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Crimson White Online

February 28, 2007

UA leaders talk 1970 campus uprising

Students and alumni gather to discuss protest at Denny Chimes in March


By Jacobs Summers
Staff Reporter

Few and proud are those students who will take a stand against the war in Iraq, and even fewer will actively pursue the immediate withdrawal. Monday evening, they assembled in just one room.


Held in the Ferguson Forum room, the 1970 Student Uprising Discussion met to discuss the war in Iraq, assembling student protests, the student protest in 1970 and the actions that led to the former protest.


"Things were a lot better then than they are now," said Wythe Holt, a research professor for the School of Law. "Now, there's a lot more to rebel against."


Holt, along with UA alumni David Lowe and UA geologist Mirza Beg, served on the discussion panel, as people who remembered taking part in or being around at the time of the 1970 protest.


"If you were male and failed three or more classes in one semester, you were no longer considered to be making progress in your major and were drafted," Lowe said.


In May 1970, The Crimson White reported that the Dresler building, where the Ferguson Center stands now, was burned in protest of war, after more passive and less violent approaches to show disapproval, students even managed to hire national speakers and sneak them onto campus, much to the disapproval of University administrators. Later on, University and local police were sent to push back the students and confine them to their residence halls. Any student that refused could be beaten.


"The administration is not nearly as repressive of students today," Holt said.


Any division of the Greeks and regular students on campus disappeared after the protest, Holt said. On that night, The CW reported that the then-SGA president, a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, walked back to the fraternity house with his girlfriend when her skull was fractured by a police officer. What made matters even more complicated, Holt said, is that the DKE house was not even officially UA property, making the abuse and actions illegal.


"After that, the Greeks, who you never thought would go against the administrations, rallied behind the cause," Holt said.


Holt said the amount of attention the protest garnered with the student body was a result of the times: it was right on the heels of the civil rights movement, and reforms were being made with the treatment of women as well.


"Women could not have apartments unless they were 21," Lowe said. "They couldn't visit men's apartments; there were bed checks every night and when they signed into the dorms each night, the number of minutes after curfew accumulated toward punishment. Curfew was 9 p.m. on the weekdays and midnight on the weekends. They were never allowed to just wear pants. If they did, they had to wear a raincoat over them."


This sense of censorship and control is what led students to cry for reform, Lowe said.


"The cold fact, the basic morality of the war, I think, is what's different about today," Beg said. "There's no mourning because there's no sacrifice by the average citizen."


In fact, each panelist said they could recall that everyone back in the '70s knew someone that had been either injured or killed in the war abroad. Today, the numbers are much less - about 45 percent, Lowe said.


One of the issues raised by members of the Students for a Democratic Society that students appear to be apathetic to the war. Whether it's a matter of apathy, or that students might actually support this war, is not as easily determined as it was in 1970.


"It's difficult to give a correct answer - a lot of people support it, and a lot of people don't," Beg said. "What does surprise me about the students here at this discussion is that in a University, people are supposed to learn and change. Even though not affected, these students have the wherewithal to say 'what are our stances' and 'what are our ideals.'"


Not all students who have studied at the University do believe in protesting the war, however.


"I'm against the war, but I support the soldiers" said Stephanie Bailey, a freshman majoring in art history. "If there's a peaceful solution, I would like them to reach it."


The students who do support pulling out of Iraq, however, plan to march and protest on March 20, beginning at Denny Chimes and ending at the downtown federal building.




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