At Yale University in New Haven, first year students are assigned to a residential college. These residential colleges function as communities and homes for the students and become an important part of life on campus. One of these colleges was named after John C. Calhoun, a Yale alum and the seventh Vice President of the United States. Calhoun was, however, an ardent defender and proponent of slavery, making the name of the college controversial. With racial tensions rising on campus and around the country, in 2015 student activists revived concerns and called for a name change.
In the early 1950s, Royal Dutch/Shell purchased land in the community of Diamond, Louisiana and built a chemical plant. Margie Richard, a Black resident of Diamond, founded Concerned Citizens of Norco (CCN) in 1989 after two large-scale accidents at the Shell/Motiva Chemical plant. A pipeline explosion in 1973 killed two Diamond residents, while another event in 1988 killed seven workers.
Divest SU – a group of concerned students at Syracuse University (SU) joined by activists at the nearby State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) – started the SU Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to fight for climate justice through demanding the school administration freeze new investments in fossil fuel companies and fully divest from the industry. This campaign was a part of an international student movement to pressure universities and colleges to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.
In 1978, Chemical Waste Management Inc. (CWM), a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. (WMX), bought 300-acres of land near Emelle, Alabama for a hazardous waste landfill. Residents did not have the opportunity to protest the landfill prior to its construction because CWM was not legally obligated to disclose information about land use.
The 1960’s saw a surge in activism on college campuses in the United States. One of the fights occurring on college campuses was demands for ethnic studies programs and the admission of more students of color. Brooklyn College students joined this fight in 1969.
In 2014, Brown University, a private research university located in Providence, Rhode Island, enrolled nearly 9,000 students and employed over 1,500 workers, more than a hundred of whom worked in the school’s libraries. The United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island (USAW-RI) is the workers union that represented nearly half of these library workers in addition to the school’s dining employees, parking officers, service responders, and mailroom drivers.
City of Seattle severs financial ties with Wells Fargo to protest funding of Dakota Access Pipeline, 2016-2017
In August of 2016, construction began for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a $3.78 billion project that aimed to transport crude oil over 1,172 miles, from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline not only threatened climate stability, but also invaded the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and put their water supply, which came from the Missouri River, at severe risk.
In January of 2009, subcontractors of the multinational sports apparel giant, Nike, forcibly shut down two of their major factories, Vision Tex and Hugger, in the Honduras. This left more than 1,800 laborers unemployed and without their legally entitled severance payments. The Workers Rights Consortium, an independent labor auditing organization, reported these concerns to over 100 universities in order to generate awareness of these issues, resulting in the formation of the nationwide student campaign, “Just Pay It.”
Brown University, a private Ivy League research university located in Providence, Rhode Island, enrolls nearly 9,000 students and employs over 1,500 workers, over a hundred of which are employed in the school’s libraries. The 2007-2010 collective bargaining agreement between the university and the United Service and Allied Workers Rhode Island (USAW-RI) Library Unit was officially set to conclude on 30 September 2010.
When Bill Clinton began his first term as President of the United States in 1993, the cumulative number of individuals affected by the AIDS epidemic stood at 360,000 cases. By his second term, this count had grown to over 580,000. Although the number of AIDS deaths saw its first dip in 1996, likely due to the development of anti-HIV combination therapies, the number of new cases remained constant at about 40,000 annually since 1992 until 2003.
In December of 2013 at The University of Oregon, a group of students founded Divest UO, to persuade the University of Oregon Foundation (the Board of Trustees) to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Over the next two and a half years, Divest UO employed multiple tactics including a mock wedding, numerous sit-ins, and several teach-ins to achieve their goal.
In October of 2014, two students at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Benjamin Hermerding, president of the Young Democrats, and Nate Levin, member of DivestUMW, requested an informal meeting with UMW administration to discuss the school’s investment portfolio. The open question-and-answer session focused primarily on the 5-year plan released by UMW’s Strategic Planning Task Force, which prioritized fiscally competitive investments.
Divest UMass – a group of concerned students – started the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to fight for climate justice through demanding divestment by the UMass Foundation from fossil fuel companies and promoting reinvestment of funds into projects that supported “social justice, equality, and sustainability.” This cross-campus campaign was a part of a multi-school, national student movement to pressure administrations at various universities and colleges to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
Massachusetts residents block construction of Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline 2014-2016
In September 2014, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, L.L.C. (TGP), a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., proposed a 346-mile pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The proposal included two paths: a 220-mile “supply path” and a 126-mile “market path”. The Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline (NED) would supply natural gas from fracking fields in Pennsylvania to energy companies in New England. TGP was a well-known gas supplier, having operated in the New England region for over 60 years.
Until May 2014, same sex marriage was illegal in Pennsylvania. The 1996 Marriage Law define marriage as being between a man and a woman. However on 23 July 2013, D. Bruce Hanes, Register of Wills in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania announced that his office would issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, in defiance of the law.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) is a private oil and gas manufacturer that owns the largest oil unloading and refining facility on the East Coast of the United States. Labelled by the Environmental Protection Agency as a high priority violator since April 2012, the PES has long been criticized by environmentalist groups for releasing air and water pollutants and failing to comply with the Clean Air Act.
In 2008, students at Brown University’s Student Labor Alliance, a group of about 15-20 members, began a campaign to persuade their university to halt further investment in HEI Hotels Resorts. HEI, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, is one of the largest hotel management companies in the US and manages hotels such as Hilton, Hyatt, and Westin.
In 2016, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts was one of the most elite universities in the United States. It had the largest endowment of any university in the country at $35.7 billion. However, despite the wealth of the university, its treatment of its employees, specifically dining services employees, came into question in 2016. Starting in early June 2016, the dining services workers of Harvard began a series of negotiations with the university in order to demand a higher yearly salary.
The animal rights movement of the 1980’s moved into the mainstream media as it was joined by professionals and academics. The new public attention increased demand from concerned consumers for products developed without animal testing, and companies began more widely using alternatives such as in vitro cell cultures and computer catalogs of known substances.
Paul Robeson High School opened in Brooklyn, New York, 1984, as a replacement for the closed Alexander Hamilton High School. The school board’s vision for the new Robeson High School focused primarily on decreasing the dropout rate. To ensure this, the board replaced most of the Hamilton teachers with new ones and created a new application process for students. At first, Robeson did see an increase in the graduation rate, earning it recognition in The New York Times. However, in 2004, the graduation rate began to slowly decrease.
On 22 September 2014, almost 300 students, led by the Colgate University Association of Critical Collegians (ACC), a student-led organization fighting to create a culture of inclusivity at Colgate, University, staged a 100-hour campus sit-in in front of the school’s admissions building to protest what one observer described as the discriminatory “treatment of minority students on campus and the university’s lack of diversity.” The sit-in was sparked by bigoted comments made on the anonymous social media app Yik-Yak.
In the summer of 2012, the American fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A became the focus of an anti same-sex marriage controversy when the restaurant’s owners made public comments in support of traditional marriage. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Truett Cathy, a self-described evangelical Christian, admitted to the Baptist Press he was “guilty as charged” in his support of marriage exclusively between a man and a woman. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy said.
Garfield High School teachers in Seattle, Washington boycott Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, 2012-2013
Standardized testing in the United States dates back to the early 1900s, when the military issued standardized tests of intelligence to potential candidates for the armed services. In the 1970s, public school students began taking “high stakes” tests, in which their scores affected school district funding and the students’ ability to move on to the next grade. The original purpose of these tests was to hold school districts accountable by providing a standard measure of academic comparison across students and school districts.
From 1997 to 2000, students at the University of Virginia held a campaign to raise the living wage from the lowest pay of $6.10 to $8.19. In June 1996, a year before the campaign began, the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity Employment Programs commissioned an investigation, called “The Muddy Floor Report,” that published statistics on racial bias in hiring and pay at UVa’s employment office. The report revealed that housekeeping staff had some of the lowest wages, a third of them qualified for food stamps, and most of them were women and/or African-American.
On 8 August 2007, Columbia Riverkeeper, a group dedicated to the environmental restoration of the Columbia River, launched a protest against the proposed plant. Two hundred protesters picketed on the beach at the proposed site and sailed into the river in kayaks holding signs and banners.