Threads: Protest and Viet Nam
Monday, March 20, 1967
We're in the midst of a Student Senate election campaign right now.
Almost all the candidates (there are only 71 of them, of which we get to vote for 22 for the 22-member Senate) are running on the position that students must demand the right to control their own lives, i.e., must be able to make their own social rules without interference from the adults who supposedly run this place. Several have even taken the position that students should ultimately be in charge of making all decisions, including academic policy, hiring and firing of professors, the investment of our endowment to bring the highest returns, etc.
About the only candidate who comes close to being a conservative is [chemistry major] Nick Roe. This is the first I've heard of him in the 18 months since you met his mother, but at the last minute he's decided to run on a "Stop SLATE" platform. (SLATE is slightly the most radical of the three major parties. It was two SLATE members of Senate, acting independently of Senate, who led the "coercive picketing" of the Air Force recruiters last month.)
I don't think he stands much of a chance, unless the reaction against SLATE et al. is greater than I think. I know there's a great deal of dissatisfaction with "Students must demand change!" among the people I talk to, but I'm not at all sure that the people I think are sensible are in a majority on this campus.
Roe might turn out to be the other extreme, too; he could be more of a hindrance than a help if elected. But every vote for him is a protest against the super-activists, so I'll vote for him, I think. The election is tomorrow.
Jan Olson came up with one of the best comments I've heard lately on this fight-for-progress thing. She was remembering the last night of Freshman Orientation, when the president of Student Council (as it was called then) was addressing us freshmen about the goals of the Council the usual sort of thing, liberalized social rules mainly. "We're going to put all we've got into getting these proposals passed!" he was saying.
Jan said, "Now I didn't quite know what he was talking about. And besides, I had picked Oberlin as the college of my choice out of all the colleges in the country because I liked it the way it was. Here he was saying we've got to make all these changes!"
It does cause a little resentment among those of us who are satisfied with the present situation when these wild-eyed longhairs start trying to turn Oberlin into something else. But I guess progress is inevitable.
Thursday, May 11, 1967
I should like to object to the use of the phrase "We, the students of Oberlin" in the manifesto slipped under our doors the night of May 10. I'm one of the students who have no desire to be associated with the views it expresses.
Those who wrote this manifesto find that the reason they came to Oberlin is "now remote." I can still recall that one of my reasons was the somewhat conservative social atmosphere, as evidenced by the religious heritage of the school, the lack of fraternities and cars, etc. As a friend of mine once said, we chose this college out of all the colleges and universities in the country as the one we wanted to attend, and we are not too happy when the activists start attacking and denouncing the institutions of our school especially when they start trying to turn it into a free-love society.
I'm not opposed to gradual change. I don't delude myself into thinking Oberlin is perfect, by any means. But I do feel that rapid change, engineered by radical student leaders making "demands," is unwise and even dangerous.
The faculty had good reason to turn down the hastily-submitted apartment proposal; otherwise, why would they so decisively have done so after only an hour's debate and with the torchlight march of the night before still fresh in their minds?
If the writers of the manifesto believe the faculty rejected the proposal simply out of an obstinate disregard for the needs of students, if they believe their professors and instructors are "fools" and "clowns who live in a dream-world," why do they continue to study under them? I certainly would not want to be educated by a fool. If I had that opinion of my professors, I would leave Oberlin and try to find some other college more in accordance with my own views.
And perhaps it might be best for all concerned if the angry students, who have now declared their independence, did leave. They can "love" all they want in the real world and leave the rest of us to learn in peace.
Sunday, October 22, 1967
Oberlin sent four busloads of bearded and nonbearded ones, plus about fifty more in cars, to the march on the Pentagon Saturday. That's only about a tenth of the campus, but things seemed unusually quiet on Saturday morning. Maybe another half of the campus was pretending they were in Washington so they wouldn't have to go to classes.
Sunday, November 5, 1967
Apparently not very much happened Monday besides what you read in the Columbus paper Tuesday morning, and nothing has happened since except a few letters to the editor of the Review. The Columbus paper did seem to concentrate on what President Carr said, to the exclusion of what the students said.
There were three viewpoints.
President Carr, Greg Stanton, and Larry Abrams spoke in favor of letting recruiters continue to come here.
Matt Rinaldi, Paul Osterman, and Bernie Mayer (all students of the SLATE political party) called the war immoral, and claimed that the moral imperative to oppose it outweighed the fact that, in so doing, they were abridging the right of freedom of speech.
And students Marc Landy and Les Leopold suggested that any recruiters be required to hold a forum, if requested, to answer questions about the policies of the organization that backs them.
Students Stanton and Abrams said that this last proposal would make visitors to the campus "earn the right of free speech." Besides, it would be unworkable since Federal law prohibits recruiters from discussing military and political policies.
Nothing was decided, no votes of the student body were taken, and probably nothing will be decided before the next crisis, which will be when the next crew of recruiters arrives within another few months. I have a feeling things are going to get really violent then. The Osterman-Mayer-Rinaldi group and their followers are determined not to let the recruiters in without putting up some stiff opposition.
Sunday, November 12, 1967
The next visit of recruiters, it has been learned, will be on Wednesday, December 6. A committee of five students and five faculty members is busy trying to figure out what should be done whether recruiters should be allowed to come, whether students who obstruct recruiters should be suspended, etc.
Sunday, December 3, 1967
We've heard absolutely nothing about what's planned for next Wednesday when the recruiters come, which isn't surprising since the last demonstration was planned secretly at the last minute by a very small group while other groups were openly planning peaceful forms of protest, such as wearing black armbands.
A committee has studied the various problems about having recruiters on campus and has come to sort of a decision to support President Carr's viewpoint, though there was some dissatisfaction among the student and faculty members of the committee about the compromises they had to make in their personal viewpoints in order to reach any decision at all. This report will be discussed in a forum tomorrow, for all the good that will do. And then we'll just wait and see what the radicals decide to do on Wednesday.
Tuesday, December 12, 1967
Naturally the protestors want to get in the papers; the whole idea is to get publicity for their cause. But they didn't do any of it here last Wednesday. I've heard conflicting reports on what happened, but either the recruiters who came were only recruiting for the civil service or they came on Monday when demonstrators weren't looking for them. At any rate, the peaceniks occupied themselves last week with going to Cleveland on Friday to picket the induction center as part of "Stop the Draft Week." They'd hoped to get in some violence there, too, but unfortunately for them it turned out that no inductees were scheduled to be taken in that day, so they had no one to "confront."
Sunday, January 21, 1968
We haven't heard many details up here about the arrest of students. Apparently there were 31 arrested on Thursday, with another forty or so expected to be arrested in the near future. They were identified from photographs taken October 26, if I understand correctly. Their hearings will be during the first week of February, several per day. I think there were about two Student Senate members arrested in this group. No one I know was arrested, though I did know one fellow when we were freshmen before he let his hair grow and got a motorcycle.
Sunday, February 11, 1968
Nothing particular has happened in those 47 court cases with the demonstrators; most of them have pleaded "no contest," whatever that means, and are awaiting the next round of proceedings.
The Group consists of 17 faculty members, 18 students, and 13 administrators; and I (as station director of WOBC) am one of the students. The editor of the student newspaper is another, and there are six Student Senators and ten other students as well.
We hold our first meeting tomorrow afternoon. I guess the function of the group is mainly to give President Carr various opinions and advice. He then can make up his mind any way he wants.
Monday, March 3, 1969
On my birthday [February 20], I put in about sixteen hours working on the WOBC coverage of the recruiters. I stayed at the station the entire time, helping to tape the phoned-in stories from our reporters and putting them on the air during the day, and then during the evening editing all those tapes into a 70-minute summary of the day's activities.
Some of the more interesting activities actually took place in the afternoon after the recruiters had left. A group of students went over to President Carr's office to tack a sign on the wall, but he came out and ripped the sign down, which resulted in an exchange of name-calling between him and the students. President Carr has been getting rather disturbed about all this and seems to be losing control of the situation; he seems to have very little confidence in students any more, judging from some of his statements.
Currently we're beginning a long, drawn-out judicial process to decide what to do with 57 students who have been charged by the Dean with participating in a disruptive demonstration. They may be suspended, but that's doubtful since the judicial board is made up of four students and four faculty, and the students on the board aren't about to vote for suspension. However, Carr has said something to the effect that he won't stand for letting the 57 off without punishment, so he might overrule the board and suspend the 57 himself, which would cause a very loud outcry.
About the people from Kent State: There was at least one "speaker" who came to put forth pro-Viet Cong arguments in the days just before February 20, and there may have been a handful of other Kent people who were also brought in by the Oberlin organizers to help agitate, but I don't think there were many. I've heard some people say there were none.
Sunday, April 13, 1969
I suppose you've been reading about what's been going on up here. There are a lot of meetings and rallies and sit-ins and so forth. Whether anything is being accomplished is an open question. WOBC newsmen are covering it all, of course, and they're doing a good job, but even they are not sure of precisely what's happening. There are two student groups involved with somewhat different goals, one joint student-faculty group composed of eight members none of whom agree with any of the others, one faculty group, one administration group, and one joint faculty-administration group. And none of those groups has complete authority over anything.
Monday, April 21, 1969
The protest business up here has calmed down suddenly and completely. Everyone got tired, I guess, so they gave up for a few weeks.
It's strange that Student Senate puts forward what they always call "demands," but when those demands aren't met, Senate says okay and goes back to what it was doing before. Why they don't call them "requests" I don't know, since that's all they amount to.
Monday, May 5, 1969
Still very quiet here at Oberlin. There are some recruiters (Navy, I think) scheduled to come on May 16 or thereabouts, but maybe not much will happen because that's so close to finals and all the students will want to be studying. On the other hand, the recruiters may be asked not to come because of the danger of demonstrations if they do. We'll see what happens.
Monday, May 19, 1969
Nothing much happening here the latest "recruiter demonstration" was a complete flop, as it appears the demonstrator types are too busy studying for finals to demonstrate.
Tuesday, July 8, 1969
I've just finished today getting my draft situation resolved: I flunked the physical exam due to poor eyesight. For persons who wear eyeglasses, the maximum strength they'll accept is 8.00, and my glasses check out at 9.25 and 9.50. That means I'm practically blind without them, which I knew already. More important, it means I won't be drafted. I can now go on planning the future with a little less uncertainty.
Thursday, July 10, 1969
Before heading down to Columbus for my draft physical, I read several times that "lecture" you wrote me about being happy with one's present state (whatever that may be). I wasn't at all positive that my eyes were bad enough to disqualify me. I was trying to prepare myself mentally for the possibility of being a soldier.
But it turned out that I was too nearsighted for them to take me. If it hadn't been that, it might have been my pulse and blood pressure, which measured 120 and 150/90 because I was apprehensive of the outcome of the exam. I don't think I looked nervous, but my heart sure thought I was. They made me lie down for half an hour, and my pulse slowed down to 93. (That's far from normal, too. I'd never make an astronaut.)
Wednesday, October 8, 1969
Anti-Viet Nam War activists have scheduled a "moratorium" a week from today, for which the Syracuse University chancellor has declined to cancel classes (to the mild disappointment of Student Government; we've got a comparatively conservative student body here, so they didn't get all upset).
Wednesday, October 29, 1969
On October 15th it was, in fact, "business as usual" for me. I couldn't have not gone to classes had I wanted not to go, since I have no classes scheduled on Wednesdays; but there was a march downtown that night I could have joined had I been so inclined.
I didn't do anything myself for two reasons. One is that I'm not a protestor; if I ever do make my opinion known publicly, it'll be in the form of a carefully-worded letter to the editor or perhaps a well-researched article. Protestors yelling "Peace Now" at President Nixon seem to me just as naïve as baseball fans yelling "We want a home run!" to Frank Robinson; he wants a home run too, but the yelling won't change his chances of getting one though it may help the fans feel less impotent.
