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ETSU activist Austin Cable has clear vision for future

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Aug 12, 2019 at 7:48 PM

Born and raised in Johnson City, Austin Cable is trying to do more than just make a difference at East Tennessee State University. He’s trying to make a difference in his community.

He’s served terms in ETSU’s Student Government Association, is a key organizer in the Adjunct Action movement and helped found the ETSU chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, of which he’s part of the National Coordinating Committee.

And though he’s undecided about whether to go to graduate school or run for local office after he graduates, the fourth-year senior has a clear vision for what he wants the future of the region to look like.

Cable Briefly:

Favorite Tri-Cities restaurant: Southern Craft

One hobby: Disc golfing

Ultimate travel destination: “Working on visiting every national park in the U.S.”

One thing you want to accomplish in life: To help people and improve the quality of life in the Appalachian region.

Favorite movie: “Any Quentin Tarantino movie, but specifically ‘Pulp Fiction’ ”

What made you get involved with the Adjunct Action movement at ETSU?

I think my passion for politics and helping people in general kind of put me in a place where I saw what was happening on campus and it just inspired me to take action and start fighting for people — adjunct (professors) specifically, in this case.

What are you expecting for the movement this year?

We’ve already seen a couple (of) colleges increase their pay slightly, and so hopefully by the end of this year, I’d love to see every college at ETSU — if not every university in Tennessee — pay their adjuncts a $1,000 (per credit hour) minimum.

What’s something you’d like to see changed in the Appalachian Region?

I would like to see the area move away from gentrification downtown, and start addressing the problems of poverty and low-income head-on, rather than taking the route Asheville, (North Carolina), has — gentrifying the area and raising rent because that’s pretty detrimental to the people who’ve lived here their entire life.

What are your goals for YDSA at ETSU?

My goal is to make East Tennessee, and the Appalachian Region in general, the most active YDSA/DSA in the country and I believe that can happen because we have, in my mind, the largest potential of any area. The South in general has the largest transgender population, African-American population and the largest working-class population. It’s just about organizing. And if we can do that, I think we can be the hub for Democratic Socialism.

Do you think you could make more of a difference as an elected official or an activist?

I ask myself that all the time. I think that when you get into positions of power that you have more of an ability to pass laws that directly affect people but it seems that whenever people — even activists — get in positions of power that they tend to be corrupted someway or they fall and trip or have to compromise. But as an activist, I don’t have to compromise. I can 100% fight for what I believe in and pressure the politicians. I think the politician has more direct power, but the activist has the potential for more power in the long run.

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