Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001
From: Aaron Kreider <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Student Power
Here is an essay I wrote on "Student Power". I'd *love* critical feedback
(aka discussion)!!!!. And I hope people will read it, since I know I went
through at least four years of college before I started to think critically
(Note: the following was written primarily for college students, though
much of it could be adapted for high school and middle school use. My
target audience includes both students who have just become activists as
well as those who have been working for justice for many years. As others
have noted, this essay is limited by my personal experience. While I have
tried to read everything I can find on student activism, much of this essay
comes from my successes and failures in organizing students at two private
residential religious schools that were homogenous regarding several key
variables though they differed sharply in terms of size, typical political
views, and institutional ranking. As women, students of color, working
class students, non-traditional students, queer students, and commuters
have experiences that differ substantially from mine, their own
interpretation of student power would contain significant differences.
These differences should be included and analyzed in either a new essay or
added as improvements to this one.)
Please distribute widely and freely. Comments welcome.
By Aaron Kreider
What does it mean to be both a university student and a social justice
activist? Where do students fit-in to the wide spectrum of movements for
social change? How can we best use our position to create an alternative
A commonly expressed argument is that activists should organize where they
are. Doing this is easier, avoids patronizingly telling other people how to
run their struggles, and is often the most effective method of organizing
large numbers of people. This method calls on us to organize the people who
surround us, to work for issues that they feel are immediate. For many of
us this means we are organizing students in our high schools, universities
and colleges - often around school-issues.
As young people, many from backgrounds of privilege, we find ourselves
concentrated in institutions of higher learning that are being regular
corrupted by corporate influence, and where we possess tremendous power to
shape our unjust society. This power is STUDENT POWER.
A Historical Background of Student Power
In the United States, students first protested on campus two hundred years
ago. The earliest significant wave of student activism was in the Thirties.
The actual term "student power" was probably invented by Students for a
Democratic Society in the Sixties after the development of Black Power
ideology by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC
defied the commonly held view that Blacks on their own were too weak to
fight and win, and thus that they had to rely upon the support of white
liberals. SNCC argued that if they were to recognize their own power,
mobilize, and fight for Black Liberation then they could achieve
The concept of student power recognizes that young people can develop their
power on campuses and construct liberated bases for social movements. An
early form of student power was seen in the Sixties when young people
mobilized to sweep away "in locus parentis" rules that gave the power
traditionally held by a student's parents to their university
administration. These rules had severely restricted students' rights.
Student power can be the simple assertion that campus organizing is valid
in of itself, that students have issues that are important and that we
should not merely be used by other social movements as easily recruited
foot-soldiers for their struggles. Or it can be a stronger belief that
student activism plays a critical role in resistance to corporate power,
and white and male dominated institutions.
A noteworthy powerful demonstration of student power occurred in France in
May 1968 when students occupied their universites, placed decisions in the
hands of democratic mass assemblies, and started to work with the faculty
to fundamentally restructure their schools. Young people occupied high
schools as well. Students built alliances with workers who occupied
factories and ten million workers went on strike, placing severe pressure
on the national government. Unfortunately while students realized their
goals in the short-run, when the rebellion ended students no longer had as
much power and the administrators were able to reverse the most important
Like France in 1968, student power has often shook and even toppled
governments. And it should not be seen as only a Sixties phenomenon, as in
1999 Mexican students went on strike for many months and took over their
national university (UNAM). That same year, Indonesian students played a
key role in organizing demonstrations that toppled their dictator Suharto.
Ten years earlier Chinese students led a pro-democracy movement, occupying
Tiananmen Square while their government hesitated for one month between
agreeing to their demands and using brutal repression.
Student Power Matters
The struggle for control of the university includes the fight for
democratic worker control of the sites of production (akin to workers
fighting for control of a factory or service provider) and the struggle for
democratic community government.
