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History of student movements and activism at The Evergreen State College

Important student-led movements in the past

Students and student movements have played a major role in struggles for reform and revolution in the United States and around the world.

Previous to January 1, 1959, when the July 26th movement in Cuba overthrew the Batista dictatorship, Fidel Castro and other students were instrumental in the initial uprising in 1953.

In 1960, four students from North Carolina A and T University, a Black university, sat in at the local Woolworth counter in the section reserved for whites in Greensboro, North Carolina. These organized sit-ins spread rapidly throughout the South and are often considered the beginning of the powerful social movements of the 1960’s, in particular, the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movement so central to the 1960’s.

The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, composed primarily of Black college students, played a central role in the organizing of Black communities in the South. They also opposed the war in Vietnam and the draft.

Later in the 1960’s, Black Student Unions (BSUs) and MEChAs (Chicano student group) demanded, rallied,  protested and occupied college administration offices at college campuses  throughout the country and won  increased access to higher education, the creation of Black and Chicano Studies departments, and hiring of faculty and staff of color.

Another major group that had chapters on hundreds of colleges throughout the United States was Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Primarily composed of white college students, SDS called for a participatory democratic society and played a major role in the growing movement against the war in Vietnam.  They were also very active in struggles against racism and poverty.

SDS and SNCC were both part of what is often called the New Left; groups interested in changing themselves and leading by example as they actively organized to transform society. As part of the new left but also as a reaction to the sexism within the New Left, a very powerful women’s liberation movement developed in the late 1960’s. It has had an important impact in changing for the better the lives and consciousness of women although sexism and patriarchy are still part of U.S. society, on and off campus.

In May, 1968, an uprising and strike that began at French universities spread to workplace occupations by French workers and came close to making revolutionary change.  A current example, although less far-reaching, is the major role students and youths have played in the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Another example was the role of student movements in the 1960’s and 1970’s in support of the organizing efforts of the United Farmworkers (UFW) for the recognition of their union. Student groups boycotted grapes and got many campuses to ban grapes from large farmers that refused to recognize the union.  A current example at Evergreen is the student group, the Farmworker Justice Committee that supports the farmworkers at Sakuma farms in Burlington, Washington and the boycott of Driscoll berries until both their union is recognized and they receive a fair contract. Recently, Sakuma Farms has accepted the vote by the farmworkers to be represented by the independent union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia.

Student movements have been most important, powerful and effective when they connect issues of national and international importance to the campuses. During the 1960’s and 1970’s students protested on college campuses all over the country the arrival of Dow Chemical job recruiters.  Dow was the principal maker of napalm (a flammable gel used as an anti-personnel weapon) and Agent Orange, which contained dioxin that continues to cause serious birth defects on a massive scale in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Student groups, internationally and in the United States—including Evergreen, played a central role in the international movement against apartheid. For example, they occupied college administration offices until colleges agreed to divest from corporations that invested in South Africa or profited from the apartheid system. These campus victories contributed to the loss of legitimacy internationally by the racist system in South Africa—a major factor in its collapse.

Today there are groups on 500 college campuses demanding that their campuses divest from corporations producing fossil fuel. This social movement has really been growing as it connects climate change to university complicity with the fossil fuel industry. Although smaller, there are also growing movements on campuses throughout the United States including the Evergreen State College that have joined the global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement aimed at ending the occupation of Palestine by Israel.  (more below)

Student movements at The Evergreen State College

Here are a few examples of student organizing and protest on campus since I came to Evergreen in 1987. The list is very partial, mainly based on my direct knowledge of the major role students have played in on and off campus activism and resistance.

