Tampa Bay SDS wins major victory in their Increase Black Enrollment campaign
August 9th, 2020
Tampa, Fl - On August 4, the president of the University of South Florida (USF) released a statement to the public announcing changes being made to improve Black student life. Some of these changes include demands that Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) brought to USF administration through their Increase Black Enrollment campaign.
In the fall of 2019, after a string of white supremacist activity on campus as well as the lowest proportion of black students at USF in a decade, Tampa Bay SDS launched their Increase Black Enrollment campaign to put pressure on USF administration to make the university more accessible to Black students.
While the campaign was initially met with hostility from USF administration - with claims that USF did not have the funds to start recruitment programs and that it is not the university’s responsibility to deal with racism on campus - they have recently changed their tune.
After a year-long campaign, as well as increasing pressure from Tampa Bay SDS and other organizations such as the Black Student Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, USF administration allocated funds for programs aimed at increasing Black enrollment. The president of USF announced that they are starting an expansive recruitment program and a guaranteed admission program for local, majority-Black high schools in addition to creating more scholarships for Black students – all demands from the Tampa Bay SDS campaign.
“We hope that these changes will make the university more accessible to Black students and will increase the number of Black students at USF. Since the fall semester has not started yet, and there is still a lack of Black faculty and counselors, we will continue to hold the university accountable to eliminate racism on campus,” said a member of Tampa Bay SDS.
Florida State students host call-in day, slave-owner statue removed once again
July 24th, 2020
Tallahassee, FL - On July 23, The FSU chapter of Students for a Democratic Society held a call-in day demanding the administration immediately remove a statue honoring slave-owner Francis Eppes, and the immediate renaming of several buildings located on campus that are named after slave owners and segregationists. The statue of Francis Eppes, as well as Eppes Hall, B. K. Roberts Hall and Doak Campbell Stadium were the campus buildings included in the demands.
Participants in the action called the offices of FSU President John Thrasher and Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht to speak out against the glorifying of racist figures.
During the course of the call-in day, President Thrasher released a statement that went out by email to FSU students, faculty and staff announcing that the statue would be “immediately placed off campus,” making this the second time the statue has been removed from FSU campus. The announcement also names the members of the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism, Equality & Inclusion.
Sure enough, a photo surfaced on Twitter from user @alicia_c_devine showing the vacant spot from which the statue was hauled away by truck.
“Thrasher removed the Eppes statue and put it back - once already, two years ago. I’m glad it’s gone, again! President Thrasher must keep it gone for good this time, and also rename the criminal justice building and any other FSU recognitions bearing Francis Epps’s name,” stated community member Satya Stark-Bejnar.
Despite protest from students and community members culminating in the formation of an advisory panel and the removal of the Eppes Statue from Wescott Plaza in 2018, it was relocated within view of its original space in the summer of 2019.
“We’re thrilled to see the Eppes statue removed, but we’re also aware of the fact that this has happened once before. SDS has pushed for Eppes’s removal since 2018, so we’re keeping a close eye on this situation to make sure that statue is gone for good. Our fight isn’t over yet,” says former SDS president Isabela Casanova.
This call-in day comes on the heels of an in-person protest surrounding the statue on July 4, where SDS students demanded not only the removal of names and a statue, but affirmative action programs for increasing black enrollment, placing the FSU police department under community control and decoupling it from theTallahassee police department, and justice for the police murders of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade.
Francis Eppes owned 91 slaves during his lifetime, using the profits and land acquired via his cotton plantation to fund and provide real estate for the Confederacy and what would become Florida State University. During his tenure as Mayor of Tallahassee, Eppes established a militia for the purpose of catching runaway slaves, which would later become Tallahassee Police Department.
B. K. Roberts was a Florida Supreme Court Judge whose career includes managing a gubernatorial campaign of then Ku Klux Klan member Fuller Warren and denying Black student Virgil Hawkins the right to attend law school. The university accredits Roberts with the founding of the FSU College of Law.
Doak Campbell was president during the transformation from the Florida State College for Women to Florida State University. He is remembered for his anti-integration views after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, suppressing calls for campus integration, suppressing coverage of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott in the campus newspaper Florida Flambeau and expelling a graduate student who voiced support for a Black city commission candidate.
President Thrasher’s statement says that a final recommendation from his new task force will affect whether or not the Eppes statue will return to campus for a second time, as well as name changes of Eppes Hall & Doak Campbell Stadium. The students say they will continue the struggle like they have in past years until each of their demands are met.
Black lives matter victories at University of Texas-Arlington
July 19th, 2020
Arlington, TX - July 10, marked the culmination of the Progressive Student Union’s call-in campaigns, email-ins, and callouts against Teik C. Lim’s administration for not doing enough for Black students at the University of Texas-Arlington. Through both private email and public statements, UTA had conceded to several demands made by PSU in regards to doing specific actions to make “Black lives matter” truly mean something at UTA as opposed to simply being a simple statement made by the administration at the height of the movement calling for justice for George Floyd.
