Social change brings protests to U campus

Raiza Beltran

As the turmoil of the 1960s brought revolutionary changes to the lives and minds of many Americans, University students increasingly took to activism on campus. The Minnesota Daily reflected the campus environment by recording the daily protests, debates and events that marked the imapct of national issues on a local setting as well as campus-oriented concerns.
On Jan. 1, 1969, more than 70 Afro-American Action Committee members enterd the Office of Admissions and Records in Morrill Hall and closed its doors to the public.
With a list of demands, the students vowed to remain in the building until their demands were met by University administrators.
Filling the Daily’s entire front page, the Morrill Hall three-day occupation lead to the diverse discussions within the newspaper.
“Using their race as a shield, they have done things which 40,000 of us could never have done. They are practicing reverse racism,” wrote Don Stewart, a College of Liberal Arts junior, in a letter to the editor.
Education junior Jim Gardner, however, wrote in support of the occupation. “There seemed to be many whites who were sympathetic to the demands but were upset at the actions taken … To those whites, ‘civil rights’ is a game to be played with certain rules,” Gardner said.
The liberation for the nation’s oppressed people became a rallying theme for activist student groups including the anti-Vietnam war protesters who saw oppression of another kind. “Must more Americans and Vietnamese die … before the political realities sink into the heads of those prosecuting this unjust and immoral war?” asked American studies graduate student Fran Shor in the Oct. 20 1967 edition of the Daily.
Anti-Vietnam War supporters allied themselves with student groups fighting against racism and actively pursued each other’s causes. The Daily followed the emerging dissidence on campus as students took more aggressive actions to further their cause.
Students spent the night in Johnston Hall to protest the presence of Dow chemicals on campus in October 1967.
Dow, a manufacturer of napalm used in the Vietnam War, was on campus to recruit graduates for employment. The protesters prevented many students from interviewing with the chemical manufacturer by occupying the halls.
The protesters wanted the University to ban war-supporting companies such as Dow from recruiting on campus.
Moos refused the protesters demand that war-supporting companies be banned from campus recruiting. He said that denial of access to the campus would be denying companies’ right to free speech. He even blocked an official recommendation proposed by the University Senate that would ban all recruiting on campus.
In October 1967, 25 students held a “stone-in” outside of Moos’ office in Morrill Hall to force him to make a statement about the arrests of 25 Cedar-Riverside area residents for narcotics violations.
The protests and rallies became so frequent that Moos set up a committee to develop policies on demonstrations on campus. This too met with opposition and faced rigorous debates.

Distant issues become campus concerns
Vietnam War protests filled the Daily pages as well as the campus grounds; the draft and possible deferments led most of the students’ concerns.
The Daily informed students on draft dodging with a front-page article called “How to beat the draft legally.” The article profiled Charles Leisenfelt, a national selective service adviser for the University, who helped 30 to 40 students a week avoid the draft.
Male students had to reapply for draft deferments every year.
Throughout 1966, the Daily followed the plight of University student, Francis Galt, who opposed the draft and the Vietnam War. He faced imprisonment for failing to report for induction into the United States Army. Galt claimed he was a “conscientious objector,” but the courts did not agree with him.
A 1966 Daily editorial went so far as to call the draft a “blood-bath,” condemning the actions of selective service boards and calling for students to actively oppose it.
A large opposition to the deferments process came in 1966 when the selective service board included a one-line statement authorizing the University to release personal information to the government about students.
The Minnesota Student Association strongly opposed this action and urged students not to sign the cards. Robert Summers, dean of admissions, emphasized that the signing of the cards was optional, but a later Daily article revealed that students would have greater difficulty receiving deferments if the information was not released.
The Daily as student voice
As the civil rights movement continued in southern states, the Daily found a connection to the crusade with four University students who left to join the Freedom Riders.
“The six Minnesotans’ ‘freedom ride’ to Mississippi is no lark,” wrote a Daily reporter in the June 16, 1961 edition. “We are only too sorry that only six Minnesotans have the courage to protest.”
Imprisoned for 40 days in Jackson, Miss., the six students arrived in Minneapolis and were ushered into a press conference to relate their experiences in prison.
Zev Aelony, former University student and Freedom Rider, spent over a month in prison for their peaceful demonstrations in Georgia and eventually faced the death penalty.
Aelony said that the Daily was a vital tool for people to express their views, whether opposed or promoting a cause.

Raiza Beltran welcomes comments at [email protected] Thomas Douty welcomes comments at [email protected]