Southern Oregon University felt the Bern on Wednesday as students and Ashland residents gathered in support of the democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. Advocates for Sanders assembled in the university’s free speech zone outside of the Stevenson Union to partake in the SOU’s first campaign rally for the 2016 presidential elections.
“My main purpose is to get students inspired, to get them inspired about Bernie Sanders, but particularly about voting and getting involved in the political process,” said SOU student Derek Scanlon, head of the university’s Democracy and Social Justice club. “I personally would love to see a Donald Trump rally, a Ted Cruz rally just to show some interest, some excitement about the political process,” he said before running up to the front of the crowd to introduce the next speaker.
Due to the school’s policy of preventing clubs from publicly endorsing a candidate, Scanlon had to organize it himself seeking help from local groups, like Southern Oregon for Bernie, who offered flyers of information on the candidate as well as opportunities to get involved in the campaign.
Various Sanders supporters took turns yelling to the crowd through a loud-speaker, many revealing testimonies of their personal debt crises. “As a student one thing that really appeals to me is his desire to make college tuition free,” said Scanlon who admitted that he is currently 41,000 dollars in debt. “It’s an atrocity that we have student debt at the levels we have.”
“A lot of these students are going to finish college, they’re going to be faced with students debt, paying for health coverage, trying to get a job where they can support themselves,” said Lauri Hoagland an active member in Southern Oregon for Bernie. “I think he is the one candidate who really has a view for the future.”
Among others in attendance was Dawn KC also a Southern Oregon for Bernie member who is currently raising money to become a delegate. “I’ve really cared about taking care of people, everybody for everybody, and I think that’s an Ashland idea,” said KC, who has spent most of her life in Ashland. When asked why she supported Sanders she replied “I tried to find anything bad on him, anything, with my research and I couldn’t.”
Those endorsing Sanders have high hopes that the rally will spark a change in voters and the election as a whole. “We’re in an uphill battle,” said Scanlon. “We need rallies like this, because they need to hear our voice.”