Rutgers Grass Roots - Progressive Activist Files
- 1921-1993; 1979-1993 (bulk)
Scope and Content Note
The Rutgers Grass Roots - Progressive Activist Files consists of 11.5 cubic feet of material stored in manuscript boxes and spans the period 1921 to 1993, inclusively, while the bulk of the collection covers the years 1979-1993. They comprise the records of Sue Kozel and Chris Berzinski, two student activists who came to Rutgers in the late 1970s and who continued their involvemement in activism, both at Rutgers and in the larger community, after graduating from the University.
Most of the files in the collection were created by Kozel and Berzinski as they became involved in a protest issue. The files in the "Academic Excellence/Standards - Defining a University", and the "General Subject Files" series were kept by Kozel and Berzinski for reference. The series "Kozel: Representative Student Activist" contains material generated by Sue Kozel in her day-to-day activities while the "Labor" series contains her Ph.D. (not completed) research material.
This collection is comprised primarily of textual records such as broadsides, correspondence, legislation, minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, press releases, reports and resolutions. Material in other formats consists of a day book, oversize chart, and photographs.
The records document the activities of Kozel and Berzinski as activists, and, in so doing, document the issues that concerned them, the people with whom they came into contact, including Louis Chandler, Rutgers Professor Emeritus and member of the Manhattan Project, and Edward J. Bloustein, Rutgers University President, and the groups in which they became active, for example, the Rutgers Coalition for Total Divestment (RCTD)/Coalition for Total Divestment and the Committee to Organize Student Workers (COSW).
The series are arranged alphabetically by subject, organization or campaign. Meeting minutes appear in the following series: "Academic Excellence/Standards - Defining a University", "Academic Reorganization", "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)", "General Subject Files" and "Livingston College". Reports are found in the series: "Academic Reorganization", "Divestiture", "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)", "Library" and "School of Business". Broadsides, the texts of speeches and items about rallies appear in the series: "Academic Reorganization" and "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)". Sue Kozel's research notes appear in the series: "Kozel: Representative Student Activist" and "Labor". Correspondence appears in all series. Other types of material, including newspaper clippings, can be found in this collection.
The series include student/alumni-led coalitions that came about because of events on campus, (but widened in scope to include the non-Rutgers community), topics in which the records creators were deeply involved (including the Toth/Corman election campaign, in which student activist Sue Kozel applied her Rutgers political and environmental activism experience to a local election), and Rutgers administrative organizations.
The strategies employed in one issue or used by one coalition that were found to be effective were repeated in other situations. The struggle for full alumni, faculty, and student participation in the governance of Rutgers and University accountabilty to the public seen in the "Academic Reorganization" series also appears in the "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)", "Library", and "School of Business" series. As the Phil Shinnick Defense Committee became the Coalition in Solidarity with South African Liberation (CISSAL), (in the "Divestiture" series) so the Alliance for Rutgers Federation became the Coalition to Protect the Colleges (in the "Academic Reorganization" series).
Sue Kozel appears in the series: "Academic Reorganization"; "Divestiture"; "Friends of the Ecological Preserve (FREP)"; "General Subject Files"; "Kozel: Representative Student Activist"; "Labor"; "Library"; "School of Business"; and "Toth/Corman Campaign".
Due to the amount of material pertaining to Kozel, a group of items has been designated the "Kozel: Representative Student Activist" series in order to allow researchers to understand the person behind the actions.
Chris Berzinski appears in the series: "Academic Reorganization"; "Divestiture"; "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)"; "Library"; "Livingston College"; and "School of Business".
Two of the most comprehensive series in this collection are "Academic Reorganization", 1974 - 1981 (1979 - 1981), 1.4 cu. ft., and "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)", 1956-1991 (1988-1989) 3.2 cu. ft. "Academic Reorganization" illuminates an important moment in the history of Rutgers; a time when the organization of the entire college system at Rutgers was examined, found wanting, and changed in fundamental ways. Voices, including Kozel's and Berzinski's, against the changes are documented and include those against the idea completely and those who wanted adjustments, but agreed in principle with reorganization.
Full chronologies of events are also found in the "Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP)" series, which documents many environmental actions that involved Rutgers and the surrounding community. This series documents the interaction among Rutgers and its neighbors, student activism on campus and off, political campaign strategies at the local, state and national level, and the struggle for strong student/alumni representation in the governance of Rutgers.
