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Abstract

This article examines this recent surge of student activism to determine how it fits within larger social movements and to evaluate how receptive courts and legislatures may be to some of the claims raised by the protests. Significant changes in civil rights laws have often been driven by significant shifts in societal perceptions of and engagement with social justice issues. And importantly, social movements have often fostered the political pressure necessary for social, legal, and political reform. There is the potential for these protests to influence courts and legislatures and shape their interpretations of legal rules in ways that recognize the poverty of colorblindness and instead incorporate race-conscious analysis. Part I examines some of the student protests, their aims, their demands, the circumstances that led to them, and identifies the cleavages and contradictions they expose in university administration and public policy debates. Part II critically examines some of the laws implicated by these protests, for example, affirmative action, Title VI, and the First Amendment, and explores expanded interpretations of those laws which might be prompted by further activism. Part III argues that the student protests, reflecting larger social movements, have the potential to counter the neoliberal restructuring of higher education so that universities can reorient themselves towards serving the public good. Campus activism can play a critical role in protecting civil rights and liberties in the current political climate.

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