ISU Student Action campaigns against injustice on campus

Chris Anderson

ISU Student Action hopes to lead the charge against racial, social and economic injustice and enact change from the local to the national level. The group is new to campus. 

The group is led by Kaleb VanFosson, junior in political science at Iowa State.

Vanfosson has a history of activism at Iowa State, most notably as president of the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS). YDS is a club on campus that has opposed President Donald Trump in the past.

YDS was also instrumental in organizing the “Not my president” protests on campus and other related protests.

In the interest of achieving more tangible change, Vanfosson decided to start ISU Student Action.

The idea to start ISU Student Action came from a similar group at Grinnell College, Grinnell College Student Action (GCSA), which is also affiliated with a national people’s action group. According to VanFosson, People’s Action now has groups in 14 states.

ISU Student Action will be working with the national organization and main organizers at the university will be hired and compensated for their activism.

GCSA led a diversity campaign to increase scholarships for minority students. The group recently held protests encouraging their college to divest money from fossil fuels.

The president of Grinnell College agreed to partial divestment. GCSA is currently working toward full divestment.

ISU Student Action is kicking off their first campaign at Iowa State to end use of prison labor at Iowa State.

According to VanFosson, Iowa State uses labor from prison inmates for various jobs including cleaning around Frederickson Court.

The group is taking a strong stand against the administration’s choice to employ inmates. They claim ISU is standing on the side of oppression by employing prison labor.

According to the group, 1 out of every 3 African American men ends up incarcerated in America.

“Our view is modern justice systems disproportionally oppress minorities,” VanFosson said.

The group spoke to Student Government during a meeting on March 8 and received a positive reception from many senators.

VanFosson spoke of Iowa State’s use of prison labor and the moral dilemma he saw behind it.

On behalf of ISU Student Action, he told Student Government prisoners make “slave labor of 50 to 80 cents on the dollar.”

Many Senators voiced support for ISU Student Action’s cause. Student Government Sen. Mihir Sathuvalli proposed Iowa State should send a petition to the Board of Regents to end the use of prison labor on campus.

ISU Student Action goes further than just ending the use of prison labor. The group strives to eliminate economic injustice. ISU Student Action is currently working on a campaign to raise awareness and inspire legislators to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

To VanFosson, however, this isn’t just about one issue. It’s about creating a movement that strives to correct injustices they see in society.

VanFosson notes that there are many at Iowa State already sympathetic to ISU Student Action’s cause. The group is currently working with professors and Student Government to gain the kind of institutional support they need.

They also are working with other groups and are in the process of planning future protests to draw visual recognition across campus.

“We want to build a strong movement across Iowa State students,” VanFosson said.