The YDSA club organizes campaigns, rallies, speaker events, and more — but what is it?
In fact, the club is a chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), a version of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) specifically geared towards high school and college students. There have been a few different versions of the YDSA at Reed over the years, but the current one was established in 2021. The club has participated in national DSA events, such as helping to organize the Reproductive Rights Day of Action last semester, in conjunction with the national DSA day of action.
DSA is a widely varying institution, with many different facets and branches of socialism coming together under the banner of the DSA in order to pursue shared goals. “It’s not that I agree with everything that national leadership says and does, it’s because we have the most potential as an organization to enact change,” says Spencer Mann, one of the chair members of the YDSA club on campus. “DSA is not a political monolith.”
As a group advocating for social justice and change, it is important to ensure different perspectives and voices are included — and at a predominantly white institution (PWI), it’s especially important that marginalized voices are heard. Working with this awareness, the YDSA club implements a strategy called “progressive stacking.” In order to contribute to a discussion, members join a “stack” and wait for their turn to speak. With progressive stacking, layers of marginalization and identities are factored into the speaking time for the individual, allowing people from more marginalized groups to have a greater voice.
The fact does not change, however, that Reed is a PWI. “It’s important to avoid tokenization,” says Mann, “we don’t want to put an increased burden on people or marginalized identities to fill roles that they might not have time to or want to participate in.”
For new members uncertain whether they know enough to contribute, Mann says not to worry. “It’s a totally open environment, most people are just beginning their journey into socialist politics,” they said, “People are really coming from all different experiences.” There is no required reading level to attend the meetings, though there are reading groups available to join within the club itself.
According to Mann, the club promotes learning by doing. “We want people to get in there and try out new things – whether that’s speaking up in a meeting or talking to people on campus about socialism.” Club meetings typically consist of reading groups, political discussions, and the occasional speaker from Portland DSA, or the broader socialist movement. The debates, Spencer says, “are tied to tangible actions and meaning.”
If you’re interested in checking out the YDSA, the group hosts open meetings every Thursday at 7pm in PAB room 332. You can reach out to them on Twitter (@YDSAReed), Instagram (@reed_ydsa), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By L Urena