This has been an extraordinary autumn for student organizing in the United States. From protests against police brutality and sexual assault to anti-tuition demonstrations and a new wave of campus occupations, students have been standing up and speaking out to a degree not seen since the heyday of Occupy.
The protests of the last three months haven’t just been big, they’ve been inventive and extraordinarily diverse, too. An undergrad at Columbia created a senior project carrying a mattress around campus to shame the administration for its failure to respond to her rape, and students across the country stepped up to help her carry the weight. The killings of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many others have sparked sit-ins and die-ins, walkouts and speakouts. Administrators from New York to California have been forced to negotiate with and grant concessions to occupiers.
And perhaps most extraordinary has been the role of high school and middle school students. In dozens of incidents in dozens of states, such students have stood up and fought back against rape, violence, curricular meddling, and even infantilizing hall passes. They’ve been organizing and taking action, and they’ve been winning.
But although all this organizing has garnered a fair amount of interest in recent weeks, it hasn’t attracted the kind of attention it deserves. In part that’s because the agitation has been so diverse — aside from Ferguson, there hasn’t been a single national narrative tying it all together. But there’s also clearly been a lack of awareness, a lack of understanding of the scale and scope of what’s been happening.
That ends now.
What you see above is a map of fifty of the country’s most important student organizing actions of the fall semester. There are seven campus occupations on the map, along with dozens of walkouts, demonstrations, and other campaigns. The actions shown originated in twenty-five different states, and crucially more than a third of them were initiated by high school students.
This is big, but it’s just the beginning. I’ll be continuing to add material to the map in the coming weeks, both as new actions take place and as I gather more information to fill in the gaps in my knowledge about what’s happened so far. I expect to double the number of actions listed over the next few days, and to keep it growing from there.
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s “bodies upon the gears” speech, perhaps the crucial piece of oratory in American student history. It’s becoming ever more clear that 2014 is a moment of change, disruption, and promise much like the one the Free Speech Movement faced (and helped to bring into being) in 1964, and I hope this project can be of some service to Savio’s successors in the schools and campuses of today.
Update | I’ve just noticed that the key to the pins is hard to find on the published version of the map. (Google Maps is a bit wonky and counterintuitive, it turns out — if anyone knows of a better option, give me a holler.) Here’s what the colors mean:
- Green is walkouts.
- Blue is demonstrations.
- Red is occupations and sit-ins.
- Yellow is major online campaigns.
- Brown is other events.
Within each category, dark colors indicate actions led by college students, and light colors indicate those led by primary or secondary school students (usually high schoolers).
December 4 Update | I’ve added ten more actions to the map, and made it available as a searchable chronological list.