This post is the seventh in a series of twelve counting down the top dozen student activism stories that will be making news on the American campus in the new academic year. Follow Student Activism on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all these stories and many more!
During the last great wave of student direct action in the United States, the nation’s student body still tended to be disproportionately drawn from the country’s elites, and the nation’s private universities were — or were at least seen to be — at the forefront of the action.
In the intervening four decades, though, higher education in America has grown steadily larger and more representative. There are far more working-class students, poor students, students of color, female students, older students on the country’s campuses than there were then. Public colleges and universities enroll a much larger portion of the whole, with the greatest growth coming in the least elite sectors of the academy. The current crisis in public higher education, moreover, has sparked a level of organizing at such campuses that far outstrips anything seen at private institutions.
The effect of all this is that students at the country’s most activist campuses in 2010 are far more likely to be drawn from the same communities as the non-academic labor force on those campuses. (Indeed, changes in graduate education and university hiring have changed the complexion of the professoriate as well, though not to anywhere near the same degree.)
Radical students in the late 1960s struggled to find common ground and common cause with campus workers. But for the students and workers of today, such alliances come far more naturally.
Last year two union workers joined a student hunger strike at Berkeley, while several service employees were among those arrested at a sit in at UC Irvine. In the March 4 demonstrations that swept the nation, professors and other university workers participated from coast to coast.
These are just a few examples of a growing trend of students and campus workers joining together in protest against university policies and conditions. Look for it to continue — and to garner increasing attention — this year.