From its very inception to its recent revival, The Activist has always been about uplifting voices within our great organization. As we are often wont to say, The Activist is a publication by and for YDSA. That’s why we are always so keen on publicizing the amazing work our chapters do nationwide. In our third installment of The Activist newsletter, we bring to you a fresh round of chapter reports. If you haven’t already, please check out our first and second batch of chapter reports.
Don’t see your chapter included? Well, you’re in luck. We’re always accepting new submissions! All you need to do to submit a chapter report is fill out this form.
Without further ado, we hope you enjoy these dispatches from our dear friends at…
YDSA Georgia Tech
Submitted by Ruby H.
Georgia Tech YDSA has been vigilantly keeping up and disseminating information relating to campus coordination in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have released a statement pressuring campus administration to allow housing to stay open for all students who can’t return home. We have been working diligently to keep students informed about housing, releasing a press release directing students on how to move out of their housing if they choose to, how to change the date of their move-out, as many were assigned move out dates 24 hours after being notified, and highlighting that they are not being evicted on any terms; students can stay in their dorms, and it is illegal for GT to evict them without a court order, regardless of the intimidating tone of Georgia Tech’s president and Housing Department, as they pressure students to move home as to not be liable for an outbreak on campus. Our Home Park residents, the neighborhood north of campus where many GT students live, have been organizing a grocery pool, where some volunteers take the lists of residents in the area and pick up their groceries for them, free of charge besides reimbursement for the groceries bought. What is important to note is that there has been plenty of chaos in every GT email sent out to students, and administration has not been helpful or comforting in this process; YDSA GT has been the active party trying to clear up inconsistencies and provide as much support and information as we can during these times, and has received much praise for our efforts.
Knox College YDSA
Submitted by Soleil S
Greetings comrades! I know I am not alone in this disappointment as many of our campuses move courses online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a senior at my college, and as a founding member of the Knox College YDSA, seeing all our plans for next dissipate in just one email was a feeling I wouldn’t wish on any organizer. However, in the face of all this, the work we do as socialists has never been more important. This is our chance to show our politics in action. That’s why we put together a mutual aid fund for the entirety of our campus community –– students, faculty, and staff –– the night we heard many of our jobs would be gone. Together we raised $2,000, surpassing the $1,000 goal we had originally set. This money has gone to help members of our community manage groceries, medical bills, and rent costs while we scramble to piece our lives back together. It’s shown the power we can give each other when we fight for each other. That’s why we later began a petition to push five demands at our school: to refund room and board fees, to cover pay for the term of all workers laid off or furloughed during the period of the campus’s closure, to provide what legal, financial, and academic resources needed by our international and undocumented community members, and to freeze tuition and increase available scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year. This has been a fantastic lesson in organizing together remotely, helping us improve upon necessities like good delegation, communication, and fleshing out the concept of solidarity within our community itself, and try out new, remote tactics. Allowing fear and sadness to tame our passions and collapse along with Neoliberalism is not an option!
New York University YDSA
Submitted by Jake C ([email protected])
NYU’s mismanaging of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with its location at the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak, has put our peers, faculty, and staff in danger. Shortly after we switched to remote instruction, NYU evicted all of its students from on-campus housing, granting few exceptions. Following this announcement, the NYU COVID Coalition was formed. Initially consisting of NYU YDSA, the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, and NYU Sanctuary (a student-faculty group), the coalition has come to include student government, departmental organizations, and groups representing thousands of students and faculty members across campus. In order to strengthen our campaign, the coalition is also working to identify more students and groups organizing around COVID to expand the coalition and avoid replicating work.
The coalition’s pressure campaign is already proving to be successful. While the university refuses to acknowledge pressure from student groups, NYU has agreed to pay paraprofessional staff the money they are owed and expand access to the emergency fund to all students. As we advocate for the rest of our demands we hold regular calls to discuss escalation tactics, and have different students and organizations focusing on different parts of our platform. Thus far we have emailed and textbanked students to get involved, sent hundreds of emails to NYU administrators, and advocated for our demands in meetings with administrators at all levels of the university. Moving forward we are planning a virtual week of action, including online teach-ins about NYU’s response to the crisis and the work we are doing, and building towards a university-wide sick-out from students and faculty. NYU has a responsibility to utilize the tens of billions of dollars it controls in assets and its endowment to protect students and workers — and we are committed to fighting to ensure that it does.
