Introduction The Campus Activism Project is a 15 month-long study conducted by Political Research Associates, a Boston-based research center, and funded by the Ford Foundation’s Unit on Governance and Civil Society. The Project’s goal is to generate a number of preliminary conclusions about how college students acquire their political attitudes, the extent to which campus political activity is shaped by off-campus political groups, and how the two large political movements in the United States – the and the progressive movement – compete on college campuses for the hearts and minds of students. The conclusions reached here will be based on a research “snapshot” of campus activism in 2003.[1] [pc1]

University campuses have long been the site of a range of ideological battles in this country and elsewhere. Because colleges are touted as the training locale for tomorrow’s leaders and the central venue for academic freedom, they have become flashpoints for many debates on political issues. Colleges also have been the focal point for issues related to what and how curricular material is taught, and how students’ lives are regulated by their schools. In order to understand contemporary movements, we can benefit from an existing substantial body of research on campus life and campus conflict.

As a preliminary step in the Campus Activism Project’s research, we have reviewed the existing literature on student attitudes and campus activism. This literature review summarizes the existing findings of student surveys, work by popular commentators, and scholarly studies that focus on political activism on campus. We review a number of approaches that have been used to study campus activism, such as student attitude surveys, participant-observer studies, interviews, and quantitative reviews of existing data. Comparing different theoretical models, we explain the usefulness of a particular model -- social movement theory -- for the purposes of this study. Finally, we identify the specific research questions we have chosen to address in this project.

Studying Campus Political Activity There has been no shortage of analysis and documentation of student attitudes in the United States. In fact, college students seem to be one of the most studied age cohorts, perhaps because they are subjects to whom academic researchers have relatively easy access. Students’ academic preparation and achievements, their expectations and their level of satisfaction with their experience, as well as their social attitudes and interests have all been topics for research. The political activity of students, however, has not been studied as extensively, although that is changing.

Looking at colleges and universities allows observers to note other trends besides student activity. Students themselves have historically been interested in what is taught, who gets to learn it, and how their lives are affected by college culture, in college and beyond. But others, including legislators, parents, administrators and social issue framers, are also invested in these issues. Some have argued that the campus is the site of a battle for who is in charge of society at large.[2]

Surveys of Student Opinion, Behavior, and Political Participation Since the 1960s surveys have tracked the political ideology of students and their political participation. There are several ways of measuring political ideology; one is by studying political affiliations. According to the Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) annual survey of first-year undergraduates, more of today’s freshmen (27.8%) self-identify as liberal or far left compared to 21.3% who describe themselves as conservative or far right. Most students identify politically as middle of the road (50.8%).[3] Identifying as liberal has become more common among college freshmen over the past five years, and is at its highest point since 1975, although figures are still lower than the all-time high of over 40% in 1971.[4] Compare this to the population in general: in 2000, when 20% identified as liberal, 30 % as conservative, and 50% as middle of the road or didn’t know/hadn’t thought about it .[5]

Noting that the HERI studies are of incoming freshmen, it is important to examine what happens to students while they are in college. Using recent longitudinal data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) surveys, researchers have concluded that attending college has a liberalizing effect on students’ political and social views, including attitudes towards women’s roles, civic values, and affirmative action.[6] On the other hand, another analysis of CIRP data suggests that interaction with peers and the general socialization process, rather than the education process, may be affecting student political attitudes.[7]

Measures chosen by researchers to indicate political involvement can sometimes limit the usefulness of the conclusions drawn. For instance, one measure of political activity on campus is the degree to which students participate in demonstrations. More students attended demonstrations in 2001 (47.5%) than at any time since 1966 (15.8%).[8] But because we have no information on the kind of demonstration, we cannot determine if this indicates increased liberalism or increased conservatism, although we will assume that participation in a demonstration is a political activity.

Another approach commonly used to document political activity among college students is to examine how often they vote.[9] Although college students vote more often than non-students,18-24 year olds vote less often than any other age group.[10] Depending on the political significance of the election year, between 16% and 32% of this age cohort votes at rates that are consistently at least 20% lower than that of the total population.[11] Further, they know less about current political events and party platforms than their elders.[12]

But when surveyed about their political engagement, undergraduates report they are interested in political issues, though not in the U.S. political process, and that they are indeed informed about political issues.[13] Some researchers have suggested the reason for low voter turnout among college students is related to their low sense of political efficacy while in college.[14] But there is evidence that many adults share this sense of relative powerlessness in the political realm.[15] One difference between college students and other voting age cohorts may be their belief that voting is a choice, not a civic obligation.[16]

Some contemporary student leaders appear resistant to being labeled as disengaged from politics. Students at a national Civic Participation Summit in 2001 sponsored by Campus Compact (a national coalition of college presidents committed to improving student civic engagement in on college campuses), argued that many college students are engaged in civic activities and, to capture this, that the definition of political involvement should be broadened to include community service as a form of “service politics,” because community service can lead to social change.[17]

Civic participation can be encouraged and developed, claims a recent study by Anne Colby and her team at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.[18] Colby looks at how higher education prepares students for active civic participation, examines the rationale behind the trend towards deliberate programming for civic engagement, and highlights current best practices

