UNO Young Democratic Socialists Demand Relief During COVID-19

Creates the Mutual Aid & Solidarity Initiative


Augustine Stratton Johnson, Guest Contributor

Note: Publications in our op-ed section do not necessarily reflect the opinions of members of the Driftwood staff. 

On Friday, March 27, The University of New Orleans Chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) released a set of demands on President Nicklow and the University Administration to enact six community demands for a just and safe response to the COVID-19 pandemic. UNO YDSA is publishing a list of six demands to the administration of the University of New Orleans concerning the end of courses this semester, continued financial compensation for university workers, and housing relief and guarantees for all residents. UNO YDSA is simultaneously organizing a Mutual Aid & Solidarity Initiative. The Mutual Aid & Solidarity Initiative asks our community what they need right now in terms of material aid and collects data on who has or can get that aid in order to equitably distribute the resources of our community.

“It’s ridiculous the University expects us to all function completely the same with absolutely no access to campus and most of our incomes. The Student body is suffering and the administration refuses to leave their comfort zone to help us,” says Marceline Guilliot, Co-Chair of UNO YDSA and President of Louisiana Trans Advocates UNO.

The almost total shutdown of UNO’s campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has created massive instability for the UNO community, particularly for the students for whom campus is their home. It is for this reason UNO YDSA has created the Mutual Aid & Solidarity Initiative. Many students are still unable to focus on their studies due to the demands of survival or due to the stress of a rapidly changing and deteriorating environment.

“It is ridiculous to expect us to complete this semester as if anyone was prepared for this. If nothing is done to alleviate the burden on students, retention rates, GPA’s, enrollment, and morale will plummet. We can’t afford to keep doing business as usual,” says Devin Ngetich, Secretary of UNO YDSA.

Faculty and staff face the same concerns as the students they teach and support. All staff, faculty, and student workers face financial insecurity due to the necessary response to the pandemic, and residents are concerned about the security of their housing situation. In particular, the residents of Privateer Place, the contract student housing division run by Campus Living Villages Pty. Limited, are concerned about April rent that they cannot make due to losing their income up to two weeks ago. UNO YDSA and the UNO community demand that the University’s response be implemented with the direct input of the community.

“There are so many things to be concerned with in the midst of a pandemic that adding the stress of schoolwork in an environment not up to its usual standard and the possibility of not being able to afford rent is deteriorating many people’s mental health. The top priority of the school should be its students, faculty, and staff’s overall health,” says Emily Lyons, a Member of UNO YDSA.


The Demands of UNO YDSA:

  1. Instant pass with credit on all non-required courses with no effect on GPA.

  2. Pass/Fail option for all required courses with no effect on GPA.

  3. Full university-wide compensation for all faculty & staff.

  4.  Residency refund for those forced to evacuate campus.

  5. Suspended rent for Campus Living Villages Pty Limited’s Privateer Place apartments.

  6. Meal plan refund option for all students.

Link to the survey:

UNO YDSA is an autonomous and democratically organized branch of the Young Democratic Socialists, the student and youth wing of the Democratic Socialists of America. Members of UNO YDSA are students and members of the broader campus community at the University of New Orleans organizing to build a better world. UNO YDSA is a recognized student group. For more information, visit or follow @UnoYdsa on Instagram.

Augustine Stratton Johnson is Co-Chair of UNO Young Democratic Socialists of America.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash