New Beginning for Democratic Socialists at ABAC

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Students, faculty, and community members lined out the door in February in anticipation for the interest meeting of a new club on campus.

The Young Democratic Socialists of America held their first interest meeting in a Bowen building classroom approved to accommodate 20 people due to COVID-19 polices. By the start of the meeting, close to 35 students, faculty, and even alumni were present, including Dr. Russell Pryor who is the club advisor and Dean of Students Bernice Hughes. The excess people stood in the hallway in order to stay within the COVID parameters set by the school.

Jared Roach, founder and president of the club, is a senior pursuing a  bachelor’s in Social and Community Development and a bachelor’s in History and Government.

Jared is the former president of the ABAC Democrats.

In his degree programs, Jared is known to be studious and always willing to help other students. He is also a teacher’s assistant for Dr. Eric Larson’s Intro to Sociology class. Before starting his college career, Jared already identified as a democratic person and was unsure how accepting the  ABAC community would be to those views.

The Young Democratic Socialists of America is a subsection of the Democratic Socialists of America. Since the 2008 election the organization has grown exponentially to over 85,000 members and 181 chapters with the endorsement of Bernie Sanders.

The Stallion conducted an interview with Jared Roach. The substance of that interview is presented here:

The Stallion: You received some backlash on social media. How do you feel about that and why do you think people had that kind of reaction?

Jared Roach: Going into forming this club, we all new that we would face backlash at some point. “Socialism” is still a scare word for many. However, we feel that the perception of socialism that many people have, is often a historical misrepresentation. When people think “socialism,” they instantly imagine a world in which everything is controlled by the government. No freedom, no democracy, no opportunity to even live a decent life. But in its truest form, socialism is about putting the needs of the people first. It’s about having a government that is responsible to its citizens. It’s about providing healthcare, education, and other basic services as a right, not a privilege. And most importantly, it’s about creating a society in which everyone is valued and in which living a good life doesn’t just depend on your income. When we say that we support democratic socialism, we mean that we support policies that make people’s lives better. That’s what we’re about. So, we understood why many people had that reaction, but we also knew that there was an opportunity for us to reframe the conversation and offer a different vision.

Democratic Socialism is a political philosophy supporting political democracy within a socially owned economy, with a particular emphasis on economic democracy, workplace democracy, and workers’ self-management within a market socialist economy or some form of a decentralized planned socialist economy.

This means that it is more of a focus on the wellbeing of the people and public control of the economy.

The general goals and ideals of the Young Democratic Socialists include:

•Spreading and teaching what democratic socialism is.

  Lobbying for policies such as universal healthcare and college for all.

• Keeping an active role in the community by completing community service.

•Combatting misinformation in the community on what democratic socialism is.

Socialism has gotten a bad connotation due to historical abuse of the system such as the USSR and Stalin. The goal of democratic socialism is closer to systems such as Norway, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Jared then went on to explain that the ABAC Democrats and the Young Democratic Socialists of America are two separate political entities.

The Stallion: What is your response to the social media backlash?

Jared Roach: Educate those people on democracy and socialism later going to say Going into forming this club, we all knew that we would face a backlash at some point. “Socialism” is still a scare word for many. However, we feel that the perception of socialism that many people have, is often a historical misrepresentation.

The Stallion: You mentioned wanting more freedom, that is not something I normally hear with socialism can you explain?

Jared Roach: Freedom and the right to a better life through improved infrastructure such as creating economic equality. Our ideals are not to take something from one person and give it to another. Our goals are progressive taxation that can create a redistribution of wealth.

The Stallion: Who would receive the free college?

Jared Roach: The federal goal is a national program such as the H.O.P.E scholarship.

The Stallion: Why did you move from being the president of the ABAC democrats to YDSA?

Jared Roach: Great question. So, before coming to ABAC, I already considered myself to be on the left politically. I had long disagreed with the conservative views held by those on the right, but I was also frustrated by the Democratic Party’s lack of commitment to any real change. I had also just become a member of DSA and I knew that I wanted to start a YDSA chapter on campus at some point in the future. Realizing that I needed to get a lot of other students to sign on in order to form the chapter kinda took me off of the idea. I really thought that I was the only “leftist” on campus at the time.

So, I decided to join the ABAC Democrats because it was the only club on campus that best represented my politics. Being president of the ABAC Democrats definitely gave me a lot of experience in building and running a club, but I didn’t consider myself to be a Democrat by any means. It was only after organizing around Bernie Sanders’ second presidential run in the spring of 2020 that I realized that there were many other students on campus who shared my views. So that was the moment when I decided, “Okay, now it’s time to build a chapter!”

The Stallion: Are you happy with the turnout?

Jared Roach: I am definitely happy with the turnout. After spreading the word about the meeting on campus, we’d received a lot of positive feedback and I think there were a lot of students who were very excited about getting involved. And I even think that those who disagreed with our politics were just as interested to learn more. In total, we had at least thirty students show up, maybe more. As a new, openly socialist student organization at ABAC, that was a proud moment for us.

The Stallion: Is there a statement said at the meeting that was particularly memorable for you?

Jared Roach: When I was trying to answer questions at the end of the meeting, I remember explaining our main goal for the chapter as we move forward, which is to open up a discussion around democratic socialism on campus. One student said that, although he didn’t accept socialism, he did think that there should be more discussion around politics on campus. That was sort of a breakthrough moment for me. Like “Yes! That’s exactly what we’re trying to do!”. We’re not here to impose our politics on students, we’re here to open up a discussion about how things can be changed for the better.

For the next meeting, Jared has plans of booking a larger room to accommodate the number of attendees and looks forward to the growth of the club.

Other people who attended the meeting seemed interested in learning more about democratic socialism and organizing a civil open stage political debate.

Jared is excited to see where the club will go from here as he is soon to pass the torch on to the next generation of ABAC students.

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