In response to these recent victories, PSU has issued the following statement.
“The UTA Progressive Student Union has been carrying a campaign for change at the UTA campus from those in charge. Our campaign was based on the Black lives matter policies we wanted UTA to adopt into their system, as well as providing and expanding scholarships for minorities, and following through with the idea of investing in our diversity school. UTA has one of the highest percentages when it comes to diversity, but yet there were no services for their diverse population.”
The statement continued, “In our campaign we did call-ins and mass emailed now interim-President Teik Lim asking for support, action, and change for UTA. The Administration has now upheld our demands and will do the following: UTA will create a Vice President level office focusing on matters of diversity; The Diversity and Inclusion Committee will be reconstituted this fall; there will be more recruitment of underrepresented faculty and staff; adding $5 million dollars every year for the next 5 years for scholarships specifically for students with low incomes and 1st generation college students, as well as conceding on issues we did not put forward specifically but the movement to confront police brutality has brought to light such as doing internal reviews and investigations of UTAPD. We the UTA Progressive Student Union see this as a victory but it is only the first step in truly making sure that Black Lives Matter at UTA.”
This is a victory that will be repeated throughout all campus, as students around the country will not accept anything less than actual change in our time. We dared to struggle, and we dared to win – and the people are going to keep winning.
Tampa students demand increase in Black enrollment, Black faculty
July 6th, 2020
Tampa, FL - On July 2, students gathered at the gates of the on-campus residence for the president of the University of South Florida (USF) to demand that the university take measures to increase Black enrollment. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of Black students at the university has been on a steady decline, from a high of 12% a decade ago to the most recent report of 10%. But even the highest percentage is much lower than the demographics of the Tampa Bay area, in which Black people comprise nearly a quarter of the population.
Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led the crowd in chants calling for an increase in Black enrollment, as well as Black faculty and counselors. Tampa Bay SDS also drew attention to the fact that they have been met with pushback from administrators in the past when voicing these demands, with representatives of the university implying that an increase in Black enrollment would negatively affect the school’s graduation rates.
Tampa Bay SDS was joined by members of the Black Student Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who also voiced their frustrations with the lack of equity in the demographics of the university. Jason Berry of the NAACP emphasized, “Often, when we as Black students request something, the request isn’t met or is replaced with general ‘diversity’ rather than resources specifically for Black students.”
“Taking down the statue of a racist slave owner is the bare minimum that FSU could do for our community but especially out of respect for our Black student body,” said Valentina Beron, incoming SDS president. “As long as the statue of Francis Eppes stands at FSU, it represents the culture of white supremacy that is still deeply ingrained and being upheld by this institution today.”
Tampa Bay SDS will continue to fight for an increase in Black enrollment at USF until the demand is met.
Florida State students protest to take down statue of slave-owner
July 5th, 2020
Tallahassee, FL - On July 4, over 70 students protested in front of the Westcott administration building at Florida State University to demand the removal of the statue of Francis Eppes, a large Leon County slave-owner who had funded the Confederacy. The protest was called by Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who also issued demands for the removal of Eppes from the criminology building and segregationist Doak Campbell from the stadium.
Students, holding signs reading, “No slave-owners on campus” and “Eppes must fall,” marched to the new location of the Eppes statue. An American flag was draped over the statue with the names of victims of police murder, including Mychael Johnson, Wilbon Woodard and Tony McDade in Tallahassee.
Student protests had led FSU President John Thrasher to call an advisory panel which led to the removal of the Francis Eppes statue from the Westcott plaza in 2018, but in the summer of 2019 the statue was returned to a nearby area of campus.
“Taking down the statue of a racist slave owner is the bare minimum that FSU could do for our community but especially out of respect for our Black student body,” said Valentina Beron, incoming SDS president. “As long as the statue of Francis Eppes stands at FSU, it represents the culture of white supremacy that is still deeply ingrained and being upheld by this institution today.”
Students also issued calls for FSU to cut ties with the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD), to place FSUPD under community control and to increase Black enrollment through affirmative action.
“Francis Eppes used money from his slave-catching militia to fund one of the first police departments in the country, TPD. To this day TPD continues to subjugate Black people, most recently with the murders of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade,” said Regina Joseph of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC).
The students said that they would continue struggling until their demands are met by FSU.
SDS challenges University Senate vote for unrepresentative Campus Safety Committee
July 2nd, 2020
Minneapolis, MN - A proposal to amend faculty senate bylaws and create a new Campus Safety Committee failed to garner enough votes to pass during a June 29 University Senate meeting, open only to voting members. The proposed committee would “advise and consult with the President, the responsible senior administrators, and the Vice President for University Services on policies and major decisions relating to campus and public safety at the University,” and would be made up of faculty, academic professional members, students, civil service members, and ex officio representatives.