Observers have often noted that student activism, like political activity in general, occurs in waves. Many popular commentators noted that college students became more conservative during the 1980s. “Generation X” (those born between 1960 and 1980) has been described as less altruistic, more self-absorbed, and less political than previous or subsequent age cohorts.[19] Some even note that this trend has been exacerbated by the events of 9/11/01,[20] although other data indicate that students are more trusting of political institutions and more likely to be involved politically since 9/11.[21] But prior to 9/11, researchers using the CIRP data found that such a trend may reflect an increase in materialism in the culture as a whole, coupled with uncertain economic times, rather than a growing influence of conservative political or social policies.[22] Contrary to public opinion in the 1980s, the lead researcher of this study noted that the trend in decreased interest in social problems was beginning to reverse direction by 1991.[23]

In addition to political ideology, survey research has identified other factors that influence student political participation. Race, education level, degree of political discussions with parents, level of feelings of efficacy, political party affiliation and attendance at religious services all positively affect voting, other forms of political participation and community service.[24]

Conservative groups have conducted student surveys, as a way of uncovering student attitudes that counter the description of students as liberal. For instance, the now-defunct Foundation for Academic Standards and Tradition (FAST), polled students in 2000 on issues pertinent to academic life, in particular affirmative action in admissions and “political correctness.”[25] Ninety-three percent favored fair enrollment, in their response to the question, One of the survey questions read: “Asian-Americans do so well academically that they are considered an over-represented minority on some campuses. Some colleges, therefore, would rather have more Black and Hispanic students than Asian-Americans. Do you think that colleges should give preference to certain minorities, or should colleges strive primarily for fair enrollment?” FAST interpreted the negative answers to mean that 93% of college students oppose giving preferences to Blacks and Hispanics.[26] The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), a Washington, DC-based rightist women’s organization, surveyed college students shortly after September 11, 2001 and found a majority of students had been at least noticeably affected by that day’s events. IWF highlighted that 2/3 of students supported George W. Bush regardless of political affiliation and that students reported that they prayed more often and volunteered more after the attacks. IWF was also interested in attitudes about Title IX, and found 87% of students support Title IX until they are told that “350 male athletic programs have been cut to meet the quotas under Title IX.”[27] Then 54% indicate enforcement has gone too far.

Unlike the other surveys by conservative organizations, Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT), a project of William Bennett’s Empower America, polled U.S. students in May 2002 and found liberal leanings among students, but that those leanings were coupled with lack of information. The report asserted that college students lack knowledge about terrorism, do not see America as representing superior values to other nations (71% disagreed with this statement) and do not know the names of prominent political leaders.[28]

Surveys of student attitudes and political behavior have generated plentiful data readily available to researchers. Virtually all of the data expresses political behavior as a measure of voting or attending demonstrations, indicating levels of civic participation in the aggregate without specifying whether the behavior supports conservative, centrist or progressive ideologies. This has influenced analyses that give us general information about the civic engagement of college students based on limited variables. Documentation of the political attitudes and behavior of college students has so far lacked specificity about the degrees to which conservative, centrist and progressive students are actively engaged in political work on campus.

Theories of the Motivations behind Student Political Movements What motivates student political activity has been the subject of lively debate in the academic and popular presses. Some work has focused on student movements in the1930’s and 40’s.[29] Later, examinations of campus activism were heavily influenced by the impact of several events in the 1960’s. These include the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, student involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, the development of the Black Power Movement on campus, and student-led antiwar activity during the Vietnam War era. Student activism during this period used some standard tactics, such as petitions and demonstrations, and also some more recently-developed activities, including sit-ins, strikes, teach-ins, building takeovers, other forms of civil disobedience and scattered violence. In part because of these tactics, campus activism was labeled as “unrest,” “disruption,” and “undesirable activity” by many university administrators and much of the general public.[30] Initial theories of student political involvement focused on the motivation of individual behavior, especially “misbehavior.” Case studies or participant-observer studies in both the popular press and scholarly journals chronicled the development of campus activism. Later, other approaches that considered the cultural context of activism, or that used theories that described group behavior, came into vogue. This paper examines a sample from the range of these theories.

In the 1960’s many researchers attempted to explain the student activism of the time using social/ psychological and structural-functional theories –social science tools popular at the time. They tended to examine individual motivation as an explanation for collective behavior and depended on theories that described students’ behavior as radical, deviant and subversive.[31] Some authors suggested student unrest was the manifestation of psychological issues associated with adolescence and the transition from childhood to adulthood, such as finding identity through association with peers. [32] Others identified the cause as intergenerational conflict: “Every student movement is the outcome of a de-authorization of the elder generation,”[33] or alienation from the values of their parents.[34] Some even suggested student activism was the result of indoctrination by communist ideologues,[35] or the manifestation of social disorganization.[36] These perspectives labeled students as irrational, impulsive and vulnerable to outside influences.

Some researchers tended to generalize about student activists, characterizing them as having high grades, coming from families with liberal politics, placing an emphasis on social responsibility over achievement, tending to be middle class, studying liberal arts, and delaying career choice.[37] A sweeping characterization of college students as middle class reinforced the notion that members of this age cohort have the free time and inclination to become activists.[38]

Public opinion at the time associated student protest with violence and the fear that permissive university administrators were losing control of their institutions.[39] The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest published the results of its examination into violence on campus after the Kent State and Jackson State student shootings by National Guardsmen.[40] The Commission described a nation in crisis, with its colleges reflecting unresolved national conflicts with disruption and increased violence. It recommended that the government, law enforcement and university administrations acknowledge the value of dissent but work to put an end to violence on campus. Another review by some of the same members of that Commission offered an alternative set of recommendations, calling for a more assertive reaction that would successfully prevent further unrest.[41]

Some researchers noted that college students, who tended to come from the middle class, shared many of the liberal humanitarian values of their families.[42] So, far from experiencing discontinuity with the older generation, students were acting on the values they had been socialized to hold, and the success of their movements was said to be related to the success of the socialization process. [43] The fact that elite institutions, where students were more predictably middle class, were more likely to be the site of student activism in the early 1960’s seemed to support this theory. But the mass movements of the late 60’s grew to such a large scale that it was no longer possible to find consistent ideological links by class between students and their families.[44] Other researchers suggested that individuals join a movement as a result of their own rational choice. But these explanations do not account for evidence of more than individual choice affecting behavior. After all, the 60s student protests were clearly carefully planned collective actions by groups of activists, not a random collection of individual actions.

