Building progressive student leadership is a hot topic amongst some large funders and certainly amongst progressive groups. As someone who found political activism and engagement in college through a political group started by students I sometimes get the feeling that they miss the great organizations and models that already exist.
My thoughts are on this topic because I'm out in Portland, OR at the Northwest Student Leadership Conference, a great annual event put on by the Oregon Students Association-one of the nation's strongest and most effective state student advocates. (A couple years ago OSA ran a great campaign to freeze tuition featuring a giant freezer on the back of a truck that traveled around the state.) This weekend will see about 500 students mostly from around the Northwest (from as far east as Illinois) talking about organizing and advocating for a progressive student agenda.
I'm out here to run a training on Student Debt and Federal Student Aid. A quick perusal of the agenda finds great topics ranging from "How to Run for Student Government and Win" to "The Academic Bill of Rights--why it's really restrictions and what to do about it" to "Students as Consumers."
There is great work going on campuses and in states all across the country-but it always strikes me that there's particularly great progressive organizing in Oregon. Between OSA, OSPIRG and the Oregon Bus Project there are a set of great groups working to inspire, engage and train future young leaders and organizers.
A couple of resources for students around the country who want to be doing more to change the political environment:
Student Empowerment Training Project-works with Student Governments to make their campaigns more effective.
Center for Campus Free Speech-Works with students and faculty around academic freedom issues: Academic Bill of Rights, students rights to organize on campus, speech codes.
Student PIRGs-issue based campaign advocacy on topics from stopping global warming to addressing poverty in your campus community.