Every Saturday morning during President Barack Obama’s campaign, SESP sophomore Samantha Reed woke up at 6 a.m. and hopped on a bus to go canvassing in Iowa.
But after the campaign ended, Reed needed a new outlet for her political enthusiasm. She decided to get involved in local politics by helping Alderman Cheryl Wollin (1st) in her re-election bid, and is now Wollin’s youth vote coordinator.
“Obama was a national figure who really believed in communities and change from the bottom up, but with Cheryl, it literally is working from the bottom up,” Reed said. “Working for Cheryl is like bringing the lessons of Obama’s campaign to the local neighborhood.”
Reed is one of a handful of students to volunteer for Wollin’s campaign. While the group doesn’t have a name and has held few formal meetings, those that are involved, especially Reed, are working hard.
The race the students chose to participate in figures to be an interesting one.
The two candidates, Wollin and local pet-supply store owner Judy Fiske, are familiar with each other. They ran against each other in 2005, with Wollin winning by 80 votes but dominating the student vote. The result spurred Fiske to accuse her of conspiring with Northwestern to buy student votes through residential college points. The case was thrown out by a federal court the following year.
“Their single votes made the difference last time,” Wollin said, citing the 200 student votes.
Wollin’s campaign will canvass in Evanston and in dormitories during the upcoming weeks as well as flyer and distribute information on the election, Reed said.
Weinberg sophomore Elizabeth Derby started working for Wollin’s campaign after serving as membership coordinator for Northwestern University Students for Barack Obama in the fall.
“During the Obama campaign, I really felt like I was making a difference,” Derby said. “I felt like it was my responsibility to hear what voters had to say and to get my voice heard by people who were unsure of who they wanted to vote for. You can’t make a difference if you don’t get involved.”
Other students joined Wollin’s campaign because they said they were concerned with the strained relations between NU and Evanston.
“With Dillo Day, we have to work with Evanston for sound permits, and even for things like Homecoming, we need permits to close down streets,” said Miles Drummond, a Communication junior. “If we have someone who doesn’t recognize Northwestern as a positive part of the community, it could affect the big things that we enjoy doing.”
Wollin was involved with the construction of blue-light safety call boxes on campus as well as the proposed addition of more traffic lights on Sheridan Road so that students can more easily cross. She is also interested in improving off-campus housing conditions, Reed said, and was an advocate for allowing underage students to participate in bar nights in town.
“NU’s going to get a new president,” Wollin said during an interview at a March 11 meeting at Panera Bread to encourage students to get involved. “We’re going to get a new mayor and a new city manager. There’s a lot of opportunity for changing the relationship, for starting over and fresh.”
While many students see Evanston as a temporary home for four years, they should still make their voices heard in local politics, Drummond said.
“This election is really important to me because for the past year and a half, Evanston has been my home,” Drummond said. “It’s where I go hang out, it’s where I get food, so it’s very much my hometown. I want the best representation, not just for me, but for my friends and for future students who come here.”