Columbia University College Democrats
The Columbia University College Democrats (CU Dems) is one of the largest and most active groups on campus. The President for 2013-2014 is Sejal Singh, and the Vice President is Austin Heyroth.
The CU Dems are primarily an activist group with a liberal leaning. They have several "lead activists" who manage and direct campaigns advocating for issues from women's rights to divestment.
Each week, the Dems hold a body meeting where a member gives a "Liberal Boot Camp" on something in the news or political arena he/she believes deserves more attention before the body splits into "circles", to work on different activist campaigns or take part in discussions. The body encompasses a variety of liberal and progressive opinions on issues including environmental, civil liberties, social justice, and foreign policy issues. Recently the group has showcased this diversity with its new forum, "Liberal Sparring", in which members debate on issues that do not have consensus in the Democratic party. Such contentious issues include the Obama Administration's Drone Policy.
In recent years, the CU Dems have mostly kept out of the limelight. In 2017, Dems decided to counter-program a CUCR speaker series which brought controversial individuals such as Tommy Robinson and Mike Cernovich to campus, explaining their reasoning in a Spec op-ed, which was retracted and condemned one month later by the Dems after identity-based and activist groups on campus yelled at them for a while.
On October 9th, 2013, the CU Dems began a campaign to bring transparency to sexual assault. They circulated a petition which received tremendous student support. Among the items the petition called for were the number and nature of sexual assaults, rapes, and incidents of gender-based harassment and misconduct reported to Columbia University and Barnard College and the average number of days before such cases are resolved under the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Their activity during this led to response from administration, including PrezBo.
The College Democrats are sometimes criticized for their lower on-campus profile relative to their right-ward leaning counter-parts, Columbia University College Republicans (and for a time the Columbia College Conservative Club), who have a reputation for hosting deliberately provocative and controversial events, despite having fewer members and much less campus funding.
The Dems have also received criticism from more activist groups for not being activist enough. For instance, though the Dems were initially close to Student-Worker Solidarity, they distanced themselves from SWS once the group's anti-capitalist agenda became clearer.
Past notable leaders
- Seth Flaxman. Seth is credited with creating the modern CU Dems. He developed the campaign trip, which has been run continuously since 2004, and the Activist Council, the subsection of the Dems which ran the campaign trip as well as other activist events from 2004-2011. Post-Columbia, Seth developed TurboVote, a voter registration system which the Columbia Democrats and other campus groups use to register voters.
- Josh Lipsky. Josh revitalized the club after a lackluster year, and was the first junior to be elected Dems President. He established the Columbia chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, which was originally a part of Dems, and made numerous media appearances as Dems President.
- Janine Balekdjian. Janine was the CU Dems' first two-term President. She refocused the club with activism as its top priority, and presided over a new body meeting structure, the disillusion of the Activist Council and Umbrella Groups, a new Dems Constitution, the largest CU Dems campaign trip, and many successful activist campaigns. She will be a Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine, as was previous Dems President Kaley Hanenkrat.