 Graduation speakers and protests at graduation

In 1991-1992, Larry Mosqueda, Gail Tremblay and I taught the program “500 Years of Oppression, 500 Years of Resistance.” We connected our program to the global movement in solidarity with the indigenous people of the Americas challenging the celebration of Columbus and the Quincentennial of his invasion of the Americas. During that year we—the students and faculty—decided to organize around nominating Leonard Peltier, a leader of the American Indian Movement and a political prisoner since 1976, to be the graduation speaker in the spring. Our efforts were successful. Peltier wrote a powerful talk that was read by a graduating student.  (Sadly, Leonard Peltier is still in prison and is very sick so I hope that you immediately learn more about his history and life and organize to get him pardoned from prison.)

In the fall quarter of 1999, many students and a few faculty mobilized and participated in the massive and powerful protests against the World Trade (WTO) that occurred in Seattle. The main student group involved was the Evergreen Political Information Center (EPIC), a student group with a long and proud history at Evergreen. Afterwards, many Evergreen activists turned their focus toward organizing a successful campaign to select Mumia Abu-Jamal as the graduation speaker. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award winning radio journalist, former member of the Black Panther Party and author who was on death row at that time and had been imprisoned since 1981. He was convicted of killing a Philadelphia cop and there is strong evidence that he was framed by the Philadelphia police.

This student-led movement built enough support for Mumia that the Evergreen Administration did not cave in to the strong outside pressure to withdraw the speaking invitation. At the graduation ceremonies, there was a protest held mainly by the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police and led by the wife of the dead police officer. Few Evergreen students joined this police led protest.  Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a powerful recorded speech that was taped from death row by an Evergreen student.  Mumia spoke about how graduates of all races could contribute to creating a more just world by becoming revolutionaries.

Although Mumia is still in prison and very sick, now serving life without parole, the campaign to have him speak was victorious and significant because it publicized his case and connected the major issue of political prisoners to our campus.

At other graduation ceremonies students have often done banner drops, usually from the top of the library, to publicize major struggles with bold banners and posters such as criticizing the welfare cuts imposed by the graduation speaker, Governor Christine Gregoire. There have also been similar actions protesting U.S. wars in the Middle East, defending the forest, and in support of environmental justice.

Access to education:  Class, Race and Immigrant inclusivity!

There is no mythical past at The Evergreen State College to which we should strive to return. Almost the entire faculty when Evergreen opened in 1971 was white and male. When I arrived to teach full-time at Evergreen 16 years later, the campus was whiter than it is today (although there is a long way to go in terms of access and other issues before Evergreen can turn its rhetoric about racial justice into more of a reality).  Until recently, efforts to racially diversify the Olympia campus of Evergreen have come mainly from staff, faculty and the Administration and perhaps less directly from students.

In my early years at Evergreen, the late1980’s, there was a larger proportion of older students in full-time programs. Evening and Weekend Studies didn’t yet exist. Tuition was less than $1500 a year for full-time study, which is about $3000 in today’s dollars. The cost of higher education was largely covered by the state of Washington State. Tuition has increased many times since 1987 and today covers about 60% of the costs as Washington State aid has declined.

From 2009 to 2011, there was an active campus movement against state cutbacks in aid to college campuses and the connected, 10% or more annual increases in tuition. A coalition of students of color groups, anarchists, and members of the national organization, Socialist Alternative, formed, called the “Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget”. This coalition organized spirited rallies on campus, and also called for walk-outs from classes that were not that successful. (In reflection, we should have gone into more classes to discuss the issues involved and our demands for freezing tuition and more state aid. Good organizing did occur in the dorms by activist students going door to door to discuss demands.)

In one major action on March 4, 2010, we rallied on campus followed by a massive carpool to the State Capital led by a hearse symbolizing the proposed State budget as a funeral for higher education. We filled the State Capital legislature interrupting a Senate Hearing by singing and demanding more Washington State funding of higher education. There was some media coverage but the movement didn’t have much staying power or any substantial victories.  There is a need to build alliances, not only with student groups on other campuses, but also with unions and workers, on and off campus, and with community groups demanding a comprehensive fair budget that furthers economic and social justice paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy.

