National SDS Structure
The primary organs of SDS are its chapters, but there exists also a national structure to coordinate work, facilitating communication, media work, fundraising, campaigns and events at a national level. All national working groups are open to any SDS member. National work is of critical importance. Just like a chapter is greater than the sum of its members, our national organization can have greater influence when our chapters work together. Having communication between chapters, national campaigns, national media coordination and fundraising, as well as events like the National Convention and Action Camp are essential to SDS being a powerful student and youth network.
For its first two years, SDS had no national oversight body, and this deficiency created problems. After a healthy period of internal debate the National Working Comittee was formed to address issues of national importance. Membership in the National Working Committee is open to all SDS members who are active members in active chapters.
SDS has frequently hosted two types of annual events:
- National Conventions The National Convention takes place annually, usually around the end of July. The first one was held in Chicago in July 2006. The main purpose of the first three conventions was to establish a national structure for SDS. We also passed vision documents, and at the 2008 National Convention we chose our first national campaign. In addition to making decisions, national conventions are a time for SDSers from all over the country to meet each other and share the work they're doing locally. It's also a time for caucuses and auxiliaries to meet, and for people to run and attend workshops on subjects like campaign strategy, organizing basics, media training, and emotional support.
- Summer Action Camps SDS has held two national action camps, one in August 2007 and another in August 2008. Action camp is a place for SDSers to hang out and in some cases literally camp out together, while going to workshops during the day to improve their organizing skills. The action camp is a four day event with workshops on anti-oppression, organizing basics, media, emotional support, consent, campaign strategy, and more! It is very informal and gives participants a chance to bond and form close relationships with SDSers from far away.
Student Power for Accessible Education At present, SDS has one national campaign: Student Power for Accessible Education (SPFAE). Having a national campaign allows SDS to really harness its power as a national organization by having coordinated targets and days of action. The SPFAE Campaign is about fighting for student control of schools, about reducing student debt, and improving the quality of education. The SPFAE Campaign is creating a space for students to make our voices and demands clearly heard on our campuses. We are educating ourselves while working with our administrations and others to build popular support for an educational system that is open to all who wish to learn. Weâ€™re also working for decision-making power over what we learn and how our schools function. Instead of merely getting skills and training for future jobs, we believe our schools should be places that help us reach our full potential, where we can participate in making our society better.
Caucuses and Auxiliary groups are one way SDS practices anti-oppression within the organization. A caucus is a group of people who face a common institutional oppression in our society, such as racism, sexism, or classism. At national events, caucuses will meet to talk about how they are experiencing oppression in SDS, whether it be in their chapters, at the event, or in a national working group. It is a safe space for SDS members to confide and name the problems they face. Caucuses are empowered to make demands of their auxiliary groups. Auxiliary groups are people who do not face the specific oppression of a caucus. For example, a white working class heterosexual woman who's in college would be a member of the Womyn's Caucus and the Working Class Caucus, the White Privilege Auxiliary, Non-Transgender (Cisgender) Privilege Auxiliary, Hetero Allies Auxiliary and the Age Privilege Auxiliary. Auxiliaries meet whenever caucuses meet. It is the responsibility of auxiliary members to take in active role in not practicing oppressive behavior as well as actively supporting the leadership of caucus members.