Despite hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Binghamton University students have formed the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), a new political organization seeking to secure a charter from the Student Association (SA).
Chair and founder of YDSA Yassin Elabbassi, a senior majoring in political science, said that although it has not been easy, YDSA has successfully recruited over 20 new members, or “comrades,” to the chapter’s roster after its first general interest meeting last week.
Elabbassi said the pandemic has made students realize their new political leanings.
“I mean somehow billionaires have gotten richer during a global pandemic, while the working class is facing evictions and historic unemployment,” Elabbassi wrote in an email. “I think that drives some students who may be on the fence toward us.”
Vice-Chair Elijah Gordon, a junior double-majoring in political science and history, acknowledges the difficulty of engaging with others over Zoom. Yet, he said he has enjoyed creating a safe virtual space that is more accessible for both on-campus and off-campus students.
“It is more important than ever before to see honest discussions surrounding our issues, with class consciousness and empathy at the front, especially in a college setting,” Gordon wrote in an email.
Elabbassi was introduced to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) while interning for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). While actively seeking new recruits, Elabbassi said YDSA is on track to being nationally affiliated with the DSA by mid-October and will begin the process of being chartered by the SA shortly after.
Colin Mangan, social media chair of YDSA and an undeclared sophomore, said he hopes to see YDSA get chartered by the SA.
“I became involved in YDSA because I believe that by having an organized leftist presence on this campus, we can help bring democratic socialist ideals and policies into our sociopolitical discourse,” Mangan wrote.
Margaret Sciria, chair of events for YDSA and a senior double-majoring in history and English, said YDSA has maintained a digital presence, which has allowed them to reach a wider audience.
“I became involved with YDSA because I have long been a supporter of socialism in America,” Sciria wrote in an email. “When I saw that some fellow [Binghamton University] students were starting a YDSA chapter, I knew I had to be a part of it.”
Through his involvement with YDSA, Vice-Chair Zachary Bosak, a senior majoring in political science, hopes to see people come together to gain a better understanding of their own views as well as engage and learn from those with opposing opinions.
“I hope to see YDSA begin to build dialogues, whether those be about national or local sociopolitical issues, about the combating of misinformation or simply about raising awareness about ideologies and beliefs that those who are less engaged with political rhetoric may not be familiar with,” Bosak wrote in an email.
Elabbassi said he started the YDSA chapter at BU because he felt isolated on campus as a leftist.
“I hope students can find an active space to engage in leftist discussion and help others realize that there are paths other than neoliberalism and right-wing conservatism,” Elabbassi wrote. “In addition, I want to see the administration at [BU], and to a somewhat equal extent the town of Vestal, Johnson City and the [city] of Binghamton, held accountable and provide real results rather than B-Line announcements of small incremental changes.”
Additionally, Elabbassi expects YDSA to begin taking action shortly.
“YDSA hopes to begin organizing direct action soon, [such as] protests, sit-ins or open letters, to pressure the administration to properly address issues that harm not only the student class but the working class of Binghamton,” Elabbassi wrote. “Our long term goal is to make sure [BU] is not just equal but equitable for all.”