How Young People Shaped 2022

How Young People Shaped 2022

From abortion rights activism to climate strikes to labor unionization, here are some of the movements that mattered most to students this year.


From abortion rights activism to climate strikes to unionization to calls for debt relief to record turnout in the midterm elections, students continued to organize with exceptional clarity and focus in 2022. Throughout the year, StudentNation worked tirelessly to give voice to the emerging generation. We remain proud, as well as astonished, to be virtually alone among national news outlets in regularly publishing student perspectives. StudentNation published more than 100 original articles this year; we’ve selected 15 to highlight the extraordinary writing and reporting of this generation of student journalists. We’re deeply grateful to the Puffin Foundation whose great generosity to The Nation Fund for Independent Journalism made this work possible. —The Editors

Colleges Struggle to Address a Mental Health Crisis
by Teresa Xie—January 26

As the Covid-19 pandemic worsened around the country, expectations and resources on campuses remained largely static. In 2020, 40 percent of college students reported experiencing depression and 34 percent reported anxiety. In this article, students speak about the need to prioritize long-term, community-oriented solutions to the mental health crisis.

Graduate Workers at Indiana University Are on Strike and Fighting for Recognition
by Christopher Agostino—April 29

A first-person account of one of many graduate student unionization efforts this year from a member of the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition–United Electric union. After an overwhelming vote of 1,008 to 23 in favor of forming a labor union, the graduate workers at IU went on strike in April.

The Silenced Students in the “Free Speech” Debate
by Mira Sydow—June 3

This article highlights members of marginalized communities trying to reframe the debate around free speech often hijacked by right-wing activists. “These students don’t hate their universities—they recognize the pressing need for a cultural shift in the free speech conversation that will prioritize the voices of minority students, targeting hate speech, harassment, and misinformation in all levels of education.”

Stanford’s New School of Sustainability Is a Gift to Fossil Fuel Companies
by Celina Scott-Buechler and Ada Statler—June 21

After Stanford University announced its new, lavishly funded Doerr School of Sustainability, these graduate student scientists warned of the potential dangers of academic greenwashing. The incoming dean had previously stated that the school would still accept funding from and partner with fossil fuel companies.

The NYU Policing Project’s Dirty Money Dilemma
by Ruqaiyah Zarook—June 27

A coalition of law students at New York University condemned the NYU Policing Project for partnering with police technology, surveillance, and weaponry companies. “When universities lend their names to this kind of research they give an air of legitimacy to deeply harmful police practices because they claim to be concerned about the social impact of their institutions and to uphold ethical research standards,” said Alex Vitale.

It’s Time for Biden to Declare a Climate Emergency
by Hannah Reynolds—July 21

The day after President Biden announced new climate initiatives outside a former coal plant, StudentNation called on the president to make a formal emergency declaration and take more substantial actions to combat the crisis at hand. “By failing to directly address the root of the climate problem—the overuse of fossil fuels—the Biden administration will be unable to curb the impacts of climate change.”

Why Are Fossil Fuel Companies Funding Climate Change Research?
by Ilana Cohen—August 15

In this article, the recent winner of the Brower Youth Award, explains the goals of the Fossil Free Research coalition. “By funding university research, Big Oil helps shape the understanding of the solutions available for addressing the climate crisis to policy-makers, the media, and the world.”

Without Abortion Rights, Medical Students Face a Dangerous Choice
by Sofia Andrade—September 6

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, current and prospective doctors began to worry about their ability to safely provide reproductive care. One nonprofit organization, Medical Students for Choice, focused on providing support to medical students caught in a rapidly shifting legal landscape. “It feels almost like you’re signing up to be a martyr.”

This Supreme Court Case Threatens the Future of Tribal Lands
by Jessica Lambert—October 5

In October, the co-president of the National Congress of American Indians Youth Commission explained how Haaland v. Brackeen challenges the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, putting the sovereignty of Indian Nations at risk. “The ICWA established protections for Native youth in the child welfare system, with the primary goal being to preserve family, tribal, and cultural ties.”

For Undergrads, the Best Extracurricular Is a Labor Union
by Radu Stochita—October 5

Though the fight to organize private university employees has historically focused on graduate workers, undergraduates are increasingly seeking out the benefits of collective bargaining as well. In this article, an organizer with Bowdoin Labor Alliance explained how the National Labor Relations Board under Biden helped grow this union resurgence this year, culminating in the first “wall-to-wall” undergraduate student employee union forming at Grinnell College.

With DACA in Jeopardy, It’s Time for Congress to Act
by Teresa Mettela—October 17

In October, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit deemed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program “unlawful,” putting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in jeopardy. Despite three-quarters of Americans’ supporting legal status for immigrants brought to the United States as children, Congress has failed to enact permanent protections for those covered by DACA.

The Deadly Consequences of Urban Oil Drilling
by Mara Cavallaro—October 19

This profile of Nalleli Cobo, an activist fighting to end environmental racism in Los Angeles, shows the dangers of building oil or gas wells in residential areas. After living next to an oil plant that emitted carcinogenic fumes, Cobo was diagnosed with cancer at 19. “All stages of life are being impacted, beginning to end.” For Cobo and her family, the work won’t be done until the city runs on renewable energy.

Trans People’s Rights Are on the Ballot, but Many Won’t Be Able to Vote
by Theia Chatelle—October 24

As part of this year’s Puffin StudentNation Fall Writing Fellowship, this piece exposed the impact of discriminatory voter ID laws on trans voters during the 2022 midterms. “In an election that could decide the fate of gender-affirming health care, safe schooling, and even the ability to use public restrooms, the ability for trans people to cast their ballots is simultaneously at risk.”

After Dobbs, Anti-Abortion Activists Are Targeting Clinics in Blue States
by Walter Thomas-Patterson—November 2

Even in blue states, the effects of abortion bans were felt. This article highlights a Planned Parenthood clinic in southern Illinois—miles from the Missouri border—facing increased harassment and deception from emboldened anti-abortion activists. “Roe is finished, but our work is not done yet. Wherever you live, you can seize this historic moment and help end the greatest human rights crisis in history.”

Drag Queens Were Targeted by the Proud Boys. Whom Did the Police Support?
by Zurie Pope—December 16

After threats from the Proud Boys forced a Unitarian church to cancel its “Holi-Drag Storytime” event, one police officer was recorded high-fiving a member of the far-right organization. Telegram messages obtained by this StudentNation writer suggest that a member of the extremist hate group exists within the local police department. “I heard the [commanding officer] is gonna give you guys some extra wiggle room.”

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