"Citadel of Apathy"?: Student Activism at UNL, September 1968-May 1969

Project Editor:Jillian Gotfredson, History 470: Digital History, Spring 2008

Active or Apathetic?

Lincoln, Nebraska: A Reflection of the Movement on a Different Scale
Public Displays of Activism: from protests to talk-ins
Hyde Park Forum
Students Unite: committees, groups, and unions
Who Protests?
What is Apathy?
National Context: a timeline of student activism on campuses
International Context: a timeline of student activism on campuses
Works Cited

What is Apathy?

"Apathy," the word appeared many times throughout The Daily Nebraskan, Buffalo Chip, and the 1969 Cornhusker yearbook, but what does it really mean? However, if apathy was to truly be defined as a "lack of feeling or emotion" or a "lack of interest or concern" (Merriam-Webster), the University of Nebraska, with its Love Library sit-in, open housing march, and weekly Hyde Park Forums would prove that in fact the University did not have a lack of interest or concern. Here are several definitions:


"freedom from suffering," from Fr. apathie, from L. apathia, from Gk. apatheia "freedom from suffering, impassability," from apathes "without feeling," from a- "without" + pathos "emotion, feeling, suffering" (see pathos). Originally a positive quality; sense of "indolence of mind, indifference to what should excite" is from c.1733. (Online Etymology Dictionary).


Apathy is the soul-rotting, civilization-ending, rationalization that, since it is difficult to change entrenched institutions, it is better to passively allow them to segregate, vitiate, or annihilate whilst we contemplate, procrastinate, and exculpate in the ennui that is the luxury of those just beyond the earshot of oppression. (Urban Dictionary).

ap ⋅ a ⋅ thy

1 : lack of feeling or emotion : impassiveness

2 : lack of interest or concern : indifference (Merriam-Webster).

Apathy as Seen in Student Publications

"I have continually been amazed at the profound apathy encountered everywhere on campus and the profound idiots who perpetuate it. The majority of those connected with this university are apathetic. The farm boys, frat boys, straights, beads, and chicks, the profs and administration are somewhat unaware of the reality of their purpose on campus. Nearly anyone on this campus can be said to possess some degree of apathy, though obviously some people are more hung up in their own little world than are others" (Schule).

"...Nebraska, where we find ourselves in love with leaving well enough alone..." ("Open your...").

"A few students tune in on the outside world and wander back to the university community with the knowledge that 'something must be done,' 'we need a lot more people' or 'we have just got to get organized.' But things are still peaceful." (Ginn).

"No communists at Lincoln. No problems at Lincoln. Therefore, nothing happening at Lincoln...of course this is aided by the fact that all ghettoes, even the Omaha ghetto, are on the other side of the world, and the 4,000 students at Lincoln from Omaha don't give a damn...there is no interest and you aren't organized..." (Ginn).