How the Left Came Together by Splintering Apart


Illustration by Rachel Buigas Lopez

The election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States has sparked an increase in activity among many liberal student groups at NYU. Such organizations as SLAM, NYU’s College Democrats and NYU Divest are reorganizing their aims and seeing a great influx in membership.

Sayer Devlin, Deputy News Editor

A dozen or so members of the Student Labor Action Movement sat in a circle on the floor of Kimmel during their weekly Monday meeting as they discussed, planned and organized their next actions. The format of the meeting is democratic, since SLAM is a non-hierarchical organization.

SLAM is one of the many one of the many single-issue activist groups activist groups that have become reenergized at NYU since the election of President Donald Trump. Though such groups might focus on various issues or policy changes, they’re all united by the belief that students deserve to have their voices heard.

“People have focused on what tangible changes they can make in their own community, and in that sense, people have turned to groups like SLAM, like [Incarceration to Education Coalition] to exercise direct change in communities they’re a part of,” CAS senior Drew Weber said. He is a SLAM member and often helps with organizing for the group.

Gallatin senior Katie Shane, who has been a member of SLAM for two and a half years, said she has seen people become more willing to commit to participating in their movement since the 2016 presidential election.

“I think enthusiasm has changed,” Shane said. “I think people are more inclined to show up to our actions than they have been in the past. When we say things like we have members on our board who are advising [President Donald Trump], that really speaks to them.”

This semester groups like SLAM have ramped up their activity. The group met with NYU President Andrew Hamilton after a walkout during a town hall that was coordinated with NYU Sanctuary, a group demanding that NYU declares itself a sanctuary campus. NYU Divest started a #TrusteeoftheWeek campaign that publicizes the corporate ties of Board of Trustees members.

NYU Sanctuary also met with Hamilton on Tuesday, April 4 to present a list of demands and proposed changes.

Like SLAM, NYU Sanctuary has a horizontal organizational structure and was founded the week after Trump’s election. NYU Sanctuary has several working groups that focus on specific topics such as such as outreach, rapid response, research and education.

CAS sophomore Izzy Khoufaify, a member of NYU Sanctuary, said that the single-issue focus of the group makes NYU Sanctuary more productive.

“I think when you’re specialized you can get more done,” Khoufaify said.  “We want to show the administration that we are here together. We’re not divided. It’s for the good of the students.”

NYU College Democrats, which has traditionally focused on mainstream politics, also branched out and embraced activism this semester, according to CAS senior Michael DeLuca, the club’s president.

“After November we realized we had to recalibrate and adjust the organization, because we were so optimistic, and we had a focus on politics and campaigning,” DeLuca said. “We really wanted to focus entirely on activism this semester. We knew that people would be coming out to find things to do and our position was to give them the resources and direct them to the places to do the work they were already doing.”

Since the election, College Democrats have reorganized. They created six task forces, focusing on issues such as immigration, women’s health and housing, to identify organizations, causes and actions that can affect change.

“NYU and New York City and these more local levels where we can affect change are really the best area for us,” DeLuca said. “We can write to our senators and call our district offices until our heads explode, but it’s really fighting for issues on campus where we can have an impact in the local area.”

Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]