The student rights movement
Students in both Europe and North America began calling for the expansion of civil rights and student rights during the Vietnam War era. They established legal rights by forming student unions and lobbying for institutional policies, thus, changing the cultural treatment of students, lobbying for legislative change on state and national levels and circulating petitions for the creation of national student rights bills. In America, for instance, students won the right to retain their civil rights in institutions of higher education. In Europe, this movement has been explosive. Students have banded together and formed unions in individual institutions, at the state and national levels and eventually at the continental level as the European Student Union. They have been instrumental in lobbying fro rights in individual countries and in the EU in general. In 2010, for instance, Romania put forth an extensive national student bill of rights providing Romanian students with a hundred rights assembled in a clear and easy to access document. Europe has also set forth legislation stipulating the rights of EU students studying in other EU countries. European students have used the tactics established during the global labour movement of the eighteen and nineteen hundreds to gain labour or work place standards. They have unionized, stated their demands both verbally and in writing (sometimes in the form of a proposed student bill of rights), publicized their message and gone on strike. During the labor movement, workers in the United States, for example, won the right to a 40 hour work week, to a minimum wage, to equal pay for equal work, to be paid on time, to contract rights, for safety standards, a complaint filing process etc. Students have likewise demanded that these regulations as well as civil, constitutional, contract and consumer rights, which regulate other industries, be applied to higher education. The European student movement and the United States movement differ in a number of ways. These differences may be a factor in determining why European Students have been more successful in obtaining legally recognized student rights, from the right to access free education to the right to move and study freely from one EU country to the next, to the right to exercise their national legal rights in institutions of higher education. Differences between European and United States student movements National student organization mandates: Different levels of student representation The ESU mandate requires the ESU to determine the demands of students and to convey them to legislators. The USSA also has a mandate to amplify the student voice in legal decision making but it does not stipulate how it will determine the student voice or ensure that it is representative of the students themselves. The ESU focuses on gathering input from students across the nation, creates a student bill of rights enabling students to critique it, proposes legislation to achieve these rights at both the state and continental level and then creates information resources so students know their rights. The United States Student Association USSA, determines its objectives through the USSA membership. USSA does not seem to conduct research across the nation or to state student objectives on their website so students can express a desire to add or delete from this list. If the USSA does conduct research they do not show this on their website, do not have a search function on the website and do not publish this information for students. Currently, the ESU mandate is to "prom te the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students", to "represent, defend and strengthen students’ educational, democratic and political and social rights and "represent and promote the[m] ... at the European [continental] level towards all relevant bodies and in particular the European Union, Bologna Follow Up Group, Council of Europe and UNESCO." The ESU will accomplish this by "conducting research", "campaigns", "conferences", "trainings", "partnership projects", "providing information", and creating "publications" for "students, policy-makers and higher education professionals." The ASSU's mandate is to "develop current and future leaders and amplif[y] the student voice at the local, state, and national levels by mobilizing grassroots power to win concrete victories on student issues. The United States Student Association Foundation ensures the pipeline of effective student leadership by facilitating education, training and other development opportunities at national, state, and local levels in advocating for issues that affect students." The mission statement does not say how they intend to do these things but it seems from the website that they hold grass roots lobbying, student conferences and electoral training, and propose bills to the US Senate. National student organization mandates: Publicity for student demands The ESU clearly states student demands through the nation and through the EU. They have compiled these demands into a student bill of rights, referred to as the 2008 Student Rights Charter. This document is not legally binding but it is a clear representation of all student demands. It helps students, institutions and governments understand what students are demandingand also helps student unions, in individual institutions, lobby for rights which help change the culture and treatment of students on a local level. The ESU has democratically created a proposed student bill of rights they want accepted in legislation at a national and continental level. These demands include: access to higher education, to student involvement in institutional governance, extracurricular support and curricular quality standards. Each right has been broken down into more detailed demands required to achieve these rights. USSA Legislative initiatives have included student debt forgiveness, enabling illegal students to attend college, allocating more governmental money toward institutions and students but again these objectives seem to be created by USSA members without national research on the student voice. There is no way to search their website to determine if they conduct research to gather input form students across the nation. Institutional student bodies: A student union focus vs. a student government focus. The European student movement and the United States movement also differ on a local institutional level. In Europe most institutional student organizations are referred to as student unions which suggests that they are engaged in lobbying for student rights. In America these are referred to as Student Governments or Student Associations and the focus is more on the democratic process. The problem is, however, that most student governments only have about 20% representation in the Academic Senate or institutional decision making body and far less experience in democratic processes than other institutional representatives. Student governments focus on teaching students how to be leaders and participate in democracy where as unions focus more on determining the student voice and achieving student rights through lobbying.