8 Easy Ways to Stay Politically Active on Campus and in the City

Barnard is known for its political energy, yet with the pressures of juggling academics, a social life, and extracurricular activities, it can be difficult for students to take the time to voice their opinions. You may have missed the Women’s March because of a term paper due the next day or may only have time between classes to use Facebook videos as your primary news source.

Even with our hectic lives, several policies have been implemented both on and off campus affecting everything from Barnard meal plan costs to Columbia gentrification in Harlem.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, these changes are happening rapidly and can have a direct impact on your life. Don’t stress; we got you covered:. Here are 8 easy ways, starting from small to greater commitments, on how to be politically active while still having time to study:


1. Dollar Vote

You have more political influence than you think! Each time you make a purchase you are also casting a vote. We live in an age where companies are adapting their policies and marketing to please millennials’ wallets. Take Uber as an example: when word broke out that CEO Travis Kalanick was on Trump’s economic advisory council, so over 200,000 people deleted the ride-share app. This #DeleteUber movement caused Uber’s stocks to decline, pressuring Kalanick to resign from the council. At Barnard, disinvestment has also been practiced by many students pressuring the college to end their ties with fossil-fuel companies.

Being an ethical consumer does not require an entire lifestyle change. Little actions can still make an impact; buy from businesses who are aligned with your political and social values. However, it is important to note that it is never ok to guilt or pressure others for choosing not to participate in dollar voting/ disinvestment.


2. Allow Notifications from a News Source App

Knowledge is power. The simple act of informing yourself about what is happening in your world can enable you to take action. Download your favorite news source app and allow them to send you lock-screen notifications that highlight the top news daily. Make a plan to look at your notifications at least once a day.

Personally, I like using Google News or Apple News because you can read from multiple sources.  

3. Read On Campus Publications

The Columbia Spectator, BWOG, and other campus publications cover the news happening on campus and in the city, from graduate school student protests to new affirmative action policies. Many of the news articles cover topics that can directly affect you, so it is beneficial to check their websites weekly.


4. Learn Your Campus Reps!

Do you know who the vice president of your class is? Who is the dean of Columbia? Learn who your campus representatives are, as well as your state and federal officials, through these helpful links:

          Barnard Student Government: https://barnard.edu/sga/representativecouncil

          County, state, and federal representatives: myreps.datamade.us/


5. Make a Call or Sign a Petition      

Let’s be real, none of us have the time to research legislation. This website: https://phonecongress.com/ can help us out. All you have to do is enter your location and the cause you are passionate about. They provide step-by-step instructions on who and how to call. Former white house staffer Emily Ellsworth writes that “the most effective thing is to actually call [your representative] on the phone” rather than sending emails. Find the time to make a quick call during your Uber ride to the Met or on your walk to your 10 A.M. class! Another option is to sign a petition. The website change.org has over a billion causes you can support by signing your name.


6. Vote

If you’re an out-of-state student, you can choose to either vote in New York or in your hometown as an “absentee”. Check out this website to find out how to register, and when and where to vote: http://www.elections.mytimetovote.com/


7. Go to Events (or host your own!)

Both Columbia and Barnard have political and activist organizations that host fun events where you can listen to guest speakers, network, and learn ways to advocate for causes you care about. If you’d rather create change from the comfort of your dorm room, you can host a small letter writing party. Invite a few friends, grab some snacks and stationary, and write to your representatives!


8. Become a “Low-key” Volunteer or a Barnard Leader

 Many political and activist organizations provide an easier option for people who do not have the time or money to commit to consistent volunteering. For example, Planned Parenthood offers the option of being a “Defender” which is a low commitment way to access their informational resources and support them when you can. All you have to provide is your name, email, and number. Signing up for a mailing list is also a great way to learn about upcoming protests and events. If you are passionate about a certain organization, look up online if they have this option.


Here’s our final tip for people who want to lead the changes happening on Barnard's campus: join the Student Government Association, the Governing Board at Barnard, and the McIntosh Activities Council. They are all great student leadership boards to run for!            

For more information visit: Barnard Student Leadership