New activism club fires up
Recently, two students launched a campus chapter of the Roosevelt Campus Network, a program designed to involve college students across the United States in the policy making process.
The program, brought to the Hill by Rebecca McAfee ’13 and Michelle Seares ’13, aims to connect young people with their local communities and to get young people to work closely with political actors in order to enact policies of interest. It also encourages members to take advantage of the unique resources available on their college campus to conduct research, draft policy papers and truly become engaged with the policy creation and proposal process.
The Roosevelt Campus Network became part of the Roosevelt institute in 2008. Since the program’s integration, student-created policies have been presented on Capitol Hill, testified to city council and implemented into legislation. “This is a truly unique opportunity for students to become part of a process that shapes our everyday lives,” McAfee said.
McAfee and Seares are looking to integrate the Roosevelt Institute program of activism on the Hill by engaging students directly in policy writing, campus enrichment and local community activism. “Being part of the Roosevelt Campus Network gives students the opportunity to contribute [to political activism] without feeling like they need to be directly involved in the government department. It is a chance for students who are interested in current events to share their perspectives and to learn from what their fellow classmates think about these issues,” Seares said. Through the Roosevelt Campus Network website, members of the Campus Network chapter on the Hill will be able to publish news of their on-going efforts to a blog that is directly linked to Colby. On the blog, students will be able to express their perceptions on current political issues, and will have access to the blogs of all other chapters of the Roosevelt Campus Network, which boasts over 8,500 members. “The blog fosters an innovative kind of political discourse that transcends the Colby bubble and gives students access to a nation’s worth of insight,” McAfee said.
The policy-writing component of the organization involves both professors and students completing research concerning the current legislation in areas such as economics, foreign policy and domestic policy. “We are hoping to partner up with other clubs, such as SFER (Students for Education Reform) or EnviroCo, that are passionate and have a lot of information about certain issues that need attention,” McAfee said.
Partnering up with professors for the research component is a way of staying consistent with the values of the Roosevelt Institute, Seares said. These values are founded on the principles of mutual responsibility and respect within the community. When complete, their research will be synthesized into a policy paper. McAfee and Seares plan to partner with the Career Center at the College to host policy writing and grant writing workshops. Policy papers written by both students and professors will be eligible to be published on a campus-wide journal, scheduled for release later this spring.
The papers published in the campus-wide journal will be reviewed by the Roosevelt Institute in consideration to be published nationally. “Having policy papers from the Colby campus published nationally makes Colby a part of a large and diverse academic community,” Seares said. “This not only benefits Colby, but it also gives students from other schools [something] to learn from us.” If a certain policy paper garners enough support, the Roosevelt Institute will pledge to initiate the process of making those policies into legislation. “We are hoping to increase the frequency of publication as this initiative gains momentum and support,” McAfee said.
In addition to engaging the members of the College community in national politics, the Roosevelt Institute also encourages a component of local community activism. McAfee and Seares are looking to bring Maine school children to various cultural events on campus, such as theater productions, art shows and concerts. “By exposing students to things they would otherwise not have the opportunity to see, we are bringing them into the discourse and empowering them to advocate for change within their own communities,” Seares said. “This is the purpose of Roosevelt.”
Although this chapter was only recently established, both McAfee and Seares have high hopes for the future of the club. “We are hoping to have the policy paper journal come out on a bi-weekly basis, as well as having the club well publicized in order to have a broad support base that can really have this initiative take off,” McAfee said.