The College Democrats of America (CDA), the official college student branch of the Democratic Party, has undergone a major structural change, as the group’s president and several executive board members were forced to resign over accusations of “racism and classism” within the national leadership.
The shake-up started when Denison University student Matthew Nowling, the sole black member of the CDA executive board, announced his resignation on June 27, claiming that his efforts to “promote diversity” within the organization had been “twisted” by other board members.
“During my time on the national board, I’ve constantly been ostracized, undermined, and mocked,” Nowling wrote on Twitter. “The perpetrators of those efforts have often done this in the open and during executive board calls and have not seen consequence.”
Nowling’s complaint led to a June 30 ultimatum from a coalition of College Democrat federations from 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, expressing solidarity with Nowling. The coalition threatened to “cut all ties with the organization and denounce it in its current form,” unless a series of demands, including the resignation of CDA President Mikaela Guido, were met within 48 hours.
In response, the CDA announced support of Mikaela Guido’s resignation the following day, promising to start the implementation of all demands made by the coalition.
“We apologize to Matthew for the contributions of our complicit practices and the indirect roles we played into the racism and bullying he experienced in this organization,” the remaining CDA executive board members said in a statement. At least three board members had already resigned shortly after Matthew Nowling cited racism as the reason for his resignation.
Nowling announced on July 1 that he was asked and accepted the role of the CDA’s interim president, in what he called “encouraging steps towards creating a more inclusive and accountable environment.”
Mikaela Guido, a law student at the University of Florida, accused Nowling of using accusations of racism to cover personal disagreements between them. She threatened legal action against those who “attacked on her character,” while saying she agreed that the CDA needed to make changes to reflect “uplifting voices of color.”
“What I do not stand for is being labeled a racist or complacent in racism,” Guido wrote in a statement. “The gross mischaracterization that I contributed to this environment is unequivocally false. Moreover, these unsubstantiated claims of racism towards me have an appearance of being used as a front for personal disagreements, which is morally reprehensible.”