One difficulty has been the necessity to make demands simultaneously on Washington State and also on the campus administration and the Board of Trustees. Student movements have tended to focus only on demanding changes in campus spending and have deferred too much to the administration for lobbying the State government.  In addition, since financial aid was increased somewhat, not all students were affected equally by tuition increases. The faculty union has mainly been concerned about increases in faculty salary and benefits and supporting adjunct faculty, those with little job security— but not to lower or maintain tuition as it was rising rapidly.

Evergreen students have also been very active in protesting against the Geo corporation-owned Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma where 1300 immigrants are incarcerated before deportation. Many Evergreen students and student groups such as MEChA  supported the hunger strikes of the locked-up immigrants in 2014.  Currently a campaign is under way to make Evergreen a sanctuary for immigrants with the demand that Evergreen not cooperate with federal government attempts to identify undocumented members of the Evergreen community. A campaign could also be organized to demand financial aid and scholarships for undocumented immigrants who attend or want to attend Evergreen and usually are ineligible for governmental financial aid.

Militarization of the police

Prior to the 1990’s, the campus police were called campus security. They were unarmed and more integrated with the rest of the Evergreen community than today.  Soon after I arrived to teach at Evergreen, a few of the campus security began to advocate strongly to be armed. A strong multiracial student movement developed against their arming. They organized forums, debates and a referendum where two-thirds of students voted against arming security and against making them police officers.  The faculty vote was almost unanimous against arming them.

We, mainly students, sat in the Evergreen President’s office and blocked the Evergreen Parkway, but at the end of a contentious year, the Vice-President of Student Affairs, Art Costatino, and the acting President Les Purce decided to arm them anyway. To defuse protest, Campus Security was limited at first in the times and places where the now Evergreen police could carry guns. Over time though, this has changed to 24 hours a day arming with increased firepower. In a small victory, students and faculty were able to defeat police demands in 2009 for assault rifles.

Westside police shooting

On May 21, 2015 Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald shot two young Black brothers, Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson. Many Evergreen students have been involved in supporting them. The brothers were unarmed and had shoplifted some beer. A few minutes later, the police officer confronted and shot them. Fortunately both lived although Bryson Chaplin is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. In a major injustice, the brothers are facing felony charges of assault on a police officer and Ryan Donald, who was not harmed, continues as a police officer. There is a continuing movement demanding that charges be dropped and that Officer Donald be fired. Their trial is currently scheduled for March 16, 2017.

If we want to prevent a future shooting by the Evergreen campus police, we should renew the movement to disarm the Evergreen police.  Disarming them is an important issue to organize around that could connect the campus to broader moments such as Black Lives Matter that are publicizing, organizing and protesting the continuing epidemic of police murders.

Important struggles that have connected on and off campus social movements

In Olympia, Evergreen students have directly opposed the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and especially Iraq, by direct action against the militarization of the Port of Olympia. From 2004 to 2007, the U.S. military used the Port of Olympia to send Stryker vehicles and other military equipment to Iraq or to bring them back from Iraq in order to repair and return. The largest actions, organized by the group Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) were in fall, 2007, when hundreds of Olympia residents, the majority of whom were Evergreen students, blocked for many hours the transport of these military vehicles through Olympia streets.  Although these were important, powerful and worthwhile actions with good turnout, there should have been more outreach and education on campus and off-campus. The Olympia and other police departments used pepper spray against the protesters and clubbed many of them. The military has not used the Olympia port since 2007. The nearby military JBLM, however, is again considering using the Port of Olympia for military purposes.  PMR has been revived and is gearing up to oppose these possible military shipments. Stay Tuned!

Police violence during the 2007 PMR-led protests increased feelings of hostility many Evergreen students had toward the police.  This was the context for the 2008 Valentine’s Day concert on campus by the hip-hop group, Dead Prez. It was a period of activism by student groups such as MEChA and SDS. During the concert an Evergreen policewoman unjustly detained and placed in her police car a young Black man. Anger boiled over when Olympia Police arrived, and without warning, sprayed the crowd with pepper spray. A sheriff’s police car was overturned and damaged and many students forced the Olympia police and County sheriffs off campus that night. Sadly, the Evergreen police and administration identified students for criminal prosecution who they thought participated in this anti-police action. I have personal knowledge of campus police threatening and putting pressure on students to identify (snitch) on participants. The campus was very divided.

