So students at Rutgers kickstarted a campaign to overthrow the incumbent local Democratic machine and as a result are really shaking things up.
These students created a legitimate organization that is composed of residents across the city. They do community organizing by day, electioneering by night, and (electorally) they’ve been remarkably successful.
A group of Rutgers University students and graduates have brought their brand of social-justice activism off campus and into the streets of New Brunswick, winning seats on a key political committee and starting a movement to change the way city elections are held.
“We’re community organizers,” said Charles Kratovil, a 2009 graduate. “We think it’s the best way to effect real change – just like when Barack Obama got out of college, he became a community organizer.”
Kratovil and his fellow students are members of Empower Our Neighborhoods – a group that performs a range of social-justice projects and also spawned an offshoot organization, Democrats for Change to mount a direct challenge to the established Democratic Party that dominates New Brunswick politics.
Democrats for Change, a coalition of moderate, progressive, and revolutionary democrats inspired by Obama’s campaign, shocked the political establishment in New Jersey’s recent primary election winning twenty-five out of fifty-six Democratic Party committee seats against New Brunswick’s entrenched Daleyesque political machine.
The election marks the first time New Brunswick’s conservative Democratic Party machine suffered a defeat at the polls. “For far too long the administration has heard only the voices of commercial developers and business,” said life-long New Brunswick resident Charlie Renda, “Yesterday’s vote signals the beginning of a renewal of democracy in New Brunswick” he added.
For many organizers this is the beginning of a larger political project. “It is time for progressives and radicals to get out of protest mode and to start taking power at the local level. It can be done. We are proving it,” said Keith Joseph a campaign organizer, “we hope to start uniting with progressives who are struggling for political power in other cities” he added.
We should do something like this here at Brandeis!
This is really cool, and Social Justice is our thing, you know? I firmly believe that a sustainable organization of Brandeis grads and students working for positive change in Waltham/Boston would be good for students, a great place to work after you graduate, and, most of all, great for the community.
More than Words and the various Waltham Group projects are arguably a good place to start. They already have ties to the community and Brandeis proper.
We don’t have to /copy/ the Rutgers crew, but the point is that we can and probably should get involved in our community more, and in an organizing sort of way, not just a service sort of way.
I am a member of the Waltham City Democratic Committee. On one hand, the current committee isn’t very fearsome or entrenched. On the other hand, they don’t seem corrupt either. They’re just normal, decent, people, you know?
This is my point. We have so much opportunity to do good. Let’s not forget that. Also, compare and contrast that with Student Union shitshow. Which is more worth praise and attention?
3 responses to “Why can’t Brandeis students do this?”
It also may be relevant that New Jersey (Chicago, too) is know for scumbag politicians. If generally nice folks run the government in Waltham, there should be little need to overthrow them. That said, I agree with both a) this can’t happen out of the blue and b) we need to become more a part of Waltham in general, not specifically to overthrow their government. I think of this both as the general manager of WBRS (more listeners, more possible hosts, more community-related shows, etc.) and as a member of a greater university community (UChicago).
Allie, I totally agree with everything you’re saying.
You didn’t address this, but I’m changing the title of this this post from “Why can’t Brandeis students do this?” to “Hey let’s try this” to better fit the tone of the post.
As for re: Brandeis & Waltham: yeah, storming the gates of the Waltham establishment is the exact opposite of what I’m advocating here. The idea is more like: Waltham is here, and we can help. Many of us do, but in an atomized sort of way, and mostly through service rather than organizing.
We should use a more organzing lens. To organize you gotta be accepted by the community. To do that you need to be mroe integrated and respectful of that community.
tl;dr: Yeah, I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways, though you’re more eloquent at expressing the core of my argument than I am.
Brandeis really needs to up it’s reputation with the town before that could be successful. The demographics of Rutgers versus Brandeis is key here. The majority of Brandeis students live in dorms and really do not contribute much to Waltham’s tax base. Many students never even go into town, save a few trips to Moody Street every once and a while. Rutgers is a large school with more local students who tend to be more invested financially with the local community. Brandeis students tend to be much more invested with Boston than Waltham.
We should start small. I intern in the municipal government and regularly go to a couple of committee meetings all around environmental issues. I would really like to see more Brandeis students engaging with the local government in ways like interning, doing research for committees (since we cannot generally be full committee members) or government offices, and building a stronger partnership between the students and the government. It’s not just a service issue, but a way of showing the town that Brandeis students are really interested in what goes on here. If a bunch of students suddenly start trying to put pressure on the system out of the blue, I can guarantee it will not go well. Even possible supporters would not be likely to accept what they might perceive as a bunch of “upstarts”.
Brandeis is IN Waltham but not OF Waltham. That needs to change before the residents would accept a bunch of “radicals” trying to change the entrenched political system.