Students organize first YDSA chapter in UK | New
A new political group has gone to the University of Kentucky. The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), a leftist political group, was organized by several British students.
YDSA is the student chapter of the national Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) organization and has a number of chapters across the country. The group is mainly active on the campuses of high schools, colleges and universities. DSA already has a chapter in Lexington, but this is the first time that a YDSA chapter has been successfully formed at the University of Kentucky.
“There is no left-wing voice on campus, either,” said Luke Ison, YDSA co-founder and second-year UK student.
The original group in the UK consisted of sixteen dues-paying members with around 50-65 affiliates and interested parties, and that number was steadily growing. The group is promoted in various ways on campus and online through flyers, word of mouth and social media.
“We want to give people a little direction and say ‘you are valued in a way that society doesn’t tell you,’ said Thomas Priest, who is a YDSA and junior member in the UK.
Their first steps included forming a constitution and recognition by the national YDSA as an official chapter. They had a few meetings of interest to the dues-paying members before planning the first official meeting for everyone.
YDSA has a GroupMe to which students interested in the group can be invited. Official members pay a monthly or annual membership fee; however, this is not required. Students from BCTC and University of Transylvania are also invited to join the chapter.
“Our aim is not to be a left-wing book club or a generic service organization,” continued Logan Kuegel, YDSA co-founder and second year student in the UK. “We want to be actively socialist and empower the community.”
General Assemblies are held on a Sunday every month at 6.30 p.m. on Zoom with specific project and education meetings every two weeks. Most activities are currently online due to the pandemic, but the group is working with the university to gain access to in-person meeting space next semester.
YDSA held its officer election a few weeks ago, after disbanding the organizing committee, which includes two co-chairs, a vice-president, a secretary and a treasurer. The group’s committees focus on issues such as political education, work and housing.
The group has already been involved in a number of projects around Lexington with several other left-wing organizations, such as the Lexington Housing & Justice Collective. The Lexington Tenants Union is a group that YDSA works closely with to help all tenants, including students, receive fair treatment in the city.
“College students are among the most exploited tenants there is. It is viewed by the owners as a very low risk business, ”Ison said.
The group’s other assignments include opening a conversation with the Black Students’ Union in the UK to discuss issues such as police brutality and inequality in the United States. It also includes dialogue and organizing protests with the United Campus Workers (UCW) in the UK.
Asked about the stigma surrounding socialism, the organizers shared their thoughts on what the word means to them.
“I think it means community empowerment, solidarity and action,” Kuegel said. “Many people are oppressed in many ways.”
“For me, one of the fundamental aspects of socialism is community,” Priest said. “It materializes in other things like creating a more sustainable world.”
According to YDSA, their general goals and principles include:
- Promote equality and justice through socialism on campus and in local communities.
- Educate and train YDSA members to prepare them for a life of organization in the service of a socialist future.
- To be a space of non-sectarian and anti-capitalist organization.