The Evergreen State College continued their law and order policies in 2008 by banning the SDS chapter because they organized an on-campus concert with folk singer David Rovics after the school had canceled all concerts as a result of the Dead Prez riot. This caused a lengthy occupation in spring 2008, outside of the offices of Vice-President Art Costantino. The Evergreen Administration didn’t arrest the students and instead, decided to wait them out.  Finally, in a negotiated settlement, SDS was reinstated for the fall but with less autonomy and budget than previously. This action was bold, but because of limited outreach to the faculty, staff and students, it did not build SDS or a stronger student movement on campus. Movement building is a challenge at Evergreen as there is a lot of individualism and unconscious racism that hampers the growth of multiracial and strong student movements.

Note: The original SDS, which I discussed in the introduction, collapsed by 1970. In the early 2000’s, there was the formation of a new national SDS. Chapters were formed on many campuses but few exist today.

Anti-prison and for food justice

In the early 2000’s, the Evergreen State College intended to sign a contract with Sodexho-Marriott to run and profit from providing and selling all meals and food on campus. Sodexho-Marriott owned many private prisons and in addition had contracts to serve food in many others. A coalition formed consisting of those who were against mass incarceration and private prisons, those who opposed the anti-union practices of Sodexho-Marriott and the bad labor conditions of their workers, and those who disapproved of the low quality and non-local sourcing of Sodexho-Marriott’s food.

Teach-ins were held, petitions drives and militant protests were organized, including a disruption of a trustee’s meeting where the contract was being discussed. A boycott of food services was being organized for the following fall if Sodexho-Marriott received the contract. Although an initial contract was signed, Evergreen backed out claiming there were unforeseen differences that couldn’t be resolved. They said it had nothing to do with the growing movement.

According to an Evergreen administrator who participated in this decision, the decision to rescind the contract  100% because of the protests.  People in power will never say that protests and social movements are the cause for their change in policy but this is often the case. They want to misrepresent the reasons for our victory and minimize our power and effectiveness in order to undermine future activism and grassroots organizing.

Although we stopped Sodexho-Marriott, other huge corporations such as Aramark still provide most of the food on the campus. There have been many protests and DTFs (task forces) discussing alternatives, but we have not stopped the renewal of the contract with Aramark.  A positive alternative that developed out of the struggle against Sodexho-Marriott has been the Flaming Eggplant, a student run and worker controlled restaurant with healthy, good and mainly locally-sourced food.  There has been ongoing discussion about campaigning for most meals to be provided by a non-profit cooperative of students, and other workers, that would offer quality food at affordable prices, but so far the outsourcing continues.

Very significant about this campaign was that it combined three complementary strategies: 1) It used many types of protest with various levels of militancy and direct action against Evergreen signing a contract with Sodexho-Marriott. Organizing and mobilizing for a boycott of food services was a key aspect;  2) educating the campus through a lot of outreach, explaining the underlying issues and connecting them to Sodexho-Marriott; and 3) developing a concrete non-capitalist alternative that eventually became the Flaming Eggplant.

Bank of America

For multiple reasons and for many years, students protested against the use of Bank of America ATMs on campus. Bank of America also handles Evergreen banking transactions and deposits. This campaign against Bank of America was done by a group of students although it didn’t sufficiently involve the campus although opposition to Bank of America on campus was widespread.  A partial victory was won as the ATM machines from the credit union, WSECU, were also placed on campus but Bank of America continues to be the bank for Evergreen deposits and transactions.

