Dartmouth students volunteer for presidential campaigns

by Jacob Strier | 11/8/19 2:05am

As New Hampshire gears up to host the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, various campaigns have established themselves on campus in an effort to increase support for candidates. Student campaign volunteers can regularly be spotted at tables near Novack Cafe or on street corners around the Green in an attempt to attract grassroots support. 

According to Liza Gallandt ’22, who volunteers for the campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on campus, her responsibilities include reaching out to other students and thinking of innovative ways to get people engaged with the campaign. Gallandt said she is one of about 10 student volunteers for Warren who have been trained by the Warren campaign’s “Grassroots Organizing Academy.” In this training, Gallandt said she learned about the importance of interpersonal connection while campaigning, a skill she applies while spreading Warren’s message in Hanover. 

“A lot of the focus is sharing your personal story; it is more effective to show why you personally support this campaign,” Gallandt said. 

Gallandt said that she has spent two weekends canvassing in Hanover, including by visiting an assigned list of addresses to speak with potential voters about their political values and ideas. If possible, she said she tries to get prospective voters to sign a non-binding commitment to vote for Warren.  

Though there are other campaigns on campus, Gallandt said there is little animosity between the groups. 

“We are part of an inter-connected community of Democrats,” she said. “We all want a Democrat to get elected.” 

This idea was echoed by recent Harvard graduate Shreeya Panigrahi, a local organizer for the campaign of South Bend, IN mayor Pete Buttigieg, who coordinates efforts on campus and in the Upper Valley community. 

“What’s been exciting is really embracing the idea that we are one party,” Panigrahi said. 

In order to garner support for Buttigieg, Panigrahi has attended meetings of the Dartmouth College Democrats to announce programming alongside leaders of different campaigns. 

“There is no contention — each [campaign] makes their announcements,” Panigrahi said. “It’s a really open process.” 

To Panigrahi, students are critical in grassroots organizing. 

“Students have a direct impact with elections in New Hampshire,” she said. “New Hampshire sets the stage for the rest of the presidential primary.” 

Panigrahi said that while she has gone to College Democrats meetings to spread awareness for opportunities within the Buttigieg campaign on campus, students have become interested through other efforts as well, including tabling in Novack and through word of mouth. She noted that the student leadership structure of the Buttigieg campaign on campus is flat, consisting of student volunteers who are interested in the candidate under Panigrahi’s leadership. However, Panigrahi said students demonstrate unique drive and momentum in their efforts, including when some students started a Dartmouth for Pete Instagram account to spread awareness. 

According to College Democrats president Riley Gordon ’22, because campaigns are not associated with the College through the Council on Student Organizations, they cannot use the College’s listserv email system to spread information about meetings or local activities. Gordon said the College Democrats send out information through the listserv when different candidates visit campus. Gordon also noted that the College Democrats do not favor a specific candidate and instead allow local organizers to attend their meetings to highlight possibilities for local campaign involvement.

“Some campaigns will be at every meeting and some campaigns prefer to do their own thing,” Gordon said. “Different campaigns decided to what extent they want to engage with us.” 

Gordon also echoed the cooperative nature of Democrats on campus. 

“The College Democrats is a place where people with different visions of the Democratic party can get together,” he said. “It is local, New Hampshire-focused, and we try to make a club that is welcoming to all kinds of ideologies.”