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Top 10 Activist Campuses

The 1996-97 academic year was a busy one for undergraduate activists, and campus battle lines -- like those of the nation at large -- were drawn predominantly around affirmative action and multicultural education. In Mother Jones' fourth annual ranking of activist college campuses, we polled nearly 20 organizations that track student activism -- and we did some sleuthing ourselves, revisiting some regulars (the University of Wisconsin), as well as finding a few newcomers (the University of Illinois). The following list ranks schools where students are taking a stand on issues that concern them -- from campus politics to foreign policy.

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1 University of Wisconsin, Madison
(4); (24,844); $3,032; 94/6; 29%

Borrowing a page from campus anti-apartheid protesters of the 1980s, Madison students continued their campaign against human rights abuses by urging the university to divest from companies doing business with Burma. In 1995 they launched the Internet-based Free Burma Coalition, and last spring they helped convince the university to unload $239,000 worth of stock in Texaco, which has business ties to Burma.

2 Mount Holyoke, South Hadley, Mass.
(1); (1,889); $22,200; 70/30; 72%

Students at this pricey Seven Sisters school staged sit-ins and a walkout last April to protest, among other things, the administration's proposal to abandon its need-blind admissions policy (i.e., students are accepted based on merit rather than their ability to pay tuition). Although the proposal still passed, students at this 160-year-old women's college gained commitments to establish an Asian-American studies program and to hire a Muslim chaplain.

3 University of Massachusetts, Amherst
(1); (18,000); $5,413; 84/16; 56%

A coalition of 150 students from U-Mass. and neighboring schools occupied a U-Mass. administration building for six days last March, protesting the university's failure to implement a range of demands, from scholarship money to daycare services. Outside, hundreds more held vigils to show support. The school agreed to 19 of the students' requests -- including increases in financial aid and in minority enrollment.


Key: ( ) years the school has made it onto our list; ( ) total full-time undergraduate enrollment; $ annual undergraduate tuition and fee costs (not including room and board; for public universities, in-state rate is listed); x/x white-to-minority ratio; % of students who receive financial aid; * information not available.

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