hypotheses on social movements and higher education

I just finished up a volume chapter on the topic of movements and higher education. It’ll come out later this year in a volume edited by Michigan’s Mike Bastedo called “Organizing Higher Education,” published by Johns Hopkins. The purpose is to summarize and collect contemporary research on the organizational aspects of post-secondary schooling.

I wrote a section about unanswered questions.  They are pretty simple, but I don’t believe anyone has done the research to test them in any systematic fashion:

  1. The mirror hypothesis: student movements are only as succesful as the larger movements that inspired them. In other words, movements around universities will only be successful if a similar movement has opened things up before hand.
  2. The decoupling hypothesis: Movements in universities are so distinctive that they have no positive or negative correlation with the success of movements in the broader society.
  3. The follow the leader: Student movements are in a unique position to make things happen. They are the vanguard and often trigger other movements.

You might sum up the issue as sequencing: do student/academic movements follow, lead or none of the above.? What’s your view?


Written by fabiorojas

February 16, 2011 at 12:45 am

9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Naadir Jeewa, Social Psych. Social Psych said: news hypotheses on social movements and higher education: I just finished up a volume chapter on… […]


  2. Or maybe any of the above, depending on the circumstances?


    Benjamin Geer

    February 16, 2011 at 9:28 am

  3. We should split this complex question into several. First : is the involvement of universities always a necessary condition for the success of a social movement ? I would say no. See 1995 movements (successful) in France : blockade of the roads (or of oil supplies) are much more effective. Second question : is it a sufficient condition ? No, for sure. In 2009 universities were closed all over the country during 6 months to protest against an academic reform : they failed. Third : are universities leaders or followers in sucessful movements ? They can be both. See the “CPE” movement in 2006 (successful), they were clearly leading the protest. But would have it been sufficient if they had not be joined by highschools ? I don’t think so. In fact, I think that highschools are a much more sallient determinant of the success of social movements than universities (and unions seem to think the same way – look at how they tried to involve highschools this fall in the protest against the pension reform). Eventhough they are never leaders. Which brings us to reformulate the initial question.
    Of course, as rich a France can be in social movements experiences, these comments would need some further scientific inquiry.



    February 16, 2011 at 10:32 am

  4. […] hypotheses on social movements and higher education […]


  5. Walker et al AJS 08 mentions indirect targets as an issue in college protests. For instance employee recruiting (to Dow Chemical in the 1960s and JAG/ROTC more recently) has been a proxy target for protesting military policies.



    February 16, 2011 at 4:44 pm

  6. […] hypotheses on social movements and higher education « […]


  7. “Movements in universities” and “student movements” are not exactly the same thing. In the cases I’ve studied, students are sometimes distinctly in the minority in terms of movement participants, as compared to faculty/staff.

    But as for the follow vs. lead question, my supposition would be that it depends quite heavily on the topic in question. Clearly, there are some issues that are more likely to come to the fore in an environment in which young people are considering questions of social justice/etc.; there are other issues (labor rights, for instance) where young people are unlikely to think about it first.

    I’ll look forward to the book!



    February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

  8. Thanks for pimping the book!



    February 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm

  9. […] a comment » A few weeks ago, Mikalia wrote: “Movements in universities” and “student movements” are not exactly the same thing. In the […]


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: