Trinity YDSA plans to organize leftist activism


Courtesy of Noelle Barrera

Photo provided by Noelle Barrera

According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 43 percent of US adults believe some sort of socialism would be a good thing for the country. Trinity’s own chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) aims to organize socialist students on campus. YDSA is the youth and student offshoot of the national Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and has over 70 chapters listed on its website, including one at the University of Texas – San Antonio (UTSA).

Trinity YDSA was approved as a Registered Student Organization (RSO) in November. Sophomore and YDSA co-chair Victoria Henretty said her interest in creating a chapter began when she attended UTSA chapter meetings last year.

“I liked stuff that they were doing on campus,” Henretty said. “They would call admin out, call professors out for unjust behavior, and I really admired that.”

2017 Trinity alumna Briauna Barrera also helped the idea of a YDSA chapter come to fruition. After speaking a climate change event last year, Barrera got to talking with some students — including Henretty — about starting a Trinity YDSA chapter.

“She pulled us aside afterwards and was like, ‘If you want to start a YDSA, I can definitely help you,’” Henretty said. “She really helped us figure out the logistics and how to get our feet off the ground.”

Barrera said she became a socialist late in her college career. While she liked the idea of starting a progressive group at the time, it was her last semester at Trinity, and she didn’t know much about organizing.

Three years later, however, Barrera is a DSA member and has experience working as a climate justice organizer. She said seeing seeing Trinity students’ excitement about starting a chapter made her excited too.

“It’s really important that a YDSA chapter is on campus, because it is an anti-capitalist presence,” Barrera said.

Barrera expected her initial meeting with interested students to be less active and more informational, but the students surprised her.

“By the time I was done talking, they were like, ‘Okay. Let’s just start now,’” Barrera said. “They took off. That’s just been really awesome to see. I have so much faith in them.”

Since Trinity already has an established progressive club, some may wonder why YDSA is necessary. According to Henretty, there is an ideological distinction between YDSA and Trinity Progressives (T-Prog).

“We wanted a space specifically for leftist thought, because T-Prog is kind of an umbrella for anyone who’s from the center all the way to people who believe in authoritarian communism. I felt like that umbrella was too big and that YDSA offers the opportunity to do a lot more direct action,” Henretty said.

According to Henretty, another distinction between the Trinity Progressives and YDSA lies in their respective focuses on electoral politics versus direct action.

“T-Prog in the past has been involved in a lot more electoral issues, and that’s not necessarily our goal. We want to start campaigns on campus and be involved in the community, which isn’t to say T-Prog isn’t [involved], but we wanted specifically to work on these issues,” Henretty said.

Henretty leads the YDSA chapter along with junior co-chair Noelle Barrera, who is of no relation to Briauna. Sophomore Joshua Anaya is secretary of the group, and sophomore Emma Melina Raab serves as treasurer. (Noelle Barrera is the special sections editor of the Trinitonian.)

In addition to her liberal upbringing and her friendships with the other officers, Melina Raab attributed her YDSA involvement to a need for progressive activism on campus. Referencing last semester’s Tigers for Life display, Melina Raab said that progressives need to do more.

“This seems to be a fairly liberal campus, but the conservative clubs are a lot more active,” Melina Raab said. “Especially after the abortion thing — the anti-choice thing — [Tigers for Life] had on campus, that was kind of like, okay, something really needs to be done. This is ridiculous. I think college is the place where you’re supposed to find like-minded people … I felt that being part of [YDSA] would be a good place to do that.”

Within her officer role, Melina Raab hopes to initiate more campus dialogue regarding underrepresented groups.

“I’m really interested in representation and justice for disabilities,” Melina Raab said. “Anti-semitism is also something that is addressed intermittently … I think it should be talked about more.”

YDSA also has the support of two faculty advisers: Alfred Montoya, professor of anthropology, and Judith Norman, professor of philosophy. Norman said she is glad to help but plans to let student YDSA members take the lead.

“I think we’re at a moment where young people have more of a grasp of what’s gone wrong and more of a sense of energy about fixing it than the older generation does,” Norman said. “I don’t see myself as a leader. I see myself as an admirer, and hopefully an assistant.”

As the spring semester begins, the chapter is gearing up for activities from a leftist book club to a fossil fuel divestment campaign. YDSA is also in talks with T-Prog and PRIDE, with tentative plans to collaborate on events.

“We’re super interested in working with other student organizations, because leftism is something that affects every single person and all identities,” Henretty said.

Anaya believes leftism is often painted as pessimistic, but he sees YDSA as more about faith in the world’s potential.

“We have so much faith in the world to do better,” Anaya said. “That’s the root of it all — we just want everyone to do better, and that’s why we fight for what we do. It’s not pessimism as much as it is action and optimism.”

Trinity YDSA’s first meeting will be in the GIS Lab (George Storch Memorial Building 113) on Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m.