These studies of campus activism in the 1960s and 1970s focused exclusively on student activism on the Left. But as B.C. Ben Park has pointed out, “Not all members of the same age group react to their historical surroundings in the same way.”[45] And, in fact, during the 1960s, while student radicals on the Left organized Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), conservative students organized their own movement, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) with the help of William F. Buckley, Jr.[46]

The approaches reviewed above, conventional individualistic research strategies, clearly have their limitations because they cannot apply a consistent analytical framework to the full range of student activism. In addition, the focus in this research has been almost exclusively on student activism on the Left. With the exceptions of John Andrew, Howard Becker and Lawrence Schiff, there has been little scholarly examination of conservative campus activism.[47] Recently the popular press has once again taken an interest in conservative campus activism.[48]

Without an understanding of conservative campus activism, researchers miss an important piece of the context of Left campus activism, as well as the obvious interplay between the larger social movements of the Right and Left and corresponding interplay on campus. For instance, even though there is current interest among progressives concerning the conservative campus press, many of these papers have been in existence since the early 1980s.[49] The Institute for Educational Affairs (now the Collegiate Network of YAF) is not a new phenomenon; it began in 1978 and by 1982 was supporting thirty college papers through its network.[50]

Other groups interested in influencing university life, such as alumni, trustees, and critics of university policy or pedagogy also are not examined by those who use conventional research approaches. And these frameworks do not adequately explain the success of campus activism outside expected parameters, such as mass mobilizations at non-elite schools (e.g. the CUNY tuition strikes of the 1990s), effective campaigns with small numbers of participants, (e.g. the anti-reparations movement), and the diffusion of certain strategies across different types of campuses (e.g. the shantytown movement to divest university holdings in South Africa).

Several studies examine campus activism using still other lenses. Alexander Astin and others uses a topical review to categorize student and faculty protest by their chosen issues during the 1960s and early 1970s.[51] This has been a common approach for many who observe campus activism. For instance, Tony Vellela (1988) seeks to counter the prevailing myth that campuses were quiet during the 1980s by chronicling the rise of opposition to U.S. interventions in Central America and CIA presence on campus, concerns over the economy, and the rise of identity politics and the influence on campus of the women’s movement and the movement for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.[52] Paul Loeb reviews both those students who chose not to get involved with campus politics and those who did, echoing the earlier work of Kenneth Keniston.[53] Loeb suggests that students choose not to get involved in political action on campus for a variety of reasons. First, they are the products of an ethic of individualism that leads them to think, “they cannot be the makers of history, but only its recipients.” [54] Second, they lack access to historical role models of effective activists their own age, though they distrust their peers who currently are activists, buying in to a prevailing myth that student activists are dissidents. After looking at the non-involved students, Loeb then shifts to student activists. Through a seven-year series of interviews, he examines unusual student activity, such as the rise of farm activism and political organizing of fraternities, and more predictable collective action, such as the environmental movement as well as those who recognize and want to respond to the persistence of racism on campus. Loeb is interested in centrists and community service as well and challenges this movement’s hesitancy to adopt strong political stances as they appeal across the spectrum of students for participants. He does recognize the value of, in his words, “pre-political” activity, for those individuals whose political education can be affected by their involvement in service work. He also addresses the issue of “political correctness” on campus, looking at opposition to identity politics as the creation of the organized Right on campus and provides a useful summary of the works of rightist authors Dinesh D’Souza and Alan Bloom as the main framers of the political correctness debate.[55]

Robert Rhoads surveys student activism of the 1990s, through a series of case studies that represent the predominant issues associated with campus protests in the 1990’s.[56] Multicultural issues accounted for the majority of incidents: campus funding and governance, world affairs, and the environment trailed behind. Based as much on phenomenological principles, that individuals seek meaning in their actions, as on collective behavior theory, Rhoads suggests that the activist spirit of the 1960s endured, despite its failure to achieve radical social change, and that it is this collective consciousness that may be able to strengthen a “web” of participatory democracy.

Arthur Levine and Jeanette Cureton, using a collection of student surveys, characterize contemporary college students as “postideological,” meaning that they do not tend to adhere to particular partisan or other political affiliations or to place much faith in the electoral process and governmental institutions.[57] They find today’s students maintain their optimism about their own futures and more readily choose to become involved in local versus national projects. This “new localism” often takes the form of community service, which involves up to 75% of students on campus.

Liza Featherstone examines activism by focusing on a specific campaign, chronicling the development of anti-sweatshop activism on campus since 1997.[58] This movement took up the issues of globalization and sweatshop manufacture of college insignia clothing to localize an international issue. She notes that the anti-sweatshop movement highlights classic issues for student groups: leadership develops rapidly and changes quickly; funding is a continuous problem; and the challenges of participatory democracy can create lengthy group processes which can heighten group tensions. Featherstone’s research illustrates that some of the advantages of researching a particular issue are the chance to observe how political education happens within a movement and how goals and strategies evolve over time.

