Progressive Student Network
The Progressive Student Network (PSN) was a national, multi-issue, progressive college student activist organization in the United States. It was founded at a conference in 1980 as a merger of the Revolutionary Student Brigade, the Midwest Coalition against Registration and the Draft (Mid-CARD), and the Student Coalition Against Nukes Nationwide (SCANN). The founding of the PSN commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the National Guard killing student anti-war protesters at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970. The PSN quickly grew and attracted many new progressive student activist groups motivated to protest against the shift to the right in U.S. politics when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.
Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s the PSN worked on many issues including organizing against U.S. military intervention in the Central American countries of Nicaragua and El Salvador (the PSN supported the Sandinistas and the FMLN); organizing to kick the CIA off university campuses; the movement against apartheid in South Africa; organizing against the ROTC presence on college campuses; defending women's reproductive rights; and others. PSN groups also led numerous struggles against instances of racism, sexism and homophobia that came up on their campuses. PSN organized a large conference in 1990 at Kent State to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1970 Kent State and Jackson State student killings.
For the first several years while it was strongest, the PSN was somewhere between a regional and a national organization. Its core was in the Midwest and the Northeast with connections reaching into the West and the South. The last major organized struggle in which the PSN played a significant role was the anti-war movement before and during the 1991 Gulf War. In the aftermath of the war, the student movement declined considerably, and the PSN faded away by 1994, after doing organizing in 1992 against the celebration of 500 years since Christopher Columbus's 1492 'discovery' of America; against the coup in Haiti that overthrew elected leader Jean Bertrand Aristide; and in support of the 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. By 1994 the PSN faded away, even though there are still a number of local campus groups in existence which were part of the network and many more which use names such as Progressive Student Network, Progressive Student Alliance, Progressive Student Union, Progressive Student Organization, etc.
The PSN published a newspaper called PSN News, which came out sporadically, but usually at least a couple times per semester. In the early years PSN News was published by the UMass Amherst Radical Student Union and the George Washington University Progressive Student Union. Then for most of the 1980s it was published by the University of Iowa PSN chapter, New Wave. In the 1990s it was published by the University of Wisconsin - Madison Progressive Student Network chapter.
The Progressive Student Network organized usually one conference each year during its existence. Here is a list of most of the conferences that PSN organized:
- 1980 - Kent State - Kent, OH
- 1981 - October 24-25 - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
- 1982 - October 15-17 - Wayne State University, Detroit, MI - Education, Not Annihilation; Build Progressive Student Action, Not Reaction
- 1983 - Kent State, Kent, OH
- 1984 - University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - Dump Reagan
- 1985 - University of Chicago, Chicago, IL - Anti-Apartheid (co-sponsored)
- 1986 - University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
- 1987 - November 14-15 - Kent State, Kent, OH - Fighting Racism, Reagan, and the Right: Building the Student Movement in the 1980s
- 1988 - November 12-13 - University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, IL - "Progressive Student Network Fall Conference"
- 1989 - University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI
- 1990 - May - Kent State, Kent, OH - 20 year anniversary of Kent State/Jackson State murders
- 1991 - October 19-20 - University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA - 1492-1992: Fighting Back Oppression for 500 Years! Shaping Student Strategies for the Future!
- 1992 - October 30-31 - George Washington University, Washington DC - halloween theme
- 1993 - November 6-7 - University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, Wisconsin - (Don't Believe the) Hype!
- 1994 - April 9-10 - George Washington University, Washington DC - Organize Against Racism on Campus; Support the People's Movements for Justice in Haiti & Mexico; Build the Student Movement
- 1994 - October 29-30 - University of Louisville, Louisville, KY - America's Lies and Clinton's Broken Promises: Tools for the 90s
There was also a conference in Madison WI sometime between 1981 and 1986 that attracted 100's of people.
There were many campus groups that participated in the PSN at different times. Here is the start of a list of some of them.
- George Washington University - Progressive Student Union (PSU)
- Georgetown University - Progressive Student Union (PSU)
- Illinois State University - Progressive Student Union (PSU)
- Kent State - Progressive Student Network (PSN)
- Lehigh University - Progressive Student Alliance (PSA). Founded circa 1983, still active as of 2007.
- Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) - Progressive Student Network (PSN)
- Marquette University - Progressive Student Organization (PSO). Founded in 1978 by a member of the RSB and several close associates, it was perhaps the first of these various local organizations.
- University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) - Progressive Resource / Action Cooperative (PRC)
- University of Illinois (Chicago) - Progressive Students
- University of Iowa - New Wave
- University of Louisville (Louisville, KY) - Progressive Student League (PSL)
- University of Massachusetts (Amherst) - Radical Student Union (RSU)
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)- Progressive Student Network (PSN)
- University of Minnesota - Progressive Student Organization (PSO)
- University of Northern Illinois - John Lennon Society
- University of Pennsylvania - Progressive Student Union (PSU)
- University of Wisconsin (Madison) - Progressive Student Network (PSN)
- Northwestern University - PSN
PSN and FRSO
Members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and its predecessor organizations were key members in many of the major PSN chapters, but FRSO members didn't treat PSN as a front group. FRSO members in PSN encouraged members of other socialist organizations who were willing to work together to join and build the PSN, but they at times came in conflict with other socialist organizations who tried to impose their line on the PSN.
- Some history of the PSN was adapted from the document Building a New National Progressive Student Activist Organization; A Proposal Submitted for the Consideration of the U.S. Student Movement by Eric Odell, November 1997
- Archive of some PSN documents from the early 1990s
- Kent State University library PSN collection
- Progressive Student Network archive on Left Spot