"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

In retrospect it's been a gray year.

Gray weather, gray politics, gray emotions. And above it all, gray eminences proclaiming (through some divine insight) what it's all about.

In Nebraska, gray seemed to suit the university well. It has been a year of quintessential grayness, the year of the yawn. Like Greta Garbo, almost everyone wanted to be alone. Faint stirrings of organized life-a march on city hall, an imaginative demonstration for more library space-were quickly forgotten. It was just one damned day after another as we watched the gray Nebraska winter pass, listening for whimpers, for we knew there would be no band. J. Alfred Prufrock was in the air, and few dared to eat a peach.

It is easy to dismiss this quiescent University, but somehow the feeling persists that there is a certain kind of strength contained within its dullness. Norman Mailer watched Richard Nixon and as not repulsed; perhaps caution is called for. Maybe the bland make the world go 'round. Perhaps the drudgery is more important than we had supposed, and who is better fitted for drudgery than drudges? Could it be that those with the strength of ten are not the pure of heart, but the strong of back? Just questions, friends, that seem worth asking.

I think I've played Eric Sevareid long enough. I really don't know much about what the hell has been going on around here; this yearbook tries to show a little of it, and probably fails more often than it succeeds (that is called the humble bit). We have let a lot of people speak for themselves; most of them seemed remarkably satisfied, and this must have something to do with the atmosphere.

But what we have not shown may be more important. What about black students? What's going on in the classrooms? What effect does the faculty have on University policy? Do many people here, in fact, care about anything? Is Nebraska just getting its Eisenhower generation? Or could it be another in her seemingly infinite series?

I don't know, but there does seem to be less blatant reaction and more concern (however inchoate) than there were four years ago. Who knows? Perhaps there is a new order struggling to escape the womb. In any case, it would be foolish to make pompous predications. As John Updike says, "to speak on matters where you're ignorant dulls the voice for speaking on matters where you do know something." So I'll shut up.



Author: Rodney Powell
Periodical: 1969 Cornhusker