The University of Michigan College Democrats received a national honor last week when they were named the College Democrats of America Chapter of the Year. This award is given to one College Democrats chapter each year, out of several hundred college chapters nation wide.
This year, the University’s chapter beat out applicants from schools such as Harvard University, New York University and George Washington University. The award was based on activities that occurred during 2002.
Last year, the University College Democrats members organized several events with many high-profile speakers, including Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). College Democrats member and LSA senior Michael Simon said the University’s chapter showed strength in the diversity of events.
“I think (the College Democrats of America) were particularly impressed that we brought in all five Democratic gubernatorial candidates to speak on campus,” Simon said. “We also held a big rally before the elections. All the state-wide Democratic candidates came to speak on campus.”
The College Democrats also co-sponsored an event last April with the College Republicans, featuring McCain and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). The senators came to promote federal legislature proposing the expansion of AmeriCorps. Over 1,100 people attended the event, which was covered by CNN.
Former chapter chair and University alum Eric Feldman said the University’s chapter frequently works on events with other student organizations. “We’ve worked on events with Students for Choice and the College Republicans,” Feldman said, adding that the University’s chapter generates great interest in national as well as local politics because of its large membership.
“Last year was an off-year in elections. It’s tough to generate interest in Democratic politics,” Feldman said. “We have a more geographically diverse student body (than other colleges) so we have more interest and focus on national politics, while some other college chapters are more grassroots.”
In terms of local politics, the College Democrats held two separate events featuring Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and former representative Lynn Rivers. “We had a meeting with (Ann Arbor) mayor John Hieftje and got people involved with the city government,” Feldman said.
As with every year, the College Democrats also worked hard to register people to vote and organize representatives to campaign door to door, particularly during last year’s elections. “This is a worthwhile recognition,” Feldman said. “I’m proud that the College Dems got this recognition.”