Not many college students can say they have had a phone call with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and presidential candidate, but sophomore Vedant Akhauri has twice. Akhauri is a volunteer on the Sanders campaign and was recently promoted to be a campaign moderator.
Akhauri began working with the campaign in April 2019 and spent the summer texting and calling voters and helping people organize rallies for the Sanders campaign. In October, he was promoted to campaign moderator, and he supervises other volunteers.
Akhauri said he has viewed politics differently since Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
“I’ve supported Bernie Sanders since 2015 during his previous campaign,” Akhauri said. “I didn’t expect to like Bernie, but I ended up agreeing with him on a lot of policies. It’s interesting how the campaign has opened me up to so many viewpoints of people across the political spectrum.”
In August, Akhauri had the opportunity to speak with Sanders on the phone with other campaign volunteers, and they spoke with Sanders again in October. Sanders talked with the students about strategies for promoting the campaign on college campuses during the first conversation and discussed the campaign strategy during the second phone call.
“Young people in this country hold the future of the nation and the world in their hands,” Sanders said to the volunteers. “Years from now, your children and your grandchildren will look back on this moment and they’re going to say ‘thank you.’”
Junior Michael Deviney also spent his summer as an intern in Washington, D.C., for Rep. Tom Reed. Deviney said he began working with Reed in Fall 2018 during Reed’s congressional campaign.
After Reed won the election, Deviney said he was offered an internship position to work for Reed in the Rayburn House Office Building, which is Reed’s congressional office. In Washington, D.C., Deviney said he guided tours of the Rayburn building, answered phone calls and did research for proposed bills.
He said he decided to get involved with the Reed campaign to make his college experience productive.
“I was like ‘Do I sleep in until noon on Saturday and Sunday like other college students, or do I actually do something?’” Deviney said. “It opened many more windows for me for the future.”
He said that during his internship he had the opportunity to attend speeches by other politicians, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Sen. Ted Cruz and Vice President Mike Pence.
Deviney said he first learned about the volunteer opportunities in the Reed campaign through Ithaca College Republicans.
Senior Elaina White, president of IC Republicans, said she believes it is important for students to be involved in politics.
“I think getting involved in a campaign, speaking your voice and relaying your opinions to other people like-minded on campus would inspire you to go out to vote more,” White said. “Political campaigns are a great way to do that because you get more involved.”
The voting rate for registered voters at the college has increased by 31.3% between 2014 and 2018 with a 41% voting rate in 2018. Groups at the college such as IC Republicans and Ithaca College Democrats aim to encourage voting on campus.
Don Beachler, associate professor in the Department of Politics, said via email that participating in campaigns is important for students to obtain experience in politics.
“There is the opportunity to gain experience and contacts that can be useful in seeking postgraduation employment,” Beachler said. “Also, you can learn a lot about how campaigns work.”