Rich Cowan and the now defunct Center for Campus Organizing produced an activist guide for moderate to progressive students in 1997 which includes a directory of right wing organizations active on campus, the campaigns they have waged, and an analysis of their strategies and levels of effectiveness.[59]

[pc2] Campus Activism on Race, Class, Gender and Sexual Orientation Issues Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s political ferment in the larger society intersected dynamically with campus life. The civil rights, anti-war, women’s and gay and lesbian movements influenced life on college campuses and were in turn affected by campus activity. For instance, the successful efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to mobilize students in lunch-counter sit-ins across the South in 1960 made SNCC a leading organization in the civil rights movement. The 1962 Port Huron Statement, marking the beginning of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), recognized the importance of the university as a place where social change could flourish:

We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit…. Social relevance, the accessibility to knowledge, and internal openness, these together make the university a potential base and agency in a movement of social change.[60]

As Jo Freeman correctly predicted, the women’s movement was to have a powerful influence on campus, and college campuses would become the staging areas for feminist struggles.[61] And early women’s liberation organizations at New York universities were active in shaping the second wave of the women’s movement and making links with other issues such as the massive mobilizations against the war in Vietnam.[62]

Students of color and working class students, along with women and sexual minorities (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people), bring distinct perspectives to their college experiences. As members of groups that are often marginalized, these students report struggles with their identities on campus and with their sense of collective efficacy.[63] Organizing around these identities, as well as on issues of gender and sexual orientation, has come to be known as identity politics. Gay students insisted on their right to create their own campus organizations beginning in the early 1970s.[64] Wayne Glasker describes the history of African American students organizing at the University of Pennsylvania from 1967-1990. He identifies how the student struggle between two versions of integration, assimilation and multiculturalism, reflects the social issues of the culture at large.[65] The desire to experience support and solidarity with others can create tension when the only available association is not the best fit for an individual. For instance, Chicano students at the University of Arizona expressed ambivalence about joining the only Mexican/Mexican-American group on campus, MEChA: on the one hand they felt the need to be part of a identity organization, but did not necessarily feel aligned with its politics.[66]

In the 1960s students of color began to demand more of their schools, identifying their struggle as the result of both individual attitudes towards communities of color and policies and practices that came to be known as institutionalized racism on campus. African-American Studies Programs, and later Chicano and Asian-American Studies, owe their existence to students of color and their allies organizing on campus.[67] Affirmative action in admissions and a commitment to multiculturalism in curricular and extra-curricular arenas by identity were prominent issues on campus by the late 1960’s. [pc3] The value of these practices continues to be debated today, partially as a result of conservative activism on campus.

Conservative Studies of Campus Activism Several popular books by self-identified conservatives have contributed to the literature about campus political life. Alan Bloom sets the tone for criticizing the content of modern collegiate liberal arts curricula.[68] His main thesis is that the demise of general education requirements and replacement of the great books of Western literature and philosophy with multicultural courses not only have diminished the quality of contemporary education and demoralized our young potential leaders, but have threatened the core of our democratic process.

These ideas are echoed by Dinesh D’Souza, who defines what he sees as “illiberal education,” or a close-mindedness and intolerance among liberals on campus.[69] Through a collection of case studies, he observes that a “new racism” is being created on campus by resentment associated with affirmative action and a new politics of sensitivity to issues of gender and sexual orientation that has politicized scholarship. Katie Roiphe summarizes the conservative argument about the harm feminism has inflicted on campus by detailing her own experiences at Harvard and Princeton. She is critical of feminists who project “victimhood” and create absolutist positions where ambiguity should exist, especially concerning rape and sexual harassment.[70] And Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate reassert this perspective with further investigation of the polarization of political debate on campus, documenting incidents of the “tyranny of progressives… asserting absolute truth over the souls, consciences and the individuality of our students.”[71] They present a series of anecdotes focusing their criticism on what they see as major violations of free speech rights around student and faculty discipline. David Horowitz and Peter Collier (1994) produced an anthology of articles from their journal Heterodoxy on “How to survive the PC campus.”[72] Using humor and sarcasm, contributors to Heterodoxy, from almost the first issue in 1992, criticize a “politically correct” culture that “restricts the range of allowable opinions on campus.”

These books, written for the mass market, are designed to influence public opinion about campus life by providing a conservative lens with which to interpret campus events that most of the public rarely see. They are examples of rhetorical writing in the best classical sense, meant to enlighten and persuade.

While these works provide fascinating reading about student activism from a variety of perspectives, collectively they fail to provide us with a broad enough lens for the purposes of the Campus Activism Project. For that we turn to research that utilizes the analytical tool of Social Movement Theory.

