A Fight for Rights: Student Activism at St. Edward's University

Activism in Context 

Student activism in the mid to late twentieth century created a turbulent climate for university students and administration. The Civil Rights Movement set up a new paradigm through which students were able to model their activism after. The Free Speech Movement, Second Wave of Feminism, and Anti-Vietnam War protests were all spearheaded by students demanding changes to institutionalized discrimination and injustice.

Activism throughout the country took the form of protests, walkouts, and sometimes even shootouts. However, at St. Edward's, activism took its form through public criticism of the university in the school newspaper. Administrative response to vocalizations of these criticisms is what deterred activism on campus from escalating. In part, this is due to the Joint Statement endorsed by St. Edward's. In 1969, the Student Handbook outlined the rules for activism on campus. Although the school embraced student freedoms, it prioritized the rights to teach and learn. If activism took the form of disruptive protests, the students involved would be penalized.[1] Due to this, the newspaper became the best platform for student activism. Publishing an article meant more than making information available, but rather it was a call to action for the university to respond to the petitions of students.

Although it may seem like these movements happening across the country may have been inconsequential to a small Holy Cross University tucked away in Austin, Texas, the response of St. Edward’s University to student activism on its campus has led to the inclusive and diverse community present today. Student activism at universities in the ‘60s and ‘70s led to an increase in diversity of the student population, increased the inclusivity of minority groups, and changed the priorities of the university administration. St. Edward’s students followed this path through their public criticism of the university, and attempted to push for a more inclusive collegiate community and transparent administration.