‘Stanning,’ not ‘settling’: Pitt for Biden works to mobilize students on campus

Pitt+for+Biden+is+a+new+student+group+focused+on+turning+out+the+vote+for+the+2020+Democratic+presidential+ticket.+

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Pitt for Biden is a new student group focused on turning out the vote for the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket.

By Rashi Ranjan, Staff Writer

With political experts predicting Pennsylvania will play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election, Pitt for Biden is a new student group on campus focused on bringing votes for Biden to the ballot box in Oakland.

Founded in April as a branch of the Students for Biden program, Pitt for Biden educates students on Biden’s policies, hosts discussions with political figures and helps new voters register and feel confident in the process.

Co-president Sophia Shapiro has been “all-in” for Biden since the beginning of the Democratic primaries. She said he is the perfect candidate to unify the country and secure a future for Gen Z by protecting our environment, rights for women and access to education.

“Biden connects and empathizes with people, and I was inspired to join the Students for Biden organization to bring that to Pitt,” Shapiro, a first-year political science major said. “I indicated I go to Pitt, and I was connected to other interested Pitt students. From there, our organization just started growing.”

The organization began its work over the summer, hosting a joint event with sister organizations at Temple, New York and Columbia universities. Featuring two attorneys general, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Letitia James of New York, the event was a roundtable where students discussed criminal justice reform.

“It was an open discussion instead of a webinar because we thought it was important to bring the voices of government to the voters,” Sophia Shapiro said. “Students need to know their voice is being heard on a variety of issues.”

First-year politics and philosophy major Emma Malone recently joined the club and said she enjoys taking part in the effort to rally students for Biden. 

“I knew I wanted to get involved with political- and social justice-oriented clubs on campus,” Malone said. “As a person of color within the LGBTQ+ community, Biden’s policies will take us a step in the right direction as opposed to our current Commander in Chief who wants to turn our nation into the live action of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’”

While the @settleforbiden movement has amassed more than 250,000 followers on Instagram alone, Malone is “stanning” the Biden-Harris ticket, not settling. But she encourages that those who use the term “Settle for Biden” also share that idea with their fellow undecided voters.

“If we do not show up to vote, we are going to be left with a president who will continue to harm the citizens of our nation,” Malone said. “Do and say what you please, as long as you have a plan to vote.”

Though not all Democrats identify as Biden supporters, Pitt for Biden wishes to include everyone, whether they are enthusiastic or not, according to Shapiro.

“I think the Settle for Biden movement plays an important role for people who don’t feel like Biden is necessarily the voice they want,” Shapiro said. “But it brings more voters that won’t necessarily get out in the first place, so as long as they’re willing to use that term to turn it into action at the ballot box, it’s a helpful movement.”

Other club members have expressed understanding for the Settle for Biden movement, including Ron Rineer, a senior political science and economics major.

“I definitely understand Settle for Biden, and the students who supported other Democratic candidates are now seeing their candidates support Biden,” Rineer, co-president of Pitt for Biden, said. “The important thing is that they are registered and get out to vote in November.”

With voting registration drives in full force at Pitt ahead of the statewide Oct. 19 deadline, sophomore political science major Catherine Shull is using social media to spearhead Pitt for Biden’s movement to increase voter registration and turnout on campus.

“In the beginning, we were in the mode of distributing general information about Joe Biden and Donald Trump, focused on gaining support,” Shull, the group’s social media director, said. “Now that we have that support, we’re trying to get people to go out, take action and vote.”

Pitt for Biden hosts weekly office hours for students who have any questions about Biden or anything related to voting. If students are unavailable then, they can also fill out a form to ask questions, and a member of Pitt for Biden will get back to them.

“It’s so tricky to vote during a pandemic with all the options, so we want to make sure everyone knows those options and is able to vote safely,” Shapiro said. “The minute details, like having to put your ballot in the secrecy envelope before mailing it back, can go unnoticed by students.”

The club’s members interact with students on a daily basis. Though they are a group devoted to seeing Biden as the 46th president, Rineer said he believes they contribute to the campus as a whole, not just supporters for Biden.

“We look out for everyone, not just the people who agree with us. We are open to helping students register for either party,” Rineer said. “I have seen views change, especially in my personal life, but the important part is that they vote for whichever candidate.”

With Pennsylvania being a swing state, Shapiro said there’s a lot of pressure on the student groups in the state.

“We’re even more motivated because we know our voices in Pennsylvania are so crucial,” Shapiro said. “If there’s a voter in another state that’s almost certain to go for Biden, we’ll encourage them to register to vote in Pennsylvania instead, since that’s an option when you’re living on a college campus.”

Pitt for Biden is continuing to make their mark on campus through the “Chalk the Vote!” initiative. Developed by the nonprofit OneMillionOfUs, Chalk the Vote! expresses critical information about voting through colorful, expressive chalk art, according to Shapiro.

“They send chalk to people across the country, and we’re able to put information in murals on the ground, reminding people of this responsibility they have,” Shapiro said.

The team meets frequently for virtual phone banking events, as well.

“Every Sunday, we’re able to partner with organizations across the state to phone bank,” Malone said. “I think the key is to be consistent with our efforts up to and including election day.”

Whether or not the Biden-Harris ticket wins the presidential election, Pitt for Biden plans to continue organizing on campus, according to Shapiro and Shull.

“If Biden would lose, we would more strongly continue to spread the ideals Biden stands for, spreading the policy initiatives, especially,” Shull said.

Shapiro said she is thankful to have had such a close-knit group that works hard towards a common, progressive goal.

“We have a great group of people who work really well together and are passionate,” Shapiro said. “Right now, we’re focusing on the election, but we’ll definitely get together as a group and make that decision afterwards.”

As for now, Shull says talking to students across campus has made all the difference.

“As a political science student, we’re taught the dialogue between two people, whether or not you agree, is the most important part of politics,” Shull said. “It’s been great as we talk to members of our community and learn why they’re voting the way they’re voting, because it doesn’t always have to be as partisan as we make it.”

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