Social Movement Theory Since the late 1980s, many scholars have adopted a new analytical framework for the study of political, social, and cultural activity. Originally developed by sociologists and now generally called “social movement theory,” this approach has deeply affected how scholars and others look at campus activism.[73]

According to Doug McAdam and David Snow, a social movement is “a collectivity acting with some degree of organization and continuity outside of institutional channels for the purpose of promoting or resisting change in the group, society, or world order of which it is a part.” Social movements do not exist in isolation, and often overlap with political movements focused on elections and legislative campaigns. Social movement theory is an important tool for understanding how civil society is constructed, and how groups of people mobilize and organize to extend or limit democracy and human rights in a society.[74]

Social movement theory has shifted the focus of research on students from the individual student’s personal motivation and psychological makeup as the cause for student activism. Proponents of this approach look at what facilitates the development of a movement on campus rather than what causes it.[75] In other words, they attempt to identify what structural and cultural factors help or hinder the growth and effectiveness of student activity instead of focusing solely on individuals’ ideologies or motivations. They examine multiple elements of collective behavior and over time have refined their analyses using concepts including resource mobilization, political processes and opportunity structures, diffusion (life-cycle theories), collectivity, movement culture, participant identity and emotion, framing of issues, and strategic interaction.[76]

While a detailed examination of social movement theory is beyond the scope of this literature review, a summary of some of the work on campus activism that has used this approach is important for several reasons. First, it can be applied successfully to activism on the Left and the Right, allowing for the comparative study of different forms of political activism on campus. Second, this approach allows us to understand the degree to which groups are effective, because social movement theory looks at other components of collective behavior besides ideology. Many earlier studies, grounded as they were in trying to understand student unrest in order to contain or control it, or to prevent its escalation into violence, did not conceptualize student activism as part of a legitimate movement of dissent. And finally, social movement theory allows for an examination of campus activism that is initiated by non-students alongside the study of student movements.

Although most of his work on the political Right used a conventional, individualistic framework, Seymour Martin Lipset was one of the earliest scholars to look at campus activism through a broader sociological lens. He noted several factors that facilitate rebellion in college, including that college students are a densely populated age cohort, are less tied to ideologies, know less history, and have fewer responsibilities.[77] Sarah Soule used the social movement concept of “resource mobilization” to study the spread of the campus-based shantytown movement – a student strategy of creating shantytowns on campus to urge the college or university to divest its holdings in companies that did business with South Africa in the 1980’s.[78] The student-built facsimile shantytowns on campus lawns created a visual message about apartheid and the location became a focus for organizing. Soule uncovered a positive relationship between the level of student activism and the size of the school’s endowment, suggesting that economic resources play a part in student activism.

Nella Van Dyke, working with the ideas of social movement lifecycles and “movement families,” finds a positive relationship between previous student activism and political activity on campus during the 1960s.[79] She also notes the presence of what she terms “activist subcultures” on campus, which explained why activism on one issue predicted student activism on multiple issues on the same campus. Kenneth Andrews and Michael Biggs echo these conclusions in their retrospective study of the 1960 sit-in movement in the South.[80]

Eric Hirsch contradicts earlier collective behavior descriptions of campus activists as confused and troubled by using social movement concepts that focus on the political processes, or factors that describe the development of political power in a group.[81] His conclusions are that consciousness-raising, the development of solidarity and the recognition of collective power more accurately explained the 1985 Columbia University divestment protest. And B.C. Ben Park provides a useful critique of various social movement theorists who have studied campus activism through the mid 1990s.[82] He suggests that the opportunities students have to form student community on campus are prerequisites to the development of political consciousness, which in turn influences student activism.

Ellen Messer-Davidow has contributed two analytical pieces to the study of conservative campus movements. The first reviews the debate over political correctness that began on campus in the late 1980s.[83] She suggests, looking through a resource mobilization lens, that the Right has in place an effective framing, recruitment and training apparatus that seeks to relocate aspects of power traditionally held by universities away from campus to sites more controlled by the Right, such as public opinion, the courts and legislatures. In her second relevant piece Messer-Davidow critically examines the growth of feminist studies as an academic discipline that grew out of the social activism of the women’s movement.[84] While she questions how a discipline that started out challenging the university status quo became shaped and controlled by the very institution it sought to change, the value of her book in the context of this study is its careful examination of the structural elements that contributed to a successful antifeminist backlash on campus.

Between 1991-1994 Messer-Davidow studied conservative movements, both on campus and in Washington, D.C. as a participant observer, noting that on the Right, “the agents for change are not the astute leaders and hardworking followers but the tightly networked national and state organizations.”[85] These groups provided carefully constructed and controlled student training opportunities for future conservative leaders, and Messer-Davidow documents with specificity the nature of the ideological training, the framing and cultural molding which are aspects of social movements according to social movement theory. By contrast, she noted that those who used similar training for feminists applied a less prescriptive pedagogy but were then stymied when their young women participants balked at the idea of being labeled feminist. She sees fissures in feminist faculty approaches, also, which according to her have made social problems primarily the topic of discussion and debate rather than opportunities for constructive social change. In challenging the old guard’s canon by offering a new set of subjects to study in highly analytical modes, she suggests that feminist scholars have perhaps let their eyes stray from the prize.

Conservative student training opportunities like the ones described by Messer-Davidow are not new phenomena. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, founded as the Institute for Educational Affairs, has supported college students through summer conferences since 1959, and Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute in Arlington, VA, has trained over 30,000 conservative students since 1979.

Areas where social movement theory has not yet been used to explore campus activism coincide with the interests of this study. How movements deal with countermovements or conflict with groups opposed to their views, such as the polarization around the Middle East, for example, or how they handle complex and competing ideologies, like academic freedom and campus speech codes, have not yet been thoroughly examined, and could benefit from using this more nuanced theoretical approach.

Questions Provoked by the Literature

This study is being conducted at a time of increased campus activism on the part of students and others. It benefits from a rich body of work that has examined student activism, especially on the Left. Much more remains to be learned than we can address in the Campus Activism Project. We can, however, ask some questions that will point in a new direction for research on campus activism.

