Democracy Matters encourages student activism

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Madison Barlow

When freshman chemistry major Christa Adjei first saw a flier for Democracy Matters hanging in Sanford Hall, she thought of it as nothing more as an opportunity for an internship. Little did she know, Democracy Matters would soon become a major part of her life.

After learning about the internship with DM, a non-partisan campus-based organization that educates students about politics and encourages student activism, Adjei realized part of her requirement would be to start a chapter of the organization at Appalachian.

Adjei said she became particularly passionate about democracy, because she saw how it affected aspects of her daily life, such as when she tried to apply for financial aid.

“Both of my parents are hardworking, but we are ultimately middle class,” she said. “When I filled out FAFSA, I was told I would only be eligible to take out loans that would later have to be paid back. That angered and frustrated me. Maybe if students get their voice heard, and start actively participating in politics, then public school’s tuition nationwide will stop increasing. And then my parents and I would be able to afford my education.”

Moving forward, Adjei and DM are planning a week of action starting April 13 that she hopes will encourage work with other campus political organizations.

“The week of action is going to be so much fun,” Adjei said. “Right now, we’re planning to have a screening of ‘Koch Brothers Exposed,’ followed by an all-inclusive discussion panel. We’re also planning a Pizza and Politics mixer that will hopefully make politics less scary.”

Joan Mandle, the nationwide executive director of DM, said the organization’s hope is to help give students nationwide a political voice. Mandle said DM also focuses on “getting private money out of politics, and getting students back in.”

“I am a sociology professor, so naturally I think about everything,” she said. “One day, I realized just how harmful money and big corporations are to democracy. More times than not, people of political power will listen to their corporate campaign donors, rather than ordinary citizens.”

Mandle said it was this realization that pushed her to start DM alongside her husband and son.

“We started DM in 2001 with the long term goal of strengthening democracy,” she said. “Historically, students and young people have proven to be the driving force behind any major social change in the U.S. So we knew the only way to even begin to reform politics was to get college students involved.”

Adjei has also teamed up with English professor Hailie Bryant to create a “Potty Politics” newsletter that she posted on the inside of bathroom doors in different locations around campus.

Bryant said she was excited to see students take initiative and interest in political issues, as they are the future voters of America.

“Voting is one of the most important ways to foster a sense of responsible citizenship at both the local and national level,” Bryant said. “As future decision makers, college students have the benefit of becoming involved with issues that matter to them most. They are transitioning from life at home to careers which provide an opportunity for growth and education on these important issues.”

Story: Madison Barlow, Intern News Reporter