Class Action

Mother Jones, September/October 2004 | Go to article overview

Class Action


Top 10 Activist Campuses

With the antiwar movement struggling to regain its preinvasion groove, the student activists of '03/'04 turned their attention closer to home. From Ahnold to Ashcroft, ROTC to rap videos, the targets of protest were as diverse, and colorful, as the demonstrations themselves:

1 UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO, MAYAGÜEZ: When UPRM announced it was building a new, $150,000 Air Force ROTC facility on campus, dozens of activists from the Frente Umvenitario por la Desmilitarización y la Educación began what would become a six-month camp-in at the construction site. Calling on the university to invest in students not soldiers, 30 students also took over the Army ROTC building for 24 hours in January, redecorating it with antiwar murals. Victory came in March, when the university agreed to devote the new building to academic use and to refuse ROTC additional space on campus.

2 UCLA: Building a 10-foot-tall, 24-foot-long, PVC-pipe-and-cardboard version of Israel's "separation wall," UCLA activists in April brought a taste of the West Bank to West LA. "Soldiers" also herded students through two checkpoints in the middle of Bruin Walk: one (with no line) for "Israelis" and another (with interminable delays) for "Palestinians." "We want to show the reality of life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation," said student leader Alia Hasan. (In a counterprotest, one student posed as a "suicide bomber" to demonstrate why he felt the wall was justified.)

3 SPELMAN COLLEGE: After students at this historically black women's college learned hip-hop star Nelly would be performing on campus, they presented him with a challenge: defend his sexist videos or stay home. Nelly was a no-show, so Spelman's Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance hosted teach-ins, attended by more than 500 students from Spelman, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta, to debate the representation of women in rap. "I would have liked to ask him some questions," said FMLA president Moya Bailey. "But I think we introduced the issue to a lot more people and really got them to think."

4 CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES: "Don't terminate community colleges!" demanded 5,000 junior college students as they marched on Sacramento this spring to protest Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed 50 percent tuition hike. The students had reason to be angry: They were still reeling from a 2003 increase that has turned thousands of students out of the system. San Bernardino Valley College protester Stacey Lopez chided the Governator for raising tuition rather than taxes: "If our fees go up and people drop out, it's going to be on him."

5 RUTGEES UNIVERSITY: Rutgers students marshaled a small army to join the March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C., in April. Some 600 Scarlet Knights ventured from New Jersey to the Mall-the largest college contingent at the record-setting pro-choice rally. With signs proclaiming "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries," the Rutgers clan marched in defense of Roe v.

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