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The Carletonian

New student groups form to combat a Trump presidency

<ftermath of the election last fall, many students on campus sought new opportunities for activism, forming several politically-oriented clubs. Over winter break, the CCCE released a list detailing several of those groups. However, over two months have passed since the election and the original initiatives began, leaving many of the groups in uncertain status.

One of the most active groups that has formed since the election is Students for Democratic Change (SDC). Initially conceived as an umbrella organization for activism on campus, SDC has since narrowed its focus. SDC member Shayna Gleason ’17 said that the organization formed as an outlet for the fallout of the election.

“A lot of people, understandably, were very angry and fearful and were looking for positive ways to turn that energy into something constructive,” said Gleason. At the town hall after the election, we split into subgroups of people with different interests, and the one that was interested in lobbying turned into Students for Democratic Change.”

Since that town hall meeting, SDC has maintained a Facebook group, where members share information about future opportunities for activism and has held several more meetings, with 20 to 30 people regularly attending. There they have raised various possible avenues for moving forward.

“Everyone has the shared goal of keeping as many people motivated and involved as possible,” Gleason said. In particular, SDC has prioritized getting people to the inauguration in Washington, D.C., getting transportation to the Women’s March in St. Paul, starting letter writing and phone calling campaigns to representatives, inviting elected officials to campus, and having conversations with Trump voters and Republicans in Rice County.

In addition to SDC’s own activities, the group contributed last term to the creation of a new listserv, Carls for a Democratic Society, which now has over 250 members. The listserv is intended to act as a broad communication platform for all activists on campus; whenever an opportunity for activism or organizing arises, group members are encouraged to share it in the listserv. Many groups other than SDC are represented in the collective, leading to a broad, horizontal structure of activist organization on campus.

“I think the horizontal system is probably what we need,” Gleason said. “There are so many people who are fired up now and are really motivated to create change that weren’t really involved earlier. When you have that many people I think the only organizing strategy is to split it up to some degree, because when it gets too big people fall through the cracks.”

While President-elect Trump’s divisive rhetoric has spurred student activists to form new groups, it has also encouraged pre-existing student organizations to ramp up their organizing efforts. One such organization, Sexuality and Gender Activism (SAGA), is returning to student life after a brief hiatus last fall due to lower membership. Since the election, however, the leaders of SAGA have resurrected the organization. “One of the reasons we decided to revive it was that we feel that now there’s a really great need,” Abby Sharer ’18 said.

In contrast to the discussion-oriented GSC, SAGA emphasizes direct activism to protect the rights of individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Sharer and Sam Haiken ’18, two of SAGA’s leaders (the third leader is currently abroad), hope to engage students and Northfield community members alike.

“One of our huge goals last year was to work with Northfield schools and hang out with their queer, questioning, and trans teenagers,” Haiken said. “What I’m really hoping is that they now do see a need for that partnership, and that we can do that.”

In addition, students at Northfield High School hope to work with Carleton students in their activism efforts. Last Sunday, Jack Cuddy of Northfield High School, along with anti-gun violence activist Mary Lewis Grow, wife of the late Political Science Professor Roy Grow, held a meeting to discuss how to push back on the Minnesota State Legislature’s Stand Your Ground proposal. The same law was used to defend George Zimmerman in the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Mary Lewis Grow founded the nationally-recognized Student Pledge Against Gun Violence campaign in the late 1990s and is a board member at the anti-gun violence non-profit Protect Minnesota. “I see gun violence as a national illness, a cancer on society,” she said.

The two community members are especially moved to act in light of police brutality, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate crimes and Trump’s presidency.

Cuddy and Haiken attended the November organizing meeting that led to SDC, and Cuddy regularly corresponds with the group on behalf of Northfield High School.

“Students for Democratic Change has a lot of promise, but I have not seen a ton of action yet,” said Haiken. Nevertheless, she added, “our state of mind and our attitude following the election was definitely in line with every other activist on this campus.”

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