Report from YDSA Conference

The YDSA Convention was held on August 5th, 2017 during the 2017 DSA National Convention at University of Illinois-Chicago. This was an historic YDSA Convention in many ways, and was altogether a great success!

Ajmal Alami & Michelle Fisher, 2017-2018 YDSA National Co-Chairs

We endorsed the College for All Act with provisions for developing a grassroots campaign toward free and fully funded public higher education. We passed an incredibly developed plan for new programs for DSA-YDSA mutual mentorship, political development, and active campaigning work in local chapters. We adopted a new constitution that will strengthen the structures and internal democracy in a number of key ways. Tying all this together, we changed our name to YDSA, symbolizing our commitment to working closely with DSA and bringing a united perspective to campuses around the country.

We also elected an all new YDS leadership that is the most diverse in the history of our youth section. The National Coordinating Committee for 2017-2018 includes comrades from the coasts, south, and midwest. Our national leaders are represent varying genders and racial/ethnic backgrounds. This is also possibly the first national elected body for DSA ever to have no white men serving on it. More importantly than all that, every member is extremely talented, with a variety of perspectives and a genuine desire to build our organization. You can read more about each of the NCC members here!

None of this would be possible without the tremendous dedication and labor of our prior YDSA leaders and Ryan Mosgrove, the YDSA Campus Organizer. Our work is collective, and we succeed or fail always together. There is a bright future for the American youth movement if we are prepared to build it.

Socialism will win.

 

Activist Agenda

From Campus Drive to Campus Section

by Spencer Brown, Spencer Brown, Wesleyan Democratic Socialists

YDS should use the National Fall Campus Drive as an opportunity to regroup and build itself organizationally. After this, it will be an organization ready to be the leftist alternative to capitalism on campuses. There are two parts to this shift: 1). Increasing member participation and identification with YDS. 2). Bringing YDS organizationally closer to DSA. Part 1 can be achieved through stronger chapter guidelines and resource support with a renewed emphasis on communication between rank-and-file members and the elected leadership. Part two can be achieved through developing relationships with DSA locals during the Fall Campus Drive and having YDS adopt a campus-revised version of DSA national priorities moving forward.

Context: We Are DSA

All too often, YDS activists get asked the question, “why organize as YDS?” Today, this question has a clear answer and that is “DSA.” The tremendous growth of DSA nationally since the November election is source of great hope and excitement for us all.

It cannot be forgotten that we too are DSA. Just as DSA is growing and changing, so too is YDS. That is why we need to use the Activist Agenda as an opportunity to update the organization and respond to the needs of current conditions.

Right now, our issues are primarily internal. Whereas before YDS was superficially separate from DSA all while being held afloat by large amounts of national staff time, we need to bring  YDS closer to DSA through increasing the level of member participation and control. This necessitates a higher level of time commitment to specifically YDS. An updated incarnation of YDS must avoid the perennial “doughnut hole problem,” where YDS members build the various coalition groups around them without sufficiently building the “center”—YDS itself.

The upcoming National Fall Campus Drive can serve as the starting point of this long-term project, and the YDS 2017 Vision Statement discusses theses issues in greater detail. There are several proposed changes in that document that would help create a more cohesive national campus organization moving forward. One of these changes is renaming our organization Democratic Socialists of America: Student Section (DSAS) and encouraging chapters to omit the word “young” in their chapter names.

As DSA’s official youth section, DSA’s national priorities should be our own priorities. That is why, instead of an Activist Agenda, we should plan on adopting a revised, campus version of the DSA national priorities moving forward. This will also make for a stronger Fall Campus Drive, recruiting members around a campaign being more effective than organizing around ideology.

Good communication is key in any relationship, and few things are more important than the relationships we build between our activists locally, regionally, and nationwide. For the Fall Campus Drive to be successful, better communication between chapters and YDS national will be critical. For this reason, this Activist Agenda proposes bi-weekly communications between YDS chapter chairs and national leadership, whether it be staff, a different YDS chapter leader, or a member of the Coordinating Committee. The Fall Campus Drive should also serve as the impetus for developing deeper contacts and relations with nearby DSA locals.

Goals:

1).  The successful execution of the YDS Fall Campus Drive, with the goal of doubling the number of YDS chapters and recruiting 1000 new YDS members.

2). Have chapters ready for the changes called for by the 2017 Vision Statement (if they are passed during the summer conference). Any constitutional amendments will take effect on Jan. 1st, 2018. This gives chapters the fall semester to prepare for the changes.

3). Have any chapters that still have “Young” in their name remove it by Jan. 1st, 2018.

4).  Increase communication and collaboration between chapters and national elected leadership, and also between the various individual chapters. An important component of this is regular, bi-weekly contact and mentorship between the various elected leaders.

5). Plan on having future Activist Agendas be a campus-revised version of the DSA National Priorities Resolution, and have increased communication between YDS chapters and their local DSA chapters during the Fall Campus Drive. Mentorship between DSA and YDS chapter leaders is an important part of this communication.

 

Endorse College for All

by Xander Berenstein, University of Oregon YDS

WHEREAS, Universal access to education without cost from preschool through graduate study and adult education should be considered a right rather than a privilege in our society and;

WHEREAS, a right to education includes the right to learn what is necessary to advance people’s careers but also;

WHEREAS, education includes fully developing people’s ability to participate in a democratic society. And;

WHEREAS, The freedom to study widely and without fear of debt in college and university is a critical part of gaining a full education and;

WHEREAS, the right to education and higher education in particular has already been at least partially recognized in many societies – especially in Western Europe. Universities in Germany, Finland, and other developed countries already provide tuition-free higher education not only to their own citizens, but to foreign students as well, including from the United States.

