Fall semester chapter reports

Featuring Middle Tennessee, Knox, UMich, Georgia State, and Virginia Tech.

Middle Tennessee State University

Our YDSA chapter here at Middle TN State has had a fantastic semester, especially when considering that this is our very first semester in existence. Our growth has been quite exciting. At the beginning of the semester, there were only six of us. Just enough to form a leadership board and get official status with the school. Today, we are at 42 members and growing! In addition to our board of officers, we have formed taskforces for election work, mutual aid efforts, theory discussion, direct action, and more.

Our election efforts yielded many fruits with two of the elections we worked on coming within single digits and having one major success in elected a socialist to the city council in a neighboring city with the help of several members of our larger DSA in the area. We also executed a very successful clothing drive through our mutual aid team and planned a significant rally through our direct action team which featured an array of speakers and musical guests.

Our many successes are the result of several hard-working young organizers within our rank and the heavily democratic method through which we organize our efforts. They are also aided by collaboration with many other local and campus groups. We look forward to a bright future of organizing for a better world and extend our comradery to the many other chapters of YDSA around the nation.

Brendon Donoho

Knox College

From our Abolitionist Working Group efforts, to our Socialist Feminist Working Group efforts, to our various events, our chapter has been hard at work this term. 

The Abolitionist Working Group started a campaign to have members sign up with various organizations, such as the Black and Pink, to be matched with pen pals in prison. They have also been collaborating with Parole Illinois, a organization campaigning for a bill that aims to introduce discretionary parole legislation in the state of Illinois. Our members wrote letters to our legislator in support of this bill. We were also very proud to have two of our comrades previously published in The Activist.

Their article, titled “2020 Has Shown Us the Future of Democratic Socialism,” is the guiding document for our Abolitionist Working Group. 

Our Events Planning Working Group held our annual Socialize with a Socialist event, and even though it couldn’t be in person, we still had an enjoyable time chatting and learning more about socialism. There were five different breakout rooms based on themes where people could talk: Socialism 101, Socialism and Feminism, Ecosocialism, Socialism and the Workplace, and Democrats and Elections. The Socialist Feminist Working Group of YDSA created a space to bring new light to issues related to sexual assault arising on campus. We held two meetings in which students could voice their concerns and share their stories if they wanted to. We are also working on compiling a list of demands to present to the administration, who has not done all that they can.  

Lastly, we held a homecoming event on October 25th that four of our alumni attended. We played games, like Among Us and online Pictionary, as well as a fun Kahoot created by one of our members. It was a nice time that reminded us solidarity truly is forever.

Anna Neubauer

University of Michigan

Recently, my chapter hosted Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs magazine for a speech and Q&A. The event was held over Zoom webinar, and was attended by YDSA members from across the country. Robinson touched on many different topics, but put a special focus on the role of youth-led organizations like YDSA in building a robust post-Bernie Left. Needless to say, this was very appropriate given the audience.

But my chapter could not have pulled off this event on our own. Three co-sponsors helped us out along the way: Huron Valley DSA, Sunrise Ann Arbor, and Done Waiting. We are endlessly grateful for their assistance and support. It is always wonderful to partner with other left-wing organizations. When progressives come together, we can accomplish great things.

Elias Khoury

Georgia State University

Like every other campus, YDSA at GSU was hit hard by the pandemic. Our (very) young chapter’s organizing capacity became severely limited, and required an overhaul to remain functional.  We reorganized the structure of our chapter, elected new leadership, and created social media accounts that connected students to food, housing, and Covid 19 PPE resources.

The new digital heart of our organization became Discord, due to its group call features. Here we were able to hold weekly meetings, study Marxist works collectively, and create agitprop to galvanize the student population. In our weekly book club, known as Red Readers, we analyze all manner of Marxist texts. From small pamphlets to Capital (which we are currently reading). Red Readers informs the actions we take at local protests and rallies, and has strengthened the solidarity within the chapter. We are also currently working to complete our first magazine issue, help register local voters for the all important Senate runoff campaigns in Georgia, and assist the university’s campus workers in pursuing better working conditions. 

Our chapter has recently set up working groups to provide mutual aid to struggling students and to pressure the current and incoming university president to lower tuition costs. YDSA GSU’s second semester in existence has been tumultuous, but the progress made and the strong foundation that we’ve laid will propel the chapter to greatness in the future.

Caris Ruffin

Virginia Tech

This past semester, YDSA at Virginia Tech has been working hard to force our university to take stronger actions to help the students, staff, and faculty during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

After a summer filled with political education and student outreach, we decided to put what we learned to the test and start pressure campaigns against Virginia Tech. We crafted a petition with eleven demands, some of which were met by the university to varying degrees of success. We also had a letter campaign demanding the university to allow students to have the Credit/No Credit grading option, which sent a total of over 2,200 letters to twelve different administrators, including the university President, Provost, and Dean of Students. In the meantime, we started our Welcoming Committee to improve how we receive and educate new members. 

There is still a lot for our chapter to accomplish in the coming semester and the aftermath of the Pandemic. The university will undoubtedly try to force the narrative that Virginia Tech had an effective response to the Pandemic, even though there are over 1,770 COVID-19 cases between August and the end of the Fall semester. Tuition prices stayed constant, despite most classes being online. Housing and Resident Life relocated dozens of students mid-semester to make more space for quarantine dorms. Dining Services stopped giving raises to many of its workers. These are just a preview of the various measures Virginia Tech has taken to cut costs and keep its reputation intact. 

Students and workers are bearing the brunt of the austerity measures and incompetence that universities around the country have shown during the pandemic. We must hold university administrations accountable for their blatant disregard of the welfare of the students, workers, and communities that allow such institutions to exist; failure to do so would return the American university system to its unsustainable and restrictive status quo. 

— Austin LaVigne

What has your chapter been doing? YDSA members: we want to hear from you! Short chapter reports or longer articles can be submitted to [email protected]. Read more here.