Activist groups form umbrella organization to coordinate activities

Disclaimer: Caitlin Colino is a columnist at the Tufts Daily. Colino was not involved in the writing or editing of this article. 

Fourteen Tufts activist groups and political organizations, including groups that organized the Tufts contingent in the global climate strike two weeks ago, have recently joined forces to create the Tufts Activism Coalition (TAC) to coordinate activities and share organizing tips on campus.

The goal of the TAC is to help its constituent groups spread the word about upcoming protests and facilitate the sharing of resources and know-how, especially on key skills like budgeting, its leaders say.

Caitlin Colino, an organizer for Sunrise Movement Tufts and Tufts Climate Action, described how helpful it was to have such strong backing from other campus groups during the planning and execution of the climate strike. She recounted how the Tufts Dining Action Coalition (TDAC) provided Sunrise with insight on its use of spreadsheets during its campaign for dining workers last year.

Colino, a sophomore, explained that groups sharing something as simple as a megaphone during a strike is powerful and acts as an apt demonstration of this coalition’s objective.

“We are here to organize people, not to organize other organizers,” Colino said.

Colino said the TAC is not intended to be a separate activist group, but rather an umbrella organization that supports collaboration within the activist community, with the ultimate goal of mobilizing more of the student body around social justice issues.

Jesse Ryan, an organizer for the Tufts Labor Coalition who was also a leader of TDAC last year, said that the Tufts Dining workers’ campaign was a source of inspiration for the TAC. According to Ryan, that campaign was successful because of Tufts Labor Coalition and TDAC’s collaboration with various other organizations.

Ryan, a junior, said that while the different activist groups on campus are pursuing a diverse range of objectives, the TAC proves that there is more that unites them than divides them, namely a desire to promote social justice, and that student activists are eager to learn more about how their group’s concerns intersect with issues of focus for other groups.

Colino echoed Ryan’s sentiments, saying that she is excited to learn more through this coalition about how climate issues intersect with topics such as immigration, prison justice reform, workers’ rights and more. She said that it was important to market the climate strike in a way that presented the issue of climate change as not solely an environmentalist issue, but as a cross-sectional global issue.

Molly Tunis, an organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine, said that her group, like Tufts Climate Action, began informal coalition-building around its campaign against the Tufts University Police Department’s participation in a 2017 Israeli counterterrorism seminar after realizing how intertwined various campus groups’ work was.

“The campaign was not just about Palestine, it was not just about police brutality,” Tunis, a senior, said. “It was about [how safety] comes through solidarity.”

The TAC also hopes to help student groups be more intentional as a community of activists and organizers than they have been in the past, Ryan said, citing a training session for members on sexual assault prevention and how to respond to acts of perpetration within the activism community.

According to Colino, the coalition also plans to launch a newsletter in the near future, with the vision to more efficiently circulate information about events like the recent climate strike. She said that during the climate strike, the coalition was able to invite students who participated to sign up for the upcoming newsletter.

Tunis further emphasized the importance of communication and said that a reason that  the climate strike was so exciting was because it was one of the first big actions on campus this year. Many new Tufts students witnessed and participated in this movement, so the strike was an influential source for new student activists to start getting involved.

In relation to the forthcoming newsletter, Tunis explained that the activism coalition is considering a text alert system to send immediate notifications to those who subscribe to and follow the coalition. A coalition calendar is also in the works to prevent overlaps in event dates, she added.

“Nothing is set in stone yet. We’re not perfect,” Colino said. “But I am really excited to see where our work goes, as we are all fighting for a just and sustainable future.”