Critics of the proposal from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) point out that, despite repeated efforts and demands by students at large, the Campus Safety Committee had no mechanism for ensuring the cultural and racial representation of the university community members who have been historically harmed by police force.
The proposed committee was relegated only to a consultative role and did not: review UMPD officer misconduct, give its members the power to hire and fire UMPD officers, allow for general election of its members, or come from a framework that centers Black voices. The failed proposal contrasts with that of SDS, which calls for a Campus Civilian Accountability Council, or Campus CPAC, that has authoritative powers over the police force and representation across campus cultural and Black, Latino, indigenous and other oppressed nationality groups.
The proposal for the Campus Safety Committee even garnered concern from the Senate Professionals and Administrators Consultative committee, writing: “We are concerned that critical voices which may need to be heard have not been, while also creating a disconnect between the work of this group and the respective bodies of University Governance.”
The failed ‘campus safety’ proposal was another example of insufficient, bureaucratic university responses to the underlying systemic causes of George Floyd’s murder, among other victims of police terror. Additionally, this meeting was not advertised to the university community nor was there an ability for public viewers to ask questions or leave chat comments during the meeting’s YouTube live stream.
SDS Members and activists Fanta Diallo, Jae-Lah Lymon and Olivia Crull joined the meeting to point out the inadequacies before the proposal for the committee ultimately failed with only 80 out of the 269 voting members approving the amendment.
“You can’t say you are committed to dismantling institutionalized racism then lack any representation of BIPOC on your committee. We don’t want another powerless oversight committee,” stated Fanta Diallo.
“We are on the frontlines, we are mobilizing hundreds of students, protesting every week, listen to our voices, listen to Black voices,” said Jae-Lah Lymon.
“There is no ensured mechanism for this committee to not be an elected body of white students”, Olivia Crull stated. “We are concerned about the lack of consultation from undergraduate students on this proposal, specifically our requests as well as the request from MSA [Muslim Students Association] members who were not answered by authors of this proposal.”
This failed proposal is an example of how direct, community-driven change is needed to address systemic issues of UMN bureaucracy and its policing at large. SDS stands in support of the Campus CPAC and pushes for further consultation among university leaders for its establishment along with disarmament and defunding of the University of Minnesota Police Department.
Rally in Arlington, TX demands justice
June 21st, 2020
Arlington, TX – The Progressive Student Union (PSU) rallied 30 students and community members, June 18, demanding community control and defunding of the Arlington Police Department. “We need to remember why we are doing this,” said Arlington resident Adara Arrie. “This is not something to post on social media for a trend. Change has not happened,”
This rally is one of the many across this country calling for community control of the police and less over-policing in our communities.
“The Arlington Police Department receives $66 million,” said PSU organizer Mark Napieralski, “we could use that money to fund our communities, our health care, our education.”
Speakers recounted the Arlington Police Department’s history of brutality. The APD has murdered at least 13 people in the past seven years alone.
“Do not wait until your loved ones is dead for your voice to be heard,” said PSU member Ebony Taylor, “we should not be killed for the color of our skin.”
PSU ended the rally with taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds at the major intersection of Abrams and Center Streets, to honor George Floyd’s memory.
Tampa Bay students lead rally for community control of the police, justice for George Floyd
June 10th, 2020
Tampa, FL - On Monday, June 8, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC) led a crowd of around 500 on a march through the historic neighborhood of Ybor City to demand community control of the police in the Tampa Bay Area. The march ended at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) building, where protesters demanded charges be dropped for the hundreds of protesters arrested by HCSO over recent weeks.
Elizabeth Kramer, an organizer with TBCAC, stated, “The vast majority of arrested protesters have been completely peaceful, and the manner in which HCSO and TPD have cracked down on these protests show that they are not interested in allowing peaceful protests. So, we have to demand that the charges for the many arrested protesters be dropped!”
This event comes during the huge movement around the country to demand justice for African American victims of police violence like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Various cities around the country have also demanded entirely new police accountability structures, such as Civilian Police Accountability Councils - a central demand of the protest. While most cities have police review boards, they are not democratically-elected and do not have disciplinary nor funding negotiating powers.
“Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, had 18 official complaints on his record,” said Eithne Silva of Tampa Bay SDS. “The fact that he did not receive any real consequences for previous instances of violence against the community shows that the police department is incapable of policing itself. This is why we need community control of the police.
The hundreds-strong march is an indication of the continuing fight for police accountability and people’s need for justice for police crimes in Tampa Bay and across the country.
Thousands in Tampa Bay demand justice for George Floyd and all victims of police brutality
June 1st, 2020
Tampa, FL - Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society hosted a protest May 30 to demand justice for George Floyd and community control of the police. The event corresponded with the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression’s national day of protest. Reporters estimate 5000 people in attendance at the height of the protest.
