Changemakers: A non-exhaustive guide to student activism on campus

Jordan Mangi, Digital Managing Editor

Northwestern students have a storied history of fighting to make their university and community a better place. From the Bursar’s Office Takeover of 1968, when Black students held a sit-in to demand an improvement to race relations on campus, to Vietnam War protests, students — particularly marginalized ones — have consistently stood up for their beliefs. The past year has been no exception. 

Student activism on campus takes many forms. And during the pandemic, groups have adapted to virtual and COVID-friendly practices in order to continue their work. 

Many of these organizations work in tandem and co-host events, even though each focuses on different issues. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the most prominent activist groups on campus and what they have worked on in the past year. This list is by no means exhaustive and includes each organization’s social media accounts, as that is the primary way they communicate with and involve the greater NU community. 

Fossil Free Northwestern

Fossil Free is an organization fighting for climate and environmental justice, rooted in anti-racist and abolitionist praxis. The group organizes for these issues through protests, art-builds, teach-ins and petitions. 

Fossil Free’s most vocalized goal in the past year has been for NU to totally divest from fossil fuels. They do work on educating the greater NU community in environmental justice and how University leadership, particularly the Board of Trustees, wield power.

They also frequently support other activist groups on campus, as they see environmental justice as connected to other forms of resistance. 

You can stay up to date with Fossil Free’s work by following them on instagram @fossilfreenorthwestern 


NU Community Not Cops is an abolitionist organization led by Black students. They are calling for NU to invest in Black lives and divest from policing. 

Beginning in the fall of 2020, the group held weeks of in-person protests and teach-ins, many of which were met with violent police presence. Student protesters were pepper sprayed and one was arrested during a Halloween protest.

Though the daily actions ended after the fall, the call for abolition continued throughout the school year through protests, virtual calls to action and support for Evanston and Chicago area initiatives.

You can learn more about NUCNC by following them on Instagram @nucommunitynotcops and on Twitter @copsoutofNU

NU Grad Workers

NUGW is an antiracist, feminist labor union fighting for better working and living conditions for all graduate workers. They function as a union for graduate students, centering underrepresented and marginalized members. 

Throughout the pandemic, they have hosted work-ins and have demanded the University provide guaranteed sixth-year funding and sick-leave for graduate students. In addition, they support and uplift other advocacy organizations on campus. 

You can see what NUGW is working on through Instagram @nugradworkers or Twitter @NorthwesternGW


Students Organizing for Labor Rights does organizing work in support of workers on NU’s campus. 

Though the group has been around for several years working with on-campus workers unions and advocating for better working conditions, they pivoted to mutual aid efforts when workers were laid off without pay during the pandemic. 

Between March 2020 and April 2021, SOLR has raised over $90,000 for over 400 workers, according to Weinberg senior and SOLR member Abbey Zhu. They have accomplished this primarily through Venmo donations, raising money in small increments from members of the NU community. 

The group has also met with University administrators, including President Schapiro, to demand better pay, benefits and COVID-related support for workers. The group has primarily advocated on behalf of dining staff.

You can learn more about SOLR, support their mutual aid efforts and/or join the organization through their instagram, @solr_nu

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jordanrose718

Related Stories: 

Year in review: NU’s top stories through the 2020-21 academic year

A guide to sexual health and sexuality resources at NU

A guide to mental health and wellness resources at NU