WHEREAS, in the United States today higher education is a privilege guaranteed only to upper middle class students whose parents can afford to cover the cost.

WHEREAS, out‐of‐control tuition and other costs are increasingly creating obstacles to accessing higher education for everyone else.

WHEREAS, the success of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign on a platform including tuition-free public higher education indicates that not only is the subject of publicly funded education in the mainstream of political discourse in the United States, but that there is significant energy and momentum behind it.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) endorse US Senate Bill S. 806 - College for All Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, and will work to spread awareness of the bill.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that YDS will create and distribute educational materials advocating for free and fully-funded higher education for YDS chapters and at-large members to distribute while tabling, canvassing, or other actions and;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that YDS will create and distribute training materials for YDS chapters and at-large members to call their US representatives. Training materials will also be made available for chapters to canvass and/or phonebank their communities with asks to call their US representatives and;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that YDS will look into forming coalitions with mass-movement organizations around the issue of publicly-funded education.

 

For Strengthened Leadership and Organizing Skills

by Michelle Fisher, Wesleyan Democratic Socialists

WHEREAS accountability is key to any volunteer organization, including YDS, achieving its goals and tasks and;

WHEREAS every dues-paying YDS member is also a full member of DSA but;

WHEREAS there is no existing framework for mentorship of YDS leaders or DSA-YDS chapter relations and;

WHEREAS DSA has begun piloting national organizing trainings including at the 2017 People’s Summit and 2017 DSA National Convention and;

WHEREAS an annual Activist Agenda has been voted on at the past several YDS Summer Conferences to serve as YDS’s National Organizing Priority

WHEREAS the YDS Coordinating Committee “directs the activities, fundraising, publications, education, general political direction and coalition work of YDS” and;

WHEREAS the Coordinating Committee is empowered to “appoint such committees as it deems necessary to supervise specific work” and;

WHEREAS the Coordinating Committee currently holds monthly leadership video calls on Google Hangouts to connect members and relay information from the Coordinating Committee and national staff and;

WHEREAS Google Hangouts limits call size in such a way that not all leaders are able to attend the monthly calls but;

WHEREAS Discord provides free, secure, and unlimited voice chat servers on desktop and mobile devices, with features that make it easy for a moderator to take stack and facilitate a large call.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NCC will appoint a Mutual Mentorship Committee (as outlined in Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution). The Mentorship Committee shall be charged with the following responsibilities:

  • Establish and oversee the following framework for existing and new YDS Chapter mentorship in conjunction with the appropriate DSA Chapter leadership as follows:

    • The Mutual Mentorship Committee will identify and contact every DSA Local or Organizing Committee located near a YDS chapter to establish a position or working group with the purpose of strengthening DSA-YDS relations at the local level and providing in-person mutual mentorship to local YDS Chapter leaders.

    • The Mutual Mentorship Committee will identify and connect leaders of YDS Chapters without a DSA Local or OC nearby with another experienced organizer who is able to mentor them (preferably in-person, but otherwise remotely, determined on a case-by-case basis by the Mentorship Committee).

    • Where there are multiple YDS Chapters in one place (i.e. multiple college chapters in one city), the committee will facilitate initial communication between YDS Chapter leaders and the local DSA Chapter or OC to encourage cooperation and collaboration between all branches of YDS and DSA in the area.

  • Serve as the point of contact for questions and concerns about mutual mentorship.

  • Prepare and distribute quarterly reports on the state of YDS-DSA chapter relations and YDS leader mutual mentorship to the NCC.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NCC will appoint an Activist Agenda Committee (as outlined in Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution) which shall be charged with the following responsibilities:

  • Create and distribute an “Organizing How-To Guide” around the issue which is voted to be the 2017-2018 Activist Agenda, including step-by-step instructions on how to plan and execute a campaign for the Activist Agenda.

  • Serve as the primary point of contact for questions about the Activist Agenda from YDS Chapters.

  • Prepare and distribute quarterly progress reports on the Activist Agenda including what work has been done on the national and chapter levels to the NCC.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NCC will appoint an Organizing Training Committee (as outlined in Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution) which shall be charged with the following responsibilities:

  • Work in conjunction with Hannah Allison (the DSA Travelling Organizer), Ryan Mosgrove (the YDS Student Organizer), and any other relevant parties to create Regional and Digital YDS Organizing Trainings based on feedback from YDS Chapter leaders

  • Analyze membership and chapter data to determine the dates and locations of Regional trainings based on criteria including but not limited to: ease of travel, cost of venue, proximity to existing national YDS events and conventions (location and date).

  • Identify and recruit potential YDS members who could facilitate Digital YDS Organizing Trainings on the monthly YDS Leadership Calls or on other occasions.

  • Identify and recruit potential YDS members who could facilitate Regional YDS Organizing Trainings (preferably members located near the locations of the trainings).

  • Prepare and distribute quarterly progress reports including such information as a projected schedule of trainings to be executed over the next three years, sample syllabi for the trainings, and budget proposals to the NCC.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) make the following provisions for all future monthly leadership calls:

  • Change hosting platforms from Google Hangouts to Discord, effective immediately

  • Work with the Organizing Training Committee (detailed above) to incorporate Digital YDS Organizing Trainings into the agenda of monthly leadership calls, which should go into effect by January 2018

  • Communicate the information from committee reports (including those detailed above) to YDS Chapter Leaders

  • Collect feedback from Chapter Leaders and disseminate it to the appropriate committees/staff/NCC members

  • Identify and recruit Chapter Leaders who could facilitate small political education modules each month on the leadership calls


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