held every Thursday night. CUL hosts discussions three times a semester and invites everyone interested, regardless of their ideological or political background.
- Upcoming Projects: CUL is initiating a Distinguished Speaker Series to bring in people who can voice classical libertarian viewpoints and generate discussions about libertarianism at Columbia.
- To students interested in joining Columbia University Libertarians:
Blythe Edwards, GS ‘21, president of CU Libertarians: “If you’re someone who doesn’t have a political home, doesn’t see themselves represented in the Republican or Democratic parties, and are interested in ideas of civil liberties, limited government, and free markets, come on by to our events. We aren’t an ideologically conformist organization; we have members who hold a wide range of viewpoints. Our main purpose is to spur dialogue and inject a viewpoint that often gets misrepresented or underrepresented.”
- What it is: CU Republicans works to bring people together to discuss events in the news and politics that concerns everyone, especially conservatives.
- General body meetings: It hosts general body meetings on Tuesdays from 8 to 9 p.m. in Lerner Hall 569. It tries to have conversations distinct from those heard on campus, while welcoming people from all different backgrounds to participate.
- Upcoming Projects: In its next meeting, CUL will be discussing anti-Semitism on Columbia’s campus, an issue that members feel is particularly pertinent this semester. A guest speaker will also be in attendance.
- To students interested in joining Columbia University Republicans:
Jimmy Quinn, GS ’20, president of CU Republicans: “If you are a Republican or a conservative on campus and you feel like you’re the only one, you’re not. Come and join us. There’s a community of like-minded people waiting for you, and we want to hear from you. If you’re not a Republican or a conservative, we still want to hear from you. We want to get your perspective. We want to engage. We want to talk about the issues that are shaping our politics and society in 2020. We think that we can have really productive conversations with everyone on campus, with our Republican friends or classmates but also everyone else. Whatever you think, feel free to swing by our general body meetings.”
Columbia/Barnard Young Democratic Socialists of America
- What it is: A student chapter of Democratic Socialists of America
- General body meetings: YDSA hosts weekly GBMs that take the form of political reading groups and a discussion of topics, like Medicare for All.
- Upcoming Projects: It organizes ongoing dorm storms and other forms of canvassing and is looking into hosting a panel with professors to discuss Medicare for All. It would also like to involve members from its branch to the New York delegate convention to discuss proposals and get more representation for YDSA in electoral work.
- To students interested in joining YDSA:
Maria Ordonez, CC ’21, organizing committee member of YDSA: “If you want to join a group where you’re going to feel at home, you’re going to feel like you’re part of a movement with people power, then please join YDSA. At YDSA, you’re going to fight for causes that affect human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, everything that really truly affects us. We’re a group that believes in the inclusivity of everyone and everyone’s welcome, even if you’re the left or the right—join us and we’ll convince you.”
Barnard for Warren
- What it is: One of many student chapters of the program launched by Sen. Elizabeth Warren that trains college students in becoming activists for the general election. It is committed to initiating dialogue and supporting student leadership on campus.
- General body meetings: Barnard for Warren does not have regular GBMs. It acts as a hub to support students in hosting campaigning events, like tabling at Columbia’s greenmarket, and it also touches base with the campaigning office in New York. Barnard for Warren occasionally partners with Columbia for Warren. - Upcoming Projects: Barnard for Warren has been hosting tabling events at the Columbia Greenmarket on Broadway and also around the city. It is in the process of planning phone banking events to spread the word.
- To students interested in joining Barnard for Warren:
Lena Nelson, BC ’20, co-president of Barnard for Warren: “Barnard for Warren is really a leaderless thing. We’re here to support people who want to be involved in politics and be a leader in this movement. We’re here to be a resource to empower you and to give you the tools to throw your own events. There are so many ways for people to be engaged. If you don’t really know who you’re supporting yet or have already committed to Warren, we would love to have them reach out, because every voice in this fight matters.”
Lily Clurman, BC ’22, co-president of Barnard for Warren: “Anyone who wants to be involved can be involved. Barnard for Warren gave me the platform to talk to a lot of people who are similarly passionate about politics and progressive policy, and that really pulled me into learning more about Warren. It helped me find a community of people that I can really identify with, and this community has been the most compassionate and intelligent people of any community I have found in Barnard so far. Among all the political organizations I’ve been involved with here, Barnard for Warren has empowered me the most.”
Columbia for Warren
- What it is: A group of Columbia students who support Warren through organized volunteering for her campaign.
- General body meetings: It does not have general body meetings, but it meets for volunteering events.
- Upcoming Projects: Columbia for Warren has a few phone banks coming up for New Hampshire. Recently, they worked with other Warren supporters to call every single Iowa caucus-goer. Last semester, the club took 19 students to knock on doors in New Hampshire and is looking to do that again in Virginia in the near future.
- To students interested in joining Columbia for Warren:
Jennifer Zhang, CC ’23: “Just do it, but also even if they are not entirely sure yet which candidate they want to support, the Warren community at large and especially at Columbia for Warren is very welcoming and one of the things that we try to do is help people understand how campaigns work and show them how to phone bank, get them more comfortable with just talking to people about political issues even if people might disagree with you. I think those are valuable skills regardless if you’re for sure committed to Warren right now.”
Michael Gao, CC ’22: “If you at all support Elizabeth Warren, we really need you. I don’t know what happened in Iowa. They released the results a couple of hours before we’re talking now, but if anything we can learn from that is it’s super, super tight and the work we actually do really makes an impact. Come by, come to an event even if it’s a short one and help us win this.”
- How to get involved: Like its Facebook page to view all its events or reach out on Messenger to be added to its GroupMe.
Columbia/Barnard for Bernie
- What it is: An extension of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ official campaign geared towards college students.
- General body meetings: It holds general body meetings and is looking to amp up their efforts with meetings for volunteer phone banking and dorm storming, in which it will reach out to Columbia and Barnard students by knocking on dorms door-to-door. It also hosts volunteer training as provided by the official Sanders campaign.
- Upcoming projects: Columbia/Barnard for Bernie holds weekly events for students and others in the community to get involved. Along with canvassing and phone banking, it also hosts speakers from the official campaign to come in and speak about issues such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. This chapter is also looking to get more involved with the Sunrise Movement at Columbia, as the national organization recently endorsed Sanders for president.
- To students interested in joining Columbia/Barnard for Bernie:
Dylan Burns, CC ’22, campus core leader: “Students throughout time have always been the forefront of every single great movement. They were at the forefront of the effort against Vietnam, pro-LGBT, there’s countless other examples where students have been the driving force for social change, and so I would say that right now is a really critical time in our lives. It’s also a really opportune time because we have so many people on campus doing different things. It’s so easy to get involved. I would really encourage anyone that’s thinking about doing that to make that next step.”