Campus Unrest Essay

This essay has a total of 2640 words and 12 pages.


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).

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 was not what was best for the United States as it affected everyone in one way or
another. Students were affected through their education, laborers in the steel mills were
affected as the government prevented them from walking out on the job in order to maintain
production, and the entire country was damaged as billions of dollars were removed from
the national budget in order to fund the efforts overseas(“What” 4-5).

A turning point of the anti-war movement occurred in November of 1969. The New
Mobilization to End the War, otherwise know as the “Mobe”, proved to have a turnout of
nearly a 500,000 people, the biggest crowd ever to gather in the United States in order to
“ignite a political shift” (Wells 334). In an article entitled “The Mobe: High Noon for
the Anti-War Movement”, a student at the University of Chicago recounted his experience as
an active participant in this infamous protest. His words represented the thoughts and
actions of many young adults in the American home front during the Vietnam War (“Mobe”
3-4). He described his arrival, along with countless other students, on a bus to
Washington D.C. as absolutely unbelievable. People packed the streets forming a crowd that
appeared as if it went on for miles and miles. He soon learned that one group had recently
been pacing back and forth at Arlington Cemetery, bearing candles and screaming out the
names of United States soldiers who had lost their lives so far in battle (Wells 391).

A second group known as the Weathermen was a part of the Students for a Democratic
Society. These protesters made the decision to incorporate acts of violence in their
demonstrations. They illegally stampeded the embassy of South Vietnam and upon doing so
were sprayed with tear gas by police officials. In response to the halt of their actions,
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