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Drake Comrades seek to make change in Drake Neighborhood

by ZOE TREILBITZ

Free tampons across Drake University bathrooms, sign the petition. These are the words students were hearing walking through the Activities Fair, coming from a man staffing a table asking people to provide their signatures. Once you sign, he then asks if you’d like to put your email down to join the Drake Comrades, a communist and anarchist group of students on campus. There was an air of disbelief as some people walked away as to whether or not he was kidding. He was not.

While it at first seemed laughable, studies show that an increasing number of young people are turning away from capitalism and towards alternatives. In fact, a majority (52%) of millennials surveyed by the Victims of Communism Foundation said that they would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist one. Knowing this, it becomes evident that a vacuum existed for the Drake Comrades to fill.

The group consists of people who would consider themselves leftist, including communist, socialist, anarchist or others who would self identify as such.  The group does not include liberals, in either the classical or political sense.

“The problem they take with liberals is that they’re too election driven,” Jaime Izaguirre, president of Drake Comrades, said. “The group is issue-driven, focusing on tackling problems they see in our backyard and taking direct action themselves to create change. The club believes that elections will not be the solution to issues facing the community.”

“I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter,” Izaguirre said. “But he isn’t going to come fix housing issues in the Drake neighborhood.”

Housing issues are the main driving force behind the club right now. The goal is to end gentrification issues arising from new construction. They want to engage more students in the community by lowering the cost for students to join the Neighborhood Association from $20 to $5. They want to give more of a voice to the Northeast and Southeast parts of the Drake Neighborhood in what is going on in their community. When pressed for more details about what their specific plan was in terms of address the massive issue of gentrification, Izaguirre clammed up. Only comrades get to know the reasons and strategies that make up their campaigns.

Most importantly, the central goal is that they want to minimize the influence of the University has in what goes on in the community. The group believes the goals of Drake do not line up with the student body or community needs because they have their own goals to make a profit and expand.

“Drake’s inspiration is that together we transform lives and strengthen communities,” Ryan Arnold, Drake’s Director of Community Engagement, said. 

Arnold was someone that Izaguirre mentioned by name as a problem. Arnold explained that Drake listens to community partners to create projects such as, “repurposing surface parking into new development, by partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa,” and by announcing the university’s “intentions to strengthen Dogtown by partnering with Merge Urban Development, applying best practices for smart, equitable growth.”

When asked how he felt about the new group that is actively working to diminish the influence of Drake in these projects, he responded, “We continue to listen to our students and our neighbors. Community identified needs, as well as, student perceptions define how we best strengthen this community. So, I welcome conversation–I want to be informed by the diverse voices that make up our collective community.”

It’s in this space that the new club exists. Giving a voice to students who are trying to change the community in the way that they think is best. It’s with this cause that Izaguirre stood behind that table calling people over to sign their names.

With thirty members and growing, expect to see the comrades around campus.

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