A common myth is that the campus is not the "real world" and what goes on
here is not important. Unfortunately, this can lead would-be student
activists towards apathy. In fact campuses are critical areas of knowledge
production in a society where information is becoming the most important
product. Universities both educate students as well as produce research for
corporations, the military, and the public good. Both the educational
programs of over ten million students and the research program of hundreds
of universities are up for grabs. Corporations want the educational system
to train young people to work for them, and they want university research
to develop products for them to sell. If we do not want to work for
corporations or give them new products, then we have got to resist their
agenda. Not only do universities produce research for corporations, but
they also produce ideology. Universities work with high schools and grade
schools to reproduce the hegemonic ideology of the ruling class which
justifies our current social practices of environment devastation, putting
profit before people, sexism, racism, heterosexism, and imperialism.
Universities provide greatly needed legitimacy to our unjust social system.
Noam Chomsky is correct in arguing that propaganda is more essential in a
democracy than in a dictatorship, since in a democracy the people, if they
are not misled by propaganda, can oppose the wishes of the ruling class. So
it is in our society that the educational system is a leading producer of
Like a community, residential college campuses can be total environments
for millions of students who live, work, study, play, sleep, and eat - all
on campus. For these millions of students, university administrations are
like municipal governments that exercise limited powers (for instance
through their control of the police) over their community members. The
difference between the two is that while city governments are at least
elected, administrations are unelected and unaccountable dictatorships.
Even for students at non-residential campuses, which are not total
environments, there is no good reason that democracy should cease for those
eight to twelve hours when one is working at a job or studying at school.
A Critique of the Educational System
Any radical perspective of our educational system will quickly determine
that it serves the interests of the ruling class, putting corporate profit
before human needs. The educational system is flawed due to unequal access,
the corporate designed curriculum, its abstraction from real life, and the
artificial separation of the ivory tower from the community.
Firstly, who is the system educating? Is education equally accessible to
all members of society or is it a privilege of the few? The evidence shows
that there is massive inequality of access along class lines. For instance
while 76% of children from families in the top income quartile get a
Bachelor's degree by age twenty-four, only 4% of students from the lowest
quartile do the same (Loeb, 1994). Clearly governmental financial aid has
proved inadequate to provide equal access. Also according to Loeb, college
students are primarily white with the student population including only 8%
African-Americans, 4% Asians, 4% Hispanics and 0.5% Native Americans. Not
only are working class students and students of color less likely to
participate in higher education, but if they do they are more likely to
attend public universities and community colleges than elite private
schools. As a good education is becoming increasingly more essential for
future economic success, the exclusion of the working class and students of
color from universities and colleges serves to reproduce class and race
inequality in our society.
Educating to do What?
Secondly, what are students being educated to do? Are we being trained to
create a better society? Unfortunately not. Students are being taught
values and skills that will make us productive and profitable workers for
large corporations. The educational system is designed so that most of us
will, without hesitation, reinforce the hegemonic ideology of the ruling
class. As future teachers, researchers, politicians, advertisers, writers,
or scientists most of us will express our support for human domination over
the environment and for unbridled free markets as the best economic system.
Corporations are pushing practical skills like business, computers,
medicine, science, law, and engineering - all of which train us to
lubricate the corporate machinery. As a consequence fewer students are
studying humanities, an area in which students are more likely to be taught
to think critically and become opponents of corporate power and white and
male dominated institutions. In our increasingly business-oriented system,
students will even take unpaid internships at corporations - here the
exploitation is stunningly clear. Even paid internships serve to
indoctrinate students into corporate values, reinforcing the corporate system.
Our own universities have even adopted the profit motive. They express it
by trying to maximize their ranking. This requires them to maximize their
endowment, which is fed by donations from rich alumni (and non-alumni) who
sit on corporate boards. Universities are joining more partnerships with
corporations, as they privilege research for corporations and the military
over teaching students. This is even more true in the past twenty years, as
since the 1980 passage of the Dole Bill universities have been able to
profit from their patented research by selling the patents to corporations.
Previously the results of this research would have been placed in the
public domain. Corporations like to do research at universities as it is
subsidized by the public through federal research grants and public
subsidies of higher education. In sum, our entire curriculum and research
agenda is up for sale to the highest bidder - large corporations.
The impact of the educational system upon students is not only a result of
the material that is taught but also a product of the educational process.
The problems with this process include top-down pedagogy, credentialism,
the dominance of negative incentives, the focus on easily measurable
skills, and unnecessary specialization.
One of the reasons that students are so alienated from the educational
process is that pedagogy is primarily top-down. This happens when teachers
lecture, attempting to fill the supposedly empty minds of the students with
their Truth. Is it just a coincidence that this relationship parallels the
boss/worker one found in most workplaces? Could this pedagogy be intended
more to teach students to stay in their place and not question authority
(whether that of the State, Church, the "as interviewed on TV" expert, or
other institution) - than for its educational effectiveness? A more
progressive pedagogy would have more discussion, group work, independent
projects, student presentations, student control of the curriculum, and it
would encourage students to challenge their teachers. Students who think
for themselves and teach their peers are learning skills that are essential
for a democratic society.
In education, all too often the goal of teaching knowledge, methods, and
critical thinking is replaced with the goal of getting a good grade so that
one can receive a diploma. Students need the diplomas so that they can get
a "good" high-paying job. The fact that the diploma is more important than
knowledge and that much of what schools teach is irrelevant to real life is
The use of grades as negative incentives is the result of poor teaching
methods and the irrelevancy of the material that is taught. Due to these
causes, students do not want to learn things for themselves and instead of
encouraging learning, schools threaten to give low grades. These grades
reinforce the idea that the only reason one learns is to avoid the negative
incentive, and thus grades socialize students to avoid unnecessary
studying/learning. Conveniently for the ruling class, this means that
students are less likely to read books on their own and come across
system-threatening ideas like feminism, anarchism, deep ecology, and
others. Since it is very rare for students to study radical theories in
school, most students will never study alternatives. By promoting student
complacency, our unjust social system tries to assure its survival.
An additional problem with grades is that they bias the educational process
to focus on knowledge that can be easily measured. Teachers are often
overburdened with work and will resort to getting their grades from tests
that take the least time to mark. Thus teachers will use multiple-choice
exams instead of long answer ones, essays and "show your work" questions
(in math and the sciences). We have all memorized facts for tests,
sometimes the night before, only to forget them within a very short time.
Facts are easier to measure than ideas.
This problem can also be observed by the use of the SAT and GRE exams to
determine acceptance into undergraduate and graduate school. Both of these
work from a questionable belief that a student's academic ability can be
measured by their vocabulary and math skills. Also the SAT, which was
written for middle-class white students, has been shown to discriminate
against working class students and students of color. Another example is
the current controversy with national testing of grade school and high
school students. The test will strongly push teachers to use the phonetics
approach to teaching children how to read, instead of using a holistic
approach where students look at the context of the word within a sentence
and within a text to determine its meaning. The phonetics method could come
to dominate simply because its results are easier to test.
Education should be based on learning how to think critically, write,
problem solve and other skills that one will remember in the future due to
constant use. Facts should not be abstracted from their context. Often
understanding the meaning of an event is more important than knowing the
exact year it took place, and knowing an event's context is probably
necessary for long-term recollection of the date. Conveniently for the
ruling class, the educational process trains students to mindlessly
regurgitate facts and what their teacher said instead of thinking for
themselves. This practice serves to socialize them for a future boss/worker
relationship. The increased level of free thought at college is due to the
need for college students to be bosses (middle management or professionals)
and also a recognition that our information economy cannot function without
some freedom. We should resist this system, using whatever level of
critical thinking we are taught to challenge injustice, and refuse to be
either worker or boss.
