It’s been a tumultuous, traumatic year, and students have seen some of the worst of it. With Covid-19 came abrupt campus closures, transitioning to online-only education, and the dissolution of student life as we’ve come to know it. But through it all, young people continued to organize. They not only kept their pre-pandemic priorities alive amid the chaos; they fought for fair treatment for their fellow students and educators in the face of a worldwide slow-motion catastrophe: reduced tuition, better access to resources, some assurance of stability. Some of these students wrote about it for Student Nation. We’ve selected a few articles from the past year to highlight their extraordinary work. We’re deeply grateful to the Puffin Foundation, whose enormous generosity made this work possible.
This article detailed how a group of students brought about Brown’s first-ever transformative-justice center, with the first formal transformative-justice practitioner to be employed on a college campus. It combines deep reporting with the personal stories of students.
This reported piece looks into mental health care access at Stanford University to highlight a nationwide issue on college campus: Despite skyrocketing debt, uncertain job markets, and higher pressure for achievement than ever, schools are not doing nearly enough to make sure their students have the mental health care they need.
February 13: The Reproductive Justice Gap at HBCUs
This article describes how HBCUs have become a desert of reproductive health resources. In the personal stories detailed within, young black women explain how they have felt shamed and pressured in a system that feels “like an experience preserved from decades ago.” Only 12 of the 101 HBCUs across the country have officially recognized their Planned Parenthood campus chapters—and young HBCU students are working to change that.
February 10: We’re California Graduate Students, and We’re Not Taking Poverty Wages Anymore, (and a follow-up, April 6: The University of California Strike Enters Its 4th Month)
We were the first to break the news that the University of California–Santa Cruz was going on strike for better conditions and wages—grad students were sleeping in cars, and the situation had become intolerable. By the fourth month of the strike, when we published an update, the strike had turned into a full-fledged, month-long picket and had spread to several other schools within the UC system.
As campuses began to close in March, we sent out a question to our previous contributors: How are you being affected by campus shutdowns? We received many heartbreaking responses showing that, although universities were doing the right thing to curtail the virus, they were not reckoning with the fallout among their students, who rely on them not only for an education but also in their day-to-day lives.
Early in the pandemic, Rebecca Duke Weisenberg reported on student newspapers and magazines across the country, and how they were doing extremely important work, despite losing their physical offices and the ability to talk to sources in person.
When campuses across the country were shut down during the first wave of Covid-19, many students were cut off from crucial resources: housing, food, a paycheck from campus jobs. Schools were so slow to correct this that students and professors rose to the occasion, developing mutual aid networks to support their peers when the institution they relied on did not.
One of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic: Fossil fuel companies suffered.
Frequent contributor Mary Retta reported from Native schools across the country, and how the closures were uniquely impacting them. Online-only classes are difficult on reservations with poor Internet connection. Native students, who are more likely than other students to experience food and housing insecurity, have had to make do without their dorms, food provided by the university, or even campus jobs. (Mary has also gone on to become a columnist with Teen Vogue!)
A reported essay from Jimin Kang, a student at Harvard from South Korea, about the difficulties fellow international students experienced alongside Trump’s fluctuating, unpredictable immigration policies while the pandemic unfolded.
Students have been active in the “Defund the Police” movement, in many cases because they have firsthand experience: Police are a constant present in public schools across the country. About 200 Chicago students, in a protest to remove police presence from their campuses, proved their own point by getting beaten and pepper-sprayed by police who kettled them in the streets.
September 21: Want the Youth Vote? Prioritize Climate Change
In the run-up to the election, Student Nation published a series in partnership with American University, called Vision 2020, that asked student journalists to report on the electoral concerns of their peers. This Vision 2020 piece focused on the demands of young climate activists and their efforts to turn climate into a defining electoral issue.
September 25: The Children of Incarcerated People Vote, Too
This Vision 2020 piece looks at a frequently overlooked population: the young children of incarcerated men and women. Criminal justice, for them, is not only personal—it’s shaped the course of their lives. And their demands, both for changes in policy and perception of their loved ones, will have a lasting hold on their votes into the future.
This Vision 2020 piece looks at how the United States’ history of Islamophobia has influenced an entire generation of young voters.
A severe critique of Betsy DeVos’s leadership during the pandemic.