Student political groups hone in on local politics, don’t endorse Biden or Trump


Mary Mclellan

Campaign signs fill a patch of snow covered grass outside the Fletcher Free Library Nov. 3, where UVM Campus Democrats stood outside congratulating students for voting throughout the day.

Despite a hotly contested national election that has Republicans and Democrats gearing up for a showdown, politically affiliated student groups on UVM’s campus have decided to shift their focus to state politics. 

UVM College Republicans, College Democrats and UVM Progressives have used their groups to bolster statewide races and educate their members about their respective issues. But all three have not officially endorsed a single presidential candidate. 

“I would say we have a variety of opinions, definitely some who support the president and some who don’t think he’s adequate,” said Danielle Courcelle, president of College Republicans. 

UVM College Republicans is an SGA-recognized club with 22 active members that aims to promote conservative values. However Courcelle said not all of the members agree on their political beliefs.

“I’m very proud of our club because it’s not all conservatives, there are libertarians, we have a couple Democrats who are actually a part of our club,” she said. 

Courcelle said the group instead focuses on creating a space for students to have discussions and voice their opinions because they don’t get to do it in the classroom. 

“I think Republicans tend to be painted as evil,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter what you actually believe, if that’s the party you affiliate yourself with then you don’t have a say.” 

Senior Owen Doherty, president of the College Democrats, said he’s noticed the stigmas that surround UVM students who tend to express more conservative views. He said that’s part of the problem on UVM’s campus. 

“I think a major issue with UVM in a lot of ways is that, much like our national level, it’s very polarized,” Doherty said. “People who have certain political identities, whether it be moderate or Republican or whatever it may be, don’t feel like they can speak up in their classes.”

UVM College Democrats’ 50 active members and have been motivated by the election to get even more involved. Doherty said that his club has also not officially endorsed Joe Biden nor Donald Trump, but has been focussing instead on how local politics impacts UVM students. 

“People have waited four years for this moment, I know I have,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of people that have never voted before that have decided to vote this year or have sent in a ballot.”

On the Republican side, Courcelle said similarly that the club’s prioritization of policy over party affiliation allows their discussions to focus on distinct issues. 

“We try to place emphasis on local politics because it’s really easy for students to get involved in the state of Vermont and it’s really important that students know how the state legislature works,” Courcelle said.

The other major party affiliated group on campus, the UVM Progressives, has also focussed their group’s work on local politics and activism. 

“We really try to be activists before anything else,” said Sarah Sciortino, president of UVM Progressives. “As important as local politics are and as much as they help advance our goals… change really happens through activism.” 

The club has recently been spending their time phone banking and gearing up for the next Burlington mayoral campaign in March. 

Sciortino said most of the club’s energy and passion has leaned more towards statewide and local elections.

“The reason why we don’t endorse presidential candidates is because we know our energy is probably best used towards local and statewide elections,” she said. 

UVM Progressives has endorsed local candidate Tanya Vyposki, who is running for Vermont House of Representatives for the Chittenden 8-1 District. 

In recent weeks Doherty said College Democrats have been busy holding two phone banks a week for various candidates and engaging in literature drops and “honk and waves.”

“This fall we’ve been really involved in the election. Not only the national election, but also elections here in Vermont,” he said.

College Democrats have also had a handful of local guest speakers including State Representative Barbara Rachelson, Lieutenant Governors David Zuckerman and Molly Gray. 

The club’s virtual meetings have consisted of issues pertaining to UVM students, such as the recently elected Supreme Court Justice and why people often leave the state after college. 

The club welcomed roughly 40 new first-year members this fall, outnumbering the upperclassman. 

College Republicans have been active this semester, virtually hosting a variety of speakers including Heidi Schuermann for Chittenden County State Senate and Karen Lips, president of the Network of enlightened Women. 

Schuermann has advocated for environmental stewardship policies, worked on healthcare reform and pushed for more responsible state spending.

Network of enlightened Women is a national organization for conservative university women. NeW works to cultivate a community of conservative women to expand intellectual diversity on college campuses.