The Swarthmore Progressive Action Coalition [SPAC] began a new era yesterday with a packed event in the Lang Center’s Keith Room. After having been mostly dormant for a few years, SPAC has plans to reconstitute itself as a central resource for campus progressive groups.
SPAC wants to be a “community-building resource” for the groups, says treasurer Markus Schlotterbeck ’10, on the left in the photo above. “As activists we all have campaigns that overlap a lot and that should overlap even more.”
Schlotterbeck added, “I’m hoping that this will function for new students and students who haven’t done political action to figure out what’s going on on campus.”
SPAC hopes to offer resources in addition to on-campus networking opportunities. Member Ruth Schultz ’09, on the right in the photo above, announced that skill-based workshops and anti-oppression training will be made available to SPAC members later this semester, and member Rory Sykes ’08 said that “this will also be a place for you to find out about money and off-campus resources.”
A variety of groups sent representatives to the SPAC opening banquet. There were groups primarily used for support, such as the Swarthmore Queer Union and the Swarthmore African Student Society, groups which take electoral action such as the College Democrats, local action groups such as Learning for Life, and global action groups such as Amnesty International.
What do all of these groups have in common? In an e-mail sent out to groups before the banquet, SPAC was described as “an explicitly political coalition that resides on the Left.” When asked how SPAC defines “progressive action” at the banquet, Schlotterbeck responded “we’re trying to cast a wide net… if people self-identify as progressive we’ll work with them.”
Pro-legal-abortion group VOX was represented at the opening meeting, so what if the Swarthmore Students Supporting Life, who are anti-legal-abortion, but also anti-death-penalty, wanted to take advantage of SPAC resources?
Schultz said that in that case, “it would have to be an issue that people could come together on… maybe Amnesty International and Swarthmore Students Supporting Life could do an anti-death-penalty campaign together.”
Because of the possibility of such discrepancies, SPAC won’t be dictating campus progressive policy from the top down, but rather trying to support existing groups and campaigns. “We’re not above the groups, but below the groups,” explained Schlotterbeck. “We’re trying to build a base for them to work from.”