America – Campus Progress

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last week I met with Sam Menefee-Libey from Campus Progress, which is part of the center-left think tank Center of American Progress. It’s a relatively new national advocacy organisation, working with young people on progressive issues from LGBTQ and immigration rights, to climate and environmental justice. They do the usual training and fellowship work – but also focus on journalism, organising an annual conference on progressive media. They give micro-grants to campus publications, train the student editorial team, and give a platform to aspiring progressive journalists – again, building that infrastructure…

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What’s difficult?

Sam described his biggest challenge as moving students from a consumer frame (of news, of politics, of their own daily experience), which is passive, and powerless – to seeing themselves as citizens within a structure that they can influence. This relates to the ‘analysis paralysis’ he encounters in academic centers where there’s plenty of mouthing-off about the portrayal of women in the media, but not enough people volunteering at the women’s refuge or organising on the ground.

Students and the wider world

We talked about how best to bring students from campus universities into working with local communities, as their visibility in the media/popular imagination is high – yet their political power low. Perhaps that’s not altogether an unfair reflection on our student organising through the NUS either.

He shared some examples of where this crossing-communities had worked well (see Witness For Peace), and explained that one of the central roles he plays is to connect student activity with the larger movements.

Suggested reading (warning: academic content ahead!)

  • Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
  • A piece on Neoliberalism Wendy Brown (attached)
  • The Midwest Academy ‘Organizing For Change‘ manual


smenefeelibey [at] gmail [dot] com

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