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College Democrats named top club

Kristen Durbin | Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When the leaders of Notre Dame’s 334 student clubs were notified about the nomination process for the Club of the Year award, the officers of the College Democrats of Notre Dame knew they had a legitimate chance at receiving the honor.

“We listed all our accomplishments throughout the year, and we knew we would be competitive for the award given the consistency of club events and the number of students getting involved,” junior Chris Rhodenbaugh, co-president of College Democrats for 2009-10, said.

Rhodenbaugh attributed the club’s recognition to the consistency of club activity, including the weekly efforts of students working on health care reform, energy issues and various foreign policy matters.

Senior Henry Vasquez, co-president of College Democrats, said the club’s success has been a result of its strong ties to students and other campus organizations.

“The success of the club is inextricably tied to the vision of the College Democrats — to become a nexus for the progressive community at Notre Dame,” Vasquez said. “I imagine that we benefited from the nomination process because of our strong relationships with so many students and organizations who were able to express their support for our club.”

The club, which regularly attracts 25 to 40 members at weekly meetings, has achieved several substantial goals throughout the year, including helping secure 2nd district Rep. Joe Donnelly’s and Sen. Evan Bayh’s, both Indiana democrats, votes for the national health care reform bill.

“We made over 6,000 calls for health care reform this year,” Rhodenbaugh said. “We also wrote a letter to Congressman Donnelly and issued a press release explaining our commitment to working for candidates who vote for health care reform.”

Rhodenbaugh also said the press release emphasized that the club holds its leaders accountable for their actions and has expectations for the leaders it worked hard to elect in 2008.

In addition, Rhodenbaugh said winning the award outside of an election year and on a limited budget speaks to the dedication of the club’s members.

“It’s a real honor to win this award because it shows the commitment of our members to changing American politics and accomplishing the goals of the president we worked so hard to elect,” Rhodenbaugh said. “Political activism is an essential part of being an American citizen, and I’m proud that so many students were involved in the political process.”

The high level of commitment of members of College Democrats has allowed the club to operate over 20 phone banks in cooperation with Organizing for America, co-sponsor a city-wide health care rally, maintain consistent weekly club programming and work extensively on issues such as clean energy, GLBT rights, foreign policy and labor, Rhodenbaugh said.

“We see ourselves as a club that works hard for candidates and issues that has made a legitimate impact in South Bend and our country,” Rhodenbaugh said. “We also serve the purpose of getting students involved and developing the future leaders of our country, regardless of whether or not students end up in politics.”

Vasquez echoed Rhodenbaugh’s thoughts on the club’s role in the local and national political realms and the dedication of its members.

“Our members are an enthusiastic and cohesive family and they don’t stop being College Democrats when the meeting is over,” Vasquez said. “We are especially proud of our relationship with the South Bend community and the entire state of Indiana.”

Rhodenbaugh also cited a commitment to social justice as the motivation for the club’s goals of reforming the political system. He said he believes that the club’s high level of activism has helped change perceptions of Notre Dame students as predominantly Republican while adhering to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

“Much of our activism has been rooted in a holistic interpretation of Catholic Social Teachings,” Rhodenbaugh said. “We have worked hard to open minds and challenge traditional views about religion and politics on this campus, and we have had a lot of success.”