Students have come together with community leaders, including some Whitman College staff and faculty, to create a new Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapter in Walla Walla.
On a national level, the DSA is the largest organization of socialists in the country. They believe that working people should be the ones to govern the societal and economic systems of the nation.
Senior Joe Jolley, who is spearheading Whitman student involvement in this local chapter, explained the concept of democratic socialism.
“Democratic socialism wants to see a truly democratic society in all aspects,” said Jolley. “[We are] not only pushing for a more politically democratic society … but also economic democracy.”
The founding of a local DSA chapter has been a collaborative effort from many interested groups in the Walla Walla area.
“It was kind of a conjoiner of a lot of mutual interests both from students and faculty and staff on-campus, and from people in the broader community to make this happen,” said Jolley.“[The campus group hopes] to make people aware that there is sort of a coordinated socialist presence on campus and expose people to those ideas and get people who might align with socialism in their politics, but haven’t found an outlet for it yet.”
On Monday night, the new chapter partnered with Feminists Advocating Change and Empowerment (FACE) and the Walla Walla Progressives to host a panel on “Prospects and Possibilities of Universal Public Healthcare.” The panel was composed of: Professor Jack Jackson, a Whitman faculty member, Helena Platt, a Whitman student, and Everett Maroon, a candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives (D).
Maroon is currently the Executive Director of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart. He seeks to represent vulnerable and stigmatized populations of the 16th Legislative District, in which Walla Walla is located.
“Everyone deserves a right to basic healthcare … a right to live,” Maroon said during the panel.
Senior Alya Bohr facilitated the panel Monday in Kimball Theater.
“Universal healthcare is a pretty big component of the DSA platform,” Bohr said. “I think this was a good entry point into understanding like, ‘here’s one core tenant of the politics and the values that you’ll be organizing around,’ but obviously won’t be the main factor.”
Each chapter of the DSA hosts a variety of meetings and events in alignment with the organization’s national values which aim to empower America’s workers and focus on their needs. Healthcare is an important facet of this, but not the only one.
When speaking of her interest in joining and leading within the new group, Bohr said, “through being in college and post-election, I have realized I have all of these opinions and I want to know what to do with them, and having DSA be an organized structure whose values I agreed with, it felt like a cool way to put it all together in a concrete way.”
The DSA student group will meet for the first time in the week following elections on Nov. 6, and preceding Whitman Thanksgiving Break, and will be providing more information on democratic socialism, community involvement opportunities and social action goals the chapter has.