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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

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Students rebuild College Democrats of Saint Mary’s College, call for productive dialogue

Unveiling their club’s revival with a tabling session last Thursday, the College Democrats of Saint Mary’s College has returned to campus after a brief hiatus.

Last week’s tabling session allowed students to sign-up for the club’s email list, ask questions and follow various club-provided resource links. Sophomore and president of the club Alli Jablonski said she reinstated the club after learning it had dispersed from lack of potential leadership. 

“[The past executive board] kind of fell off because three of the executive board members graduated, then one girl studied abroad in the fall, and then there was only one left on campus to run [the club],” Jablonski said. “[Later,] I shared my ideas with them, and they were like, ‘Go for it,’ and that was that.”

Wanting to provide a safe space for students to discuss politics and ensure equal representation of political parties, Jablonski had the idea of starting the club back up in early January. She turned to sophomore and now vice president Kayli Zelinske-Mader, who accepted the opportunity to work alongside Jablonski to rebuild the College Democrats club. 

“We were literally sitting in her room, just talking about life and just like things going around around campus and our personal lives, and she was like, ‘Kayli, I’m thinking about restarting this club. Would you consider being my vice president?’” Zelinkske-Mader said. “[I said], ‘I mean, sure, why not? Let's at least give it a try.’”

The republican club on campus was reestablished last semester, so Jablonski said it is important that both political parties are represented on campus.

“When I found out that College Democrats was not on campus anymore, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Jablonski said. “I don’t think it's necessarily equal for one party to be here and then the other not, so I definitely believe that on campus, both sides need to be represented, and students then can make the choice for themselves.”

Jablonski contacted the College Democrats of America to create a chapter on the College campus. She now keeps in regular contact with the organization. 

“I had an interview with a Capitol Hill member, and we were talking about college and about clubs, and he was like, ‘Do you know what College Democrats is?’” Jablonski said. “And I was like, ‘I do not’ … so I contacted the College Democrats of Indiana, and I had a sit-down interview with them.“

“I really tried to understand what College Democrats is and how I can make my own twist on it, what it stands for, what it means … I brought [the executive board] on board and was like, ‘Guys, I’m looking to start a club here,’” Jablonski said. 

For the rest of the spring semester, the club plans to host a call-out meeting for all potential members to attend. Another possible tabling session and a “popcorn and politics” event are also in discussion as well. Through these events, Jablonski hopes to create solidarity between students and encourage them to become more educated in the political realm.

“I am such a firm believer in productive dialogue and having dialogue that can, at the end of the day, make you a better person and help you expand your mindset … And I really think education is power. The more you know, the better you are” Jablonski said. “No matter what side you’re on, I really think it’s so important to know as much as you can. It’s so important to just be an informed citizen, especially in today’s world.”

Digital resources, which can be accessed through the club’s Instagram account, are also available to all students. Resources include links to their BelleTower and email sign-up form, a political typology quiz, the American Political Science Association, the Center for Women and Politics and the College Democrats of America and College Democrats of Indiana websites. 

“A big reason why we started College Dems was so that people were getting reliable resources, no matter your political affiliation” Zelinske-Mader said. “Yes, we’re the democratic club on campus, but realistically, we just want people to feel comfortable in our presence. Because realistically, you can take politics out of the equation, and people can still be good human beings.”

One of Zelinske-Mader‘s and Jablonski’s greater motivation is to spark “productive” dialogue on campus between all students.

“On campus, and in America in general, we’ve lost the ability to agree to disagree,” Jablonski said. “[People] need to be able to understand that you don’t have to agree with everybody on everything, and not everybody has to see your points of views … If you’ve just sat down and explained why you believe certain things and why it's so important to you, then that's an example of productive dialogue. And maybe one person can walk away at the end of that conversation and change their mind and like, that’s wonderful, but that’s not the end goal. It's just to understand why you believe what you believe.”

Zelinske-Mader and Jablonski hope to change the negative connotation often associated with American politics by creating a safe space for all to discuss current issues or ask questions. The two believe this kind of change must first occur within themselves before it spreads to greater levels.

“Not everybody’s gonna get along, not everybody’s going to agree. But I think that it gets to a point where people don’t feel supported or safe enough to be able to talk about things that they want to talk about or to ask questions,” Zelinske-Mader said. “And I wanted to be a part of College Democrats to create a space where people can ask questions.”

Jablonski also said it is very important to her that people are politically involved, whether that be through going to the polls, knocking on doors, supporting candidates or starting clubs that have political conversations. 

“I think people are so lost, and America is so politically divided. People don’t want anything to do with politics. They shut it out completely, and that should not be the case,” Jablonski said. “I think America is genuinely a wonderful country, and democracy is so beautiful. I don’t think people realize that.”