Framed within the pillars of Hendricks Chapel, it’s clear Alexis Rinck is comfortable in front of a crowd.
It’s March 8, International Women’s Day, and Rinck, along with a few other strong women (and one young man), is at the head of a rally promoting not just feminism, but intersectional feminism. Although it’s one of the windiest days of the semester, nothing can sweep away the words of empowerment and encouragement being shared by the various speakers. Rinck stands beside almost every speaker, listening raptly and ready to help with the megaphone. Part of what makes Alexis Rinck such an inspiring figure in the Syracuse campus community is her ability to bring a much-needed selflessness to the realm of politics. At the end of the day, her ultimate goal is to do her part in making sure every voice is heard.
Hailing from San Francisco, California, Rinck initially came to Syracuse University to study medicine. She soon decided to redirect her studies to pursue political science and sociology. This decision came about while interning with New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) the summer after her freshman year, when Rinck met Joan Mandle, executive director of Democracy Matters.
Democracy Matters is a non-partisan non-profit organization that aims to keep big money out of politics. After a screening of the film Pay to Play hosted by NYPIRG, Mandle explained to Rinck that she was looking to start a chapter in Syracuse. “I grabbed [a flyer] and I was like, I’m going to do this. And, I did,” Rinck says. Syracuse University used to have a Democracy Matters chapter, but it was dismantled a few years before Rinck enrolled at SU. She says that breathing life back into that chapter was not easy.
“To become an [registered student organization] is incredibly difficult at this university, especially if you’re a political org; they don’t really want you here,” Rinck explains about the process. It took over a year and a couple of rejections before Democracy Matters was recognized as an official student organization on campus. Despite the obstacles, the club did not stop functioning and holding events along the way, and won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Last semester, Democracy Matters helped lead one of the largest protests in recent years, with over one thousand students marching from the quad along the promenade, ending with a rally on the ESF campus. This spring, students and faculty can look forward to a “meme gallery,” an event involving mocktails, glamour, and of course, political memes.
“Honestly, we feel as though everyone’s really politically exhausted. There’s just so much happening. It’s hard to keep up and it’s scary. People don’t want to think about it … I don’t blame people for wanting to disengage,” Rinck says. “I want people to pay attention to what’s happening, but…it’s a painful time and I think, you know, people don’t want to sit down to a panel. So we’re trying to incorporate some more fun and lighthearted events.”
The meme gallery will be co-sponsored by Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment (SASSE). This isn’t the first time Democracy Matters has worked alongside SASSE. In fact, Rinck makes a point to be involved with as many advocacy groups as she can.
“If there’s any sort of legacy I’ve left behind at SU, it’s been trying to bring together the activist community. I know all the club presidents, I know everything that they’re doing. We have a running facebook group so everyone can be in touch, like, ‘Oh, how can I support that? Oh, I can co-sponsor that film screening!’ It started my junior year when I organized a concert called Jammin’ for Justice. That was organized by Democracy Matters and that was the first time we brought all 12 activists together.”
In a political climate that constantly fosters questions from the public, Alexis Rinck brings honesty and patience to the discussion. Between her political understanding and passion for activism, Rinck is a leader that anyone — regardless of race, gender, age, and so on — can turn to for motivation, inspiration, and encouragement.