Alma College YDSA
Submitted by Atulya D-L
This semester Alma College’s YDSA chapter began taking more assertive steps to promote the principles of democratic socialism on our campus. We hosted several political education events open to the entire student body that were both comprehensive and well-attended. We were able to do fun events, such as hosting a viewing and discussion of the film Parasite. We were also able to do somber events, such as inviting a representative from R.I.S.E. Advocacy (an advocacy organization for survivors of intimate partner violence) to talk about how financial abuse manifests in most cases of domestic violence. When President Trump started agitations with Iran we worked together as a chapter to create an anti-war banner to hang in the plaza of our campus and set up a panel of professors for an open dialogue on the imperial history of the United States in the Middle East. Finally, Alma YDSA increased the frequency of our tabling sessions due to our growing membership. These included providing tea and food to students before exams as well as registering over one hundred students for absentee ballots ahead of the March Presidential Primary. Now that our semester has been cut short due to Covid-19, we are moving our meetings online to read political theory together as well as help each other perform mutual aid in our respective communities.
University of Michigan YDSA
Submitted by Elias K
Prior to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, our chapter focused much of its efforts this semester on community education. For example, we continued to hold our weekly socialist reading group. February was especially eventful for us. We began the month by partnering with Stand With Kashmir to organize a teach-in to raise awareness of the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against the Kashmiri people at the hands of the far right, Hindu nationalist Indian state. A couple of weeks later, we hosted a book talk by USC professor and DSA-LA member Paul S. Adler on his newest bestseller, The 99 Percent Economy: How Democratic Socialism Can Overcome the Crises of Capitalism. The presentation was followed by an engaging discussion in which Adler, our chapter, and other community activists partook in a constructive exchange of ideas regarding how to understand our current political context and how we can work together to bring our vision of collective liberation to fruition. Both of these events were well-attended and went off without a hitch. What these experiences taught us is that education is at its best when it is democratic. That is, learning is both most fruitful and most enjoyable when, rather than being lectured at, interested individuals are able to pool their intellectual talents and work through problems as a group to try to reach solutions that benefit us all. Going forward, our chapter hopes to hold more of these kinds of events.
Kenyon College YDSA
Submitted by Nick B and Katya N
This semester, Kenyon YDSA formed a Labor Working Group to build on our on-campus labor activism. Before classes were cancelled, we were planning on forming a student-labor coalition between progressive student organizations and Kenyon’s maintenance unions. As part of this work, we are pushing for a student-labor representative on our Student Council. In addition, our Labor Working Group led a presentation on the importance of organized labor in the Green New Deal. Our chapter also hosted Chris Howell, Professor of Politics at Oberlin College, for a guest lecture on “Regulating Labor in the Neoliberal Era.” In January, Kenyon YDSA formed a Reproductive Rights working group. We studied the reproductive rights in our immediate community, state, and nationally (we would like to expand to international focus). We promoted on-campus action and awareness by hosting a letter writing event to our Ohio representatives against the Heartbeat Bills and other anti-abortion rhetoric in legislation. We were planning an event with the Planned Parenthood Club educating Kenyon students about on-campus insurance and local resources. We attend the bi-monthly DSA Mass Strike for Reproductive Justice Zoom calls and will continue through the semester. We also hope to expand to be a Socialist Feminist working group. Kenyon YDSA has also focused on political education concerning the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. In early January, we attended a GND Town Hall in Columbus, OH hosted by OSU Students for Bernie and Sunrise Columbus. In late January, we hosted a Denison economics professor Fadhel Kaboub for a GND Town Hall at Kenyon. Between these events, our GND Working Group led a presentation breaking down the GND for Public Housing Act. In February, we hosted Dr. Jonathon Ross, the former president of the Physicians for a National Health Program, for a town hall on Medicare for All.
