Michigan State's cure for summertime blues
Student groups focus on organizing for fall campaign
By Dirk VanderHart
Special to CNN
Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a weekly feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Dirk VanderHart, political reporter at The State News, the Michigan State University student newspaper. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or Michigan State University.
EAST LANSING, Michigan (CNN) -- At a time when many Michigan students are struggling to find one decent-paying summer job, Emily Ketterer recently quit two.
The Michigan State University sophomore decided her efforts would be better focused interning with Sen. John Kerry's Michigan presidential campaign than working at retail establishments.
"I personally have a few things at stake in this election that I care more about than working at Bath & Body Works and The Gap," said Ketterer, a member of the MSU College Democrats and a co-chair for MSU Students for Kerry. "It's more stimulating for me to work on politically oriented things."
Ketterer is not an anomaly among politically active Michigan State students.
Although the school's political student groups typically disband during the summer months, many members say they see a need to remain active, particularly in an election year.
"I'm going to want a job when I graduate; I'm going to want a good economy," said Emily Morris, the other MSU Students for Kerry chair. "I can afford to help out with something that I believe in."
Unlike Ketterer, Morris is working full time at a metro Detroit hospital this summer. She makes time to answer phones and recruit staffers at Kerry's Detroit campaign office several times a week.
"It can be hard, but it's something that's really important to me," said the junior studying social relations.
Students on the conservative side also are working to further their candidate's statewide presence.
Katie Allardyce is working in Saginaw for the summer, but she still makes several trips with fellow MSU Students for Bush members to volunteer at the president's Michigan headquarters -- about two hours away in Southfield. The group generally calls voters to garner support for the president.
MSU Students for Bush also have held rallies this summer -- most recently when Kerry visited the state for a fund-raising event.
"We're always active," said Allardyce, a junior studying political theory. "We're spread out, but we always have things we're doing."
Public policy senior Michael Plato co-chairs Michigan's statewide Students for Bush group. He's spent much of the summer contacting students from colleges all over the state and helping them form groups to support the president.
Today, the statewide group boasts close to 5,000 members, Plato said, making it one of the country's largest.
"I really believe in what this campaign represents, and I want to make a difference among college kids," Plato said. "We're making a lot of ground and changing a lot of minds."
In addition to helping out on the Bush campaign, members of the MSU College Republicans are working with organizations such as Students for Life, an anti-abortion organization that backs the president.
Planning for fall
But although MSU students are staying busy this summer helping their respective candidates, they express anticipation for the coming school year. That, they say, is when the real work will begin.
"We're really just trying to get organized for when we come back for fall," said Allardyce of MSU Students for Bush.
The group will focus heavily on recruiting more members at the outset of the school year. Bush supporters then will begin stumping aggressively on campus to spread the president's campaign message.
MSU Democrats will adopt the same strategy, Morris said. Bolstered by the addition of many former Howard Dean supporters to the group, the Students for Kerry are planning campuswide recruitment and canvassing drives.
The group also will campaign in nearby Lansing.
"We realize there's a lot more people there ... we can reach," Morris said. "As much as we want college kids to vote, they don't always do it."