Activists on Campus

From Voter registration to helping students call senators, Mason student organizations do it all


Being a university just outside of Washington D.C., it’s no surprise that there are multiple organizations within Mason that facilitate student activism.

To name a few, there is Student Power, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),  George Mason Democrats and their counterpart George Mason College Republicans, Generation Action at George Mason University, and Mason DREAMers. These organizations all represent different causes and students at Mason.

NAACP, for example, supports all students of color. According to Mason’s NAACP Public Relations Chair, Devan Fishburne, “Though predominantly thought of as a Black organization, the Mason NAACP also works with Hispanic, Asian, and Native American organizations in the same way that though we are a college organization, we advocate for all of Fairfax, Virginia, and America’s oppressed persons.”

NAACP takes pride in the fact that they are not just representatives, but educators as well. This can be seen in the events Mason’s NAACP has lined up for this school year.

“This year we will be having a career readiness expo for students of color offering them university resources as well as opportunities for mentorship,” said Fishburne. “We will also host local area middle- and high-school aged students for a civic engagement field trip teaching them about the need for political action even amongst youth.”

Along with this, Mason NAACP plans to host a day of remembrance for victims of police brutality, and is also planning a “black business exposition” for this fall as well.

Other student organizations, such as Mason DREAMers, are more specific in what they support. Mason DREAMers fight to keep the immigration policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), while George Mason Democrats and the George Mason College Republicans also have  specific goals in supporting their respective parties.

Meanwhile, Student Power is an organization that wants to help support other student activist organizations.

“I want Student Power to be a resource for other progressive student [organizations] who need support making a flyer or need support at an event they have,” said Sara Deriso, president of GMU Student Power. “I want Student Power to be a resource for other [organizations] to come to when they need help.”

Beyond that, Student Power plans to attend other organizations’ meetings in an effort to create a more unified force for change. Student Power also focuses heavily on having no tuition price hikes for students and no tuition cost for college.

“I think we as students do not have a voice to the Board of Visitors,” Deriso said. “Our elected student president can sit in on board meetings but they have no speaking privileges. So Student Power wants to facilitate that voice so the people who are in control know what the students are actually thinking and what the students actually need.”

This year, five Student Power members plan to help register students to vote for a fellowship they were granted. The organization went to New Mexico over the summer for voter registration training.

Deriso also had advice for other student activists on campus.

“You may not think your voice is heard, especially to those who hold power, but when we collectivize our power our voices are much stronger and we can make real change by coming together as students to support each other,” Deriso said.

Finally, Generation Action, a student organization that branches off of Planned Parenthood, provides sexual and reproductive education, spreads awareness about consent, and wants to make menstrual products more widely available to everyone on campus.

The president of Generation Action, Chanel Sherwood, is jump-starting a campaign to make the Fairfax campus start providing free and accessible menstrual products.

“Just have things be way more menstruation-friendly for folks of any gender expression,” Sherwood said about her project. “People who menstruate definitely need to be recognized at George Mason because that’s a huge problem we have when you can’t even go to the student health office and get those basic health products that you need to live your daily life.”

Generation Action plans to hold regular tabling events where students can sign on to become a Planned Parenthood Action Fund member, where students can receive alerts on causes Planned Parenthood may be supporting. They will also hold special tabling events if new bills at the state or federal level are introduced that contradict the goals of Generation Action, and will have the phone numbers of senators available so students can come and call their senator about the bill.

Although Generation Action branched off of Planned Parenthood, the organization is trying to make themselves more campus-oriented.

“Even though we are associated with Planned Parenthood, people who don’t agree with or like Planned Parenthood don’t have anything to fear from us,” Sherwood said.