A crowd began to form a half-hour before the scheduled time. Hundreds marched to the Temple Terrace Police Department, chanting, “Say his name! George Floyd!” and “No justice, no peace! No racist police!” The protesters circled back to the corner of 53rd Street and Fowler Avenue, the event’s location, where the crowd kneeled at the intersection before more chants and speeches. The march continued west on Fowler for a mile. The protest officially ended at the University of South Florida’s entrance after two hours of speeches, marching and chanting, but many continued to march for the rest of the day.
The energy was high for hours after the protest’s end. Some protesters set fire to a gas station, set fireworks off in the street, or ‘shopped for free’ at the stores at the local University Mall. An estimated 40 people were arrested.
Escalations began due to police action. There was police presence from the beginning, in the form of cars, helicopters and drones. That night, after the crowd had thinned, the police teargassed and shot rubber bullets at protesters. When protesters were injured, no ambulances arrived when called.
“I was extremely frustrated that there was a time where they gassed and maced, then proceeded to block support from paramedics when we literally had someone screaming in agony from the eye and skin burns,” states Jefferson Mendoza, a protester at the event.
Tampa Bay SDS’s large protest revealed a strong community desire for police accountability, one that many rallied around throughout the weekend.
Tampa: Thousands march for justice, police respond with violence
May 31st, 2020
Tampa, FL - Thousands continue to march and demand justice for George Floyd as protests across the Tampa Bay enter their second day. Jane Castor, current mayor of Tampa and former chief of police, enacted a curfew in an attempt to stop the people’s uprising. Despite the curfew and heavy police repression, people are staying in the streets until justice is served.
Tampa had two organized protests May 31. The first protest was held in East Tampa, a majority African American neighborhood. Demonstrators marched through East Tampa and Ybor City. After the end of the march people began moving to downtown for the second march at 5 p.m. Once the crowd had lowered to a smaller size, Tampa Police Department began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, hitting a woman in the head causing her to bleed. Confrontations with police continued to escalate into the night as members of the community set tires on fire in a major intersection in East Tampa.
The second protest was held in Downtown Tampa. Protesters gathered to hear speeches and then marched towards Interstate-275. The police responded by nearly running over peaceful protesters in an attempt to head off the march and prevent an occupation of the freeway. The people continued to push forward, and the police responded by shooting tear gas and pepper-spraying demonstrators. Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan shortly after declared the gathering to be unlawful and police continued to push protesters back with force. The march then went to Curtis Hixon Park, where people continued to face off with police despite the newly enacted curfew.
“It was completely peaceful and the cops were telling people there was no curfew as long as it was peaceful,” said Taylor Cook, an organizer from Tampa Bay SDS, “but then they showed that they were lying when they started arresting peaceful protesters and blocking people on the bridge.”
Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, a student group at the University of South Florida, is currently raising a bail fund for protesters who have been arrested. It’s not clear when protests will end but one thing is certain: the people of Tampa are sick and tired of police terror and are ready to rise up until true justice can be served.
Tampa students demand COVID-19 relief for undocumented students
May 15th, 2020
Tampa, FL - On May 14, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a car protest at the University of South Florida (USF) to demand COVID-19 relief funds for undocumented students. USF has offered no financial help for undocumented students during the pandemic and the only COVID-19 aid for students is the CARES Act Fund, for which DACA and undocumented students are ineligible.
Students and SDS members parked near the USF president’s mansion on campus for socially-distanced speeches and chants demanding that USF provide relief for undocumented students. Simon Rowe, a member of SDS stated, “DACA students are more at risk for losing housing or income compared to other students. USF needs to account for the increased risk and lack of federal aid by providing aid to undocumented students using their own funds.” After the speeches were finished, the protest formed a car caravan where students drove near the mansion while honking to further their demand.
This is Tampa Bay SDS’s second action demanding COVID-19 aid for undocumented students, and SDS will continue to make these demands until USF provides funds specifically for undocumented and DACA students.
Tampa Bay SDS demands justice for Ahmaud Arbery
May 11th, 2020
“Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till. How many Black lives will you kill?” This was one of many chants heard across downtown Tampa on Saturday, May 9, as protesters gathered to demand justice for Ahmaud Arbery. The South Georgia resident was murdered by two white supremacist vigilantes, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, while he out for a jog.
Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), along with members of the community, parked outside the Sam M. Gibbons Federal Courthouse to participate in the socially-distanced protest. After the protesters were forced to leave by the building’s security, the rally continued in the form of a car caravan which circled the building.
Though Arbery was murdered in February, the culprits were not apprehended for nearly two months, despite being caught on video. Just a day before the scheduled protest, Gregory and Travis McMichael were finally arrested and charged with murder, thanks to the work of Arbery’s family as well as activists nationwide.
However, Tampa Bay SDS continues to emphasize the necessity of a conviction in order for justice to be served. David Jones of Tampa Bay SDS states, “Being in Florida we’ve seen the results of an indictment without conviction in the murder of Trayvon Martin. We must hold these racist vigilantes accountable and continue to fight for and struggle alongside Black communities if we want to see progressive change.”
