Mark Harmon, College Dems

Mark Harmon, a professor of journalism and candidate for U.S. Congress, speaks before students gathered at the College Democrats kick off on Aug. 24.

After a year of meeting virtually, the recently revived College Democrats club at UT held their first general meeting in the Humanities building on Tuesday night. Featuring an appearance by UTK journalism and broadcasting professor Mark Harmon, who also happens to be running for Congress, the gathering included speeches from the members of the executive board and a relationship building activity.

Professor Harmon, who served as an elected Knox county commissioner from 2006 to 2010, started the meeting off with a bang by introducing himself and his campaign to represent Tennessee’s second congressional district.

Highlighting his history of service as well as some of the issues he wishes to address if elected to office, Harmon’s energizing speech was well received and was followed by several questions from the supportive listeners who filled the room.

“I frequently lost, but always fought,” Harmon said, when asked about the trials he faced as a democrat in a largely red area. “I’m always authentic.”

Harmon also discussed his desire to focus on social engagement and community outreach, particularly with a younger audience. Despite, and perhaps due to, the weight of the issues being discussed, the professor encouraged students to pursue interactive means of getting involved in the discussion as well as the election — especially on social media.

“Serious message, fun campaigning,” he said, referring to his campaign ideology.

Following Professor Harmon’s time on the podium, the club’s executive board each took the stand to individually introduce themselves and their role in the club. Chandler Palmer, junior and president of College Democrats, expressed his desire to increase the amount of volunteering and community engagement the club takes part in, in addition to its support of political causes.

“We also really wanna try and reach out and join other clubs and organizations, and join together to do things for the community,” Palmer said. “Yes, we’re a political organization, but we also want to be for the community.”

After the more formal introductions from the executive board, the entirety of the club partook in a “snowball fight” exchange of conversation starters. This involved each member writing three icebreaker-style facts about themselves onto a piece of paper before launching it across the room in a flurry of recyclables.

Freshman Ben Schuller, who found out about the club and the meeting at the student engagement fair, discussed his enjoyment of both the political and social environment created by the club.

“Hoping both,” Schuller said, when asked whether he was looking for an entryway into local political action or a friendly social group. “I helped on the Ralph Warnock campaign down in Georgia, and I really loved that. I think it (the meeting) went really good.”

The UT College Democrats can be reached via Instagram or Twitter with questions about getting involved. For more information on Professor Harmon’s campaign, go to MarkHarmonforcongress.com.

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