Sweatshop opposition

Also in the early 2000’s, student groups formed to oppose clothing produced in sweatshops that were sold at the campus bookstore. The Evergreen group eventually affiliated with United Students against Sweatshops, a national group that is part of the global justice movement. A study and research group led by students, negotiations with the administration combined with rallies and marches, won their demand to get the Evergreen bookstore to change its affiliation from the pro-corporate Fair Labor Association (FLA), and agree to only buy clothing sanctioned by the pro-worker and independent of corporate control, Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). After winning this demand, student pressure to enforce this change was intermittent and many products in the Evergreen (TESC) bookstore or used by the athletic teams were not certified by the WRC. Winning an agreement or demand is not sufficient. We must continue to make sure that good agreements are enforced.

Campaigns and activism against militarism, and for global justice

Gulf War, 1990-1991

Just before the United States began bombing Iraq on January 17, 1991, hundreds of Evergreen students marched from campus to Sylvester Park on January 15, 1991. We demanded that the U.S. not go to war and that Washington State take a stand against this imminent war and become a sanctuary for soldiers who refused to fight. 3000 people marched from Sylvester Park to the State Capital and we occupied the legislature for one day. The U.S. bombing and troop buildup in Kuwait began two days later and  the protests in Olympia and nationally rapidly diminished in size although a community group, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMJP), formed and continues up until today. Persistence is an essential attribute for committed individuals and social movements.

Protests against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the Patriot Act

In 2001 and 2002, students organized to demand that the Evergreen State College take a stand against the U.S. war in Afghanistan and that it not collaborate with the PATRIOT Act, i.e., that Evergreen not investigate students, staff and faculty, that it not turn over records to the FBI and Homeland Security, that it resist government requests, and that it tell those being investigated by the Federal government what is going on.  The faculty passed such a resolution but the administration refused to accept it in spite of a student-led sit-in at the President’s Office. President Purce co-opted the sit-in by taking out his guitar and inviting the students to sing protest songs with him. Eventually the students left with little accomplished. The position of the past and present administration has been that the school should not take a stand on key issues unless they are narrowly about higher education, and that we should not make demands or take actions that go beyond the campusIt is crucial that we do not accept these restrictions.

Sister universities, community to community solidarity across borders

Students and faculty have organized exchanges with universities in countries that challenge U.S domination and intervention such as El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The idea was to have international exchanges of students and faculty and to share Evergreen resources with universities in the global south. It has been set up to a limited degree with the University of El Salvador but has not been put into practice for the last 25 years or longer.


As part of the 37 years of solidarity between the people of Nicaragua and Thurston County, and through the leadership of the Thurston, Santo Tomás, Sister County Association (TSTSCA), Evergreen students have traveled to, studied and done voluntary labor in Santo Tomás, Nicaragua. The TSTSCA has also invited residents of Santo Tomás to share their experiences and knowledge with Evergreen and Olympia.

Iraq War, 2003

During  the U.S. war against Iraq from fall, 2003 to 2007, students with some faculty support organized, educated, petitioned, rallied and demanded that Evergreen annually accept and pay for the tuition and costs of  four students from Iraq. The idea was to make the war more real and concrete by having Iraqi students on campus. In a partial victory, Evergreen agreed to accept one student annually with free tuition with the broader Olympia community financing some of the living costs.

Against the Israeli occupation of Palestine

On March 16, 2003, the Israeli military (IDF) killed Olympia resident and Evergreen senior, Rachel Corrie. She put her body in front of a house in Rafah in Gaza, where she was staying with a Palestinian family. She was run over and killed by a military vehicle driven by a member of the IDF and made by the U.S. corporation, Caterpillar. Many students and faculty wore keffiyehs at the 2003 graduation and Rachel Corrie was given an Evergreen degree that was accepted by her mother who gave a moving speech. There had been protests before on campus against Israeli government officials speaking on campus who supported Israeli policies. However, the movement to end the Israeli occupation and Evergreen complicity with it has grown substantially since Rachel’s murder.