Some freedom of thought is necessary for the functioning of our economy,
but this freedom is also dangerous to the ruling class. So what is the
solution? Specialization! Free thought, so long as it is confined to narrow
boundaries that do not question the critical assumptions of the system like
the profit motive, will actually serve to maintain the system.
Education, especially at the higher levels, becomes increasingly abstracted
from real life. At the same time, the focus of a student's studies narrows
more and more. By the time one is in graduate school, you are not only
taking all of your courses in one subject, but also focussing in with a
master's thesis and dissertation on a very small subset of an area within
that discipline. For instance, I am studying sociology, particularly social
movements, and within that field I am writing a sixty-page thesis about
recruitment for high risk/cost actions.
The danger with this specialization is that what students learn is hard to
share with people who are not in their field or have not attended college.
Students are taught to communicate with their fellow academics, but not how
to explain ideas to the public. Our society would benefit from having a
widely and well-educated population that could discuss a wide range of
topics. Both of these things are necessary for the functioning of
democracy, however due to the educational system's high level of
specialization they are currently lacking.
Democracy requires education, as history has shown we cannot trust the
experts on matters of economics, military affairs, environmental policy and
other issues. But with specialization people do not realize the full impact
of what they do. For instance it is easy for a business major to join
corporate management and ignore the economic exploitation of the firm's
workers. Likewise scientists found nuclear power to be an exciting
invention, without thinking about its impact upon world peace and the
environment. To realize our resistance to corporate power and white and
male dominated institutions, a people's movement that is strong enough to
topple it must be alliance of many movements. The alliance can only come
when people understand that all forms of oppression (and thus also of
liberation) are connected. This requires a broad education.
Another level of abstraction in academia comes from the mathematical
takeover of the sciences and more questionably so its takeover of the
social sciences. Especially with the advances in computer technology and
statistical software, students find it easier to analyze data (preferably
that someone else took the time to collect) than spending time with a group
of people to understand what they are doing, or to do lengthy interviews.
Economics is an excellent example of a social science that at the graduate
level can be almost pure math. By turning people into numbers it is easier
to ignore them, and to avoid developing relational ties of solidarity upon
which our resistance is based.
Instead of this abstraction, it should be possible to integrate learning
with real life. The potential of this is limited somewhat by the fact that
a typical student's level of school work is very time-consuming, the need
for students to work due to high tuition rates and a lack of federal
grants, and that educational process has socialized students into not
wanting to learn on their own. But within these limits there are still
areas in which the educational process can be improved. Students could do
experiential learning, for instance getting credit for their activism. Also
students could learn from discussion with friends, experience, surfing the
Internet with a purpose, reading books, listening to speakers, and in other
ways. All of these are already a part of the college experience, however
they are currently devalued since they cannot be graded.
The educational process thus discriminatorily selects students based on
race and class, then submits them to a corporate curriculum which is taught
in an unjust and improper manner and where they are pushed to unnecessarily
specialize. Is it any wonder that many campuses are a privileged space
separate from the community in which they are located? A liberated campus
will be integrated with the community (and likewise the region, nation, and
world), incorporating its participation for more than just sporting events,
and students would be involved in community affairs (for instance through
experiential learning - both service and activism).
Where Can We Find Our Power?
Now that we have examined the systematic failings of our educational
system, we turn to the question of how students can realize their power so
that we can transform the educational process into a liberating one.
Sometimes a social movement does not need to wait and hope for outside
assistance for it to be able to succeed. Rather, it needs a transformation
of its consciousness so that it recognizes how it can use its untapped
resources to win. The same can be said for us. Students need to recognize
Some of this power is the product of our privilege. If you look at U.S.
student activism, you will find that it is disproportionately (though not
purely) located at the more prestigious schools. For instance a recent
spring 2000 list of United Students Against Sweatshops contacts showed that
53% of them were from schools ranked by US News and World Report in the top
quartile of their respective category, while only 5% were in the lowest
quartile. Part of the explanation for this disparity is that student
activists organize around different issues at less prestigious schools and
receive less attention for their work. However I suspect that this fact
would not explain all of the difference. What we can learn from this is
that it is important to recognize if your activism is facilitated by your
privilege, so that you realize that it is not always as easy for others to
One primary source of our power is our people. Students outnumber
administrators and this allows us to do successful grassroots organizing.
