In case you missed it, this past spring students at over a dozen universities and colleges across North America gathered on their campuses to lay the foundations of a new millennial-led movement for economic system change. This month, these leaders will take a good hard look at the next strategic steps for their emerging movement when they converge at New York University from July 19 - 21 for the New Economic Institute's "reRoute: Building Youth and Student Power for a New Economy."
From climate and clean-energy advocacy, to poverty and migrant rights, contemporary campuses know no shortage of organizing initiatives aimed at addressing the myriad symptoms of our ailing political-economic system. Yet despite these essential efforts, we've yet to see the emergence of any major initiatives focused on confronting the root cause of these symptomatic problems: the very structure of our economic system itself.
This is where the reRoute convergence comes in. Like the series of student summits that preceded it, reRoute aims to serve as a catalyst for the growth of a continent-wide network of student and youth leaders dedicated to promoting policies, practices and ideas that can transform our economy into a truly democratic, equitable and ecologically-sustainable system.
As Washington's absurd brinksmanship over student-loan rates and the creeping pain of ill-advised austerity programs remind us, the effort to launch this movement could not come at a more pivotal time. Social movements need their flashpoints, and when it comes to the economy, few areas of our society so closely resemble an activist tinderbox waiting to catch fire as the world of higher learning. For one thing, it's a world that's teeming with the infuriating incongruities of our system: Our colleges and universities have become places where students must climb mountains of debt in the face of a receding tide of employment opportunities and the harsh headwinds of climate chaos; where the plush dormitories of the suburban-born spring up beside the decaying tenements of the urban poor; and where elite administrators receive compensation in the millions even as an underclass of educators and students face job cuts, program cuts, and tuition hikes. To top it off, these same institutions have become temples of the secular religion of the ruling class -- places where the academic values of free inquiry and innovation have been nearly snuffed out under the suffocating dogma of a brand of economic thought that disastrously masquerades as a science.
With these systemic contradictions in plain sight, students, as members of communities intentionally assembled in the pursuit of a better future, are in a unique position to promote change. It is within their power to work with educators, administrators and surrounding communities to leverage the enormous financial and intellectual resources of their schools to expand educational access, build alternative paths to prosperity, grow real community wealth, and rescue economic thought from the grasp of the priests of corporate capitalism.
At reRoute, participants will investigate all manner of ideas for tapping into this enormous transformative potential of our colleges and universities. With workshops and panels focused on campus organizing strategy, curricular change, social investment, alternative finance and more, conference attendees will shape the visions and practical plans needed to get this vital movement off and running. And since this initiative for change is deeply tied to the broader community that our schools are a part of, for those participants who are not students, reRoute will also feature programming on financing the new economy, participatory budgeting, food justice, worker cooperative development, and much more.
So, spread the word by sharing this article. reRoute and the NEI campus program have the potential to ignite a transformative youth movement, but it won't happen in a vacuum. Help spark the interest of other supporters and activists with your tweets, Facebook posts, and emails; and visit the NEI website to sign up for updates.
Follow Keith Harrington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kharring