There have been two referendums, including one in spring 2016, where students voted by large majorities to bar Caterpillar equipment from campus, to not buy Israeli products,  and for Evergreen to divest from corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation. This is part of the global Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions Movement (BDS). In spite of testimony at the Board of Trustees, rallies and protests, The Evergreen State College has not, thus far, changed its policies. The ongoing movement to get Evergreen to end its ties with the illegal Israeli occupation is led by the student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). In an attempt to discredit this campaign, false charges of anti-Semitism have been made against it and those Evergreen faculty who support BDS. While anti-Semitism is real and should be strongly opposed, this charge has mainly been used in order to weaken this growing campaign against the illegal and immoral Israeli occupation of Palestine.  SJP, today, is one of the stronger groups at Evergreen. It has done good education on the key issues but for any movement to grow, victories are necessary.

Homeless organizing, support and advocacy

Evergreen students have been very active in supporting people who are homeless in their for housing,  food and clothing, against sexual harassment of homeless women, against harassment and  repression by the police. Occupations of Sylvester Park and of downtown Olympia have led to the building of the single room occupancy, Fleetwood building downtown, the community of formerly homeless people in small houses at Quixote Village, and the non-repressive and welcoming shelter at the First Christian Church. Demands for Evergreen to use empty dorm rooms or open other campus space to house the homeless have not been won.


There have been continuing efforts to develop alternate media, e.g., the Counterpoint Journal of a few years ago, and to change the direction of the Cooper Point Journal so that it becomes a paper that supports, legitimizes and publicizes student and other social movements and advocates for a more liberatory and democratic Evergreen and society.  A supportive media is a very important ingredient in building a mass and radical student movement, perhaps even more important than a radical student government.

A false narrative gets publicity

In spring 2017, in response to various racist incidents on campus including racist comments critical of a two-day event called Day of Absence/Day of Presence by biology faculty, Bret Weinstein, Weinstein was challenged in his classroom and sit-ins and marches grew, led by Black students. During this struggle, Bret Weinstein went on Tucker’s Carlson’s Fox News program and put forward a false narrative  of mob rule at Evergreen and the absence of free speech. This false narrative of Evergreen being out of control and the absence of serious learning has dominated right-wing and social media and the administration has been ineffective in putting forward a counter-narrative. I critically supported these actions because the movement was dealing with real issues and the activism and the growing consciousness and actions of so many students was impressive although like any mass movement there were mistakes made. I think Evergreen is less racist than most colleges but it has a long way to go.

Enrollment at Evergreen was falling even before 2017 and it has been rapidly declining in each of the last three years. This decline and corresponding declines in revenue are a serious problem. It has led to layoffs of staff and faculty and makes it very difficult for Evergreen to deliver a full set of programs or hire needed faculty, For example, I teach political economy and we  have been promised a hire for many years as many of our faculty have retired in the last few years but once again this hire is not going to happen although it has also been a demand of the IWW General Education Union. For Evergreen to thrive we need more students. The Evergreen administration has been ineffective in turning around this 10 year decline in enrollment and the major declines of 2017, 2018, and 2019. Both for enrollment reasons and because we are living in a period of economic, political and environmental crisis, Evergreen should be  a school whose curriculum is organized around learning about the causes of these interconnected crises and examining solutions that go beyond band-aids. This could be  a more attractive school that could draw students. We need an administration  that understands the global crisis and concepts such as justice and liberation and doesn’t just use these words or words like non-traditional and alternative in a superficial way. Our web-site doesn’t reflect this.  Students should play a major role in developing these changes.

Also, given the reduced budget and connected cutbacks, we need students, staff and faculty to develop how money should be spent, the budget, rather than letting the top administrators  make these decisions. We also need to organize together with other colleges and economic justice groups to increase financial support from the State.  So let us build power and organize to determine the direction of the school and the budget. There has never been a more important time to do this for your education and beyond.

September,  2019 comments

[Note from September, 2023; There have been small increases in student enrollment in the 2022-2023 school year. Enrollment for fall, 2023 quarter is up to 2300, a small but significant increase.]

