Mizzou Democrats offer opportunities for political involvement, education
The organization hosts both discussion-based and panel meetings to inform students on political issues, no matter their beliefs.
Sep. 29, 2015
The Mizzou College Democrats is armed with 30 members, an executive board of seven, a passion for politics and a Joe Biden cardboard cutout.
“If you ever see a Joe Biden cutout, it’s probably a Mizzou Democrats event,” Vice President Claire Salzman said.
The Biden cutout underscores what President Nick Benham said is the Mizzou Democrats’ mission: to serve as an informative body, a professional organization and a social opportunity. Whether it be having a debate watch party or listening to a politician speak at their meetings, this organization allows students to learn about politics while making friends.
“We feel like college students are so critically underserved and underrepresented, so we like to equip the members with the knowledge, the ideas and the discussion necessary to make them effective members of society,” Benham said.
The organization has an “open door” policy for politicians who want to speak to them. Some recent and upcoming speakers include state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, state Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia and state House candidate Martha Stevens, among others.
Mizzou Democrats does not officially endorse specific candidates for presidential elections. Instead, they provide resources for members to learn about various candidates and foster discussion surrounding candidates and issues, Benham said.
The organization is open to anyone, regardless of political affiliation. They also work together with the Mizzou College Republicans and Tigers Advancing Political Participation, MU’s nonpartisan political organization, to register voters before elections.
“It doesn’t matter your affiliation,” Benham said. “We just want you to get out there and vote and have your voice be heard.”
Mizzou Democrats recently changed the way they operate. They went from more of a casual club to an organization that offers social events and professional opportunities.
“The way that we’ve taken this organization is (to) a much more unique level than it was,” Salzman said. “It became a professional organization where it was a lot of campaigning, endorsing and working for politicians. We give opportunities to work in politics if that’s what you want, but there are also a lot of outlets to celebrate being a young liberal on campus.”
This year, the organization has more members than in years past. Between 30 to 40 people attend each meeting. The members make up a vibrant and diverse group, Benham said.
“One of our members that came last week is from Sri Lanka,” Benham said. “We have some people in our organization who are more conservative and we had a really healthy discussion about education policy. We have some people that represent first-generation college students. There’s just so much diversity.”
Typical meetings are discussion-based. The executive board members meet each week to decide on a topic for that week’s meeting. Members can also suggest ideas that they would like to discuss. The meeting is then spent discussing the topic of the week, with the executive board acting as facilitators for the discussion.
There are also panel meetings that address various topics and give the members a first-person look at a certain issue. For example, a recent panel discussion was about education reform and featured first-generation college students and a politician who was a former teacher.
“The purpose of them is to coordinate with other organizations on campus and politicians, and try and get a different format of the meeting where we can hear people’s stories,” Campus Coordinator Kate Coates said. “We’re going to do a couple others throughout the semester. We haven’t totally nailed down all of them yet, but I’m really excited for where we’re going with that.”
The Mizzou Democrats meet at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays in Strickland Hall 209. Students interested can “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and Instagram @mizzoudems to stay up-to-date on the latest announcements.