Tampa students say no to unfair summer tuition fees
April 24th, 2020
Tampa, Fl - On April 21 Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had its most recent email-in for the University of South Florida (USF) to end unnecessary summer tuition fees. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person classes and certain activities at the USF are canceled for the summer semester. Instead of canceling additional tuition fees, USF is planning to charge them at a reduced rate. One of the fees Tampa Bay SDS demands be removed is the distance learning fee, which is a fee per credit hour of online courses. Tampa Bay SDS demands USF remove these unfair fees entirely for summer tuition due to the extra costs that they add to students during the pandemic.
USF administrators responded to the email-in by emphasizing spring semester refunds and said they would reassess the fees in a few weeks, despite summer semester starting during that time. In addition to this response, USF has not publicized the $34.8 million dollars they are receiving under the CARES Act, half of which is required to help students. USF has not released a plan on how to distribute these funds.
USF’s behavior is alarming, considering many college students do not qualify for the $1200 government stipend and are not receiving any additional aid during the pandemic. The office of financial aid opened applications for students to receive aid if they demonstrate need, but many students have been turned down despite being laid off from jobs.
“USF can play a decisive role in ensuring students can still make ends meet by giving refunds and not charging extra fees over summer. Other schools have already done this so it's past due for USF to do the right thing,” said Eithne Silva, member of Tampa Bay SDS.
Tampa Bay SDS will continue demanding USF help its students by canceling these fees and will continue hosting actions to have these demands met despite the pandemic.
Texas students fight for Dreamer Center
April 18th, 2020
Arlington, TX – The Progressive Student Union commenced a call-in campaign April 13 to get the administration at the University of Texas at Arlington to formally establish a Dreamer Center on their campus. Dreamer Centers exist already on several campuses, including University of Utah, Mountain View College, as well as UTA’s sister school the UT San Antonio. The latter has existed since 2018 due to student concerns that the undocumented students did not have adequate resources or protections due to the constant attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration.
This campaign was commenced as the university, now led by Chief Administrator and Provost Teik C. Lim, did not adequately respond to the demands the student organization had given to the administrators – which included, but were not limited to, $5 million in scholarships for traditionally underrepresented students, hiring four immigration lawyers, and making a plan to hire two Black and brown faculty members each year over the course of five years.
Instead the administration has pushed back against PSU, and the answering desk of the Office of the Provost said they would call the police on students who were giving their concerns.
In February, PSU had just managed to overcome attempted repression by the administration responding to their Rally for Dreamers back in November. Student activists in PSU are calling on all allies, friends and individuals to support the struggle of undocumented students on campus and oppose repression of students who are trying to create a better environment for their peers on campus.
SDS pushes University of Utah on COVID-19 after victory on counselors
April 7th, 2020
Salt Lake City, UT - Every victory comes with new challenges and new setbacks. Organizers with Students for a Democratic Society are learning that lesson in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as they start a new struggle for hazard pay as well as refunds for fees and tuition.
SDS organizers left the University of Utah for spring break in high spirits after the school met their demands for more mental health counselors, a demand they had been making for months. When the promised new counselors are hired, the school will finally be in compliance with national guidelines on the counselor-to-student ratio.
Celebrations were short lived, however.
During the break, Utah officials finally grasped the seriousness of COVID-19, completely upending student life and creating a host of new challenges. The university quickly shut down the campus and moved all classes online.
Administrators initially assured students that they could stay in campus housing, but the school soon backtracked and announced that most students would be required to move out on March 27, just five days before landlords generally start new leases. While the university allowed some to apply for exceptions, most were forced to move out with little notice.
“The evictions are based on an assumption that people have somewhere to go when that is not always true, and it’s especially difficult to relocate right now,” said student Theresa Nielson. “U of U housing is basically an apartment complex: You can still isolate. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
On March 24, SDS organized call-ins to President Ruth Watkins and Vice President of Student Affairs Lori McDonald to demand no students be evicted. Administrators told callers that the forced move-outs were not “evictions” because rent and meal plans were being prorated and refunded
Regardless of administrative semantics, students were kicked out nonetheless. Queer students were forced back to families that misgendered them; others went home to high-risk cities and states; still others returned to parents working high-risk jobs in healthcare.
Though the university has made drastic changes toward protecting students, staff and faculty, it is disregarding many mental health, safety and financial issues. The university has extended its class withdrawal period, but refuses to refund tuition for students who withdraw, even for those who can’t accommodate online classes. The school has shut down many buildings on campus, but students and staff still work without personal protective equipment or hazard pay. And because the campus is shut down, many services are not being provided, despite being paid for by student fees.
In response, SDS is demanding hazard pay for all on-campus workers, tuition refunds for withdrawals, and refunds for all student-fee-related services that are not being rendered. These echo demands being made on campuses across the country.
SDS organizers also reiterated their commitment to mental health services both during pandemic and after students return, saying it will be more important than ever for students who have lived through a deeply traumatic time to have access to counselors.
