Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

41° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Voices for change: A non-comprehensive guide to NU’s activist landscape

Illustration by Olivia Abeyta
Here is an introduction to just some of the activist groups on campus.

One of Northwestern’s core values is social justice, a principle built upon a long history of student activism. This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Bursar’s Office Takeover, in which over 100 students participated in a sit-in protesting discriminatory policies against and a lack of resources for Black students. 

Since then, NU students have continued to advocate for the causes they believe in, from labor rights to climate justice to gun control. Here is an introduction to just some of the activist groups on campus. 

Northwestern University Graduate Workers’ union with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America 

NUGW-UE is an anti-racist, feminist union representing the University’s graduate student workers. It centers the needs of marginalized, historically excluded members in its fight for better working and living conditions for all graduate workers. 

After six years of grassroots organizing and community building without official University recognition, the union achieved legal recognition this year after an extensive organizing campaign. The union is now affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America

NUGW-UE is in the process of negotiating its first contract with NU administration. It has also hosted events in support of other workers across campus and regularly connects with other local unions and community groups. 

Students Organizing for Labor Rights 

SOLR is a coalition of students supporting campus workers through mutual aid, as well as campaigns, petitions and direct communication with NU leadership to advocate for better wages and working conditions. 

The group was founded in 2018, after NU switched food service providers, to advocate for a smooth transition for workers. In March 2020, SOLR launched its mutual aid fund to financially support dining and hospitality workers during the pandemic, and began in-person tablings in the fall to distribute physical supplies including clothing and protective personal equipment. 

In 2022, SOLR held three distribution events that provided resources to over 220 workers, held delegations with NU administration and managers, organized petitions in support of dining, service and maintenance staff and student employees, and collaborated with on-campus workers unions including NUGW-UE and Starbucks Workers United.  

Fossil Free NU 

FFNU fights for climate and environmental justice through practices rooted in anti-racist and abolitionist principles. Chief among their demands is for the University to completely divest its endowment from fossil fuels and reinvest it in ways that benefit communities of color, Indigenous nations and the Evanston community. 

FFNU hosts general meetings and bonding events throughout the year and has organized protests, teach-ins and petitions. Because it believes environmental justice is connected to other forms of resistance, FFNU also supports and collaborates with other activist groups to organize educational and solidarity building events. 

During the 2022-23 academic year, FFNU worked with SOLR, the Undergraduate Prison Education Program and the Associated Student Government Sustainability Committee to give a presentation about Stop Cop City, a movement against the construction of a militarized police training facility in Atlanta’s largest urban forest. Members also met twice with NU’s chief investment officer, according to FFNU organizer Jordan Muhammad. 

Students for Justice in Palestine 

SJP’s mission is to empower the Palestinian people and cause, according to its organizers. It advocates for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, and raises awareness about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. 

In winter 2022, SJP launched a campaign urging NU to boycott Sabra products. Sabra is a brand under Strauss Group, a company that organizers said financially supports a brigade of the Israel Defense Forces that they said have committed human rights violations. As part of the campaign, SJP circulated a petition that gained nearly 400 signatures. 

In the fall, the group started a fall fundraising initiative that raised over $5,000 for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. The following spring, it organized a vigil on Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. 

SJP also hosted other activities throughout the 2022-23 academic year, including a trivia night and a tatreez workshop, as well as a film screening and a speaker event in collaboration with other student organizations. 

Students Demand Action 

SDA is a national advocacy organization centered around the intersectional fight to end gun violence. Through its nationwide network and resources, it aims to center student voices and leadership in the gun violence prevention movement, support students in the wake of shootings or other tragedies, and pass legislative reform at the local, state and federal levels. 

New to campus in winter 2023, the NU chapter of SDA held several rallies throughout the year calling for gun control. It is also participating in SDA’s #KillerBusiness campaign, which calls for colleges and universities across the country to divest from the gun industry. 

In the upcoming year, NU SDA organizers say it will continue its divestment campaign and work to elect Gun Sense Candidates, who support gun reform, in the 2024 election. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joyycee_li

Related Stories:

SOLR hosts May Day event to celebrate campus workers, spotlight intersectional activism efforts

Community members gather to honor lost Palestinian lives in Students for Justice in Palestine vigil

55 years after Black student activists occupied the Bursar’s Office, students see unresolved problems and progress

More to Discover