The second reason is that I agree with what Nixon's doing. Granted that the continuation of the war has become harmful to this country because of the casualties, expense, and discontent, the only question left is how to get out. An immediate and complete withdrawal would probably result in a massacre of South Vietnamese civilians by North Vietnamese troops who have just been waiting for us to leave. If we make a controlled withdrawal, though, trying to make sure that the ARVN troops can handle the situation in each area we leave, then the massacre will be at least held off for a while. If it comes, it will be more the military failure of South Vietnam that causes it than the moral failure of the United States in running out on its ally. Unfortunately, a controlled withdrawal will take a couple of years.
November 10, 1969
You think Nixon is a dumdum; I wouldn't go quite that far, since I sort of agree with what he's doing in regard to Vietnam and other problems (provided he doesn't stop the troop withdrawals when our strength gets down around 200,000, as he may do); but he does seem to have an inflated idea of his own importance, or something like that.
Friday, May 8, 1970
We've got trouble here in Syracuse. The students met Monday and decided to "go on strike" Tuesday, along with many other colleges across the country, to protest Nixon's sending American troops into Cambodia. Other students wanted to continue attending classes, but the strikers disrupted the Tuesday-morning sessions. So to avoid any possibility of violence (the deaths at Kent State had taken place only the day before), the chancellor decided to cancel classes for the rest of Tuesday and for Wednesday.
That didn't really affect me; my Tuesday-morning class wasn't disrupted, my Tuesday-afternoon class met in a dormitory lounge and therefore wasn't disrupted, and my Wednesday-morning class was scheduled for WCNY-TV and therefore was held as planned.
Then on Wednesday evening the chancellor, having met with strike leaders, decided the danger of violence if classes were re-opened was still great, so he canceled Thursday and Friday classes. That did affect me; the professor and 95% of the class failed to show up Thursday morning, so that class was not held, and the Thursday-night news lab couldn't be held because the building was closed at 5:00 due to an acute shortage of student workers to keep it in operation.
Now the question is whether the chancellor will re-open classes on Monday. If he doesn't, chances are they won't resume at all this semester, which has only two weeks to go before final exams. Also if he doesn't, a group is planning to sue the university for breach of contract for failing to provide the services we students contracted for when we paid our tuition. (I paid $900 for 16 weeks of classes; if the last 2-2/3 weeks are canceled, I ought to get a $150 refund, but of course the university isn't financially able to do that.)
If the chancellor does re-open classes, the striking students will probably do something more or less drastic, and I've got a Monday-morning 9:00 to attend. Nobody knows how it's all going to turn out.
There are signs painted on all the campus buildings: STRIKE, SHUT IT DOWN, AUX BARRICADES. The barricades are piles of junk that have been placed so as to block all vehicular entrances to the campus; narrow passageways are left for pedestrians, or else some of the junk is flat enough that you can walk over it. The idea is to shut it down, and in certain respects it's working. For one thing, trucks can no longer reach the main library, so the various branches are cut off from their source of supply of books. These students were the same ones who on Earth Day were busy clearing up the junk and garbage that littered the area; now they're putting it back down again.
Windows have been broken, a fire bomb damaged the university bookstore, and another fire destroyed some sheds at the construction site of a new campus building (though this last is believed to have been accidental).
Friday, May 29, 1970
Yes, I'm still alive here in Syracuse. Here's what's happened since my last letter: That Monday morning (May 11) when classes were scheduled to resume, they did resume. The only "violence" was a few bomb threats.
The chancellor had informed the students that they had four options as to how they wanted to complete the semester's work, ranging from attending classes and taking exams as usual to simply taking the grade which they had in the course as of May 4, but to exercise these options the students had to speak to the professors involved. Therefore, on Monday and Tuesday there was some undergraduate class attendance for the purpose of declaring options.
After that, undergraduate attendance dwindled to almost nothing. Some worked against the war, with workshops and teach-ins and the like, but that lasted only about a week; more and more students, having opted not to finish their class work, simply left for home, until now there are very few left outside of seniors who will graduate eight days from now.
The TVR department has kept going pretty well, however, with three out of my four courses holding classes as scheduled. The one course that disbanded was one I didn't mind losing anyway.