What is needed

For student organizations to be part of the solution, they should consciously work to have a large membership and to consciously build strong and bold mass student movements. Too often student groups at Evergreen consist primarily of one or two coordinators and only a few others who attend meetings of the group. To gain membership and strength, student groups should go where students are at, like into classrooms to explain their activities and actions and to invite people to join. Washpirg is very effective at this.

Occasionally, Evergreen student groups have been cliquish. This undermines the possibility of growing and of building power. So does arrogance. For example an attitude that we are more radical and are morally superior is totally off-putting. Rather we should be welcoming to new and potential members and be consciously inclusive.

A successful campaign is likely to include many aspects including effective education on the issues and demands, outreach and a variety of tactics including militant actions that interrupt the daily activities of the administration or the meetings of the Trustees to gain their attention.  It is valuable to do educational and cultural events such as speakers and films analyzing and criticizing issues. Education is just as important and is necessary in campaigns along with clear goals, a timeline and strategy.

The Evergreen State College administration has been very good at co-opting and redirecting protests away from demands and towards further and endless discussion of the underlying issues without making significant changes. A common tactic by the Evergreen administration is to set up a task force called a DTF (Disappearing Task Force, where students have a token representation or the administration selects students who will go along with the objectives of the Evergreen administration even if they conflict with justice or real student power.

While we should not try to repeat and copy past movements and actions, it is worthwhile and important to learn and share and analyze with each other our histories of organizing, of social movements of resistance, and of our successful campaigns and victories. We should also learn from our errors and defeats.

I identify as part of this tradition and culture of resistance on campus and beyond that struggles for economic and social justice and for societal liberation. It is important that each generation learn this history and identify with it. Although difficult, there is strength and power in building multigenerational movements, e.g., of younger and older students, of staff and faculty. Youths are often the most courageous, the most willing to take risks and to put in the many hours of work and attending meetings that are necessary for social movements to thrive. Those who are older and have been active (as long as they don’t think they know it all and that young people should follow them just because they are veterans of past movements) can contribute significantly by sharing lessons and experiences. It is sometimes difficult to achieve intergenerational movements as we live in an age-segregated society where there are significant differences in interests and needs, e.g., music tastes, need for childcare at meetings, etc.

Students and student movements cannot transform or revolutionize societies by themselves but have played an important and often igniting role throughout the world.


The challenge for us is to build student movements and ongoing campaigns that endure, that are anti-racist and multi-racial; that are principled and involve growing and ever larger numbers of people; that are not co-opted and have victories to build on. Our objectives are to win real gains and more power as we struggle for a democratic and liberatory campus; for transforming our capitalist society to a sustainable, participatory socialist society, and that we develop our values, passions, knowledge and skills so that we can contribute towards this bold and necessary goal and vision in the present and future.

To build these movements, we must not only challenge institutional and structural racism, but also racism within our groups. Similarly, it is necessary, morally and strategically for us to challenge patriarchy, sexism, and LGBT oppression.  In our student and other social movements, let us combine cultural, ecological, economic, ecological, social and political struggles and continual learning, inside and outside the classroom, as we act and resist. Though we sometimes have to sprint, let us strive to be long distance runners for justice, equality, liberation and societal transformation on campus, locally, nationally and globally.

Peter Bohmer, faculty emeritus in Political Economy, The Evergreen State College
(revised and edited version of article in the 2016 Fall Evergreen Disorientation Manual)
November, 2016 and brief addition to include spring, 2017 and declining enrollment)



Clayborne Carson, In Struggle (about SNCC)

Dickie Cluster, They Should Have Served That Cup Of Coffee (about 1960’s)

Sarah Evans,  The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left

Robin Hahnel, Of the People, by the People  (a participatory socialist alternative to capitalism)

Peter Mathiessen, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (about Leonard Peltier)

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation (2016) (excellent on current racism and police violence and strategies to combat them)

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