The University of the Movement: Student Activism, Service Learning, and the Politics of Citizenship in American Higher Education, 1945-1990
The University of the Movement challenges conventional interpretations of sixties student activism by examining its relationship to the emergence of community service learning in American higher education. It chronicles how postwar changes in higher education and student life laid the foundations for widespread student activism and engagement in the 1960s; how colleges and universities adapted student activists’ discourses and practices under veil of community service learning in the 1970s; and how social and political shifts in the 1980s disconnected the idea of community service learning from its roots in sixties student activism. Using a diverse array of sources – including federal education reports, movement documentation, institutional records, and oral histories – I examine the debates between and among student activists, service learning educators, university administrators, and federal policy makers concerning ideas of democracy, social change, and appropriate forms of activism and citizenship within American higher education. The emergence of community service learning programs on college campuses illustrate how sixties student activism shaped new ideas and practices within American higher education. Despite the proliferation of such programs, however, my dissertation argues that community service learning has largely been adapted to institutional structures that maintain a sharp division between fact and value: knowledge pursuits in the curriculum and community service learning, politics, and other value-based activities relegated to the extracurricular. While such programs maintain social and moral critiques of society, the adaptation of these programs to institutional epistemologies have had the unintended effect of constraining student ideas of politics and social change.
The University of the Movement uses the 1964 Freedom Summer as one example of how political activism influenced the ways students defined their education and political identities. In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights organization organized the Mississippi Summer Project, a massive voter registration drive that recruited college students, teachers, medical professionals, and clergy from across the United States as a way to bring attention to the social, economic, and racial injustices of Jim Crow in the American South. Using ArcGIS, I developed a model to visualize the social demography of the 1964 Freedom Summer and map the post-summer activist networks of the student-volunteers. The map seeks to demonstrate how the summer educated a cohort of college students about American politics, race, and social inequality – lessons that served as a catalyst for other social movements in the 1960s. Currently under construction, “Mapping the Freedom Summer” is designed for scholars, teachers, students, and activists to examine the larger social and political impact of the 1964 Freedom Summer and draw out lessons and other considerations for today’s world.