Today, executive board members of the Rutgers University – Newark College Democrats published a press release, which announced their departure from the College Democrats of America (CDA) and from the College Democrats of New Jersey (CDNJ). Today, we would like to publicly express our well wishes for the approximately seven executive board students who decided to revoke their organization’s affiliation with CDA and CDNJ and our deep commitment to continued reform.
In an effort to charitably respond to accusations made against former executive board members of CDNJ, we won’t comment on events that are alleged to have occurred prior to our executive board’s election in May 2020. The presumption of innocence ought to maintained and the alleged incidents investigated; however, in an effort to promote transparency, our administration created the first anonymous system, in our federation’s history, for club members to report harassment, intimidation, and bullying, which has been shared with all chartered chapters. On our first day in office, our administration publicly condemned homophobic remarks made by a New Jersey elected official and, in our second month, we made our organization’s national membership contingent on reforms that have since been met.
Despite efforts made by CDNJ to include Rutgers University – Newark College Democrats in our remote programming opportunities and in our reform efforts, our recently elected executive board was unsuccessful. We take full responsibility for not immediately addressing or solving years-long disagreements between CDNJ and Rutgers University – Newark College Democrats; nevertheless, our elected executive board did include two members who attend the college in question.
Neither of these CDNJ executive board members made reference to the aforementioned allegations related to prior administrations, nor did they express concerns regarding the social climate of our federation. This information was first brought to our attention yesterday and immediate actions were taken to contact the organization’s executive board who, at first, delayed our meeting, and subsequently issued their release prior to our conversation occurring. When we did meet with this chapter, they mentioned none of these allegations.
In late June, approximately two months into our term, CDNJ’s executive board set the goal of expanding our chapter membership to community colleges and four-year universities throughout the State. To date, our organization made contact with students or staff at 20 New Jersey higher-education institutions, and over 25% of these institutions are located in minority-majority cities. We anticipate that these efforts will increase the total number of recognized chapters by 100% by the end of our one-year term, and in so doing, will remove barriers that might prevent students, living throughout the State, from finding opportunities to intern for campaigns or from serving on CDNJ’s executive board.
In just our first four months, we increased the previous year’s number of CDNJ-sponsored events by 300% through productive partnerships with the New Jersey Young Democrats (NJYD) and the New Jersey High School Democrats (NJHSD). Our summer programming included town halls and phone banks, which allowed students to ask questions of and phone bank for congressional representatives as well as congressional candidates; moreover, we provided ample opportunities for students to learn about opportunities on local and federal campaigns, which allowed over a dozen students to net internships directly from our programming and outreach.
We understand that the group of students leading one of our former chapters left not due to the actions of any single individual; rather, they left because they allege that CDA and CDNJ foster the “pervasive culture of racism and classicism that is alive in New Jersey’s Democratic Party.” We disagree. In the past three years, and among other accomplishments, Democrats in the State of New Jersey raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, enacted paid sick leave for all workers, worked towards tuition-free community college, and expanded access to medical marijuana for patients in need. These accomplishments improve the quality of life for our members, promote economic mobility, and ought to be supported.
In just four short months, in the midst of a global pandemic, our federation made thousands of calls for local, county, and federal campaigns, tripled the number of official events, and began the process of doubling the total number of chartered organizations. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” Our record shows a demonstrated commitment to be in the arena. Our administration might not have been able to resolve years of ongoing conflict with one of our former chapters, but we have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of developing our federation’s impact. Our federation’s future includes continued reform and progress.