Where are the College Dems?
Searching for the John Carroll University College Dems in the midst of students clad in Romney/Ryan gear on Oct. 3, it was hard to believe that less than four years ago, students ran onto the quad, yelling and celebrating Barack Obama’s victory. Back then, John Carroll Students for Barack Obama campaigned vigorously, canvassing neighborhoods, staffing phone banks and knocking on dorm room doors to register students to vote. Now, the campus Democrats are hard to find.
In 2008, before winning the Democratic nomination, the JCU College Dems organized a trip to a rally at Cuyahogua Community College, where Obama spoke. Shortly afterward, the Ohio Chapter of Students for Barack Obama contacted one of the attendees, Annie Schaeffing, to ask if a chapter could be started at John Carroll.
“As much as I supported him, I didn't initially think he could possibly win the nomination,” she said in an interview, “but I wanted to do what I could to support his bid for the nomination.” So she agreed.
After Obama’s nomination in 2008, the Students for Barack Obama were absorbed into the JCU College Dems, and everyone worked together to get him elected. “I'll never forget our reaction when we found out Obama had won Ohio and, subsequently, the presidency,” Schaeffing said. “It was a big moment for us, especially because it was our state that tipped the scales to Obama.”
In the four years since, the JCU College Dems seemed to have disappeared. Any information that could be found on websites was outdated, with links that led to nonexistent sites and e-mails. The site for John Carroll Students for Barack Obama still lists Annie Schaeffing as chapter president. She graduated in 2009.
The JCU College Dems’ Facebook page had not been updated since April 2012, but had a link to a page stating that the organization no longer exists. Another website listed Christopher Wetherill as the president of the JCU College Dems, but after contacting him, I learned this was no longer the case either. He referred me to Bryan Kroetsch, who did not respond to multiple e-mails—perhaps, I thought, he was busy campaigning.
Elizabeth A. Stiles in the political science department, who is the JCU College Dems’ faculty advisor, said, “I don’t know,” when asked about any activity from the group. “Nobody has contacted me.” She referred me to Christopher Wetherill, whom she believed was still in charge.
Had I not noticed a flyer for the Presidential Debate on Oct. 3, I might still be under the impression that the JCU College Dems no longer existed. The flyer mentioned a campus debate party, sponsored by the College Dems and College Conservatives, that night. I decided to go. If there were any College Dems left, they would be there.
When I arrived, I learned that the Student Union was in charge of the event. About 10 minutes before the debate started, the College Conservatives strutted in, all sporting Romney/Ryan stickers. Nick Santucci, president of the JCU College Conservatives, was distributing more stickers. Not only is he in charge of the Romney campaign on campus, but he is also the head of campaign efforts in his hometown of Trumbull, Ohio. By going door-to-door, making phone calls and giving out stickers, he said, his main goal is “to help get Romney’s message out.”
Although the majority of the people at the debate party were College Conservatives, a few College Dems made their appearance. They had met as a group only once. One student, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “We haven’t really been doing much.” Another student, Emily, preferring to give only her first name, said that she had been interested in joining the year before but “couldn’t find them anywhere.”
Finally, Bryan Kroetsch arrived. He explained that the College Dems were just “getting off the ground,” but he has plans for the group to be a more visible presence. With only 13 members at the moment, he said they are planning to organize trips to Democratic rallies and to place posters in the atrium of the Lombardo Student Center to attract new members.
Just a thought: he might be well advised to answer any e-mails he gets in response to his efforts.
Barbie Curatolo is a communications student at John Carroll University.