Student Organizations Helping Students Get Involved in Campus Politics

Southern Illinois University (SIU) has a multitude of political registered student organizations (RSO) for students to get involved in that support their interests, provide networking opportunities and allow them to interact with their local community.

Students looking to get more involved in politics can join some of the most prominent RSO’s on campus to engage in political activities including protest, discussion, volunteering, education, or other forms of activism.

Isaac Ludington is president of the SIU College Democrats (College Dems), a sizable group of students that align themselves, ideologically and politically, with the Democratic Party and its constituents. Since Ludington refounded the group two years ago, the College Dems have organized various campus events on campus, including hosting guest speakers like former mayoral candidate and political activist Nathan Colombo.


“In general [our goals are] twofold,” Ludington said. “It’s firstly to get younger people more interested in politics and help them be able to get involved. But then secondly, it’s to advance the ideals of the Democratic Party.”

Ludington said students wishing to make connections beyond SIU and Carbondale can come to him for assistance.

“Through the College Dems, I’ve been able to help connect members with internships up in Springfield so they’ve been able to go position the caucus up there,” Ludington said. “We’ve also done a good amount of connecting people here with the local Democratic Party so they can get involved as precinct committee people if they want, as well as helping with local campaigns.”

The Model United Nations (UN) offers an opportunity for members to participate in a simulation of the United Nations Conference at dedicated events around the midwest, Ryan Jurich, president of the RSO, said. Each group represents a country that is picked out by the organizers of the conference.

Jurich said the most recent simulation that the SIU group attended was the Chicago International Model United Nations conference (CIMUN), where SIU members represented the Netherlands. Representing the country presented a whole host of interesting situations and opportunities, Jurich said.

“The Netherlands was pretty cool[…] It’s in the [European Union] (EU) block. It’s got close ties with America. It’s got a well developed industry and economy.” Jurich explained “So it was a little bit of fun to sort of poke around the room and be able to say ‘Hey, we’ve got this connection with you guys. What are you guys working on over here? How can we get involved?’”

Jurich said he believes the experience of participating in a UN simulation is particularly gratifying, whether it be for gaining experience, networking, or socializing.


“If this is what you’re interested in or if this is what major or field you’re looking to go into, I think it’s a really interesting experience,” Jurich said. “If you want to put the kind of work in that some people do, and actually try to pass resolutions, and get something out of it, it can be a lot of fun because you meet tons of different people who are trying to do the exact same things.”

Janine Armstrong, president of the Organization for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, said she believes that the organization serves to promote two tenants: education and direct action.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is have more conversations, to kind of do something that is more theoretical-building and helping people understand different concepts, as well as go out and be more active,” Armstrong said. “So last fall we did a march to kind of talk about reproductive rights, and we did that in [collaboration] with the Women’s Center.”

Armstrong said she believes that students or other people are often afraid of engaging in gender and sexuality for identity-related reasons. She said fear shouldn’t be a barrier to getting involved.

“A lot of people will say like, ‘oh, well, if you’re sexuality-and-gender-studies-related, then you have to be either gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer in some capacity, or a woman,’” Armstrong said. “Gender affects all of us; sexuality affects all of us. So everybody has some role that they can take and […] we can have those conversations.”

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Ambassador RSO serves as the student branch of the Paul Simon Institute, a nonpartisan political think tank dedicated to public policy and bettering politics. President of the Ambassadors organization Emily Buikema described the group as an overall hub for education and improvement.

“Overall, our goal is just to […] inform students about nonpartisan political issues and government, and kind of bring things along to them in […] a nonpartisan way,” Buikema said. “You don’t have to know a ton about policy or government in order to be a part of our group. We’re just really here to inform students about things that they might not know about in the world of public policy.”

Buikema said non-partisanship can be a difficult policy to hold on to in an increasingly polarized political climate, but she believes that it’s essential to the RSO’s longevity.

“I think it’s very important for people to talk to other people from other parties that have other ideas,” Buikema said. “It really helps all of our members to kind of understand where they’re coming from as well, no matter what party they’re a part of.”

The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), a student branch of the broader Democratic Socialists of America party. RSO member Luke Herron-Titus describes the goals of the YDSA as being aligned with those of particular current members of the Democratic party.

“YDSA is a social justice organization that organizes around broad social democratic politics that one might hear from Bernie Sanders, or […] [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] AOC, Ilhan Omar or Cory Bush,” Herron-Titus said. “We’ve always tried to show solidarity with local community struggles and community issues, going out to different protests, and voice our support for community struggles and things on campus.”

The YDSA generally splits their time between education, activism and volunteer-work, Herron-Titus said. He said the YDSA works and volunteers with a variety of organizations to further various charitable and humanitarian causes.

“Most recently, we had some of our people go out to the Carbondale Warming Center to just shovel their sidewalks. They do a lot of good work in taking care of our most vulnerable community members. [We’re] trying to do […] more volunteer work with other community organizations,” Herron-Titus said.

Herron-Titus said he believes it’s important to inform people about the YDSA’s goals, and to disseminate any misunderstandings that come from a lack of exposure.

“We also hope to teach folks about the leftist movement broadly, because […] they don’t really like to teach the history [of working class organization] in schools,” Herron-Titus said. “So, I think […] we get a lot of calls for political education when we have new members.”

Editors’ Note: Daily Egyptian staff made attempts to contact College Republicans and Turning Point USA, but did not receive a reply by publishing time.

For anyone interested in joining these RSO or any other non-political RSO’s at SIU, check the Student Organization page on the SIU website.

Staff reporter Ethan Braun can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois News follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.