Starting this week, we'll periodically use this space to highlight voices from our new blog StudentNation, a weekly roundup of activism nationwide started by current Nation interns James Cersonsky and Alec Luhn. The blog highlights the voices of student activists, allowing them to tell their own stories of struggle and triumph. Here are a few recent examples:
The All in the Red collective is a group of New York students working to defend public education. AitR combines traditional protest with art and design, aiming to increase public interest, encourage student participation and garner media attention. Its 2012 Night of the Living Debt march combined direct action, street theater and zombie parades. This spring, the group will collaborate with other activist groups to target policies that limit access to higher education and financial entities that profit from the student debt crisis.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, at the state's flagship university in Athens, undocumented students are continuing a two-year struggle to end a ban that prevents them from attending the University of Georgia and the other four most competitive public colleges and universities in the state.
Down the road from Athens, in Atlanta, a Student Re-visioning Committee formed at Emory University after its administration announced in September the elimination or suspension of several academic programs. Its purpose is to oppose the cuts, demand transparency and push for a democratic decision-making process that includes students.
In Alabama this spring, the State Legislature passed two versions of a bill that many think will shut down every abortion clinic in the state and another bill allowing employers with "religious" convictions to deny health plan coverage for contraception and abortion services. The student-led Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice is taking the lead in campaigning against the measures.
As the Supreme Court considers the Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action case, Students for Equity and Diversity, at the University of Texas at Austin, has been organizing for the preservation of equal opportunity. SED has focused on the broad student and community support for "holistic admissions" (UT's current affirmative action policy). As a decision is anticipated, SED is preparing students to help shape the conversation on equal opportunity whatever the outcome.
Sexual violence at college campuses has been met with inconsistent responses from university administrations. At Occidental College in California, the student-faculty Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition formed last year in response to growing complaints about the college's handling of sexual assault cases. OSAC developed "12 Demands," to which the president, Jonathan Veitch, agreed. In February, local media reported an alleged rape at Occidental. Many were dismayed to learn about it through a news source rather than from school officials, especially since the 12 Demands stipulated that such incidents be reported on the campus alert system. On March 1, nearly 300 students and faculty protested Veitch's broken promise and created a "Dear Oxy" Tumblr and a Change.org petition. Veitch denied having agreed to OSAC's demands and, in an open letter, condemned a rape survivor and a faculty member who "actively sought to embarrass the college" by talking to reporters. OSAC responded with plans to file complaints under Title IX and the Clery Act, which stipulates that universities receiving federal financial aid track and report crimes. OSAC is also hosting a Sleep Over for Sexual Assault Prevention on the campus quad in late April.
In the nation's capital, the newly minted New Deal for Students, a collection of policies written by students to solve the debt crisis, is already shaping policy. A proposal from the Hendrix College, Arkansas, chapter that has been making waves would implement a loan repayment program to attract highly qualified graduates to teach honors-level courses in rural public schools. This would aid struggling borrowers and could generate $30 million per year for states, as similar programs are projected to do, by keeping graduates working in-state.