YDSA at UC Santa Cruz
Submitted by Nathaneal V
Over the past year, the YDSA at UC Santa Cruz has been involved in a variety of projects and campaigns on our campus and in our community. As some of you have no doubt heard, UC Santa Cruz has been the focal point in the fight to secure a cost-of-living-adjustment for graduate students in both the University of California system and across the United States, with our graduate students engaging in a wildcat strike that is spreading to other campuses across California. Our chapter’s members have been incredibly active in helping this movement, with several acting as legal observers during rallies and pickets, assisting in takeovers of campus dining halls so as to provide free food for those on campus who lack access to it, and maintaining a strong undergraduate presence at the picket to show support for the graduate students who are integral to our university. We have also been engaged in our local city elections as well, fighting against real estate and landlord interference in our fight to have affordable housing in Santa Cruz and provide for the houseless community in our city, as well as turning out the vote for Bernie Sanders in the California primary. Finally, we recently began to work on starting a campaign to decriminalize sex work in the city of Santa Cruz. Though this idea is still in its early stages, we are working to build a strong coalition on our campus and in the community so as to build a truly powerful movement here in Santa Cruz.
College of Charleston YDSA
Submitted by Violet S ([email protected])
Over the last several semesters our chapter has been engaged in a Get out the Vote campaign to increase voter participation from young people at the College of Charleston. We organized several voter registration drives on our campus tabling and talking to people about the role of voting as a way of mitigating some excesses of capitalism and why Bernie Sanders’ campaign represented the best opportunity for strengthening the political power of American labor. What we learned through this process was that many people, specifically people who feel a sort of directionless anger at the pain caused by capitalism, are very receptive to arguments when delivered through specific policies and impacts. Rather than talking about abstract political theory, we were able to appeal to people by simply asking them about issues they were having. We let them speak and we listened to what they were going through. Student debt, medical expenses, aging parents and grandparents; all were able to be discussed through an anti-capitalist lens. We were able to bring up specific talking points the Sanders campaign was bringing into the forefront as a way to get people talking about the impact that capitalism has been having on their lives and what can be done to change it.
Submitted by Jake J
This year Columbia-Barnard YDSA has been busy building up the socialist movement on Columbia and Barnard’s campuses. From getting official school and DSA recognition, to growing our membership and email listserv by orders of magnitude, it’s been a heartening moment for socialists and leftists on our campus. In an attempt to bring leftist organizations on campus closer together, we organized a coordination meeting in order to set up a “leftist calendar” for students and organizations to consult and to encourage co-sponsoring of events. We have held weekly canvasses to help elect Bernie Sanders in 2020, engaging hundreds of students and community residents alike, and collaborated with City College YDSA on a canvass of public housing in Harlem over the winter break. We also held political education meetings to discuss Bhaskar Sunkara’s The ABCs of Socialism, Jane McAlevey’s No Shortcuts, and A Planet to Win: Why We Need A Green New Deal. One of our members, Luca Provenzano, led helpful weekly training sessions on how to have structured organizing conversations. When Columbia refused to bargain in good faith with graduate workers, our members were proud to be there and lend a hand in solidarity. Some of our OC members even penned a wonderful op-ed in our school newspaper in support of the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC) Union, decrying the poor contract conditions of many workers, and advocating for the adoption of the union’s demands (particularly on recourse for harassment and discrimination and healthcare). Our chapter also put on many illuminating guest speaker events, such as a conversation with AOC’s former campaign manager Vigie Ramos. Even the unfortunate pandemic outbreak has not shaken our resolve to organize. We orchestrated a zoom panel discussion with our own OC member Ben Serby, NYC DSA co-chair Chi Anunwa, and national Medicare for All steering committee member Christie Offenbacher on the necessity of Medicare for All. Though in person organizing and canvassing is no longer an option, our organization looks forward to doing even more in the future.
Submitted by Baxter ([email protected])
YDSA at Cornell spent much of this past fall semester trying to create a coalition of activists on campus. Before this semester, there was little cross organizational support between progressive groups on campus, even though many students on campus were interested in activism and groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and Climate Justice Cornell were both leading divestment campaigns. To fight this trend, YDS at Cornell founded our magazine Class Consciousness, which has contributions from a wide array of left-wing student organizations, and helped found the Coalition for Democracy at Cornell, a partnership of left-wing student orgs working to democratize Cornell. YDS at Cornell is also continuing our effort to unionize student workers at dining halls, canvassing for Bernie with Ithaca DSA, and campaigning with Climate Justice Cornell to force Cornell to divest from fossil fuels. Many of these campaigns have largely ended since the COVID-19 crisis, but we look forward to continuing them with new members next fall! Since the cancellation of classes, many of our members have been working on developing the Ithaca Mutual Aid Society which has successfully begun helping people in the community both financially and through personal assistance. This last semester saw the largest membership in YDS at Cornell’s history and we plan to continue organizing virtually for local campaigns during this crisis.