By Vanessa Willis, Staff Writer—
Universities are known to be a place for ideology, politics, and most importantly, the nation’s future leaders. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is no exception; its branch of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) consistently strives to publicly take a stand for what they believe in.
The UTC branch of YDSA was started in 2016 by five like-minded students with the goal being to organize student protests, promote working class liberation and defend democracy. Their specific targets on campus include campus police reform, ending invasive technology use, as well as offering better pay and conditions for campus workers. This year they also have an objective to properly reduce the spread of COVID-19.
They meet weekly through Zoom to discuss campus issues and oftentimes decide on their next campaign.
YDSA often take their issues to administration to discuss their views and what changes they would like to see. Vice President Evelina Kertay explained that, despite this relationship with campus administration, they often take action on their own.
“If we can, we work with administration as much as possible, but they often don’t want to work with us,” Kertay said. “So we have to push our demands through with things like protests, activism, and campaigns.”
This approach has proven effective for the organization, with recent success in removing charges for a UTC student that was accused of disorderly conduct during a protest. Additionally, Kertay believes that UTC YDSA has uplifted the morale of campus by reviving a sense of power among students.
“It’s returning the spirit of campus activism and shaking things up a little bit,” Kertay said. “There’s a really proud history of activism and some more institutional aspects have taken over. In a lot of ways more power has gone to the administration and has been taken away from students.”
UTC YDSA President Jennah Hyppolite also believes that the organization’s biggest goal is to empower students.
“On campus we try to protect the student’s best interests by representing them when they have a hard time representing themselves,” Hyppolite said. “Any time we have an action and can rally the students, it feels like a huge accomplishment, especially when we are able to organize on campus and can get students to come out and represent what they believe in.”
UTC YDSA is a branch of the national YDSA organization that similarly believes in student empowerment, equality, and justice. These are values that are promoted by campuses all over the U.S. In addition to their parent organization, UTC YDSA is also partnered with several organizations in the Chattanooga area like the Chattanooga DSA, the CCN Coalition, and campus workers unions.
For more information about UTC YDSA or to attend meetings, contact them through Instagram at @utc_ydsa.