Such questions include: who are campus activists in 2003 and how have they developed their politics? What are their compelling issues? How do conservative and progressive political movements attract and support student activism on campus? How and about what do marginalized groups organize on campus? What other forms of activism occur on campus? What is the leadership pipeline for student activists who seek political work after graduation? These questions have informed the creation of interview schedules for the project.

The project will use the lens of social movement theory in hopes that this approach facilitates comparisons between conservative and progressive campus activism. From this experience we anticipate the ability to suggest areas of further study. In the report to be published at the completion of the project, we will summarize the project’s findings.


[1] The methodology to be used in the Campus Activism Project is addressed in a separate chapter of this study.

[2]Cowan, Rich and Center for Campus Organizing, 1997, Uncovering the Right on Campus. Houston TX: Public Search, Inc. ; Kors, Alan C. and Harvey A. Silverglate, 1998, The Shadow University:the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses. New York: Free Press p.3; Habermas, Jürgen, 1970, Toward a Rational Society:Student Protest, Science, and Politics. Boston: Beacon Press ; {Bell, 1955 11 /id;Lipset, 1970 13 /id}.

[3]Sax, L. J., J. A. Lindholm, A. W. Astin, W. S. Korn, and K. M. Mahoney, 2003, The American Freshman:National Norms for Fall 2002. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute.

[4] {Sax, 2003 176 /id;Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, 1971 79 /id;Sax, 2003 176 /id}

[5] , National Election Studies: Center for Political Studies, University o. M., 2000, The NES Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior:Liberal-Conservative Self-Identification.

[6] {Rhee, 1996 242 /id;Lipset, 1990 1 /id;McHale, 1994 240 /id;Sax, 1999 241 /id}.

[7] , Dey, Eric L., 1988, "College Impact and Student Liberalism Revisited:The Effect of Student Peers," Paper presented at the annual ASHE meeting, 1988. ASHE Annual Meeting Paper.

[8] Sax, L.J. et al, 2002.

[9] Harriger, Katy J. and Jill J. McMillan, 2002, "Citizenship Deferred:Political Attitudes, Experiences, and Entering Expectations of First Year Students at a Liberal Arts College," Prepared for delivery August 30, 2002 at the annual conference of the American Political Science Association.Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Associatio Loeb, Paul R., 1994, Generation at the Crossroads:Apathy and Action on the American Campus. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press p. 377.

U.S.Census Bureau, 2002, Voting and Registation in the Election of November 2000, 1-16: U.S. Government Table C, 2000, Table C, 2002.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Delli Carpini, Michael X. and Scott Keeter, 1996, What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven: Yale University Press ; , McAdam, Doug and David Snow, 1997, Social Movements. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company

[13] The Institute of Politics, 2002, A National Survey of Student Attitudes, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University Press.

[14] , Harriger, Katy J. and Jill J. McMillan, 2002, "Citizenship Deferred:Political Attitudes, Experiences, and Entering Expectations of First Year Students at a Liberal Arts College."

[15] {Delli Carpini, 1996 206 /id;Dionne, 1991 1 /id;Eliasoph, 1998 1 /id}.

[16] Long, Sarah, 2002, The New Student Politics:The Wingspread Statement on Student Civic Engagement, 1-24. Providence, R.I.: College Compact, p.1.

[17] , Long, Sarah, 2002, The New Student Politics:The Wingspread Statement on Student Civic Engagement. p.15.

[18] Colby, Anne, 2003, Educating Citizens:Preparing America's Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility1st ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass ; Kors, Alan Charles and Harvey A. Silverglate, 1998, The Shadow University:the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses.

[19] {Coupland, 1991 1 /id;1990 209 /id;Linklater, 1992 1 /id}

[20] Marlantes, Liz, 2002, After 9/11, the Body Politic Tilts to Conservatism,Christian Science Monitor , 1.

[21] Horowitz, David and Peter Collier, 1994, The Heterodoxy Handbook: How to Survive the PC Campus. Washington: Regnery Pub ; Kors, Alan Charles and Harvey A. Silverglate, 1998, The Shadow University:the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses. ; , Lake Snell Perry Associates and the Tarrance Group, Inc., 2002, Short-Term Impacts, Long Term Opportunities:The Politics and Civic Engagement of Young Adults in America. College Park, MD: Center for Information and Research in Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

[22] , Green, Kenneth C., 1985, "The Mood on Campus:More Conservative or Just More Materialistic?," Educational Record 66[1]:45-48.

[23] , Astin, Alexander W., 1991, "The Changing American College Student:Implications for Policy and Practice," Higher Education 22[2]:129-143.

[24] Horowitz, David and Peter Collier, 1994, The Heterodoxy Handbook: How to Survive the PC Campus. ; Kors, Alan Charles and Harvey A. Silverglate, 1998, The Shadow University:the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses. ; , Lake Snell Perry Associates and the Tarrance Group, Inc., 2002, Short-Term Impacts, Long Term Opportunities:The Politics and Civic Engagement of Young Adults in America.

[25] Zogby International, 2000, Report on Academic Life Survey for the Foundation for Academic Standards and Tradition (FAST).

[26] Press release, FAST-Zogby Academic Life Survey, April 18, 2000 http// ( htm, accessed 12/23/02).

[27] Memo from the Tarrance Group to IWF, 2/5/02, p. 5. (, accessed 11/25/02).

