Cornell Democrats and several advocacy groups gathered to revise their approach to activism in light of the presidential election and to address the need for coalition building among progressive movements at a meeting Wednesday.
“I think we are attempting to combat different aspects of the same system,” said Cole Norgaarden ’17, director of environmental justice at Cornell Environmental Collective. “This election is an opportunity for us to start working together on these issues because of their common themes.”
Zoe Maisel ’18, co-president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell, echoed Norgaarden, adding that “reproductive freedom and health is an intersectional issue.”
Amnesty International at Cornell representative Cody Moris ’19 discussed Ithaca’s involvement in the refugee crisis, stressing the importance of volunteering.
“Ithaca has signed on to take 50 refugees next year, and a lot of that comes with planning, fundraising, volunteering and political advocacy,” Moris said. “A lot of what we are asking is volunteering, which is definitely undervalued and is huge form of political activism.”
Jack Polizzi ’18, senior policy chairman of the Cornell Roosevelt Institute — a non-partisan student-run progressive think tank — addressed the organization’s “need to retool [its] approach.”
“We are going to be trying to work real closely with Ithaca’s local government to act as the policy arm of what they’re doing and see how we can work with them to craft local policies and help communicate that to the people,” he said.
Polizzi added that the Roosevelt Institute will act as a platform to connect different groups on campus.
“We’re trying to put together some initiatives to create dialogue between different groups on campus,” he said. “Trying to figure out a way to [move] forward and how we can all talk to each other, because one thing that’s been laid bare this election is that it’s pretty hard for us to talk to each other.”
Zachary Schmetterer ’18, president of the Cornell Roosevelt Institute, cited a problem in “progressivism” today that leads people to view those who disagree with them as inferior.
“I think it’s our responsibility if we really want people to believe what we are saying that we need to approach every single person regardless of what they might’ve said with good faith and willingness to talk to them like an equal,” he said.
Stressing solidarity and collaboration, groups like ALANA Intercultural Board offered resources to help groups move forward.
“The idea of creating spaces of solidarity, spaces of converse and collaboration for differences is certainly one of the primary goals of ALANA,” said Conor Hodges ’18, representative for ALANA.
The organizations also voiced a desire to work toward the possibility of constructing a large coalition of activist groups on campus.
“I was one of the organizers for the walkout,” said Ana Jimenez ’18, a member of Cornell Organization for Labor Action. “Something that was extraordinary of having 48 hours to get thousands of students outside of their classrooms is that there was a sense of urgency.”
Jimenez said this urgency mobilized activist groups to organize the walkout last Friday.
“Getting involved in a campus wide coalition where we have these spaces to plan actions and act as a collective is definitely something promising to work towards to,” she said.
Moris added that Amnesty International is currently collaborating with other activist groups on campus.
“A lot of what we do is coalition building, and that is a great way to build a larger alliance,” Moris said. “Tonight is one of the very first steps in building a larger progressive machine.”
“Now we’re starting to organize,” he said “Now we’re starting to build.”