Rutgers for Hillary advocates for Democratic nominee
Around the same time he came out as a gay man, Jeremy Atie remembers watching Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton talk about LGBT rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Clinton told the crowd of foreign diplomats that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” The historic speech — delivered in 2011 in recognition of Human Rights Day — along with President Barack Obama’s announcement the following year supporting gay marriage, cemented Atie’s admiration for the Democratic Party and Clinton.
“Coming out and then seeing these two people who were the leaders of our country, the leaders of the world, defending me and who I was — that was the most amazing feeling,” the School of Arts and Sciences senior said.
In 2014, Atie founded Rutgers for Hillary and vowed to help elect the first woman president in United States history. Since its inception, the student group has canvassed for the former Secretary of State during primary contests with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in various surrounding states, including New Hampshire.
Now they will turn their attention to the general election in November and to defeating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The group will not only actively campaign for Clinton on campus this fall semester, but is also planning to hold canvassing events in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, Atie said.
A majority of nation-wide pre-election polls have Clinton ahead of Trump and leading in most swing states. Support for the former First Lady stands at 43 percent and the businessman at 40 percent, according to a national polling average by The New York Times.
Atie is certain that a Clinton presidency will be positive for millennials, especially college students.
“She rolled out tuition-free college, which is something that is particularly beneficial to Rutgers students,” he said. “She is also expanding the incentives that companies are given to hire more students and to offer more training and internships.”
As part of her “debt-free” college plan, Clinton is proposing that by 2021, families with an income of $125,000 or fewer will not have to pay tuition at in-state public universities. She also supports Obama’s proposal to make community college tuition free.
The Democratic nominee's plans for higher education is a principal reason why Clinton’s presidential bid appeals to Alexander Inkiow, vice-president of Rutgers for Hillary. The School of Arts and Sciences senior is on course to graduate next spring as a 19-year-old.
Inkiow earned his high school diploma alongside an associate degree from Mercer Community College as a high school junior. He said Clinton will “reach out to the people who are suffering because of the cost of college” and implement reforms that will allow students to avoid “huge bills” — just like he was able to because of his dual enrollment in high school.
Rutgers—New Brunswick, along with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the College of New Jersey are all part of the list of four-year public schools with the highest tuition costs in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In July, the Rutgers Board of Governors voted to increase student tuition by 1.7 percent.
Atie cited Clinton’s support to expand Obama’s health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, and her commitment to tackling climate change as policy positions that also align with the concerns of a majority of young voters.
A Trump presidency is a bleak prospect for Atie. He said it would obstruct all of the “progress” made during Obama’s eight years in office.
“The values that Trump represents are values that I think are going to set us back,” he said.
Atie is especially worried about the treatment of the LGBT community because of Trump’s running mate selection. In 2015, Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed the citizens of Indiana to refuse service to individuals on religious grounds.
Opponents have labeled the bill as discriminatory and claim that it targets LGBT groups in the state.
Atie said Clinton, on the other hand, represents “everybody,” as well the diversity championed at Rutgers.
“Not just because she is defending undocumented immigrants that think that this place is home. Not just because she is defending Muslims in this country who believe that they are Americans … Not just because she defends women and their right to an abortion and equal pay,” Atie said. “She doesn’t only defend a diversity in people, but a diversity in ideas.”
Although he believes that voting for Clinton over Trump should be a “no-brainer” for most Americans, Atie said the 2016 presidential election does have not to be a referendum on the controversial Republican nominee.
“For the people that don’t necessarily just want to say yes or no to Donald Trump, and who actually want to know what’s good for them and not just what’s bad for them and what they should avoid — Hillary Clinton actually has a lot plans that are good for them,” he said.
Editor's Note: Rutgers for Trump was not featured in this article because the group's members declined to disclose their identities.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloooom.