GV College Democrats work to make impact following return to campus


Madison Steigerwald, Staff Writer

When Jacob Welch arrived on campus as a freshman, he searched for a student-led political organization that reflected his own beliefs. He found the GVSU College Republicans, an organization with a substantial following on Instagram and weekly meetings, but he did not find an organization for students who identify as democrats. 

Grand Valley State University has had student-led organizations for democrats in the past, and an Instagram account already existed for “GV Dems,” though there was not an active organization on campus at the start of the 2022 school year. 

Welch took the initiative to reach out to the Office of Student Life, who directed him through the process of creating an organization and decided to build up the club. In fall 2022, the club became active and now includes a full executive board and recurring meetings for students who want to get involved politically or share their opinions. 

The GVSU College Democrats held their first meeting of the semester this past Wednesday in the Kirkhof Center. In the wake of the recent shooting at Michigan State University, the discussion revolved around gun regulation and steps to prompt legislation in Michigan’s Congress. 

Students shared emotional accounts empathizing with the trauma and fear felt by students just 75 miles from GVSU’s campus. Eventually, the conversation shifted to desperation and angst to calling for change at the state level to prevent another tragedy from striking the state of Michigan. 

Welch said GVSU College Democrats is important for students because it provides an avenue to get involved and make changes about laws that affect them.  

“We are a conduit for students into political activism that is easy and accessible,” Welch said. “College students are very busy, but also we’re voters, and the laws affect us the same as anyone else.” 

Welch said the organization provides opportunities for political work and volunteering for students who wish to pursue a career in politics or government. Last semester, the organization worked closely with David LaGrand’s State Senate campaign and Hillary Scholten’s House of Representatives campaign, providing students with future connections in the field and opening opportunities to participate in campaign work. 

Despite strides taken by Welch and other members to expand the organization’s presence on campus, executive board members highlighted involvement and membership as the biggest hurdle to overcome next year, especially as other political groups have more established organizations and a larger presence on campus. 

The GVSU College Democrats have an Instagram which provides information for students about upcoming meetings, events and other ways to get involved both on and off campus. 

Welch said there are a number of things students can do to get further involved politically. 

“Phone calls, like calling your representative or state senator, that’s an amazing way of getting yourself represented,” Welch said. “Politicians really rely off of what they perceive as public opinion and so if they see a larger turn out of support for something, they usually are going to support that thing more. They’re going to be like ‘Hey, my constituents actually want this,’ so they’ll go that way.”

Welch said the most important thing students can do is vote.

“Voting is the biggest thing,” Welch said. “We can’t really do that right now – that comes more in 2024 – that’s why we’re building up this group and support now.” 

The next GVSU College Democrats meeting will be held on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. in Kirkhof Center. Weekly meetings are held in the Thornapple Room on Wednesdays at 6 p.m., in addition to bi-weekly meetings on Fridays at noon.