The "Library" and "School of Business" series also document moments of change in the institutional history of Rutgers. Following the 1981 reorganization, all of the University libraries, each of which had a unique identity and mission under the federated college plan, were subject to the same mandate that had redefined the individual colleges. The collection policies and research strengths of each library were to be changed. The "School of Business" series chronicles the creation of this Rutgers institution.
11.5 Cubic Feet (29 manuscript boxes)
Language of Materials
The Rutgers Grass Roots - Progressive Activist Files span the period 1921 to 1993, inclusive, while the bulk of the collection covers the years 1979-1993 and comprise the records of two student activists, Sue Kozel and Chris Berzinski, who continued their activist involvement after graduating from the University. Most of the files in the collection were created by Kozel and Berzinski as they became involved in numerous protest issues at Rutgers University. This collection is comprised primarily of textual records such as broadsides, correspondence, leglislation, minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, press releases, reports and resolutions. Material in other formats consists of a day book, oversize chart, and photographs. Documentation in the collection concern the activities of the Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP), effects of academic reorganization at Rutgers, and the Coalition in Solidarity with South African Liberation (CISSAL), among others.
History of Progressive Activism at Rutgers University
The Rutgers Grass Roots - Progressive Activist Files, 1921-1993 (1979-1993) is a collection which documents an important chapter in the history of student activism at Rutgers University. Events chronicled herein occured during a time when college students were often perceived as apathetic and unconcerned with the world around them. This collection belies that stereotype.
This collection was donated by Sue Kozel and Chris Berzinski, two student activists at Rutgers who continued their involvement in activism, both at Rutgers and in the larger community, after graduating from the University. Their intent in donating this collection can best be summed up in their own words:
"We are proud of defending the first amendment freedoms of protest in our student days, and hope others can learn, and that we can celebrate this history as being formative in the development of Rutgers history." (April 26, 1995 memorandum)
Chris Berzinski was a student at Livingston College, Class of 1980, where he was active in the Livingston College Governing Association and the Rutgers University Senate. Through his involvement in the Committee to Organize Student Workers (COSW), he helped write the Student Employment Handbook.
Berzinski's concerns for the future of the Kilmer Library reflected his earlier feelings about "Academic Reorganization", in which the federated college system at Rutgers, which had been instituted as a four year experiment, was replaced with a more centralized plan. Academic disciplines, for example, would be taught on various campuses rather than be associated with one college (Livingston, Rutgers College, etc.), in particular. Berzinski feared that the unique identity of each college, its community of faculty and students and its associated research library, would disappear; that the core purpose of each college would be sacrificed to the Reorganization.
Berzinski's interests included individuals as well as institutions. Berzinski was instrumental in transforming the Phil Shinnick Defense Committee (concerned with faculty member Shinnick's fight to retain his position in the University), into the Coalition in Solidarity with South African Liberation (CISSAL), which fought for the rights of many. This transformation reflected his view that broad-based activist movements should remain as cohesive units; that the same group of committed individuals could effect worthwhile change on any issue. For him, the key was keeping people active so that the topic could be addressed efficiently.
Sue Kozel was also a student at Livingston College, where she received a B.A in Labor and Political Science in 1981. In 1985, she received an M.A. in Labor Studies from Rutgers University and in 1987, she received an M.A. in American History from New York University. While at Livingston, she was a reporter for the Livingston Medium. She served as a University Senator and a student representative to the Board of Trustees. After graduation, she served as a volunteer lobbyist for the Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP) and as a Rutgers Alumni Federation University Senator.
Kozel shared Berzinski's view that a massed-based coalition of diverse people (alumni, faculty, students, townsfolk, politicians, etc.) was the most democratic and effective way of producing useful change both within and outside of Rutgers. The variety of her activities, and her goal of having groups join together on many issues, reflected her belief in an inter-disciplinary approach to activism and education.
Kozel's Rutgers affiliations included membership in the Committee to Organize Student Workers (COSW); the University Senate Investment Advisory Committee (IAC); Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP); and the Summer Institute for Union Women.
This collection offers an in-depth look at the ways in which Kozel and Berzinski approached activism. Links were forged among Rutgers and local activists and politicians around the cause of environmentalism. Members of the Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP) and local politicians, organized by student activist Sue Kozel, toured a toxic oil spill site (the Exxon leak at Arthur Kill) in order to learn more about human-made dangers to the environment, while simultaneously forging links among concerned students, community members, and the local politicians answerable to that constituency.
