Create Campus Coalitions
Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good: A case for campus coalitions.
By Joshua Parrish
It’s campus rush hour on a Tuesday, and you and your pals are holding down the YAL table at your Student Union. You peer through the ocean of students who are lined up at your table, eager to find out more about “Liberty”, and there you see the other student organizations: The College Republicans, the Young Democrats, Students for a Democratic Society—and the list goes on and on.
What do you see when you look at those other organizations? “A bunch of big government statists,” or “potential allies”? If you want to maximize your chapter’s impact on campus, you must see the latter. Let’s take a look at just some of the benefits of building coalitions with other student organizations and how you can do so effectively.
Remember Your Roots
What camp were you in before you discovered liberty? I’m betting you weren't born with a Ludwig von Mises book in your hands—so don’t expect others to be insta-libertarians. It is easy to adopt the mindset that people who are not advocating liberty are enemies of it, but this could not be further from the truth. Every person you encounter is a potential liberty activist and YAL member. Sometimes, all it takes is a little exposure to our philosophy.
Other student organizations are a great place to recruit new members and form valuable alliances. If you can identify ideological overlap, it is that much easier to move your new allies to full support of liberty. You may even find students who are already proponents of liberty but are active in other organizations because they are not familiar with YAL.
Expand Your Audience
You have a powerful message, but you have to reach out to others if you want it to accomplish anything. Working with other student organizations gives you the ability to expand your impact. Many student organizations allot time in their meetings for open remarks. This is a great opportunity to discuss YAL and make an appeal for others to participate in your meetings and upcoming events.
Any student organization that is worth their salt is constantly collecting contact information and promoting their chapter functions via Facebook and other social media platforms. Partner with other student groups to cross-promote each other’s events wherever its ideologically possible. Not only does this grow your campus audience, but a larger base of organizational sponsorship for an event makes media coverage more likely.
Partner for Progress
If your chapter is just getting started, working with organizations already recognized by your student government association will be a huge help. You’ll be able to “piggy-back” campus resources, like venues and speaker funds until you escape bureaucratic limbo.
Even an established chapter should consider partnering with other student organizations on large-scale events or when hosting high profile speakers. Your SGA’s Finance Committee may be more inclined to allocate money for campus events when there are multiple organizations participating.
Build Your Coalition
The first step to building a successful coalition is to identify organizations that will have a shared interest in (part of) your liberty agenda. Find a list of all of the registered student organizations on your campus and determine how you can work with the relevant organizations to advance our principles. Put together an outline of all of your plans for the school year and share it with other organizations in the first month of classes. The sooner you can present this idea to other organizations the more likely they will be to work with you.
Next, if your chapter does not already have a Director of Outreach, appoint one immediately. Identify someone in your chapter who is organized and who is a good communicator. This person should work with the leadership of other student organizations and attend their meetings as a representative of YAL. This best candidate for this important position is typically a member of multiple student organizations and/or a fraternity or sorority.
Finally, when reaching out to other student organizations, make sure to articulate the benefits their organization will receive as a result of partnering with YAL. Remember, other student organizations are just as anxious to expand their campus network and promote their ideology as you are. If you take the lead on building coalitions with other student organizations, you will establish your YAL chapter as the leading political organization on your campus.
The fact that you are a member of YAL is already an indicator that you are a student leader, so go lead.
Joshua Parrish is the Southeast Regional Director at Young Americans for Liberty. He regularly writes for YAL both on and offline.