The Growth and Breadth of Campus Activism

In the Neoliberal Society, students get pepper-sprayed in the name of
debt and greed. Image courtesy of Lucas Kretch.
by douglas reeser on October 2, 2012
I recently wrote about the lack of activism and protests in southern Belize, while people elsewhere around the globe have been mobilizing against what could be characterized as the Neoliberal Society. Many may remember the original George Bush espousing the benefits of a "New World Order" (NWO), and such has come to pass. The form of this NWO has been shaped by neoliberal policies enacted the world over, and generally accepted to have been started during the Reagan and Thatcher years (during which GW the First served as Vice President). 

Briefly, in the years since the 1980, huge sums of money have been loaned to governments around the world (both developing and developed nations), on terms that required the creation and maintenance of a favorable business environment, while severely limiting government-provided social services. Such terms allowed for the rapid expansion of global manufacturing and commerce at the expense of the health and livelihood of literally billions of people. 

Having been in a rural and fairly isolated part of the globe for the better part of the last year and a half, I  didn't always catch everything that was happening in the movement to counter this new Neoliberal Society. When I have the chance, I do some online searching for updates and news to try to keep abreast of actions in an attempt to develop my understanding of what's actually going on out there. In my most recent perusal, I found an informative article by Edna Brophy in Briarpatch Magazine titled The Combustible Campus: From Montreal to Mexico City, something is stirring the University.

Brophy posits that there is a worldwide movement occurring, it's been going on for over 6 years, and it's been largely emanating from universities. He shows that from France (2006) and Italy (2008) to California (2009), and back to over to Britain (2010), from the Middle East and North Africa to New York and Occupy (2011), and from Chile (2011) straight up to Canada and out to New Zealand (2012), student protests have become a growing force against the neoliberal takeover of the university and our lives.

More instructive is Brophy's breakdown of five key issues that most of the actions and events have in common:
1) Student Debt (student debt has spiraled to the highest rates in history)
2) Tuition Costs (advocates maintain that higher education should be free!)
3) Jobs (University jobs of all types are becoming low-wage and unstable - this needs to change.)
4) Open Access! (Collective production and sharing of knowledge, and experimentation with alternative forms of education)
5) Social Justice (This is all a part of larger struggle against increasingly widespread social inequalities) 

All of these issues resonate with me, and I suspect that most of them resonate in some way with most people around the globe. For instance, I have first-hand experience with crippling student debt, but I have also seen how these issues affect people in Belize, where the standard of living is low by Western ideals, money is in short supply, and jobs are nearly non-existent. I tutored and worked with students at the local university for the last year, and these issues hit home for all of them. In other words, this is not just a movement of and for the historically wealthy classes of the world. People the world over feel the effects of these problems, which is perhaps why students are leading the charge across the globe. 

For me, I would love to see some of my Belizean university students find inspiration from these global actions. I understand that it's not always easy to find the time for such activities, especially when the demands of survival are constantly on your shoulders - even for university students. What I am gleaning from all of this though, is that even where protest and action is not occurring, the ground is ripe for such to take root. These issues are not unique to certain spaces and places, but are commonly known globally. This reality lends to the possibility that the movement against the Neoliberal Society will soon spread to all corners of the globe. 

Brophy quotes a member from CLASSE, the student organization leading the struggles in Quebec: “We now know that equal access to public services is vital to the common good. And access can only be equal if it is free.” While not exclusive to students, this movement appears to be increasingly led by them, but in the interest of the whole - their family, friends, neighbors, and fellow global citizens. This is a movement for the betterment of society. It's a movement that we can all get behind. 
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  1. James B.4:27 PM

    It's good to see some concrete issues laid out. I think the media really took advantage of the "no clear goals" of Occupy and kind of framed them as unorganized and maybe incoherent.

  2. surprise surprise. students and occupy just want a hand out. actually, it looks like they want a lot of hand outs. they should try working.

    1. I think it's very important to remember that "work" is a very subjective concept, and working does not always lead to money or an income. Most people work on all kinds of projects and jobs and don't earn money for it, and I would argue that this begins to get at some of the issues these movements are getting at. In many ways our lives have become a proxy for money - if we don't have money, we don't have a life. And everyone can agree that money is unequally (and unfairly) distributed, and this results in a lot of people being left out - more and more in fact.

    2. Anonymous3:54 AM

      I'm assuming Paul is just another troll.


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