Student Clubs: Educating and Advocating for Political Engagement on Campus


Democracy Matters (DM) and Colgate Vote Project (CVP), both clubs created at Colgate, play an integral role in encouraging and educating students about political engagement and activism. Sophomore Angela Mangione, the current president of DM, and senior Eliza Lloyd, one of the leaders for CVP, reflected on each club’s core mission and values. 

“The Colgate chapter was the first chapter of Democracy Matters. Adonal Foyle ’98, a Colgate alumnus, founded Democracy Matters at Colgate in 2001 with the help of his surrogate parents, and former Colgate professors, Jay and Joan Mandle,” Mangione said. “We advocate for getting big money out of politics and putting people back in through voting and social justice activism. Democracy Matters empowers students and equips them with skills that are important for civic engagement.”

While Democracy Matters boasts a now 20-year history, Colgate Vote Project was first active in Fall 2018, founded by class of 2021 graduates Ellie Schonberg and Sarah Shahidi, sophomores at the time. 

“[They] felt like Colgate had a gap in resources and wanted to create a group that could guide students through the voting process,” Lloyd said. “CVP is a nonpartisan student-led organization whose mission is to strive to create a population of engaged, habitual student voters at Colgate by streamlining the registration and voting process. Regardless of party affiliation, current political engagement or voting eligibility, the project aims to support all students and create an on-campus environment that encourages political awareness and voter participation.”

Each club focuses on their own individual projects throughout the semester, but hope to collaborate with one another in the coming weeks. An active member of DM, senior Tess Hargarten discussed the groups’ upcoming ‘Democracy and Donuts’ collaboration. 

“Colgate professors will come speak on topics that are relevant to DM’s mission with donuts available. This is an initiative that the club has done in the past, but has not been able to do since before [COVID-19], so we are excited to be bringing it back,” Hargarten said.

Mangione added that professors from different departments speak at these events to show how topics like environmental issues, economics and sociology are all relevant and impacted by politics. Lloyd discussed some of the ways they are encouraging students to register to vote.

“This semester we visited FSEM classrooms and reached nearly 300 first-year students. We introduced them to the Colgate Vote Project, the voting process and what voting looks like specifically as a college student in Madison County. We also participated in National Voter Registration Day to help students register and apply for their absentee ballots. Additionally, we just hosted ‘Thursday Night Trivia’ at Donovan’s Pub and asked questions about voting at Colgate, political history and current voting laws,” Lloyd said. “Our goal this year is primarily to remind students that even though we are in an off-election year, there are still many important state and local elections, and that the CVP is here as a resource for those who need guidance through the voting process.”

Both DM and CVP are working on their short and long-term goals.

“The overall mission of Democracy Matters is to empower students to engage politically and to develop skills for life-long participation in politics. Specifically, the club works to expand voting rights and prevent voter suppression, register new voters, explore political issues and increase government transparency,” Hargarten said. 

“In the future short term, we would like to host a discussion about the results and effects of redistricting after the 2020 census. We also want to continue to explore different topics related to voting and organize events that help increase civic engagement on campus,” Lloyd said. “Long-term, we’d love to extend beyond Colgate and perhaps create a program for local high school students to learn about local politics and the voting process. And always, our goal is to create habitual, engaged student voters on campus who will continue to be civically and politically active after they leave Colgate.”

Mangione reflected on her motivation to participate in political engagement on campus through DM. 

“In high school, I was involved in a club called ‘First Vote, First Amendment’ that was focused on encouraging young women to be civically engaged, and that interest continued on into college,” Mangione said. 

Hargarten expressed a similar sentiment, expressing her passion for political engagement among young voters. 

“I am passionate about the mission of Democracy Matters, as I think that political engagement is somewhat lacking among our age group. We have definitely become more interested in politics with the events of the last few presidential elections, but I definitely think there is room to expand our knowledge surrounding smaller-scale politics, which can have massive effects on local communities. I hope that our work in DM can encourage Colgate students to learn more about their local political context, and engage with it more actively and frequently,” Hargarten said. 

Lloyd joined CVP her first year at Colgate and, influenced by her parents advice on the importance of voting, sought out a club that could extend those resources to others. 

“I think the work CVP does is incredibly important and fills a unique niche that the academic program does not typically address. … many students come to Colgate and have not been given the resources to be able to do the same for themselves. I wanted to be part of the CVP because I believed in the cause and wanted to make a positive impact on my campus,” Lloyd said. “As a leader, I play a large role in organizing and carrying out projects that the group is working on. I’ve had my hand in almost everything that CVP has done so far and I’m really proud of our team for the work that CVP has done and the way it has grown over the years.”