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Colleges Give Students Academic Credit for Pushing Socialist Causes on Campus

College students can earn academic credit for promoting socialist causes on their campuses through a program run by the Young Democratic Socialists, a situation that has prompted concern among conservative and libertarian college students who do not receive credit for similar measures.

The Young Democratic Socialists work with administrators to help their campus student leaders secure academic credit, but declined to The College Fix to say which campuses have made such arrangements through the program.

“We do not have a standing list of schools which provide credit, rather, if a student expresses interest, we work with them to find out if their school would do so,” DSA National Director Maria Svart told The College Fix in an email.

“As you may be aware,” she added, “many schools have programs where a student finds an internship with a non-profit, for-profit, or advocacy organization and is supervised by an academic adviser. Our internship program helps develop a student’s leadership skills, such as critical thinking, writing, public speaking and project management.”

But this arrangement prompted controversy recently at the University of Southern California, where an undergraduate adviser sent students word of the opportunity via the official political science department listserv.

“Sick of politics as usual? Questioning capitalism? You are not alone! … We are currently looking for young, motivated democratic socialists to organize and lead active Young Democratic Socialists chapters at their colleges and universities,” the email stated.

The position was not described in the announcement as an internship, yet academic credit for the role was offered “for eligible students.”

“Anyone else appalled that you can get USC-approved credit for an internship with the ‘Young Democratic Socialists?’” posted Alex Kludjian, a board member of USC College Republicans, on Facebook. In an email to The College Fix, he added it’s biased and absurd.

“Due to the overwhelming amount of Democrats in (Los Angeles) … it is not unusual to have more opportunities with liberal-leaning organizations,” Kludjian told The College Fix. “However, what is reprehensible is the fact that one could receive USC academic credit for a position that seemingly matches the work we as members of CRs or YAL do every day as volunteers.”

Kludjian refers to the College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty, campus groups that promote causes of a different bent that run counter to socialist ones.

After a media inquiry was made to campus officials by The College Fix, the post was taken off the listserv. USC’s Vice Dean for Academic Program Dr. Steven Lamy, in an email to The College Fix, said that opportunity “was posted by an advisor in Political Science without permission or vetting by anyone in the department.”

“The post has been taken down,” he said. “At no time did a political science professor approve this position for academic credit. We do not give credit for external activities unless they are approved by a department and are supervised by a USC professor. I have instructed the political science department to vet all postings in the future.”

Academic credit offered through the Young Democratic Socialists is doled out to students who complete the following: begin a chapter at their school with at least two “officials”; participate in all monthly YDS leaders check-ins on Google Hangout; complete required readings with short summaries; organize and document at least one political/educational event during the span of the semester/year; and write and submit two articles to The Activistblog, according to the group’s website.

“As a YDS Leader, you will work alongside Young Democratic Socialists leaders and staff to develop skills in student leadership and learn the fundamental basics of community organizing,” according to the email sent to USC students. “You will make connections with fellow, like-minded DSA/YDS members from across the nation who share your ideals and vision of a society that puts people over profit.”

“This is literally what I already do for Students for Liberty as a campus coordinator,” USC student Jayel Aheram said on Facebook. “I didn’t know I can get academic credit for this.”

In an email to The College Fix, Aheram said he is not surprised by the socialist tactics.

“Young Democratic Socialists attempting to recruit interns for unpaid positions is the height of hypocrisy,” Aheram said. “You have to remember, these folks are the ones agitating for minimum wage and they can’t even give their own workers that?”

Both the Democratic Socialist of America – YDS’ parent organization – and comrade-ette Betsy Avila, “Youth Organizer” responsible for Southern California, did not respond to emails from The College Fix asking for further details of the YDS campus leader position and why it’s worthy of academic credit.

Aheram, president of the USC Young Americans for Liberty chapter, said it’s noteworthy that conservative and libertarian groups thrive without such perks.

“YDS needing to bribe people with academic credit to get willing members while groups like USC College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty are able to recruit committed activists without bribing them with academic credit is pretty telling,” Aheram said. “In the free market of ideas, students are attracted to groups like YAL and CR without the perverse incentives of academic credit.”

College Fix reporter Derek Draplin is a student at the University of Michigan.

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