Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
In the past few months, there’s been a flurry of progressive activism on America’scollege campuses. The following victories reflect a mix of broad-basedidealism and pragmatic strategies–small but critical steps towards amore just society.
– Kicking Coke Off Campus: The University of Michigan became the 10thcollege to remove Coca-Cola products from campus. After months of pressure from student activists who opposed the company’s abusive (and allegedly murderous) treatment of workers in bottling plants in Colombia, U of M, with it’s 50,000 students, joined New YorkUniversity, Rutgers, and Santa Clara University, among others, in the boycott. Activists are demanding an independent investigation of Coke’s labor practices in Colombia.
– The Anti-Sweatshop Movement is Back: As Richard Applebaum and PeterDreier wrote recently in The Nation, “A new wave of campus activism against sweatshops is sweeping colleges across the country.” Students on more than 50 campuses are putting the pressure on administrators to sign university apparel contracts with factoriesapproved by the sweatshop watchdog, the Worker’s Rights Consortium. Click here for information on how to start a campaign on your campus.
– Guilt-Free Caffeine: In a movement spearheaded by the Brandeis FairTrade Brigade, the school’s studentunion voted to bring Fair Trade coffee to campus dining halls.Brandeis is the latest in a growing movement of campuses across the country that are making the switch. To help bring Fair Trade coffee to your school, check out this action guide from Oxfam.
– Financial Aid Fairness: At Yale, the Undergraduate OrganizingCommittee (UOC) successfully persuaded President RichardLevin to eliminate tuition for families earning under $45,000 ayear–something he had previously said he would never do. The UOC wageda tireless, bold, yet disciplined campaign, which culminated in a sit-in in the university’s admissions office and which may now go a long way to bringing class diversity to the Yale.
– Students Unite for New Energy Policy: The Apollo Alliance and Energy Action have teamed up in an effort to reform campus energy policy. The campaign calls for colleges to upgrade inefficient buildings, move to clean power, create alternatives to fuel-dependent campus transportation, and promote a “culture of conservation” on campuses.
Watch this space and TheNation.com for continuing coverage of the progressive student movement.
Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker,contributes to The Nation’s new blog, The Notion, and co-writes SweetVictories with Katrina vanden Heuvel.