Campus Unrest

Campus Unrest In response to great opposition to United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, the antiwar movement of the 1960s sprung forth. A vast majority of involvement in this movement was represented on college campuses across the nation. Many college students wholeheartedly believed that the war in Vietnam served no point. America was simply once again sticking its nose in business that was not our own. As a result of the war, universities nationwide in the sixties were in uproar as students attempted to express their opinions through both violent and nonviolent means. Anti-Vietnam protests were first displayed through teach-ins that took place during the fall and spring semesters (“Campus Unrest” 1).

These events were large discussions held on college campuses where students, faculty and administration met to openly learn about and discuss issues relating to the war. Teach-ins were efforts for Americans in relation to universities to voice their opinions and get the attention of government officials with the prayer that United States involvement in the war would not continue to increase at such a rapid rate. They stressed the importance of peace, not violence. Such teach-ins first took place in March of 1965 at the University of Michigan. This set a precedent for other colleges and universities as these rallies began to take place more and more frequently (“Campus Unrest 1).

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One example of a teach-in that occurred during the anti-Vietnam war movement was discussed in the Rutgers Daily TARGUM. In April of 1965, students and faculty at Rutgers in New Jersey staged a “Teach-in on Vietnam”. Professors William Fitzpatrick, Lloyd Gardner, and Warren Susman had taken the podium to debate their stances on the war in Vietnam. Gardner felt that “[w]estern civilization was greatest when isolated to the size of Greek city-states, and failed most miserable when it reached out to take lands it was not entitled to take” (Hochman 1). Fitzpatrick on the other hand expressed a very different opinion: “We are fighting in Vietnam not to save our ‘little brown brother,’ but to save ourselves..we live in a world today of civilizational struggle” (Hochman 1).The third professor, Susman, suddenly became extremely angry and bolted towards the two, banging on the podium when he approached.

The crowd witnessing the event went wild and stood to applaud Susman, and the remainder of the teach-in proved to be just as out of control. Eleven speeches were given in all discussing U.S. involvement in Vietnam and other pertinent issues. This teach-in at Rutgers was similar to many others nationwide that took place on college campuses in opposition to the war (Hochman 2). Another teach-in took place at the University of California Berkely. It was the largest teach-in yet and it lasted for thirty-six hours and over thirty thousand people participated in it. There were also marches on Washington Avenue in which twenty-five thousand people attended. These marches became popular when the college students went home for the summer (Wells 25).

Also, in the early 1960s drastic social change was being pushed from another direction at universities. An organization known as Students for a Democratic Society sprung forth in order to instigate this type of reform (“Vietnam” 2). Leaders of the SDS realized that many college students were becoming restless with the way many aspects of society were operating, especially the United States’ action in the Vietnam War. They were sick of sitting back indifferently while the aspects of society they valued were falling apart (“Port” 8). The SDS believed that colleges and universities were the ideal places to initiate such social transitions in America.

There were four main reasons these students felt convicted in this way. One was because these schools were places of education that had great influences on the opinions of students attending. A second reason was because colleges were the most principal establishments for utilizing information. Another was the way skills of persuasion and exploitation learned in classes could be used. A fourth reason was the great socioeconomic diversity present on every college campus.

Universities were optimal locations for nearly every thought and opinion from across the country to be expressed (“Port” 12). For these grounds, Students for a Democratic Society came together to ensure that universities stepped out of the shadows and straight into the political involvement they had for so long left up to their predecessors. They stated: As students for a democratic society, we are committed to stimulating this kind of social movement, this kind of visionand program in campus and community across the country. If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable (“Port” 14). The University of California at Berkeley is yet another example of a college campus in turmoil during the 1960s.

Before the war in Vietnam, students had already begun to organize nonviolent demonstrations to protest the administration’s recent request for political activism on campus to end. Students saw this requirement as a violation of their freedom, and as a result they formed the “Free Speech Movement,” holding numerous public objections (“Berkeley” 1) In 1969, the university planned to construct new dormitories on a recently purchased piece of property. Students saw this idea as yet another opportunity for them to rebel, and they soon flooded the area in order to prevent building from beginning. In the end, the head of the university saw that the only way to end this hazardous ordeal was to cancel the plans, and so he did (“Berkeley” 1-2). Many American students were convinced that the colleges and universities they attended were failing to educate them on the world around them.

Learning how to do industrial labor or desk work was hardly going to be effective in getting involved in political change. A group of students formed the May 2nd Movement which was a protest in 1964 organized by students who felt that their universities were not providing a proper education. They wanted to learn vital skills and information necessary to be active in the political aspects of their nation. The main goal of the May 2nd Movement of 1964 was to form a way to counteract the actions of the “imperialistic” United States government, but in order to do so they knew their claims had to be well researched and backed. Students suspected that the U.S. invasion of Vietnam served no purpose but to gain more power and repress the Vietnamese people (“What” 2-4). In order to ensure that from this point forward students were no longer being poorly educated, they began to organize their own universities, the first being F.U.N.Y.

(the Free University of New York). These schools were run and attended by those active in the May 2nd Movement. Efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the nation were made in two main ways. First was a publication known as the “Free Student” that documented student occurrences dealing with the war and the anti-war movement. This magazine was made readily available on nearly every college campus across the country. Second was through study groups where students met voluntarily to discuss and inform themselves about how to instigate political reform (“What” 5). These young people expressed great opposition to the war in Vietnam because they believed that it …

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