[28] “College Students Speak Out,” AVOT, ($72), accessed 11/25/02.

[29] Altbach, Philip G. and Patti Peterson, 1972, "Before Berkeley: Historical Perspectives on American Student Activism," Philip G. Altbach and Robert S. Laufer, The New Pilgrims: Youth Protest in Transition, [1], Pp. 13-31, edited by Philip G. Altbach and Robert S. Laufer, New York: David McKay, ; , Cohen, Robert, 1993, When the Old Left WasYoung:Student Radicals and America's First Mass Student Movement, 1929-1941. New York: Oxford University Press

[30] United States and President's Commission on Campus Unrest, 1970, The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. Washington, D.C: President's Commission on Campus Unrest

[31] Becker, Howard S., 1970, Campus Power Struggle. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co Trans-Action Books.

[32]{Gold, 1976 1 /id} Bolton, Charles D. and Kenneth C. Kammeyer, 1967, The University Student:A Study of Student Behavior and Values. New Haven, CN: College and University Press ; , Keniston, Kenneth, 1968, Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth1st. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World ; Trent, James W. and Judith L. Craise, 1967, "Commitment and Conformity in the American College," Journal of Social Issues 23:38-39.

[33], Feuer, Lewis S., 1969, The Conflict of Generations:the Character and Significance of Student Movements. New York: Basic Books Pp.527-28.

[34] Ibid.

[35] {Root, 1961 216 /id} Pp. 113-138.

[36] Tilly, Charles, Louise Tilly, and Richard H. Tilly, 1975, The Rebellious Century, 1830-1930. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

[37] Flacks, 1967, "The Liberated Generation:an Exploration of the Roots of Student Protest," Social Issues 23:52-60, ; Keniston, Kenneth, 1967, "Sources of Campus Dissent," Journal of Social Issues 23:108-137, ; Tilly, Charles, Louise Tilly, and Richard H. Tilly, 1975, The Rebellious Century, 1830-1930.

[38] Westby, David L. and Richard G. Braungart, 1966, "Class and Politics in the Family Backgrounds of Student Political Activists," American Sociological Review 31[5].

[39] McEvoy, James and Abraham H. Miller, 1969, Black Power and Student Rebellion. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth Pub. Co

[40] McEvoy, James and Abraham H. Miller, 1969, Black Power and Student Rebellion. ; United States and President's Commission on Campus Unrest, 1970, The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest.

[41] Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, 1971, Dissent and Disruption:Proposals for Consideration by the Campus. New York: McGraw-Hill

[42] Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, 1971, Dissent and Disruption:Proposals for Consideration by the Campus. ; Flacks, 1967, "The Liberated Generation:an exploration of the roots of student protest." ; Keniston, Kenneth, 1967, "Sources of Campus Dissent." .

[43] Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, 1971, Dissent and Disruption:Proposals for Consideration by the Campus. ; Flacks, 1967, "The Liberated Generation:an exploration of the roots of student protest." ; Westby, David L. and Richard G. Braungart, 1966, "Class and Politics in the Family Backgrounds of Student Political Activists."

[44] Lubell, Samuel, 1968, "The "Generation Gap"," The Public Interest 13:52-60, ; Park, B. C. B., 2002, "Politicization of Youth on College Campuses:Thoughts About Theories of Youth Activism," Paper Presented at The Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, August 2002.

[45] Park, B. C. Ben, 2002, "Politicization of Youth on College Campuses:Thoughts About Theories of Youth Activism." p. 8.

[46] Andrew, John A., 1997, The Other Side of the Sixties:Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press Perspectives on the Sixties, ; Lubell, Samuel, 1968, "The "Generation Gap"."

[47] {Andrew, 1997 221 /id;Becker, 1970 6 /id;Schiff, 1964 179 /id}

[48] Colapinto, John, 2003, "Armies of the Right:The Young Hipublicans," The New York Times Magazine p. pp. 30-59, The New York Times.; Ruby-Sachs, Emma and Timothy Waligore, 2003, "A Once Bright Star Dims," The Nation 276[6], p. p. 29.; Ruby-Sachs, Emma and Timothy Waligore, 2003, "Alternative Voices on Campus," The Nation 276[6], p. pp. 27-29.

[49] {Bass, 1984 133 /id;Casey, 89 A.D. 129 /id;Cytrynbaum, 1985 135 /id;Flynn, 88 A.D. 130 /id;Gold, 88 A.D. 131 /id;Milne, 1988 132 /id;Park, 2002 198 /id;Houppert, 2002 250 /id}

[50]Schumer, Fran R., 1982, "The New Right's Campus Press," The Nation p. pp. 395-398.

[51] Astin, Alexander W., Helen S. Astin, Alan Bayer, and Ann Bisconti, 1975, The Power of Protest:A National Study of Student and Faculty Disruptions With Implications For The Future. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

[52] {Vellela, 1988 178 /id}

[53] Keniston, Kenneth, 1965, The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society1st. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World ; Keniston, Kenneth, 1968, Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. ; Loeb, Paul Rogat, 1994, Generation at the Crossroads:Apathy and Action on the American Campus.

[54] Loeb, Paul Rogat, 1994, Generation at the Crossroads:Apathy and Action on the American Campus. p. 19.

[55] D'Souza, Dinesh, 1991, Illiberal Education:the Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. New York: Free Press Bloom, Allan D., 1988, The Closing of the American Mind1st Touchstone ed. New York: Simon and Schuster

[56] Rhoads, Robert A., 1998, Freedom’s Web: Student Activism in an Age of Cultural Diversity, Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Press.