Just imagine how many people would come if your administrators organized a
rally or tried to do a petition drive!
A second source of power is our education. We can use our school-learnt
skills to speak, write pamphlets, do research, use persuasive arguments to
win others to the cause, gain media coverage, and plan strategic campaigns.
Between the library and the Internet one can adequately do research on most
important social issues, and then with the facts on our side we are more
likely to win.
A third power is that the purpose of being a student is to learn. So we
just need to slide our radical propaganda into the process =)
Millions of students are in training for the future elite. As activists, we
can share information and work on campaigns. Our goal is to convince our
fellow students to move away from the values and practices of the ruling
elite. One possilibility is that students might choose to defect. They
could drop-out of the rat race and take a position of neutrality in respect
to the exploitation of people and the planet. For instance they might work
only enough to pay their bills and not try to crawl up the social ladder as
that would only increase their culpability in exploitation of their fellow
human beings. Another option is that they might still join the elite but
move it towards liberalism, so it is less likely to support repression of
social movements and more likely to compromise with our goals. The most
preferable outcome is that they become activist-intellectuals that will
join our movement for social and environmental justice. Any of these three
outcomes will hurt the power elite and create a social structure that is
more open to social movements.
A fourth strength is our youthful idealism. Less touched by failure, young
people are more likely to believe that a new world can be realized and
willing to take the risks that are necessary to accomplish it. Typically
having neither child, spouse, nor full-time job - students are also more
able to take risks.
Fifthly, students often identify strongly with their school, especially if
the school is small or residential. For some people it is an almost-all
encompassing community, as they live, shop, study, eat, and play all in the
same setting. Students share a common set of experiences due to our years
in school and growing up at the same time. Thus most students care enough
about their school and their fellow classmates to agitate to improve the
school to fit the just society that we are trying to build.
A sixth source of power is the liberated spaces that already exist on
campus. We can use our schools to develop and practice alternative
theories. We can create safe spaces that insulate people from sexism /
racism / capitalism / heterosexism - and by doing so, we can show others
and ourselves the society that we are trying to create and use this to
strengthen our spirit of resistance.
Building Student Power
How can we build student power? We need to democratize our campuses -
transforming them into liberated spaces that are bases for activist
movements. This process is long and hard, and this essay will only paint
broad strokes, skipping over most of the details as they are best left to
organizing guides such as those produced by the Center for Campus
Organizing and Student Environmental Action Coalition.
Firstly we need to recognize our class privilege that helped most of us get
into college and our responsibility to use this advantage to dismantle the
structures of privilege, opening the gates of higher education to working
class students and students of color. To equalize access we need to support
affirmative action, reduce tuition, and replace federal loans with grants.
Some schools, like the City University of New York, demonstrate how this
accessibility is possible by admitting everyone who has graduated from high
school - working with students from where they are to help them get a degree.
Opening admissions is not enough, as we need to transform the institutions
as well. We should demand the creation or strengthening of departments that
reflect our values of diversity and justice (programs in ethnic, women's,
peace, labor, queer, and environmental studies). Also in the general
curriculum, it should be required that students take one or more classes
that address racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. Students should be
both free and encouraged to create and teach their own courses, as well as
to get credit for doing activism either counting as an internship or
Ultimately students need to reshape the power structure of the entire
university. We should analyze and expose the corporate connections of the
administration (whether president, vice-presidents, board of governors,
trustees or other). We can demonstrate that they are generally wealthy
businessmen (and some women) who do not share the interests of the working
majority of Americans. We should agitate for a university senate or similar
democratic structure that would allot all power to students, faculty and
staff through either representative or participatory democracy.
