Platypus panel held at Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010
Pat Korte, New School Students for a Democratic Society and Radical Student Union, Organization for a Free Society
Hannah Rappleye, CUNY School of Journalism, freelance journalist for Mott Haven Herald in the South Bronx, New School alumnus, former Senior Editor, New School Free Press
Easton Smith, Sarah Lawrence College, UNITE-HERE organizer
Ashley Weger, DePaul University, UNITE-HERE organizer, Platypus Affiliated Society
Moderator: Pamela Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society
Within both historical and contemporary imaginations, university students are posed as playing an indispensable part in progressive and radical Left political movements. This legacy is imbued with and reproduces a sort of mythological nostalgia of the dissident student exemplified in early groups of the New Left such as SDS, whose name and politics found themselves recycled in the American anti-war movement surrounding the Afghan and Iraq wars. However, the twenty-first century student Left is hardly monolithic in its inclinations, ideologies and impulses. Rather, the current state of student politics is one exemplified both by autonomous actions and alliances, converging and diverging in the anti-war movement, labor solidarity campaigns, school occupations, new attempts toward intellectual discourse and theoretical engagement. Such a multifaceted scene requires adequate address. This panel seeks to host a variety of perspectives amongst actors and organizers of the contemporary student Left, engaging their experiences in dialogue with a multitude of questions that remain incompletely addressed as to the future of the university within the realm of emancipatory politics. Particular attention will be paid to the panelists' perspective on the importance of protest as political act, the prevalence and relevance of identity politics, and the current direction of student intellectualism and activism.
A panel discussion with:
Alexander L. Hanna (chair): former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops
Atlee McFellin: Students for a Democratic Society, New School Radical Student Union
Pam Nogales: Platypus (New York)
C. J. Pereira Di Salvo: former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops
Laurie Rojas: Platypus (Chicago), former member of Students for a Democratic Society
Young people’s heightened participation in politics in the run-up to the election of Barack Obama was crucial to his election and cannot be ignored. The burning post-election questions that the Left must answer are 1) what are the current politics of youth and student organizations and 2) how can the mobilization of youths and students be expanded and deepened? This panel aims to explore these questions by critically reflecting upon the politics of two of the largest and most successful Left student organizations of recent times: the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
The panelists will engage these organizations by examining the various perspectives currently influencing them, and explore how these ideas affect their means and ends. This requires us to delve into their current politics, principles, and practice with relation to the history of Left student activism, as well as the history of the Left as a whole. We hope this panel will not only provide insight into the failures of the student Left, but also begin a serious discussion within these organizations and the Left at-large of what the revolutionary potential of such struggle can be.