May 13, 2020

Political Interns Adapt to COVID-19 as Election Approaches

The Institute of Politics building.

Courtesy of Institute of Politics

Students who secured internships before the pandemic had led to social distancing find themselves facing delays, cancellations, or, more commonly, a shift to remote working. Pandemic-related cancellations pose a unique challenge to political campaigns, which rely heavily on face time.

Rafael Levy Diner, a second-year political science major, has witnessed these challenges firsthand. Since March, Levy Diner has been working in Colorado on Alexis King’s campaign for Jefferson County district attorney. While Levy Diner is still working for the campaign, all his work is now done remotely.

“Campaigns are such a personal and interactive experience that I would prefer to do in-person work,” Levy Diner said. “The feeling and motivation when talking to voters is completely different in person than over a virtual rally.”

There are some upsides to shifting to remote campaigning. For instance, people who were previously unable to get politically involved now have virtual access to campaign events. “Whereas there may have been distinct barriers for people to be engaged in certain things before, this is also presenting new opportunities for the way that we engage with people, when where we physically are may not be a challenge in some cases,” Melissa Navas, director of career development at the Institute of Politics, told The Maroon.

As have campaigns, campus voting outreach group UChiVotes has had to rethink their approach. Communications Director Julianna Rossi said, “We had to shift most everything, because so much of what we do is tabling and passing out pledge to vote cards.… So after we all got home, we started developing a pledge to vote challenge that’s online and digital, so…that’s an Instagram story now.”

Joshua McKie, a co-coordinator at UChiVotes, echoed Navas’s statement about increased engagement, noting that “having [Pledge to Vote] as a social media challenge just does wonders for how much it spreads.”

Navas added that many of the workplace changes introduced during the pandemic may not be temporary. “The way that we are all going to live is not just temporary, it is not just the next couple of months. More people will work remotely into next year.… [Some organizations] probably are not going to have people come back into their office[s] for 12 months.”

This news may come as a disappointment to students like Levy Diner. “Personally, I would not choose to keep distancing…if officials say it is safe to [return to work],” he said.

Nevertheless, Navas emphasized that even amid the instability of a pandemic, there are still professional learning opportunities for students. “While it may not be in the office that you want or the sector that you want, a lot of the work that everyone will be doing is going to be centered on the virus, and there’s value in understanding how organizations work and are dealing with this unprecedented time.”

Editors note: After the publication of this article, a source notified The Maroon that information in the article was subject to a non-disclosure agreement. That information has been removed