Records on the National Student Convention '88
- 1983-1992 (bulk 1987-1988)
Scope and Content Note
The National Student Convention '88 collection is comprised primarily of textual materials, including correspondence, minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, press releases, publicity, and reports. Material in other formats includes a small photograph series, several t-shirts, a hat, a banner and several buttons pertaining to the issues student activists were addressing at this time.
The textual material is arranged in seven series: (I) pre-National Student Convention '88 student activism at Rutgers, (II) National Student Convention '88 Planning, (III) National Student Convention '88, (IV) Post-National Student Convention '88 Activism at Rutgers, (V) Photographs, (VI) Christine Kelly Papers, and (VII) Activist Literature from Other Organizations and Universities. The first five series are directly related to the National Student Convention '88, and are arranged chronologically. The Christine Kelly Papers and Activist Literature from Other Organizations and Universities series, which are supplemental to the files directly pertaining to the National Student Convention, are the final two series of the collection. Within each series files are arranged alphabetically by subject.
The collection consists of 6 manuscript boxes and a box of paraphernalia relating to student activism in the 1980s. While the material in the collection spans the years 1983-1992, the bulk of the collection covers the years 1987-1989. The collection, donated by Rutgers student activist, Christine Kelly, is comprised of much of Christine Kelly's records of events during her time at Rutgers and involvement with student activism and the National Student Convention '88. Therefore, some of the documentation of events in this collection is not comprehensive.
3 Cubic Feet (6 manuscript boxes, 1 flat/oversized box)
Language of Materials
Acquistion and Processing Note
This collection was donated by Rutgers' student activist Christine Kelly, one of the prominent organizers of the National Student Convention '88.
The collection contains correspondence, minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, press releases, publicity, and reports related to student activism at Rutgers in the 1980s, specifically the planning and implementation of the National Student Convention in 1988. Additional material includes a small photograph series, several t-shirts, a hat, a banner and several buttons pertaining to the issues student activists were addressing at this time.
History of the National Student Convention '88 at Rutgers University
The National Student Convention '88 files, 1983-1992, is a collection which documents left-oriented student activism at Rutgers University and the attempt to coordinate student activism on a national level. This collection was donated by Rutgers' student activist Christine Kelly, one of the prominent organizers of the National Student Convention '88.
In January 1987 a conference was held at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts to address the unrealized potential of student activism against apartheid, CIA recruitment, and the war in Central America. This conference was called to discuss the formation of a national student organization, however, due to the lack of agenda, structure and schedule, produced few results. From this failed conference, came the idea of the National Student Convention '88. The goal of the Convention was to bring together student activists from across the nation, and in a structured program spanning the course of a weekend, make decisions regarding the formation of a new national, multi-racial student organization which would address social, political and economic issues abroad and within the United States. As stated in the National Student Convention literature, the goal was to "realign the student left."
A National Student Convention '88 planning conference was held at Rutgers from July 18-19, 1987. Eight colleges and universities were represented, including Columbia, Hofstra, Middlesex Community College, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Northwestern, the New School for Social Research and Rutgers Law School. The conference focused on the need for a new student organization which recognized the interconnectedness of various single-issue student groups and the need for multi-issue analysis. Ideas about how to best coordinating efforts to link these issues and groups, and provide a basis for continued political participation by students was also discussed.
Over the course of 1987, several other student activist conferences were held to plan, as well as to garner support for the National Student Convention '88. A conference at MIT from November 14-15, 1987, addressed the planning of the National Student Convention '88, as well as the proposed constitutions for the National Student Organization and a proposed delegate structure. Similar issues were discussed at a meeting at Princeton on November 21, 1987. While it had been determined early on that Rutgers' would host the National Student Convention '88, the planning and structure of the Convention was influenced by input from and collaboration with other colleges and universities across the United States. In addition to those mentioned above, these also include (but are not limited to) MIT, Drexel, Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Wellesley College, University of Massachusetts, (Amherst), and Berkeley.
Student activists at Rutgers formed the Rutgers Host Planning Council (RHPC) to prepare for the National Student Convention. This Council consisted of a number of committees. The Council met fairly regularly in 1987 and 1988, before the Convention. Members of the RHPC also went on a road trip to a number of campuses and universities in January of 1988 to recruit student participation in the Convention. Abbie Hoffman was one of many active advisors to the Rutgers Host Planning Council.
The National Student Convention '88 was held at Livingston College, February 5-7, 1988. The Convention was attended by student activists from across the nation, former student activists, representatives from various organizations with objectives similar to those addressed by student activists at the Convention, and a number of representatives from media outlets. Approximately 700 people from 130 campuses and organizations worldwide attended the National Student Convention '88.
In July of 1988, approximately 100 student activists from across the nation met again at the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus for what was termed "The Unity Meeting." This meeting aimed to move the idea of a nation-wide student organization forward.
The Student Action Union (SAU)was the eventual result of both the National Student Convention '88 and the Unity Meeting. The SAU, a multi-issue, national student organization was comprised of independent chapters at various high school and college campuses. According to a handbill published by the SAU, the SAU was dedicated to student empowerment, university democracy and economic, racial, sexual and political equality and justice. This organization worked with national organizations such as Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), the Young Communist League (YCL), and Progressive Student Network (PSN); as well as regional groups such as the DC Student Coalition Against Apartheid and Racism (DCSCAR), and the California Alliance of Progressive Student Activists (CAPSA).
Noam Chomsky was an active member of the SAU advisory board.
The records of the National Student Convention are arranged in the following seven series:
- I. Pre-National Student Convention '88 Activism, 1984-1987
- II. National Student Convention '88 Planning, 1987-1988
- III. National Student Convention '88, 1986-1988
- IV. Post-National Student Convention '88 Student Activism, 1988-1992
- V. Photographs, 1983-1992
- VI. Christine Kelly Papers, 1983-1990
- VII. Activist Literature from Other Organizations and Universities, 1985-1988
- Items Removed from the Collection:
A number of documents pertaining to minority recruitment and underutilization of Rutgers' staff were removed from this collection. These items included memorandums, correspondence and reports. The items are dated 1978-1988 with the bulk of the material falling in the years 1986-1988.
Several broadsides advertising non-National Student Convention '88 events sponsored by the Rutgers University Graduate Student Association were also removed.
- Guide to the Records on the National Student Convention '88, 1983-1992, 1987-1988 (bulk) R-MC 064
- Edited Full Draft
- Amy Clark
- May 2004
- Language of description note
- Finding aid is written in English.
Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository
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