PPro has received from the Princeton College Democrats thanks and an update on 2013 activities and tentative plans for 2014. We were happy to be able to help this group of resourceful undergraduates expand its outreach to the University and the community (and the nation, and all nations), and we look forward to many more years of successful collaboration.
December 16, 2013
Princeton University College Democrats
3349 Frist Center
Princeton, NJ 08544
To The Officers of Princeton Progressives:
The Executive Board of the College Democrats would like to thank you again for your generous contribution to our organization. Our group has traditionally struggled mightily to obtain funding for our activities, given the University’s tax-exempt status, which prohibits it from contributing to any events or groups deemed political. In the last two academic years, however, that has changed, thanks to P-Pro.
We’re extremely grateful for P-Pro’s commitment to enhancing the progressive reputation of Princeton—and making progressive Princetonians heard both on- and offcampus; with the resources you’ve provided us in the past two years, we believe that we’ve taken significant steps towards achieving those shared goals. With P-Pro funding last fall, nine College Democrats went to Florida and knocked on about 10,000 doors for President Obama; this fall, with eight speakers from P-Pro, the Dems put on “Beyond Wall Street: More Careers for Princetonians,” attracting around 50 students and reminding them of progressive and service-oriented career paths they might choose.
Specifically, we write today to thank you for contributing $150 for the Dems’ operations in 2013-2014. Already, we’ve used the contribution to pay for transportation to and from a rally for Senate candidate Cory Booker; a letter-writing campaign encouraging the House to consider and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); and food, drinks, and supplies for our weekly meetings, which are attracting a record number of students. The group also has great plans for the spring semester of 2014 —including advocacy efforts on issues such as health-care enrollment, increasing the federal minimum wage, and comprehensive immigration reform. Our ability to be effective advocates on these issues, we believe, will surely benefit from the availability of funds thanks to P-Pro.
We’ve attached a more detailed document describing our actions in 2013, and hopes for 2014, and we hope you’ll take a look. But again, especially at this time of year, we want to thank you for your stewardship of our organization and give you a sense of the positive action that the Dems have been able to take because of that stewardship. Happy Holidays and New Year… we look forward to staying in touch and continuing to work with you on the other side!
Princeton College Democrats Executive Board
Will Mantell, President
Juliet Garrett, Vice-President
Caleb Kennedy, Campaign Chair
Katie Smith, Treasurer
The outgoing Executive Board feels that the Dems accomplished a good deal in the year 2013. In the spring semester, we brought in two notable speakers, Ambassador Barbara Bodine and Stanley Katz; both were well-received and expressed interest in coming to talk to the group again. We also organized the first ever Dems’ reunion event, which was well-attended and should become a yearly tradition. We organized and cosponsored a number of other events, including a bus trip to President Obama’s second inauguration and a trip to lobby members of Congress on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Also on the advocacy front, we collected signatures for Sen. Buono’s run for governor and signed onto a marriage-equality effort of college students across the nation.
In the fall, we did significant work for now-Senator Cory Booker’s campaign and canvassed for Assembly candidate Marie Corfield. We organized and hosted “More Careers for Princetonians,” a public-service, arts, and nonprofit career panel that attracted about 50 students in its first year; we hope the 2014 Executive Board will expand on its success. Additionally, we had a number of fun and interesting policy discussions, laid the groundwork for future advocacy work with Enroll America, roughly doubled our membership (which included the addition of at least five excellent freshmen!), registered voters, and turned out in droves for exciting events like Deval Patrick’s speech at Whig-Clio and Run with Cory.
We hope that 2014 will be an even better year for the Dems than 2013, and we encourage the next Executive Board to take the following steps to make sure that is the case:
In the year 2014, we believe the Dems should focus on, in no particular order, the following issues: the success of Obamacare here in New Jersey; an increase in the federal minimum wage; and comprehensive, humane immigration reform. The organization can utilize a two-pronged, inside-outside approach on each issue: raising awareness and winning hearts and minds on campus, while also pursuing direct advocacy work within the community. There exist a number of natural partners for the Dems on each of these issues: Enroll America on Obamacare; local Democratic organizations and workers’ rights groups on the minimum wage; and the Princeton DREAM Team on immigration reform. We also think that the Dems might encourage a critical examination of the governorship of Chris Christie — i.e. looking at his record (property tax hikes, the end of the NJ earned-income tax credit, his attacks on teachers, his refusal to create jobs with federal money as NJ faces festering high unemployment, his veto of gun control legislation, his immature attacks on the NJ judiciary, etc.) instead of focusing on his “appealing” personality — both within our meetings and on campus through tabling and postering.
In the fall, the group should also devote some of its energy and resources to important campaigns. The Pennsylvania governor’s race and the congressional race in New Jersey’s 3rd district are both great pick-up opportunities for the Party, and electing a Democrat in each race — particularly the governor’s race — could have a significant impact on people’s lives.
We believe the Dems should consider hosting three or four speakers each semester. Among political figures, Rush Holt, Cory Booker, Patrick Murphy, Ed Rendell, and Jim McGreevey might be interesting candidates. We should also consider potential “Skype speakers,” among them the many Princetonians serving in Congress and state governments. The Dems can also bring in Princeton professors: we think Paul Starr, Uwe Reinhardt, and Heather Howard would all offer compelling thoughts on the subject of health care, for example. For lower-key events, the Dems could invite grad students to speak on their areas of expertise.
Finally, we recommend that the Dems continue the traditions of watching the State of the Union, other important addresses, and election returns together.
In the next year, we would like to improve our internal communications, media presence, and partnerships with other groups.
Members have raised several concerns regarding our media presence that we feel must be addressed. We would like to see a more prominent social media and website presence. A member of the Executive Board might be designated to maintain social media and the website, or the board could create an appointed position. In print media, we recommend writing more opinion pieces in the Daily Princetonian. We also recommend postering campaigns, both for events and general outreach. Finally, the importance of using res-coll listservs and co-sponsorships from other organizations to get the word out about our events and causes cannot be underestimated.
In terms of internal relations, we would love to see the College Dems become a tighter-knit group. We recommend having more regular social events. We also suggest the new board consider more tabling in Frist, which allows members to get to know one another and utilizes a public space to raise awareness about Dems events, current affairs, and policy.
Finally, we recommend an increased effort to recruit members who are involved in progressive-minded groups already or who may be interested in a progressive organization. We have solid relationships with the DREAM Team and Princeton Equality Project now, but would like to reach out to additional groups, such as those affiliated with the Carl A. Fields Center, the Center for Jewish Life, and the Davis International Center.
A few thoughts on where we hope the Dems will go, and not go, “big picture-wise,” in the coming year:
Over the course of a semester, we suggest that there should be more continuity from meeting to meeting. If members are continually working on a given issue, they will develop both the knowledge and vested interest necessary for them to be fully effective in their advocacy.
There is a concern that the Dems and other progressive groups lack the organization and campus stature/presence of campus conservatives, currently organized through the James Madison Program. We believe that the best way to increase our presence is to utilize our relationship with Princeton Progressives (P-Pro), our alumni benefactor. They have the resources, time, and connections to help us bring great speakers to campus, and develop programs that will make the left-leaning voices at Princeton heard.