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October 20, 2015

New RSO aims to increase political participation on campus

UChicago Democracy Initiative (UCDI), a new RSO founded this quarter, aims to politically educate and engage University students and the residents of South Side neighborhoods in order to increase political participation.

As a nonpartisan organization, UCDI strives to call attention to threats to American democracy such as low voter turnout, money in politics, and gerrymandering, as well as research potential solutions. Currently, UCDI is involved in several public engagement projects including spreading awareness about issues affecting democracy and registering students and Hyde Park residents to vote.

Co-founders second-year Adam Reynolds, fourth-year Alex Serratelli, and fourth-year Sam Zacher launched the organization at the beginning of Fall Quarter after developing their plans for UCDI over the summer.

UCDI is also developing a project to improve communication between constituents and representatives in local communities, starting with representatives for Chicago’s fifth ward. As part of the project, Reynolds, Serratelli, and Zacher are creating an e-mail newsletter for constituents of various representatives that will include information about the representatives’ actions.

“The goal is to try to solve the problem of people feeling disconnected from their representatives of all levels,” Reynolds said. “We want to get people more easy, quick, concise information about what the representative is doing, and also create this communication network between people and representatives.”

Additionally, UCDI publishes student-written articles on its website about political issues related to the democratic process, including campaign finance reform and public confidence in government.

In the website’s first article, Zacher discusses the difficulty of preserving freedom of expression through campaign donations while preventing candidates from becoming dependent on large donations from corporations. As a solution, Zacher advocates for public campaign financing, which provides candidates with government funding if they receive a certain amount of individual donation under a certain value.

Through UCDI, Reynolds, Serratelli, and Zacher hope to inspire people who are not particularly interested in politics to pay more attention to current events and become more involved in the political process.

“We want to bring people in who aren’t just thinking ‘I want to be a politician when I grow up,’ or ‘I want to be a lawyer,’” Reynolds said. “We’re trying to deal with issues that affect every single person. Pretty much everything you do in your life is at some point affected by the government, and what we want to do is to teach people that these things actually affect them…and to say, ‘Here’s a way you can fix this.’”

Editor’s Note: Sam Zacher is a former Maroon editor.

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