YFIS Chapter Formed on the Campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

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On September 21st, the Student Senate at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville approved Youth for International Socialism’s right to exist on campus as a student organization, bringing a fitting end to a week of planning, organizing, and mobilizing on the part of the student activists of YFIS. This was a victory not only for the fledgling campus YFIS, but for the basic rights of all SIUE students.

A week earlier, when YFIS had their hearing before the Student Organization Advisory Board, members of the board expressed disagreements and concerns about YFIS’s constitution. Some were of a technical nature, but none of which related to the violation of any rules or regulations. Rather, the main objections were of an entirely political character and amounted to little more than unimaginative McCarthyist ramblings. However, the SOAB approved the constitution, pending many minor changes, which were made promptly. The next step was to go before the Student Senate.

YFIS was informed that there were students preparing to speak before the Senate in opposition to their approval. One should be bear in mind that the goal of a Senate hearing is not typically to debate the merits of the ideas of an organization, but rather it is to ascertain whether a group is in violation of any rules.

YFIS activists knew that the key to defending our rights lay in planning, organizing, and mobilizing in the lead up to the hearing. We had one week to get the job done. Individual meetings were organized with every professor willing to give us an ear. We discussed with hundreds of students. YFIS and United Students Against Sweatshops (another campus group facing similar problems) members were invited to speak to classes. E-mails were sent out and everyone was kept informed about every development. Membership for both groups exploded unexpected levels.

Thanks to all this preparation, when the day of the hearing arrived, the three students who opposed YFIS were shocked to see 20-plus YFIS members march up the stairs to the Senate floor in red shirts. Virtually the entire sociology faculty and dozens of other students were present in defense of students’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

Josh Lucker made the opening statement on behalf of YFIS, laying out the basic aims of the organization, what we stand for, and some planned activities that the organization has planned. Then, the first opponent of YFIS, a member of the Finance Board, was given the floor. He accused YFIS of trying to “corrupt freshmen into joining their organization and turn them against the rest of society” and of aiming to “create a dictatorship under the socialist party.”

This attempt to stifle freedom of speech was turned on its head by YFIS and used as an opportunity for public exposure of the ideas of socialism. In his reply, Lucker spoke in favor of democratic workers’ control of industry and society, as well about media control and imperialism. Lucker’s reply was met with raucus applause from YFIS supporters. Immediately afterwards, one of the Senators called for a show of hands of all those who had come in support of YFIS. A sea of hands went up, including most onlookers that witnessed the impromptu debate.

When the Senate formally voted on the issue, YFIS’ application to become a campus organization was approved by a wide margin (only two votes against, with one abstention). This will open many opportunities for YFIS supporters on the SIUE campus to explain the ideas of genuine socialism to their fellow students, and to intervene in an organized manner in the local labor and anti-war movements.

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