While you are working for the replacement of your current administration
with a democratically elected one, it will be helpful to build alternative
power bases on campus. Thus you could run a progressive party for student
government and use that as a platform, backed up by student activism, to
legitimate your demands for increased student power and also to implement
progressive programs. Also you can build up strong activist organizations,
as well as working to support and unionize campus workers (staff, students,
and faculty) - to prepare them to take a role in campus governance. As a
mouthpiece for your movement, you should create a progressive campus
newspaper and work to ensure your message is included in the mainstream
college media. You may need to take back your campus media, for instance
many college radio stations have most of the work done by students but
their programming is controlled by the administration.
Tactics of Liberation
To liberate campus, students need to use tactics that realize our power.
The ultimate source of this power is that our overwhelming numbers allow us
to either withdraw from the educational process and govern ourselves, or to
disrupt the current governing structure. Here again I will only touch upon
this topic, and if you want more information you should consult an
organizing guide that will discuss the long process of how to choose and
fight campaigns strategically, to put your organization and student body in
a position where it can exert student power.
The most basic and essential tactic is that of education. We can expose our
university's corporate ties (through pamphlets, disorientation guides,
newspaper articles and letters, guerilla theater, etc.) and by showing the
illegitimacy of our administration we can put them on the run, creating an
opening for our proposals for a democratic alternative.
Once a critical mass of students is on our side, we should combine
education with action. Rallies, petitions, and letter writing are all
traditional and useful forms of activism. There are several tactics that
are used primarily on campus and are worth commenting on. Strategic rule
breaking might be a good place to start a campus democracy campaign. Pick
several rules created by the administration that are particularly hard to
justify and that make it difficult to be an activist (for instance if you
must secure advance approval for demonstrations). Violate the rules, and by
doing so you are either forcing the administration to respond and risk
public backlash, or if it fails to respond then you are effectively eroding
the administration's power and establishing the ability of student power to
determine rules. This is a good step towards changing or abolishing the rule.
An alternative withdrawal tactic is to create a parallel university, like a
Free University, where anyone could offer and take classes that would be
free. You might offer courses on anything from vegan cooking, to gardening,
to globalization, to desktop publishing. Many students created free
universities in the Sixties.
Another form of agitation is the strike. Students can refuse to attend
classes and thus bring the university to a halt. Faculty and staff can also
strike. A student strike is difficult to organize, as it requires that a
majority of students participate. If you have less support you can do a
sit-in, or a building occupation which is more confrontational as it
involves taking control of the building (or office) and not letting
administrators in, whereas a sit-in will generally allow the administration
to keep on functioning. Generally sit-ins or occupations target the
university president's office or the administration building as those
choices most effectively disrupt the administration.
A campus revolution would likely include a mixture of building occupations
and other actions that would build up to a student strike or an
administration cancellation of classes due to the unrest. To solidify
student/worker power during the uprising and to prepare for a post-strike
future, it will be useful to hold mass assemblies based on one-person one
vote, replacing all former bodies of power. The advantage of a mass
assembly is that it gives students, faculty, and staff a direct voice in
their affairs. By contrast bodies like student and faculty government
channel discontent without granting real power. Also in a large assembly
you can see your power in the presence of hundreds of your fellow
students/workers/faculty, and this process will raise everyone's political
consciousness. The assembly can create committees to run various functions
(security, newspaper, leaflets, actions, communication with other schools,
etc) and start to develop a plan for how the university will run in the
To American students this idea may sound like an impossible dream, but
campus revolutions have happened in the Sixties in the U.S., in 1968 in
France and several other countries, and as recently as 1999 in Mexico. In
addition this idea is of both practical and theoretical relevance. We need
a positive theory of radical change to accommodate our critique of the
educational system - a plan that we can advocate. "Free schools" exist in
the United States thus showing that our democratic goals are possible. For
instance Sudbury Valley School (http://www.sudval.org) has all of their
decisions (including financial) made at the School Meeting, on a one-person
one-vote basis. Students choose what they do, whether it's studying or
playing soccer all day. Students even elect the staff (a.k.a. teachers).
