Politics take center stage at Club Row

Club Row at Santa Monica College is usually a time for student groups to gather on the quad to pitch their programs to prospective students. From religious groups, to international student clubs to honor societies, the organizations all emphasize campus and community involvement.

But on Thursday, the elaborate booths and giveaways at Club Row were pushing a different kind of community action – voting.

With the election now less than a week away, the effort by both campaigns and by student groups on campus to appeal to young voters has kicked into high gear.

Nadia Deen was helping to man the Honor Society table, handing out pins and pamphlets urging “yes on 30.”  Deen said the Honor society’s efforts were aimed at getting the word out about ballot propositions that could have a major impact on education in the state.

“This election is being more emphasized,” she said.  “It’s one of those elections that will affect everything.”

Another “yes on 30” banner hung in the International Students booth.  Jay Park explained that international students can’t vote, but that the organization was advocating a yes vote on Prop. 30 to try and avoid further cuts to education.  “We are also SMC students,” he said.

New citizen Giorgio Rouzaud, originally from Italy, voiced his dislike for Republican candidate Romney as he handed out fliers at the UNICEF booth.  “I hope Romney doesn’t win,” said Rouzaud, adding that he “didn’t like Romney’s attitude toward Latinos.”

Victor Batch, who was born in Bulgaria and was enthusiastically recruiting for the German club, voiced strong support for Prop. 30, as did many student organizations.

Batch, however, lamented what he saw as the rigidity of a two-party system, “If I vote, if I don’t vote, it’s the same.  It’s sad.”

School clubs at SMC receive some of their funding from the Associated Students via the Inter Club Council.

Jasmine Jafari, former vice chair of the ICC, said that clubs are permitted to promote any candidate or ballot initiative as long as they don’t use club funding to do so.

“A lot of people have asked me personally if AS is spending money pushing campaigns, when in reality we get all of our promotional material from the campaigns,” she said.

“If clubs would want to promote ‘No-on-30’ we would not stop them,” she said. “As long as what they’re promoting isn’t hateful or harmful to students.”

Melony Cohen, who was working the political discussion club table, warned of apathy among young voters she speaks with regularly.  Cohen, a Democrat, admits that she’s “not a big Obama fan,” and doubts whether her vote will mean anything in a state that is all but certain to break for the President.

“You live in California, it’s not going to make a difference,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of big corporations campaigning.”

Sam Azimtash made his way over to the Political Discussion table to echo Cohen’s sentiment; “Obama took California. It doesn’t matter what I vote now.”

Amidst the clamor of hundreds of students pitching their clubs and vying for attention with free candy and food at Club Row on Thursday, one man stood out.

He gave his name as Paul Mitchell, and described himself as a “warner,” eager to “illuminate them [students] as to what God sees as wrong,” so they might avoid, as Mitchell said, going to “H-E- double hockey sticks.”

Around him stood members of the Gay-Straight Alliance. Member Isabella Sanchez expressed frustration and confusion; “I don’t understand why he has so much hate toward us when we didn’t do anything to him.”

At that moment Zakhar Shteynberg jumped in; “I feel like he’s violating peoples decisions. Trying to confuse—close people’s eyes to a situation that’s very real.”