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Synthesis/Regeneration 26   (Fall 2001)

Campus Greens Organize

by Jesse Karlsberg, Campus Greens Plenary Facilitator,
Campus Greens Founding Convention Coordinator

This summer, from August 9–12, 2001, 420 student, faculty, and campus activists gathered at the University of Illinois in Chicago to democratically found the Campus Greens. The attendees enjoyed four days filled with workshops, speakers, panel discussions, a Super Rally, and a busy plenary. The delegates ratified bylaws, elected a steering committee, and developed a sophisticated set of vision statements, strategies, and resource committees. The Campus Greens emerged from the Convention as an official and robust Green organization.

Much of the momentum that led to the success of the Founding Convention is rooted in the energy Green campaigns in 2000 brought to college and high-school campuses. 900 campuses formed Students for Nader groups that organized around the campaign, firmly establishing young voters as a core of the Green movement.

…420 student, faculty, and campus activists gathered at the University of Illinois in Chicago to democratically found the Campus Greens.

After the elections, many of the students, faculty, and other campus community members who had worked on the Nader campaign came together to find a way to build on the intense Green energy the Nader campaign had stimulated. After a couple of weeks of online discussion, the students founded the Campus Greens, a non-profit organization, and drafted and distributed a Call to Action. This document, which declares the group’s commitment to the Ten Key Values of the Greens, quickly circulated around the country, leading chapter after chapter to affiliate with the organization. In the Spring of 2001, the Campus Greens’ Green Heat campaign mobilized hundreds of students on American campuses to attend the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas protests at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. This campaign raised the visibility of the Campus Greens and drove the student effort to mobilize around the issue of international trade.

The Campus Greens next turned to the important task of organizing a convention where the group could be founded officially and democratically by its grassroots members. Over the summer 13 student interns worked full time out of Madison, WI and Chicago, planning events and schedules, finding space for the convention, obtaining housing for the attendees, contacting potential speakers, and reaching out to Campus Greens members across the country. The field team networked with numerous state and regional contacts who intensified the outreach effort. A team in Chicago was charged with the task of planning a Super Rally for the Friday night of the Convention.

The result of the interns’ efforts materialized when students and faculty from high schools, and colleges began to arrive, having traveled from Canada and as far away as Texas, California, Florida, and Maine. The convention attendees joined with some 3,000 activists who trekked to the Congress Theatre on Friday August 10 for the Super Rally. The Rally featured speakers Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Jello Biafra, Cheri Honkala, and performers Patti Smith and Ani DiFranco. Emceed by Robert Miranda of the Green Party of Wisconsin, the convention also featured dozens of tables representing progressive causes. The convention easily sold out and the audience rose to their feet again and again—early in the night for Ralph and Winona and as the Rally’s end grew near for Cornel West’s rousing speech and Ani DiFranco’s performance. The rally ended as the speakers and performers gathered on stage with David Cobb, Green Party US co-chairs Ben Manski and Anita Rios, and many of the Campus Greens organizers for a rendition of Amazing Grace.

Rivaling the motivating nature of the Super Rally, the convention’s plenary of delegates, with over 100 representatives from campuses across the country, successfully drafted and ratified new Campus Greens bylaws, developed national resource committees, and created an extensive organizational vision statement. Twelve students and community members, who volunteered to arrive three days early for training in facilitation by the Institute for Cultural Affairs, facilitated the attainment of these goals. The delegates collectively wrote a vision statement and strategy around each Key Value. They brainstormed on what resources they needed from the Campus Greens and formulated those needs into resource committees. Participants then self-selected onto committees and met in facilitated workshops to develop concrete action plans to insure that the needs expressed by the delegates would be met. The delegates also constructed democratic working bylaws for the Campus Greens. After incorporating the recommendations of all those involved into the final document, the entire group reached consensus on the bylaws in just 15 minutes. This remarkable expression of the unity of the group was met with cheers of exhilaration.

On Saturday night delegates elected a new 10 member steering committee using single transferable voting. This system, administered by the Center for Voting and Democracy, applies the principles of instant runoff voting to elections designed to produce multiple winners. The system eliminated wasted votes from the process and allowed voters to rank as many candidates as they saw fit. The new steering committee is a regionally diverse, gender-balanced group, including students from high school and college campuses. The steering committee selected Carolyn Danckaert, former Volunteer Coordinator of the Nader campaign, to replace Tom Adkins as the group’s National Director.

The convention attendees also participated in dozens of workshops on the issues facing Greens on college and high school campuses. Attendees learned how to run effective meetings, how to realize democracy on their campuses, and how to organize around issues of racial, economic, and environmental justice. Highlights included panel discussions on race and the Greens and the future of the Green Party as well as Santa Monica mayor Mike Feinstein’s opening night keynote address.

Attendees left the convention with a renewed commitment to Campus Green organizing and plenty of ideas for the fall. With hundreds of newly energized organizers, the effort to grow the Greens and intensify efforts around Campus Greens campaigns seems bound to succeed.

To get involved with or to lean more about the Campus Greens contact the national office at (email)info@campusgreens.org, or 3411 West Diversey, Suite 5, Chicago, IL 60647.


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