By Larissa Charles and J.J. Martinez
Standing with Texas’ good friend Matthew Nowling, forty-two of the forty-six federations of the College Democrats of America (CDA) rallied to demand real change and substantive commitments. In the last few hours, we’ve seen a new era dawning for the national organization. Matthew will now serve as interim president, and the Executive Board’s commitments to change will be followed through with. And while we are cautiously optimistic about the future of CDA, the Texas College Democrats (TCD) will not hesitate to leave CDA if there is no substantial change, which the Coalition of State Federations was promised.
It is not lost on us, however, that the work does not end with changes to CDA. As the Coalition’s response to the CDA Executive Board’s statement said: real change comes from the bottom up, never the top down. While we’ve made important strides in the Texas College Democrats, we know that the work to eradicate racism and classism within still continues. We want to tell you about some of the work we’ve been doing and what more we’re committed to do. Now is the time for sweeping reform.
Early after the 2020 elections, the president appointed a select committee to review the Constitution of the Federation and to draft Bylaws (which had long been missing). On the select committee are college students from across the state — from rural colleges to universities in large cities. The committee is majority POC, including the chair. These are some of the structural reforms the Select Committee will include in their final drafts of the new documents.
Concerning the Executive Board
- A provision will be added which will require that the President and Vice President of the Federation be of opposite gender identities, with at least one being a POC.
- A new voting member of the Executive Board will be added, concerned with inclusivity, diversity, equity, and accessibility within the organization, and the overseeing of caucuses. They shall be elected by the membership at Convention like the other officers of the Board.
Elections and Conventions
- The elections process will be revamped to ensure fairness for all members.
- Mechanisms will be added for adopting an election code.
- How conventions are run will be entirely revamped, with measures to ensure every chapter is able to participate, regardless of location or financial constraint.
Establishing a Senate
- A new governing body will be added to the Constitution, independent of the Executive Board, which shall act as the legislative arm of the organization between Conventions. The Senate shall have oversight over the Executive Board, with each chapter getting one vote.
- A revamped caucusing system will be enshrined into the governing documents, with empowered mechanisms to bring issues to the Executive Board and to the Senate.
- A Committee on Ethics will be enshrined into the governing documents, independent from the Executive Board, with empowered mechanisms to investigate claims against members and chapters.
- A Committee on Rules will be enshrined into the governing documents, with empowered mechanisms to ensure that the governing documents remain reflective of the Federation.
- A non-discrimination clause will be enshrined into the Constitution.
- Mechanisms will be added for adopting a Federation-wide code of conduct.
These structural changes are important and needed to help bridge the gap between, not only chapters and statewide leadership but also the gap between members and statewide leadership.
These changes will most likely be ratified later in the year, however, there are steps we’re taking now to bring about these changes sooner, within our authority.
Our membership department continues to work to charter HBCU’s with the Federation, and explore ways to help diversify local chapter leadership. Further, there is a dedicated diversity and inclusion liaison who is providing guidance to the Board and to chapters on how best to meet the needs of our members.
Our communications department continues to set the foundation for improved communications between the statewide leadership and chapter leaders and members. This will include a newsletter for chapters, published minutes of Executive Board calls, and video officer updates once a month, among other things.
We continue to fundraise to begin directly investing into chapters, providing them with the resources they need. And, we continue to fund the Coronavirus Assistance Student Trust, providing microgrants for Texas students impacted by COVID-19.
We refuse to be complicit in the longstanding institutional racism within College Democrats of America. This is just the beginning of our efforts and we welcome any input. These steps are not the be all end all of what we need to do as a Federation. Even after we’re able to ratify the structural reforms into the governing documents and after the current leadership’s terms expire, there will still be lots to do to ensure inclusivity and welcoming. But we’re confident, not in our ability as a Board, but in your ability, as chapters, as leaders, as members of this organization to see these changes come to fruition.
Larissa Charles, Membership Director
J.J. Martinez, Communications Director