Document Type


Publication Date


Special Collections

Washington University Archives


All three case studies of student organizing, including the formation of academic programs in Black Studies and Women’s Studies, along with the dissolution of the Sociology department, represent moments when students at WashU participated in academic activism, defending their academic freedom by advocating for a specific type of curriculum. Student activists pushed the university to expand or protect educational offerings in the College of Arts and Sciences because they believed it to be in the best interest of current and future students, as well as the broader WashU campus. Historically, university administrators, faculty, and students have disagreed upon what is best for the institution, and these disagreements often result in student protest. The short tenure of students on campus creates divisions between these parties, particularly between students and administrators, who must consider not only the institution they currently serve but also the one that will hopefully still be standing years later. Still, I argue that in all three cases, the student activists involved deliberately demonstrated an understanding of the long-lasting impact of their actions and hoped to improve the university for the next generation of scholars.

Mendel Sato Research Award 2023

Included in

History Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.