Wellstone camp comes to campus

Campus Camp Wellstone is based on the former Senator’s grassroots approach.

by Liz Riggs

Whether one subscribes to, or agreed with Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone’s politics, few can deny that he changed the face of Minnesota politics with his grassroots approach to mobilization.

Beginning Friday, a campus training event bearing the name of the late Minnesota senator hopes to instill a little of Wellstone’s progressive strategies in a new generation.

Campus Camp Wellstone, as the session has been promoted, is a free, nonpartisan, day-and-a-half-long training event for University students who want to learn about a different approach to coalition building, strategic planning and message use and development.

More than a dozen academic departments and student groups on campus, ranging from the American Indian Student Cultural Center to the Chicano studies department, together raised $2,500 – approximately half the cost of putting on a training for students, plus food. Wellstone Action! is footing the other half of the bill.

Camille Cyprian, a training organizer for Wellstone Action! who helps plan Campus Camp Wellstone events at colleges across the country, said the event was organized by students in the social justice minor program’s senior seminar class.

In October, Cyprian, 23, a University alumna, approached the class about the idea of attending or even hosting a Campus Camp Wellstone event of their own.

Ever since, many of the students have been working to coordinate the event and promote the training to other students.

“Hopefully this training will give people the skills to act on the things they feel need to be changed on their campuses,” Cyprian said.

Lisa Albrecht, an associate professor in the school of social work who co-founded the social justice undergraduate minor at the University, said the opportunity to host a Camp Wellstone event meshed well with the social justice curriculum, where organizing work is approached from an academic perspective.

“It’s something the students wanted to take on because it’s so connected to the social justice minor,” she said.

As of late Wednesday night, 45 students from a variety of majors at the University were preregistered for the camp. Registration continues through 3:45 p.m. today, at which time the event kicks off at the University YMCA, at 1801 University Ave. S.E.

Although the camp has been billed as nonpartisan, Cyprian admitted the nature of the event might make it more attractive to those from the political left.

“I guess progressive change would probably appeal more to those on the liberal side,” Cyprian said, but added that the skills taught are adaptable to any type of social or political organizing.

Ole Hovde, a political science and communications junior and senior vice chairman of College Republicans, said while he isn’t the type to attend such an event himself, he wasn’t uncomfortable because the “nonpartisan” event would probably attract a lot of political liberals.

“I’m with that party constantly during the (school) day,” Hovde said about attending a historically liberal-minded University. “I would be just as comfortable at a Wellstone event as I am in class,” he said.

Past Campus Camp Wellstone trainings have included co-sponsorship from both liberal and conservative student groups alike, Cyprian said.

Those planning to attend Friday’s sessions, like sociology major and social justice minor Alice Franco, are hoping to use the skills and advice passed down from an experienced base of young trainers to help them shift their theoretical knowledge into practice.

“These are people who are just getting started in the progressive social activism world,” Franco said.

Just two weeks from graduation herself, Franco said she hopes to gain valuable skills that will help her as she embarks on social justice work.

“I hope to, from the camp, learn new ideas and leadership roles,” she said.