Activism has a long history at New College. From a long and complicated legal battle with the airport to the present day work on campus with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, students at this school have always had a vested interest in fighting for social improvements.
Located in the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) archives are several packets of documents attempting to describe student activism at New College. One packet, compiled by New College alum Geoffrey Kurtz (‘96), includes a thick packet of documents from the academic year 1994-1995, held together with a paperclip, involving student activism on campus.
“This folder contains a few archival items from New College Student Activism during the 1994-95 school year,” Kurtz writes in an introduction – the page is a yellowed old notebook loose leaf paper, and his preamble is written in a messy handwriting with pink ink.
“At the end of the year, a small group associated with the Activist Coalition drew up a list of activisms that had been done at New College or by New College students that year. It is probably incomplete. We were amazed at how long the list was. I don’t think it’s an unusually long list – it’s just unusual that we made tiny steps toward documentation. Hopefully, New College student activists in the future will do a better job of documenting their efforts than the activities of 94-95 (including myself) did. -GK”
Although it cannot be confidently said that New College activists have in any way done a better job of documenting their activist movements, the list of things New College students were involved with in the packet include topics familiar to any current New College student. Among the campaigns students tackled in the 1994-1995 school year, there was creating a sexual harassment policy committee, involvement with Amnesty International, involvement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a body image discussion and papering campaign, a rape and gender symposium, an anti-militarism campaign, an Urban Issues symposium and a call to boycott Shell Oil.
Also included in the packet is information about a New College food co-operative called Tofu Not Tanks, a clear pre-cursor to the organization on campus today called Food Not Bombs.
There was also heavy involvement with an organization called the New College Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), an organization that Kurtz continued to be involved in after he graduated from New College. Pamphlets from the DSA address members as “dear radicals” and promise discussion of socialism and political reform.
Activism on campus today remains alive and well, and this glimpse into what was happening 20 years ago reminds students of what community we hail from.