“Counseling availability is always important because mental health resources are a human right, Nielson said. “Right now, with more uncertainty and stress, it is especially important to have these resources available.”
The University of Utah says it is working to provide counseling to students living out of state. SDS says it will continue to monitor the situation, and if counseling is not provided during the pandemic, it will expand its demands.
FSU students unite against Charlie Kirk’s ‘Culture War’ event
March 12th, 2020
Tallahassee, FL - Florida State University students gathered in protest of Charlie Kirk on March 10.
FSU was the first stop for Charlie Kirk’s “Culture War Tour” sponsored by Turning Point USA (TPUSA). “FSUnite Against Kirk” was born in response to this event, a self-described student coalition dedicated to spreading a message of love and acceptance in the wake of Kirk’s purposefully divisive rhetoric.
A group of students of all walks of life attended, including six speakers representing different student organizations; Ellie Cooper, president of JStreet U; Alyssa Ackbar, State Director for Florida March for Our Lives; Sadie Cosgrove, member of College Democrats and Gender Odyssey; Delilah Pierre, graduate and organizer with the Tallahassee Community Action Committee and Students for a Democratic Society; and Isabela Casanova, vice president of Students for a Democratic Society.
Speeches were meant to convey a “story of self”, with each speaker voicing how rhetoric pushed by Kirk and TPUSA goes against FSU’s claims of diversity and inclusiveness and impacts them personally.
FSU is a predominantly white institution. “FSU’s decision to bring Charlie Kirk to campus sends a clear message that minorities are not valued here,” Ackbar stated. “Kirk’s rhetoric is hate-filled and targeted at minority groups that are already at a disadvantage on campus.”
Students engaged in chants such as “The students united can never be defeated!” and “Say yes to love! Say no to hate!” and waved signs with similar messages.
Organizer Chloe Ilcus also helped draft a petition that was distributed at the event urging FSU’s President John Thrasher and administration to release a statement addressing Kirk’s visit to campus.
Attendees also signed a petition by SDS aimed at bringing a more concrete accountability process for sexual abusers and rapists on FSU campus. SDS will lead a coalition of students, campus groups, area residents and community organizations in a march from campus to the state capitol on Saturday, April 11.
FSUnite Against Kirk was met with some backlash both in person and on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook due to the nature of Kirk’s event, but organizers took such backlash in stride.
“We have to organize like this,” Cooper insisted. “Being here today allows me to see the type of community I know FSU can be.”
Denver students say: No war on Iran!
January 22, 2020
Denver, CO - Students from Denver Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) met on campus January 21 to continue the rallying against U.S. aggression towards Iran and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This action comes after the illegal act of war of the Trump regime in which Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in the Baghdad International Airport.
The U.S. has claimed that they are backing off from war at this time, but will continue to add sanctions against Iran which will harm the people of Iran. One SDS member noted in his speech, “Sanctions are an act of war; countless citizens died in Iraq after sanctions blocked food and medicine, and we will not stand for this to happen again in Iran.”
The decades-long U.S. military presence across a dozen bases in Iraq has been denounced unanimously by every political party in Iraq. This occupation of Iraq is an attempt by the U.S. to keep a military presence in the Middle East.
Denver SDS will be participating in another peace event on January 25 at the Denver capitol building alongside the Denver Peace Council and others.
Tampa Bay SDS says: End endless wars!
January 8th, 2020
Tampa, FL - On January 4, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a protest against U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. The event was in response to recent aggression from the Trump administration against Iran following the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani. “Shortly after we heard the news, we decided that it was important for us to organize a demonstration against a new war as quickly as possible,” said Matthew Wheat of Tampa Bay SDS.
Students and community members held signs and chanted on the corner of a busy intersection in Temple Terrace, home to the University of South Florida, which has many contracts with the U.S. military and is complicit in funneling students into the war machine. Temple Terrace is also home to a large Middle Eastern community, many of whom immigrated to the area as a result of the destruction of their homes due to previous U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. The protesters received an overwhelming show of solidarity from passersby, including honking, thumbs up and shouts of support.
During the protest, speeches highlighted the United States’ pattern of military intervention across the globe, which has resulted in countless civilian casualties throughout the years. Additionally, speeches emphasized that the American people have nothing to gain from wars abroad, echoing the chant: “1, 2, 3, 4! We won’t fight a rich man’s war!”
The event was successful in forwarding the anti-war movement in Tampa Bay and pushing back against pro-war rhetoric in the media. According to Matthew Wheat, Tampa Bay SDS, “hopes to continue to raise public consciousness about the inevitable catastrophes that would result from a war with Iran.”
USF students rally for more Black enrollment before meeting with administration
November 25th, 2019
Tampa, FL - On November 20, students at the University of South Florida (USF) gathered in front of Cooper Hall to demand that administration increases Black enrollment on campus. Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organized and led the demonstration.
