"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

Editorial Note: These cartoons demonstrate the some of the ways in which the Daily Nebraskan addressed problems plaguing the campus. From student power to the blind conformity believed to be essential to the University machine, these examples of political print discourse are also examples of a quieter, humorous activism on campus.
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Student power - 'a bastard offspring'

It's when the dean has you out for breakfast and smiles and tells you there are certain things you just SHOULDN'T write and you smile and say, "sure, Dean," but he knows and you know that you will write them anyway, whether he picks up the check or not.

Student power has been around a long time. Medieval students had the first recorded riots with the local villagers; even students at NEBRASKA marched on the capitol during the 1879's to protest compulsory ROTC.

Real student power (of the "stuck eggs, trustee" variety) started with Mario Savio's free speech movement at Berkeley. It's message is this: you've been botching up things long enough prexy, move over and give us a try.

Student power means the Columbia trustees should have thought twice before they started expanding into the ghettos.

student power makes S.I. Hayakawa wish he had stayed with semantics.

Student power is a cry: "Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"

Student power might have elected Gene McCarthy president of these United States, but the police rioted and the good mayor wiggled his jowls before Gene got a chance.

In one year student power turned France upside down, Columbia and San Francisco State inside out, and the Democratic National Convention into a brobdingnagian catastrophe

Oh, wow.

The above is an instant replay of student power as seen in full-dimensional blood-n' clubs on your TV set. The following is student power in the locker-room, or a brief analysis of What-makes 'em-think-they-can-change-the-world.

Student power really started in the South with bunch of Yankee kids who thought they could come down and register all those COONS to

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vote, thema nd their "Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee."

The Old South rose up and showed 'em, however, bumped off three of 'em and proved that wise-acre kids from Connecticut couldn't move in and run their affairs.

But doggone it those Nigger-lovin' kids had LEARNED soemthin' from the broken ribs and the logn marches andthe singing and pretty soon they started thinking they could tell the whole world what to do and that maybe they should stop singing and sart punching and just at the same time the blacks quit turning the other cheek the students learned to do the same and then all hell busted loose.

The Non was gone and SNCC became SVCC and the blacks started helping themselves thank-you and the Yankee kids took on the whole kid-and caboodle.

"We'll cuss if we please," said Mario Savio. "Build your gymnasium over our dead bodies." said Mark Rudd. "We've got 'em all running scared," said Carl Davidson.

But that was the TV version again.

Behind all the hoopla and the sit-ins and the wild clothes and the pit-taunting, the demand went all the way back to John Locke, as interpreted by Tom Paine.

Justice, not sooner or later or after the war, but NOW! That's what it is all about.

The students of the 60's began tot realize that despite all their apparent advantages, they had a great

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deal in common with the militant blacks and the migrant workers and maybe, just maybe, with the Viet Cong.

The enemy is big-as big as the United Fruit Company, General Motors, Dow Chemical and the Pentagon all rolled into one. It had all the power that big money and the pigs and the establishment propaganda machine could provide.

To oppose all that, the students had only themselves, a little excess energy and a fairly decent grasp of the truth. The result was predictable. The students lost.

Since the student does not rebel from the stomach, but from the mind, he gives in more easily. He becomes bored, rationalizes his boredom as frustration, and retreats to become a hippie or a man-in-a-gray-flannel suit, leaving his mess for someone else to clean up.

But after the would-be revolutionaries have packed their bags, after the tear gas has all blown away and the House Un-American Activities Committee has done its bit, oh wow-students are cropping up all over. They're on the committees, they're being invited to run over their thing one more time for the information of some suddenly eager bureaucrat.

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Even in Nebraska, where copy-cat revolutionaries occasionally stir up enough fervor to walk out of the Union, students are beginning to have a voice in their affairs.

Student power in Lincoln is the bastard offspring of the Movement. It owes its existence primarily to the television camera which graphically illustrates for the administration what can happen if they don't give an inch here and there.

So the administration does give a little-grudginly, of course-and within four or five hundred years students may have some control over their curriculum, over women hours, over ROTC.

It's not as good as Columbia or Berkeley or even Colorado, but its' better than Creighton or Doane or Wayne State.

Like everything else in Nebraska student power is a watered-down innocuous version of everywhere else. To the majority of students, however, that is for the best. The only thing that interrupts classes is an honors convocation, and serious thought about the problems of our age can be postponed-indefinitely.

For Nebraska, student power is a point in time: roughly 2001 a.d.


Author: Jack Todd
Title: "Student power-'a bastard offspring'"
Periodical: 1969 Cornhusker Volume 63