Predictions of the Future

Predictions of the Future

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2173-0.ch006
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College student activism has played an important role in the history of higher education, and in many ways has created the current balance of power between the institution and students. The future of student activism will be predicated largely on the characteristics of the new generation of college students and the experiences they have had in forming their own identities. This chapter explores several key predictions for the future of activism and the implications of those predictions on both administrators and faculty members. Several key predictions include the continued attempt to control activism as a learning experience, more national movements coming to campuses, and activism as a non-physical and technology-based experience.
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Predictions For The Future

Higher Education Will Control Activism

Higher education institutions and leaders will continue to attempt to control activism and use it for learning purposes. These trends have been clearly identified in issues that have mattered to students in the past, such as the organization of walks or marches to raise awareness. To a large extent, activism has become institutionalized, and college leaders have removed the spontaneity from large-scale demonstrations. This is not to imply that demonstrations or protests will not continue to sporadically arise, but when an institution sponsors a teach-in on race relations, a day of recognition for women of abuse, or a student-led demonstration over rising tuition, the institution owns and controls the content and outcome of the activity. Such control may be good or not, but it does provide for several different possible outcomes.

The first possible outcome of increased institutional control of activism is that institutions can continue to document student learning. Many divisions of student affairs have learning outcomes for all of their programs, whether the program is having a common book to read among all first-year students or if the program is a social-based, party-themed dance. By creating and implementing (and assessing) programs that promote activism, institutions can show that learning occurs throughout the campus and frequently outside of the classroom. Additionally, institutions can strategically develop plans for when, where, and how the learning that comes from activist behaviors can be built into the collegiate experience. Students might, for example, learn to be participants as first-year students and to grow into planning and leading events and actions in their later college years.

A second outcome is that students could revolt against institutional control in a manner similar to that seen in the elimination the in loco parentis. In this version of the future, student activism would grow dramatically as students would work by creating disruption to reclaim a position of power and that their behaviors would result in a more substantial allocation of power in campus decision making. Based on the generational literature presented, and the trends of consumerism and institutional control, the former outcome appears to be more realistic and possible future for campus activism.

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