*The glossary’s aim is to define each term within the context of student activism, (e.g. “effort on behalf of university students to advocate for the right to free speech in classes, student newspapers, etc.”)

Glossary (A)


A corrupt practice or custom; improper or excessive use or treatment; language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily; physical maltreatment (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abuse


A doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/activism


One who administers especially business, school, or governmental affairs (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/administrator); the teaching and administrative staff and those members of the administration having academic rank in an educational institution (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faculty); the officers chiefly responsible for the internal operations of an institution or business (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/staff

Animal Testing

The term “animal testing” refers to procedures performed on living animals for purposes of research into basic biology and diseases, assessing the effectiveness of new medicinal products, and testing the human health and/or environmental safety of consumer and industry products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals and industrial/agro-chemicals. All procedures, even those classified as “mild,” have the potential to cause the animals physical as well as psychological distress and suffering. (https://www.hsi.org/news-media/about/

Arms Control

Limitation of the use, exchange, or manufacture of military weapons by nations often as a policy established through diplomatic negotiation. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arms%20control

Academic Freedom

The freedom to teach or to learn without interference (as by government officials) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/academic%20freedom)


A political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anarchism)

African American

An American of African and especially of black African descent (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/African%20American)


Opposed to the former apartheid policy in the Republic of South Africa. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-apartheid


Racial segregation, specifically: a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apartheid


Submission to a dominating influence; the state of a person who is a chattel of another. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/slavery


A state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations; a period of such armed conflict; a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism; a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war

Asian American

(C – D)

Civil Rights

Significant and long-lasting change in the Earth’s climate and weather patterns; such change associated with global warming. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/climate%20change


A system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed; a theory advocating the elimination of private property; a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communism

Conscientious Objection

Objection on moral or religious grounds (as to service in the armed forces or to bearing arms) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conscientious%20objection


Impaired or limited by a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition: affected by disability; incapacitated by illness or injury (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disabled

Climate Change

Significant and long-lasting change in the Earth’s climate and weather patterns; such change associated with global warming. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/climate%20change

Commuter (Students)

A person who commutes (as between a suburb and a city) for the purpose of education.(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/commuter


Disposition in politics to preserve what is established; a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conservatism


Prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment; the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discrimination

(E – F)

Economically  Disadvantaged/Poor

Lacking material possessions; of, relating to, or characterized by poverty. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poor)  


An act or instance of emigrating: departure from a place of abode, natural home, or country for life or residence elsewhere (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emigration


The quality or state of being equal (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equality

Food Scarcity/Hunger

The quality or state of being scarce; want of provisions for the support of life; a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scarcity; https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hunger

Freedom of Expression

The right to express one’s opinions freely (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom%20of%20expression)


A belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs; a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/egalitarianism


Advocacy of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/environmentalism)


The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes; organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism )

Free Speech

Speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; the right to such speech. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free%20speech)

Freedom of the Press

The right of newspapers, magazines, etc., to report news without being controlled by the government (or institute of higher learning) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom%20of%20the%20press

(G – M)


Of, relating to, or involving the entire world. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/global


An act or instance of immigrating, specifically: travel into a country for the purpose of permanent residence there (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immigration

Israeli – Palestinian Conflict

One of the world’s longest-running and most controversial conflict…between two self-determination movements — the Jewish Zionist project and the Palestinian nationalist project — that lay claim to the same territory. (https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18079996/israel-palestine-conflict-guide-explainer


Of, relating to, or marked by Latin American heritage —used as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Latinx


A political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties, specifically: such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (such as those involving race, gender, or class) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberalism


The smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole, specifically: a group having less than the number of votes necessary for control; a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment; a member of a minority group (e.g. religious minority, ethnic minority) ((https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/minority

Human Rights

Rights (such as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/human%20rights


Of, relating to, or affecting two or more nations; of, relating to, or constituting a group or association having members in two or more nations; active, known, or reaching beyond national boundaries (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/international

Labor/Interests of Labor

Human activity that provides the goods or services in an economy; the services performed by workers for wages as distinguished from those rendered by entrepreneurs for profits; an economic group comprising those who do manual labor or work for wages; workers employed in an establishment; workers available for employment; the organizations or officials representing groups of workers (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/labor


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (one’s sexual identity) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/LGBTQ)


Predominance of the military class or its ideals; the exaltation of military virtues and ideals; a policy of aggressive military preparedness (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/militarism


A series of organized activities working toward an objective; an organized effort to promote or attain an end. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/movement

(N – R)

Native American

A member of any of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Native%20American

Political Activism: “See Activism”
Political Correctness

Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politically%20correct

Political Movements: “See Movements”

(Movements): very different from the usual or traditional; favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions; associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change; advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/radical


One that flees, especially: a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/refugees


Qualities (such as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval; something to which one has a just claim: such as the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled, the interest that one has in a piece of property —often used in plural; the cause of truth or justice (e.g. civil rights, student rights) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rights


Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, especially on a college or university campus. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ROTC


Freedom from civil disturbance; a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom; a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom; a state or period of mutual concord between governments; a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peace)


The act of objecting or a gesture of disapproval; a usually organized public demonstration of disapproval; a complaint, objection, or display of unwillingness usually to an idea or a course of action; an objection made to an official or a governing body of a sport. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/protest)

Reform/Prison Reform

To put or change into an improved form or condition; to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictiona; ry/reform)


A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs; the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices. (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/religion


A violent public disorder; a tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with a common intent; public violence, tumult, or disorder. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/riot)

(S – W)


The state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding; something (such as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge; knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science

Social Justice

A state or doctrine of egalitarianism (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20justice

Student Unrest

Vehement political and social activism, relating to university, national, or world issues and including activities such as protests, riots, strikes, walk-outs, sit-ins, teach-ins, etc. (https://www2.archivists.org/thesaurus/terms/s/student-unrest


The price of or payment for instruction (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tuition)

Women’s Rights

Legal, political, and social rights for women equal to those of men. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/women’s%20rights

Sources for Definition

SAA Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology: https://www2.archivists.org/glossary 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/ 

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/ 

Cambridge Dictionary: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/ 

Dictionary.com: https://www.dictionary.com/ 

SDS/Students for a Democratic Party

An American student organization that flourished in the mid-to-late 1960s and was known for its activism against the Vietnam War. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Students-for-a-Democratic-Society


Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism


The act, right, manner, or term of holding something (such as a landed property, a position, or an office) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenure

Vietnam War

Vietnam War, (1954–75), a protracted conflict that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam and its allies in South Vietnam, known as the Viet Cong, against the government of South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. Called the “American War” in Vietnam (or, in full, the “War Against the Americans to Save the Nation”), the war was also part of a larger regional conflict (see Indochina wars) and a manifestation of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Vietnam-War

World War II

World War II, also called Second World War, the conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years 1939–45. The principal belligerents were the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—and the Allies—France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. (https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-II