[57] {Levine.Arthur, 1998 196 /id}

[58] Featherstone, Liza and United Students Against Sweatshops, 2002, Students Against Sweatshops. London: Verso

[59] Cowan, Rich and Center for Campus Organizing, 1997, Uncovering the Right on Campus.

[60] accessed 7/18/03.

[61] Freeman, Jo, 1971, "Women's Liberation and Its Impact on the Campus," Liberal Education 57[4]:468-478

[62] accessed 7/18/03.

[63] Lesage, Julia, 2002, Making a Difference:University Students of Color Speak Out. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ; , Rochlin, Jay M., 1997, Race & Class on Campus:Conversations With Ricardo's Daughter. Tucson: University of Arizona Press

[64]Gay Students Organization v. Bonner, 509 F.2d 652 (1st Cir. 1974).

[65] Glasker, Wayne, 2002, Black Students in the Ivory Tower:African American Student Activism at the University of Pennsylvania, 1967-1990. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press ; Lesage, Julia, 2002, Making a Difference:University Students of Color Speak Out. ; Rochlin, Jay M., 1997, Race & Class on Campus:Conversations With Ricardo's Daughter.

[66] Rochlin, Jay M., 1997, Race & Class on Campus:Conversations With Ricardo's Daughter.

[67] Wallerstein, Immanuel M. and Paul Starr, 1971, The University Crisis Reader1st ed. New York: Random House pp. 295-391; Carson, Clayborne, 1981, In Struggle:SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press ; Wallerstein, Immanuel Maurice and Paul Starr, 1971, The University Crisis Reader.

[68] Bloom, Allan David, 1988, The Closing of the American Mind.

[69] D'Souza, Dinesh, 1991, Illiberal Education:the Politics of Race and Sex on Campus.

[70] Roiphe, Katie, 1993, The Morning After:Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus. Boston: Little, Brown and Company

[71]Kors, Alan Charles and Harvey A. Silverglate, 1998, The Shadow University:the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses.

[72] Horowitz, David and Peter Collier, 1994, The Heterodoxy Handbook: How to Survive the PC Campus. ; Kors, Alan Charles and Harvey A. Silverglate, 1998, The Shadow University:the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses.

[73] For a look at changing trends in social movement theory, see: Roberta Garner and John Tenuto, Social Movement Theory and Research: An Annotated Guide, Magill Bibliographies, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press and Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1997; Steven M. Buechler, Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism: The Political Economy and Cultural Construction of Social Activism , New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 3-57; Kelly Moore, 1997. Syllabi & Teaching Resources for Courses on Collective Behavior and Social Movements. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association in cooperation with the section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements. See also these volumes containing a wide range of interpretations and analytical models: Aldon D. Morris and Carol McClung Mueller, eds., Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992; Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, Mayer N. Zald, Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; Steven M. Buechler and F. Kurt Cylke, Jr., eds., Social Movements: Perspectives and Issues, Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1997; Anne N. Costain and Andrew S. McFarland, eds.. 1998. Social Movements and American Political Institutions: People, Passions, and Power. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield; Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly. 2001. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; Jeff Goodwin, James M. Jasper, and Francesca Polletta, eds. 2001. Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; David S. Meyer, Nancy Whittier, and Belinda Robinet, eds. 2002. Social Movements: Identity, Culture, and the State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[74] For discussions of the idea of civil society, see: Adam Seligman, The Idea of Civil Society New York: The Free Press, 1992; Jean L. Cohen and Andrew Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory, Boston, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1994; William F. Felice Taking Suffering Seriously: The Importance of Collective Human Rights Albany, NY: State University of New York Press 1996; John Keane Civil Society: Old Images, New Visions. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998; and Mervyn Frost Constituting Human Rights: Global Civil Society and the Society of Democratic States London: Routledge 2002.

[75] Park, op cit. p.11.

[76] Gold, Alice R., Richard Christie, and Lucy Friedman, 1976, Fists and Flowers:a Social Psychological Interpretation of Student Dissent. New York: Academic Press ; Stiles, Elizabeth A., 2002, "Social Movements, Policy Initiatives and Political Outcomes at the U.S. State Level," Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association .p.9.

[77]{1985 222 /id;Lipset, 1975 143 /id}.

[78] Soule, Sarah, 1997, "The Student Divestment Movement in the United States and Tactical Diffusion:The Shantytown Protest," Social Forces 75[3], p. pp. 855-883.

[79] Van Dyke, Nella, 1998, "Hotbeds of Student Activism:Locations of Student Protest," Social Problems 45[2], p. pp. 205-220.

[80] Andrews, Kenneth and Michael Biggs, 2001, "The Dynamics of Protest Diffusion:the 1960 Sit-in Movement in the American South," Presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

[81] Hirsch, Eric, 1990, "Sacrifice for the Cause:Group Processes, Recruitment, and Commitment in a Student Social Movement," American Sociological Review 55[2], p. pp. 243-254.

[82] Park, op. cit.

[83] Messer-Davidow, Ellen, 1993, "Manufacturing the Attack on Liberalized Higher Education," Social Text [36]:40-80, ; Park, B. C. Ben, 2002, "Politicization of Youth on College Campuses:Thoughts About Theories of Youth Activism."

[84] Messer-Davidow, Ellen, 2002, Disciplining Feminism:From Social Activism to Academic Discourse. Durham N.C.: Duke University Press

[85] Ibid, p. 229.

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