Presidential Election Fires Up UCLA Student Clubs

This story was written by Ravi Doshi, Daily Bruin
Though more than three months remain before voters across California cast their ballots in the primary presidential election, students at UCLA are already eager to get involved in the political process.

Many have begun to show their support for candidates by donating their time, and in some cases, money, to bring the message of their favored candidates to students across the campus. To achieve the same goal, some have formed organizations, created Facebook groups, and organized meetings and discussions.

"I believe this election is arguably the most important that will happen in our lifetime, and I think a lot of students are recognizing this and want to get involved in it," said Teddy Schwartz, a third-year political science student and founder of the Bruins for Hillary student organization.

The group, which began after Schwartz and several friends decided to act on their personal interests in favor of Sen. Clinton, is only several weeks old. But, according to Schwartz, it already has the support of over 100 UCLA students and faculty.

"People are excited to see Hillary have a presence on this campus," Schwartz said.

In addition to Bruins for Hillary, several other university-recognized student groups related to the upcoming elections have been formed, including Bruins for Obama, Bruins for Kucinich, and Ron Paul 2008.

Issues such as the war in Iraq, health care, higher education affordability for college students, and foreign policy, among others, have moved many of these groups to campaign for their candidates.

For Curtis Whatley, president of Bruins for Obama, it was Sen. Obama's positions on the issues that has caused the public's enthusiasm and support for the Illinois senator's campaign.

"This campaign is about changing the political dialogue in America, and we are going to take it out of the gutter," Whatley said.

Though the group is fully self-funded, it claims the support of over 500 UCLA students coming from varying backgrounds and levels of involvement.

"It's not the typical group of kids. We have an international student, we have transfer students, we have kids from all corners of UCLA," Whatley said.

But, the well-known front-running candidates are not the only ones that are garnering support from UCLA students.

Groups such as Bruins for Kucinich and Ron Paul 2008 have also been formed, and students have begun grassroots efforts to make their respective candidates more recognizable.

"I knew that (Kucinich) wasn't polling high and that perhaps part of that reason was mainstream media not giving fair representation to all of the candidates," said Evan Shulman, co-president of Bruins for Kucinich.

This lack of media attention for the Kucinich campaign helped spur Shulman into action, and to begin drumming up support for his favored candidate.

To do so, Bruins for Kucinich, like many of the other political student groups, has found supporters using Facebook, as well as more traditional methods of campaigning, such as tabling on Bruin Walk and making presentations to other student groups on campus.

Their goal is to bring more name and platform recognition to a candidate who has not been receiving as much attention as the other candidates.

Fourth-year business economics student Stephen Campbell, a member of Ron Paul 2008, echoed a similar sentiment.

"The biggest challenge we have is getting (Paul's) name and his message out there because a lot of UCLA students probably don't know about him because he's not mentioned very often in the media," Campbell said.

But, Campbell said he is not deterred by the Texas congressman's lack of name recognition. He and his fellow supporters have contributed money from their own pockets to fund their efforts to support Paul thrugh such means as flyers and newspaper advertisements.

"What inspired me to go to all this trouble, spend so much of my time, and so much of my money, is his platform, his message, and his ideas. ... They are so inspiring," he said.

-- With reports by Tessa McClellan.
© 2007 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE