On 8 December 1965, the British government passed the Race Relations Act, the first legislation to address racism and xenophobia in the United Kingdom. The act addressed significant disparities in the UK, like the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott, which demonstrated against income and work inequalities faced by West Indian and African communities. The act made it a civil offense to incite racial violence and for businesses to not serve people based on race.
Although Barnard College was part of Columbia University, the two institutions maintained separate endowments. As a result, BCD split into Columbia Divest for Climate Justice and Divest Barnard in the Fall of 2014. Next semester, in the Spring of 2015, Divest Barnard formally launched their campaign for Barnard College to divest from fossil fuels.
Before protests against racial discrimination and harassment began at University of Missouri campuses in 2015, tensions had risen for a number of years. For example, on 26 February 2010, two students spread cotton balls on the fields of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center as a racist mockery of enslavement. A lack of substantive administrative action in response to such cases of racial discrimination provoked the ire of the university’s Black students.
On 14 October 2015, student protests began at the University of Witwatersrand in response to an announcement by the university board that there would be a 10.5% increase in tuition fees. On 15 October, students barricaded the gates of the university. Over the next two days, both student and staff members held a sit in, causing the eventual lock down of the university as the blockades obstructed lectures and activities. On 17 October, the University of Witwatersrand agreed to suspend and renegotiate the fee increases.
New York University students sit-in for NYU to change its Labor Code of Conduct (End Deathtraps Campaign, 2013-2014)
The deadliest disaster in the history of the Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry occurred in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013 when a sweatshop, Rana Plaza, collapsed and killed 1,134 people. The day before the collapse an engineer expressed concern over a crack in the building. Unfortunately, the factory remained open to fulfill overdue orders and collapsed when generators restarted after a power blackout.
PT Kizone, an apparel factory in Tangerang, Indonesia, held major contracts with Nike and Adidas. In September of 2010, the factory started to withhold its workers’ severance pay. In January 2011, the factory failed to pay its workers their monthly compensation. At the end of the month, the owner of PT Kizone, Jin Woo Kim, fled to his home country of South Korea. The factory declared bankruptcy and closed on 1 April 2011. PT Kizone fired all its workers, to whom the factory owed $3.4 million in severance compensation.
In 2015, student activists took action against New York University, a prestigious 4-year research university in New York City, United States, to increase the minimum wage of part-time student workers employed by the University. The campaign began on 18 September 2015, when members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) gathered to conduct a sit-in at 726 Broadway inside the office of Beth Haymaker, the director of NYU’s Global Programs. SLAM members organized the sit-in to protest the mistreatment of Niza Mirza, an international student from Pakistan.
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 November 2003, tens of thousands of Georgians took to the streets to protest against the contested results of a parliamentary election. This campaign ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze, a hold-over from the former Soviet leadership, and put in place a pro-Western party, the United National Movement (ENM), headed by Mikhail Saakashvili. After the demonstrations concluded, altogether known as the Rose Revolution, Saakashvili’s newly elected administration implemented a zero tolerance approach to petty crimes.
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.
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.
“Pink-washing” refers to a practice used by entities or corporations to market themselves as LGBTQ friendly and supportive, while simultaneously committing other ethical violations. BP was a British oil and gas company that came under fire in recent years for various environmental violations, in particular an oil spill, considered one of the most damaging in history. BP spilled approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The spill had extreme environmental and health concerns.
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.
The fossil fuel divestment campaign originally started at Swarthmore College in 2010, through a student group called Mountain Justice. This campaign gained national traction and spread to other universities in America as well as around the world. Students from Trinity College, located in Dublin, Ireland, began their divestment campaign in 2015.
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.
University of Sydney students uncover and protest discrimination of Aboriginal people in New South Wales, 1965
In 1965, a group of student students at the University of Sydney who were members of Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) embarked on a two week bus ride through several towns and villages in New South Wales to draw attention to the prevalent discrimination against Aborigines in Australia. This campaign is often credited with directing national and international attention to the ongoing human rights violations against Aboriginal people and leading to the 1967 referendum that approved two amendments relating to Aboriginal rights and status in Australia.
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.
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.
Approximately ninety-seven percent of publishing climate scientists agreed that climate change was occurring in 2013, and that the primary cause was human activities. If the planet was to remain within safe levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and maintain temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, four-fifths of the known fossil fuel reserves needed to stay in the ground and not be burned.
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.