This same organizational structure can work in our colleges and universities.
The Need for Structural Change: Thinking Long-Term
How many times have you campaigned to change something at your school,
collected hundreds of signatures, gained the support of student government
and/or the faculty senate, mobilized students for rallies, distributed
leaflets, brought in speakers or shown videos - only to have your
administration say "NO!" And that is often the end of the story. It does
not matter if the administration's arguments are valid. For so long as they
satisfy themselves and their rich donors the decision stands, because in
most important matters the administration has all the power.
For instance at Notre Dame students had a campaign to include sexual
orientation in our non-discrimination clause. We collected over a thousand
signatures, brought in speakers, held rallies (150 and 300 people), won
support of student government, faculty senate, and our Academic Council;
only to learn in Feb. 1999 when we were doing our "Week of Action" that the
administration had voted down our proposal 12-0 two months earlier - and
just did not bother to tell us. That is the opposite of student power.
Whether your goal is to create a recycling program, end sweatshops, divest
the university endowment from Burma, kick ROTC off-campus, remove corporate
or CIA recruiters, encourage socially responsible investing, create or
expand a new department (ex. women's studies), or increase racial diversity
-- almost anything you want to do on campus will require a decision by the
university administration. Student government and the faculty senate
usually do not have the power on their own. The administration chose to not
give them any real power, because if they democratize the university then
decisions will be made in the interests of the people instead of in the
interests of the university's rich donors and corporate friends.
Even if your campaign is able to convince your administration to concede
your demands on one issue, the next campaign will have to repeat the same
lengthy process to gain concessions and victory is not guaranteed. An
alternative approach is to use a long-term strategy. You could use each
campaign to achieve greater campus democracy or even do a campaign for
campus democracy for the sake of future campaigns. Then each campaign would
become easier and you can increase the size of your demands. If you want to
leave a permanent legacy for future activists, work for structural changes
in your university that will outlast your time in college and build student
power in the long run.
We need to recognize the limits to student power. Student liberation cannot
occur without parallel activist movements in the rest of society, and we
will not achieve permanent campus democracy without social revolution. We
should avoid both privileging the student movement in place of other
popular struggles, and privileging off-campus issues at the expense of the
campus activism. Student Power will only succeed in coalition with Black
Power, Chicano/a Power, Women Power, Queer Power and other social movements.
But let there be no doubt that organized students are a powerful force for
social change! It makes senses for students to organize our peers around
issues that concern us. We can transform our universities into liberated
spaces where students control the university, or have at least been
adequately politicized, and where alternative theories can be developed and
practiced. Once we have a space of our own, we must work hard to maintain
it, recognizing that this will be difficult as reactionaries will try to
take it back. However with this space in our hands, we can use its
resources to support off-campus struggles and strengthen the fight against
the forces of global injustice.
Burns, Andy. "Redefining Campus Power." Unpublished essay.
Center for Campus Organizing. Organizing Guide.
Kreider, Aaron, ed. Student Environmental Action Coalition Organizing
Guide. Online at http://www.seac.org/sog. 1999.
Loeb, Paul. "Generation at the Crossroads." New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers
University Press, 1994.
Mercogliano, Chris. "Making it up as we go along: The Story of the Albany
Free School." 1998.
Sale, Kirkpatrick. "SDS: Ten Years Towards A Revolution." 1973.
Smith, Jeremy. "Why Work for Peace & Justice on Campus?" Center for
Campus Organizing Guide, chapter 2. http://www.cco.org/guide/why.html
Vellela, Tony. "New Voices: Student Political Activism in the 80's and
90's." Boston: South End Press, 1988.
Free School websites
http://www.sudval.org/svs/free.html - a good list of documents.
Aaron's student activism page: http://www.nd.edu/~akreider/psalinks.htm
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