Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thinking back on university unrest in the 60s and 70s.

I wonder how many younger people understand the turmoil in universities in the 1960s and 1970s.

I got my MSEE degree from UC Berkeley in 1962, slightly before the Free Speech movement started there. The picture above is from one of the rallies that occurred in the university plaza during that movement. Even when I was at Berkeley some called it "the little red schoolhouse" alluding to the radical attitude of students. For years there seemed to be a floating manifestation in the plaza, but also a serious occupation of the administration building.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer from 1965 to 1967, assigned to a private engineering college there. For a year of that time the students were on strike, locked out of the campus. While the student protests were relatively peaceful, a policeman was seriously injured in one.

On my return I entered UC Irvine to study for my PhD. While I was there the building in which my Graduate School of Administration was housed was fire bombed. This in perhaps the most conservative county in the United States; business students are not known for their radical views either.

I was in Colombia from 1970 to 1973, during which time I had an adjunct appointment at one of the regional universities. Again, for a year of that time the students were on strike. The strike quickly turned violent. More than a dozen students were killed, something like 25,000 people were arrested and held in the city's stadium, and marshal law was imposed city wide.

Of course, there were only my personal experiences, but student unrest occurred all over the world, leading to major student demonstrations in many countries.

Not surprisingly, the situation influenced policy. For example, the university in which I served in Chile after the strike combined with other schools to create an off campus computer center -- one that would continue to operate even in the event of student unrest. In Colombia, a new university campus was built outside the city, in part at least to assure that it could be isolated from the city proper were there to be student demonstrations on campus.

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