This event occurred in anticipation of an upcoming December 4 meeting with administration. SDS will be meeting with the Vice President of Student Success Paul Dosa, VP of Diversity and Inclusion Haywood Brown, Assistant VP of Admissions Glen Besterfield, and Dean of Students Danielle McDonald. The meeting will determine the future of how USF will address Black enrollment on campus, which has continuously declined over the past ten years.
As of 2018, Black enrollment was 10.7% of the student body on the Tampa campus, and has never exceeded 12%. As of November 19, undergraduate Black enrollment stands at 9.9%, an all-time low. This is especially stunning because the community surrounding USF is nearly 27% African American.
This demographic skew occurs at the same time as an increased white supremacist presence at USF. Spray-painted racial slurs and racist propaganda have appeared semi-regularly since 2017.
“It’s up to USF administration whether or not they will truly address the gap that exists between the surrounding community and the bubble of campus. How they choose to move forward will not only determine how many community members will have access to quality education, but also how ‘welcome’ white supremacist forces will feel on campus,” said Tampa Bay SDS member Elizabeth Kramer.
UNF SDS says ‘No Nazis at UNF’ again
November 14th, 2019
Jacksonville, FL - The University of North Florida’s (UNF) chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a banner drop on November 13, condemning recent Neo-Nazi propaganda that has been posted around campus. The hand-written banner read, “Neo-Nazis not welcome here.”
On November 5, UNF’s student newspaper released an article of students finding multiple Neo-Nazi flyers around campus that read, “It’s ok to genocide subhumans” and “The struggle never ends. Join the F.K.D.” FKD stands for Feuerkrieg Division, a splinter group of the paramilitary extremist group, Atomwaffen Division which has been linked to several murders here in the U.S.
The posting of these fliers comes after the announcement of UNF having the most diverse class in the history of the university - after SDS demanded for the increase in Black and Brown students on campus.
This isn’t the first time UNF SDS has dealt with Neo-Nazis on campus. In November, 2017, SDS demanded for administration to expel a local neo-Nazi and former leader of the KKK after he threatened SDS and other students on campus with gun violence.
The current university administration has condemned the flyers and stated that the university police are still currently investigating, but UNF SDS is demanding the current administration to take action now to deal with the neo-Nazis.
SDS Demands #SCOTUS Rule for LGBTQ+ Protections in #Title7
Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employersfrom discriminating against workers on the basis of "sex, race, color,national origin, and religion." In 2014, the Obama administration issued an Executive Order expanding protections for federal employees to encompass "gender identity.
Though queer people still undergo much economic, on top of social, hardship, this was a step in the right direction. But now the Trump administration is attempting to remove these protections, leaving many trans and gender nonconforming people afraid for their safety.
On Tuesday, October 8th, the Supreme Court of the US heard three cases related to Title VII, two of which involved gay men and a trans woman who were harassed or even fired for their gender identities and sexual orientations. The SCOTUS is likely to deliver a ruling sometime next summer.
SDS held actions October 8th to resist homophobic changes to Title 7 and to remind the Trump administration that trans and gender nonconforming people are human. We will continue to rally until this is won. Our human rights will not be infringed upon!
UNF SDS Wins Big Victories!
October 4th, 2019
UNF SDS met with UNF President Syzmanksi to receive an update on our Fall 2018 demands which included: increased scholarships for black and brown students, increased resources for black and brown students, increased black and brown enrollment, an increase in student services and a living wage for employees among many others. We also discussed the need to hire and retain black counseling staff, combat bigotry by the “radical” on campus preachers, and how the university can prepare for the upcoming Title VII Supreme Court case.
We are pleased to announce that the university has implemented the following as of Fall 2019:
1.) 37% increase in pell recipient enrollment
2.) $3.5 million increase in scholarships
3.) Reduced Student Fees and Reduced Textbook Fees
4.) They’ve expanded and made Lend-A-Wing more accesible to students
5.) They’ve given more $ to the Counseling Center
6.) They plan to decrease the average cost per student by $7,000
7.) They’ve reallocated millions to student services
8.) Hourly employees received a raise and a bonus
9.) The university has implemented two mentorship programs for students. One specifically for African American students and one specifically for women.
10.) Fall 2019 enrollment was the most diverse enrollment class of all time
We are excited to continue to push the university to make positive changes and to put students first.
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
September 23rd, 2019
Another Successful National Convention!
Another successful national convention! It went amazingly! We made calls to action around the climate crisis, saying no to US wars on Venezuela and Iran, and reaffirmed our commitment to fighting against racism both on campus and in our communities! Thank you to all our speakers, attendees, and the many students and youth committing to another year of building the student movement!
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
September 17th, 2019
4 days to go!
Jack Nimz will be speaking on our panel, Fighting Against Racism, Militarism, and Police Terror on Campus.
Jack Nimz is an activist with SDS at the University of Minnesota. Jack has been a key organizer in the campaign to disarm the University of Minnesota police department and to increase enrollment to students of color.
