Columbia and Barnard students joined thousands in Washington Square Park for a rally hosted by Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Monday.
Last week, students flyered on campus and in Morningside Heights for the rally and organized groups to attend the rally together. Historically, Columbia students have been known for their political involvement and outspokenness, frequently engaging in protests around issues like freedom of speech, racial inequality and profiling, and anti-Semitism.
As election season approaches, students have begun to engage with specific candidates; students recently formed Columbia for Bernie to back presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Other groups, likeColumbia Votes, aim more broadly to educate and encourage students to vote. Since 2016, various student-led political groups have hosted a Voting Week during which they assist students in registering to vote.
Warren, a Democratic frontrunner, spoke about the Green New Deal, government reforms, housing rights, and student debt.
The audience lined the circular park as Warren, dressed in her iconic purple blazer, spoke in front of the Washington Square Arch. Those in attendance chanted “Dream big, fight hard,” throughout the rally.
Warren appealed to students by listing policies on higher education. Through her proposed “two cents” wealth tax, Warren said that she plans to invest $50 billion to support historically black colleges and universities, create a student loan forgiveness program, and make community colleges and technical schools tuition-free.
In Warren’s student loan forgiveness program, $50,000 of student loan debt would be canceled for individuals whose household incomes are less than $100,000, according to a Forbes article. According to Warren, the program would cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of borrowers.
Several Barnard College for Warren members, who are also first-time presidential voters, noted it was important for them to learn about different candidates’ policies in order to make an educated decision.
Lily Clurman, BC ’22, who helped coordinate Barnard College for Warren, said that 40 students attended the group’s first meeting and that 25 students signed up to attend Monday’s rally.
“Warren has centered some of her most important campaign plans around student debt, as well as the future for young people regarding the environment,” Clurman said.
Bella Mannray, BC ’23, said that Warren, as both a woman and politician, aligned closely with her values.
Sophie Spink, BC ’23, said that Warren’s policies advocate for everyone and she felt that Warren’s policies had the most depth.
“I’ve known for a while that I supported Warren,” Spink said. “She’s going to fight for climate reform, she’s going to fight for student debt, she’s going to fight for us.”
Columbia for Warren also organized groups of students to attend the rally.
Additional key policies Warren endorsed include:Requiring all meetings between lobbyists and public officials to be made open to the public. Making tax returns public for any candidate running for political office. Providing down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers in historically redlined communities. Abolishing all federal private prisons. Ending coal use to protect Native American reservations and land. Stopping corporations from selling access to federal lands and national parks. Providing universal childcare and pre-K, and raising wages for childcare workers.
Prior to taking selfies with attendees, Warren said she wants to make substantial structural changes within the current political climate.
“I am not afraid, and you can’t be afraid either, so if you’re ready to fight, join me,” Warren said. “Dream big, fight hard, and win.”