The Young Democratic Socialists at Penn State held their third-ever meeting Thursday afternoon in 069 Willard. The group met to discuss outreach, goals for the upcoming semester, and their ongoing conflict with Turning Point USA.
Jesse Ryan, co-president of YDS at Penn State, began work on forming the club in early September. The club was officially recognized at the beginning of the spring semester.
The leftist group discussed possible options for outreach through the rest of the semester. One freshman in the group suggested an introductory lecture on the basic principles of socialism, saying, “Most people I encounter, when they hear socialism, they immediately think Stalinism, fascism, and death camps… There is a difference between socialism and communism.”
Ryan echoed this sentiment, saying, “A lot of people think [of] socialism, and think the opposite of freedom.”
The group suggested that setting up a table in the HUB and collaborating with like-minded clubs would be the best means of spreading their message. Students for Palestine was mentioned as one club they could potentially collaborate with.
In addition, the group discussed the best strategies for having a successful table in the HUB, which Ryan hoped would “preferably [be] away from the Turning Point USA table.”
Some members of the group cited concerns about how the public would react to their presence. “When you have a very sensitive title like us, you have to have a very logical analytical approach when you’re talking to people like that… People might just come up and start ripping up signs,” one member said.
The group came to the conclusion that the best method for creating interest around their club was to find common ground with moderate democrats. Michael Curry, another co-president of YDS, felt that now was the perfect time to reach out to moderates. “There is a lot of disillusionment and fallout because they just saw this liberal capitalist system that they saw as friendly collapse right in front of them,” he said in an interview. “I think it is a time to tell them an alternative new path forward.”
Curry and Ryan both felt that Bernie Sanders was a great inspiration for their club’s foundation. “He expanded horizons for people, even for leftists who didn’t support Bernie,” Curry said. “He helped give platforms. He helped invigorate a sense of youth activism that has been neglected in some cases, especially in the last 8 years.”
Ryan began the meeting by referencing a back-and-forth on Twitter between members of the club and Kylie Thomas, campus coordinator of the Penn State chapter of Turning Point USA, a young conservative organization.
Ryan conveyed his opposition to debating the group (which Thomas was seeking). “I just really think it’s a testament to what would happen if we actually debated these people,” he said.
“It was just not anything productive. It was filled with homophobia,” Ryan said, referencing a photo tweeted out by Ohio State’s TPUSA chapter, in which one of its members was wearing a shirt with a homophobic slur. Thomas had responded by tweeting at the club, “Don’t know how they can be LGBT-phobic when their president is bisexual.”
Ryan reiterated, “Debates are really about who screams the loudest and who talks the fastest. There are better ways to get our names out.” He then shifted the focus of the meeting to ways in which the club could expand and gain new members.
“I want to, especially this semester, focus on outreach in general,” Ryan said in an interview after the meeting. “…I feel like there is a lot of disillusionment among the moderate left, with Trump becoming president. I think this is the time to really recruit people and make a name for ourselves.”
The Young Democratic Socialists are the college arm of Democratic Socialists of America. The Penn State chapter will continue to meet on Thursdays biweekly. Check their Twitter for any changes in location.
Image Credit: Penn State YDSA