Environmental advocacy group Students for Environmental Action (SEA) recently launched the Progressive Student Update (PSU), a weekly newsletter that aims to unite left-leaning student groups on campus.
Incorporating the contributions of numerous student groups like the Black Student Union (BSU) and Hopkins College Democrats, the PSU strives to inform students about current events and also inspire political activism.
According to junior Kyra Meko, a PSU coordinator and SEA board member, progressive student group leaders at Hopkins initially came up with the idea in February after talking with Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Convention (DNC) interim chairwoman.
“After the meeting, some of the student group leaders, including myself, felt increasingly disheartened about the Democratic Party’s commitment to representing progressive values and taking young people seriously,” Meko wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
According to Meko, they also felt that it was becoming more difficult to track the barrage of news in the aftermath of U.S. President Donald Trump’s victory.
“The members of the different student groups all had information about current events related to their field of interest,” Meko wrote. “[We realized] that a coalition of the left-leaning student groups on campus would bring information together.”
SEA is currently in charge of the PSU and is responsible for reaching out to contributors and revising their entries. Each of the contributors writes two-to-three sentence summaries of current events relevant to their causes, which they post in a shared Google Doc each week.
After revising the entries, SEA publishes and shares the newsletter on Tuesday mornings.
Aside from the BSU and College Democrats, SEA has also reached out to Hopkins Feminists, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Voice for Choice.
“We are very open to incorporating other progressive groups,” Meko wrote.
The label ‘progressive’ was a point of contention among student leaders, some of whom expressed concern that it might alienate potential readers. Ultimately, contributors decided it was more inclusive than other terms like ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic’. They also reasoned that PSU’s content is directed towards those who identify as progressive.
“We decided on the word ‘Progressive’ because we feel it most accurately represents left-leaning students who want to be politically informed and take action,” Meko wrote. “Many students in this category feel that the Democratic Party doesn’t represent their interests.”
Freshman Tarek Meah, PSU contributor from the Students for Justice in Palestine, believes that being progressive means to be progressive on everything, including the issue of Palestine.
“[Students for Justice in Palestine] is a very progressive club in that we challenge the establishment view the United States has had towards its relationship with Israel,” he said. “That’s what progress is: contemplating the institutions that exist and trying to evoke change through movements like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.”
However, Meah asserted that progressive is a flexible term.
“The definition is different for everyone,” he said. “You have a lot of people on Hopkins Dems who are Pro-Clinton and say they’re progressive. Progressive, without any of my bias, means to be able to fight the injustices of our system towards people who may act different, look different, feel different, and to be able to challenge the institutions in place in order to achieve more of an equal society.”
Given this, Meah believes that ‘progressive’ is an appropriate label.
“All of the contributors are progressive in one sense or the other,” he said.
PSU coordinator junior Darius Mostaghimi intends for the initiative to be as inclusive as possible.
“The PSU is not just for straight-up progressives,” Mostaghimi wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “It’s for anybody who may have progressive leanings who may be too busy with schoolwork and other things to actively go out and find ways to stay involved with the political process.”
Mostaghimi also emphasized that the PSU’s content is not solely related to the Trump administration.
“It talks about national, state, and local — especially campus-related — issues as well,” he wrote. “A person who does not care so much about national issues may be interested in what is going on with events going on right before their eyes.”
So far SEA has published only two issues of PSU. Meah says that while the newsletter has not yet drawn a wide readership, it could eventually spark debate.
“Once it does reach a larger audience, one of the first groups to be targeted would be our group,” he said. “There’s a lot of staunch opposition to the things we say.”