September 15th, 2019
6 days to go!
Josh will be speaking on our panel, Resistance in the Era of Trump: From the Front Lines of Struggle.
Josh Memmott is from Utah and organizes with SDS at the University of Utah. Josh only recently started organizing, but has been interested in leftist politics since high school. He will be speaking about the impacts of the changes made to Title 9 by Betsy Devos, and how that impacted trans folks. Josh helped to organize a rally with SDS against trans erasure last fall.
USF students demand no immigration authorities on campus
September 14th, 2019
Tampa, Fl - On September 10, students at the University of South Florida (USF) participated in a national day of action that was called by National Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to speak out against the Trump administration’s attacks on undocumented immigrants. The event was hosted by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Over 30 students and staff attended.
During President Donald Trump’s tenure, his administration has engaged in escalating attacks against undocumented immigrants. Some of these attacks include Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detaining undocumented children in horrid camp conditions indefinitely, and building urban warfare training facilities meant to replicate the conditions of the U.S. Southwest.
Many of these occurrences were addressed in speeches given by SDS members. They also addressed how these attacks on immigrants can be seen on campus and how to fight back against them through their “Immigrants are Here to Stay” campaign.
“We want USF administration to agree to be non-compliant with agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection and ICE, that seek to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. We encourage students to unite with us to protect our fellow immigrant students,” said SDS member, Ilena Scapicchio.
Although a small group of students that support these racist attacks on immigrants tried to halt and distract others from the event, SDS members and attendees chanted, “No Trump, no wall, legalization for all,” against them. The Trump supporters were ultimately silenced.
“We plan on holding more campaign events which will pressure USF administration, and the new university president, Steven Currall, to make policy change in order to make campus safe for undocumented people,” said Scapicchio.
***Endnote: This article is recirculated from the news coverage USF SDS received at fightbacknews.org.
September 10th, 2019
9 days to go!
Monica Martinez will be speaking on our panel Resistance in the Era of Trump: From the Front Lines of Struggle.
Monica is a student activist with Students for a Democratic Society at the University of North Florida. Alongside SDS, she has fought for demands of making UNF a sanctuary school and non-compliance with ICE for undocumented students. Monica organized a Solidarity Circle for survivors during Kavanaugh’s nomination as a fight back to misogyny and men in power. Monica will be speaking on fighting Trump’s xenophobia and his abuse of power.
Kenosha SDS wins demand for gender neutral bathrooms on campus
September 10th, 2019
Just in time for the new semester, Students for a Democratic Society at UW Parkside came out victorious in their gender neutral bathrooms campaign from the previous semester. Four bathrooms were converted on campus to support the trans and gender non-conforming community, a demand which some students have been proposing for several years.
The first step of concrete action began last October, during SDS’s protest of Brett Kavanaugh’s inauguration and a call for transgender rights. Members of SDS, with Rainbow Alliance, an LGBTQ+ organization on campus, marched to the administrative offices to put real pressure on administrators, who had been avoiding the bathroom proposal.
SDS put the fight for gender neutral bathrooms at the forefront and it became their campaign for the spring of 2019. After tabling events, petitions, and with a constant back and forth with the administration, they finally agreed to order new signs for the bathrooms. However, the school delayed the process.
What should have taken a few weeks became several months. The signs were finally put up on August 21, after SDS threatened action against the administration for not following through on its promises.
This semester, SDS activists at Parkside are working towards getting a food pantry on campus to address the growing food insecurity of students, many of whom are from poor and working-class backgrounds.
***Endnote: This article is recirculated from the news coverage Kenosha SDS received at fightbacknews.org.
SDS Says, "CIA Off Campus!"
September 4th, 2019
On the afternoon of August 28, members of Students for a Democratic Society and AnakBayan Chicago, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, passed out flyers on the quad to oppose the partnership that the university has with the CIA. SDS members held a banner reading “CIA off campus,” the slogan that has been used in past decades by student activists around the country in similar campaigns. Protesters held signs each detailing a different CIA operation and the number of deaths it caused.
UIC is the fourth university to enter into this partnership [as a CIA Signature School], coming after the City University of New York Baruch Campus, the University of New Mexico, and Florida International University. All these universities were targeted because of their large populations of students of color and international students. Student and faculty activists at CUNY Baruch College forced their university to release the memorandum of understanding with the CIA in 2018, which includes the statement that one of the purposes of the partnership is to “push a diversity and inclusion brand.”
“Partnerships like this normalize imperialism, and that’s something we have to stand against whenever it shows up,” said one SDS member.
***Endnote: This article is recirculated from the news coverage UIC SDS received at fightbacknews.org.
Ring in the Fall Semester With Student Organizing!
August 30th, 2019
School has started all over the country, and our chapters and campaigns remain strong. In Salt Lake City and at the University of North Florida, students have hosted banner drops and begun flyering to get out word about campaigns to increase resources for students with disabilities and for mental health facilities.