UMass Democrats look to create coalition of campus groups to resist Trump’s policies

By Stuart Foster

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Some members of the University of Massachusetts Democrats aim to create a coalition of on-campus groups to advocate against and resist policies of President-elect Donald Trump next year.

The UMass Democrats wanted to connect with on-campus groups with similar objectives before Trump was elected to the presidency. Shock from the election results gave the group a new sense of urgency.

“I felt like the Democratic Party had failed the people we say we protect,” said Liana Ascolese, a graduate student studying public policy, who is the president of the UMass Democrats. “I sort of looked to other campus activists. Our [Democratic] Party follows rather than leads.”

Ascolese described on-campus activist groups such as Divest UMass, which she said attract great turnouts, as faster at organizing major events on campus.

Saying that the Democratic Party promises to do things such as that, Ascolese said they need to be more of a leader and less of a follower on campus.

“There’s a lot of great spirit of activism on this campus already,” she said. “I would like to channel that. I think it’s about what we can bring to the table.”

The UMass Democrats had published an open letter to the campus about establishing this new group in the weeks after Trump’s election.

“We said in our open letter people have been debating protest politics versus legislative politics,” said Jonah Carlson, the political director of the UMass Democrats and a senior studying political science. “We need to do both.”

Carlson and Ascolese both stressed how the on-campus party could use their political connections with Democratic officials and congressional figures to help groups on campus advance their causes legislatively, while still participating in direct action and protests on-campus with the UMass community.

“If an activist group is having an action, I would love to say ‘How can we help that?’” Ascolese said. “I would love to say ‘How can we join our organizing forces?’”

Ascolese also said that the coalition-members could use the group to bring up their own agendas, so that the different groups could help each other find resources that could be mutually helpful.

She said this structuring format would help the coalition act as a more collaborative environment, rather than a hierarchical one.

Carlson said that they had reached out to a couple-dozen on-campus groups, and had heard positive reactions from the Gender Liberation Union and the UMass Progressive Alliance. Carlson predicted the coalition would look like five to 10 groups coming together.

“I expect enough controversial, detrimental actions from the Trump presidency for the group to grow,” he said.

Ascolese said they had reached out individually to different groups, and that reactions have been positive to the idea of the group so far.

“Hopefully other people will see the equal plan we’ll be working on,” Ascolese said, saying she understood why certain groups would feel wary about being associated with a partisan group.

Ascolese said a more formal announcement about the coalition will be made next semester.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.