By Michala Butler
PHILADELPHIA — College students on campuses across the country are gearing up to make their votes — and voices — heard in the 2020 presidential campaign.
With Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary just about two months away, students at Temple University are making their own preparations, from conversations in the classrooms and rallies or marches aimed at pulling in fellow students, to debate watch parties.
Despite longstanding — and unfounded — complaints that young voters aren’t engaged or don’t take an interest in elections, the interest in the 2020 campaign is palpable on Temple’s Philadelphia campus.
It was also a point that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., drove home during a Feb. 9 rally at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., just two days before this month’s New Hampshire primary.
The top issues for Democratic young adults include: LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, abortion-access advocacy, and student-debt forgiveness. Students said they’re looking for the candidates who can fight for — and enact — policy change in Washington.
Heather Pope, a senior political science major at Temple University, who currently serves as a delegate candidate for Sanders in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District, took a few minutes to explain the diversity of student perspectives on the Keystone State’s spring primary.
“I think the lives of students aren’t a monolith and while there are issues that particularly affect us, like student debt forgiveness, students care about a wide range of issues and are experts on the ones that affect them personally,” she said. “For a lot of folks, being touched and affected by policy is what drives us to get involved with government and make our voices heard.”
There are many student-run organizations on Temple’s campus where students such as Pope can get involved in the political dialogue. There are student organizations for every political viewpoint.
For example, the Temple Hub of the Sunrise Movement draws in young people who are working to stop the climate crisis and create millions of jobs in the process.
Other students get involved with Planned Parenthood Generation at Temple University, which educates fellow students about reproductive health rights and abortion-access activism on campus. The TU Public Advocacy Club also provides opportunities to contribute to both social and political progress through discussion and engaging with the university community and Philadelphia region.
Party-affiliated student activism on Temple’s campus includes the Temple University College Democrats. This student run organization educates students in the key tenets of the Democratic party, working to elect Democrats at all levels of government (Full disclosure: The author is a member of the Temple University Young Democrats, Editor).
This organization has conducted mock caucuses and debates, which allows members to voice their opinions and experience the process to elect the next president.
For Pope, this experience matters.
“I’m encouraged by the large number of students and faculty working to change hearts and minds on our campus in preparation for the upcoming election,” she said.
Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, Pa., is a sophomore communications student at Temple University in Philadelphia.