New student group aims to serve as ‘hub’ for social justice organizing


Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Scott Brown and other student divestment advocates meet with University President Morton Schapiro in April to discuss the socially responsible investment committee. Brown is the co-founder of Student Action NU, a new group focusing on using an intersectional perspective to organize around social justice issues.

Fathma Rahman, Development and Recruitment Editor

Student Action NU — a new undergraduate-led organization — is meant to serve as a space for students who want to organize around social justice issues with an intersectional perspective, said Scott Brown, the group’s co-founder.

“A lot of people come to NU and want to do social justice work, but they don’t necessarily know how to organize,” the Medill senior said. “They aren’t thinking about how different issues connect because they don’t necessarily have experience in that kind of political analysis.”

Brown and co-founder Jackson Paller envision Student Action NU to be a place where students can initiate conversations and learn about how issues are interrelated, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and climate injustice issues, Brown said.

The group had its first meeting last Wednesday, during which Brown and Paller introduced the mission of their organization to about 30 attendees.

“People seemed really excited, and there was a lot of energy in the room,” said Paller, a Weinberg senior. “We have a lot of first-year and second-year students, and, for the purpose of having an organization that’s lasting, that was really exciting for us to see.”

Student Action NU plans to provide students with a variety of resources, such as monthly training sessions about organizing, so students can also get involved without needing to have a specific campaign of their own in mind, Brown said.

Student Action NU is connected to a larger organization, Chicago Student Action, which has branches at several universities throughout Chicago, including Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago. Chicago Student Action is part of The People’s Lobby, a greater Chicago organization, which pushes for change at the government level.

“If there is a campaign that is being formed or coming up, we would want to be a place those people can come and connect with other groups, and other people who are also interested in organizing with them so they can build more power behind their campaign,” Brown said.

Brown — who served as campaign coordinator for Fossil Free NU — said organizing on campus for the last three years has been impactful, but he sees an opportunity to further these efforts through Student Action NU.

“When you analyze the larger picture, you see that all these issues are fundamentally interconnected,” Brown, a former Daily staffer, said. “We should be organizing to change things together rather than organizing separately around single issues.”

Weinberg sophomore Sydney Stein attended the introductory meeting because she wants to get involved with student activism on campus or in the greater Chicago area.

Stein said it was clear that Paller and Brown had been involved with organizing for a long time, but was disappointed that there wasn’t one specific goal in mind.

“The group knows it wants to do organizing and campaigning, and the people in charge of it know what they care about and what’s going on, but there wasn’t really a trickle-down of knowing what the goals are and what specific problems they will be targeting or what groups they will be working with,” Stein said.

The group does not want to take over any campaigns that are already in existence on campus, Paller said.

Instead, it wants to be a “hub for campaigns to be formed,” Brown said.

“It’s especially important for students because we are the ones inheriting this country and this world we live in, so we have the biggest stakes in these battles,” Brown said. “If we’re not the ones organizing and putting radical ideas out into the atmosphere to change the way this world works, then who’s going to do it?”

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