FREP fought hazardous waste conditions at the Rutgers Gamma Greenhouse, a storage facility for low-level radiation and, because of the unsafe conditions at the Gamma Greenhouse, successfully fought a proposed new incinerator on the grounds that since safety rules were being violated now, they would not be enforced any better in the future.
At the same time the incinerator was being proposed, the activists lobbied for the New Jersey legislative bill, S-2100, to pass in order to save the Rutgers Ecological Preserve from present development, and to prevent the University from having unconditional powers in its dispensation of Rutgers land in future.
The student activists at Rutgers not only organized people around issues, but also attempted to answer the question of what defines an excellent education; what contributes to creating and maintaining high standards at the university level. In discussing academic excellence and university standards, the student activists defined their place in the university setting. They felt that for Rutgers to have truly high standards, it must not only encourage diversity in its population, but its leaders must also seek the active input of that diverse population (students, faculty, alumni, administration, local communities) in the governance of the university.
In keeping with the 1981 "Academic Reorganization", in which the individual colleges were placed under more central control, changes to the University library system were proposed in 1983. The University-wide library system had been organized to complement the federated college plan structure. Student activists held protests to preserve the integrity of the individual college libraries, thus repeating the arguments against reorganization.
In 1985 an External Review Report found the University's library system lacking in key areas necessary for research support. Student activist Sue Kozel, in her capacity as University Senator concerned with student research needs, attempted to obtain University library book budget documents and was rebuffed by the Library and University administrations. She leaked the External Review Report to the local press. These events culminated in significant changes in the Library's administration.
This collection documents two Rutgers students whose philosophy of protest led them to action both within and outside Rutgers. They felt that the students are an important part of the Rutgers community and that Rutgers is part of the adjacent communities. In working to improve conditions at the local level, saving the Rutgers Ecological Preserve for example, or at the international level, such as in opposing apartheid, Kozel and Berzinski believed that a grass roots movement can be effective. This collection is the bridge between the Rutgers student activists of the 1960s and the protesters of today, whose actions continue the tradition of progressive activism at Rutgers.
The Rutgers Grass Roots - Progressive Activist Files are arranged in the following eleven series:
- I. Academic Excellence/Standards - Defining a University,1974-1989
- II. Academic Reorganization, 1974-1989
- III. Divestiture, 1969-1989
- IV. Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP), 1956-1991 (1988-1989, bulk)
- V. General Subject Files, 1969-1989 (1974-1989, bulk)
- VI. Kozel: Representative Student Activist, 1977-1992
- VII. Labor, 1921-1989 (1975-1989, bulk)
- VIII. Library, 1983-1987
- IX. Livingston College, 1975-1989
- X. School of Business,1985-1989 (1985-1986, bulk)
- XI. Toth/Corman Campaign, 1989
- Academic libraries. Collection development
- Academic libraries. Quality control
- Anti-apartheid movements
- Apartheid. South Africa
- Collective bargaining
- Collective labor agreements
- College costs. United States
- Corporate divestiture New Jersey
- Economic development. Environmental aspects
- Education New Jersey
- Environmental impact charges. Law and legislation New Jersey
- Environmental law New Jersey
- Environmental policy New Jersey
- Environmental protection
- Environmental responsibility
- Hazardous geographic environments New Jersey
- Human rights workers
- Political action committees. New Jersey
- Political activists. United States
- Politics, Practical
- Pollution. Environmental aspects New Jersey
- Research Libraries. Collection development
- Strikes and lockouts. Metal-workers
- Strikes and lockouts. New Jersey
- Students. Political activity
- Trade-unions. Organizing
- Universities and colleges. Finance
- Universities and colleges. New Jersey
- Women environmentalists
- Women human rights workers
- Women in the labor movement
- Women labor leaders
- Women political activists. New Jersey
- World War, 1939-1945. Atomic bomb
- Guide to the Rutgers Grass Roots - Progressive Activists Files, 1921-1993 (1979-1993, bulk) R-MC 020
- Edited Full Draft
- Catherine Keim and Traci Del Duca
- April, 2003
- Language of description note
- Finding aid is written in English.
- June 3, 2004: rugpaf converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository
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