Campusroots Politics

Student political organizations offer you something different

Attending a major college like The University of Alabama – with 38,103 students – implies that you can find a like group of people who share your beliefs and passions, especially when it comes to political involvement and engagement.

According to The Source, there are 13 registered political organizations, each with their own missions and objectives. From activism and lobbying to nonpartisan work and party-leaning groups, there’s likely a place for any student to explore their political beliefs within these groups.

“It is critical that students have access to different political groups on campus,” said Jackson Fuentes, a junior studying political science and public relations who serves as press secretary for the Student Government Association. “SGA is dedicated to serving all students transparently and working with campus partners so that all students know what resources are available to them.”

Alabama students have the opportunity to join groups on different parts of the political spectrum that fit their needs and passions. For students like Ben Leonard, a senior majoring in political science who also serves as president for the UA chapter for Vote Everywhere, that organization was an opportunity to be a part of something that made a measurable difference.

Photo of Allen West speaking to the UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom

Allen West speaking to the UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom

“A couple of my friends were involved in Vote Everywhere from the beginning of its time here at UA. I’ve been interested in government, politics and general civic engagement across my four years at UA and thought it was a good way to make an impact, because a lot of the times what I found is that the mission of some student organizations can be sort of nebulous,” Leonard said.

“Our mission is to make campus better in some way but how you get there is not definite. But with Vote Everywhere, our mission is to register voters. It’s a very concrete mission that is very metric-driven and can be measured, which is another thing I really like about it. We can tell how we’re doing based on how many people we register to vote or how many people show up to our events and stuff like that.”

“Political” groups have opened the door for numerous students to connect with others who shared their interest, grow in leadership positions, enact change within their communities and more.

For Joe Ballard, a senior in the Accelerated Masters Program pursuing a Masters in Economics, joining the UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) afforded him with new opportunities to get involved with an organization he was already familiar with.

“I was fortunate enough to be a member of YAF in high school and knew that student activism was something that I wanted to carry into my collegiate career,” he said. “Additionally, as a national organization, Young Americans for Freedom has always been like a second home to me and I wanted to continue my involvement with them.”

Ballard was able to do just that by joining the collegiate chapter on the University’s campus, working his way up to serve as chapter chair and as a member of the Young Americans for Freedom National Board of Governors.

“As a student, YAF has introduced me to countless friends, presented me with numerous opportunities professionally and really been a great way for myself personally to remain up to date on the issues that are happening around the world right now,” he said. “Additionally, YAF also puts on incredible national conferences and being able to interact with other students at them has additionally been a wonderful experience.”

Photo of Ben Shapiro speaking to the UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom

Ben Shapiro speaking to the UA chapter of Young Americans for Freedom

Jason Castillo, president of UA Democrats, found a place to explore his beliefs that differed from his parents, whom he described as very conservative. He joined the group to be able to make a difference after striking his own path regarding his personal political beliefs.

“Once I started to read more I learned about the history of the oppressed peoples of this country and how they’ve taken power back and tried to advocate for betterment of society. So I decided that if I wanted to make any real change that getting involved in politics would be something that I’m interested in,” he said.

Access to different groups on campus can be a freeing and welcoming opportunity for students, regardless of their backgrounds and previous experiences. Groups such as UA Young Democratic Socialists of America, UA College Republicans, Young Americans for Liberty and Young Women for America are each based on different, specific political beliefs.

For those not interested in aligning with particular views or policies, activist groups such as the Bee Club, TidePac, Turning Point USA, American International Justice System and United Alabama Project provide students with the resources and numbers to speak out and act on issues they believe to be important.

“In the past it’s been more students talking to each other, which I still think is really important, I see the value in that,” Castillo said. “But at the same time I understand that it would be better if we had things coming more from an authority than from another college student and represent other groups that actually go out into the world and make change for others.”

On the same note, Leonard believes that involvement in political groups like the ones listed above give students the opportunity to learn about what is happening in their immediate surroundings and make a positive impact.

“College is a great time for people to begin to learn about the communities in which they live, to learn about how political systems and how government works,” he said. “I think that too often we get caught up in national headlines but it’s also important to note that a lot of stuff goes on at the local level that can be changed with you voting for this city council person or this mayor over the other one. Groups like Vote Everywhere and College Democrats and College Republicans provide a good opportunity for students to learn what’s going on around them.”