Politics at Brandeis

Brandeis Students

By Amy Mandel

By Amy Mandel
Unigo Campus Rep at Brandeis
Oct. 24, 2008

Strolling down the main path through campus at Brandeis University, one is sure to see political flyers hanging on lights, trees, and bulletin boards. This should come as no surprise, as these flyers about women’s rights, the environment, Israel, as well as the war in Iraq and of course the historic 2008 elections, reflect the primary political concerns of Brandeis students. 

Democracy for America (DFA) is one of the more powerful groups on campus. As the campus branch of a national grassroots organization, DFA works on behalf of progressive causes and candidates, offering a more open leadership style than the Democrats club, with a specific focus in grassroots organizing. For the 2008 election, the Brandeis branch of DFA is working with the Brandeis Democrats club on behalf of progressive candidates in order to get Obama elected as well as to maintain a Democratic House and Senate. Rivka Maizlish ’10, one of the club’s campus organizers, said that the group’s main goal in terms of the election is “to act as community organizers and engage people in politics.” It is this overreaching goal that drives DFA on campus; to organize students for Obama and for Congressional candidates, the group serves as a connection   for students to the campaigns and provides opportunities for student involvement off campus.

Outside electoral politics, DFA works on campus and in the community in the name of progressive change. Last year DFA was instrumental in organizing student protests over a decision to arm campus police. On a more local level, DFA does community service work pertaining to veteran’s issues and public housing.

Rivka volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign during the Democratic primaries twice a week.  Like many Clinton supporters around the country, Rivka felt conflicted after Obama’s primary victory, but Obama’s acceptance speech inspired her to support his nomination.  “Every weekend, I knock on doors and talk to voters on behalf of Obama,” remarked Rivka. 

The spirit of community organizing  - represented by DFA and other interest groups at Brandeis – has a dramatic effect on campus, especially when it comes to the 2008 election. All has noticed this political spirit, including professors. According to politics professor Mingus Mapps, “the main effect of the election has been a dramatic increase in political engagement.” Professor Mapps finds this an especially interesting development because, “Brandeis students are already the most socially aware I have ever seen among undergraduate communities.” In addition to an already politically active student body, Professor Mapps believes Brandeis students’ further engagement in the election follows the general pattern around the country, as he noted, “Obama has connected with people between 18-30 in profound ways.”

Professor Mapps seems to understand what’s going on around campus. Numerous Brandeis students, this reporter included, have spent weekends in the crucial swing state New Hampshire knocking on doors and talking to undecided voters in the small town of Raymond, New Hampshire. Each Saturday and Sunday, twenty Brandeis students caravan for an hour from Waltham, where the campus is located, to nearby Raymond to spend time walking down the tree line streets in Raymond to talk to potential voters. The simple act of speaking to voters inspires the students. “The people who tell me they worry about sending their kids to college or heating their home in the winter remind me of why I volunteer,” said Rivka. For Brandeis students, our involvement enables us to make a difference in the country, one voter at a time.