Hippies Are The Most Radical Dissenters

(Richard Peterson of the Educational Testing Service, Princeton, N.J., delivered a paper in San Juan on "Student Attitudes and Activism in the United States." The following short excerpt from his paper deals with the types of student dissent in the United States. --editor's note.)

The Student Left

THE STUDENT LEFT or "new left" is viewed as a movement that has emerged in the past seven or eight years on the basis of a shared rejection of many prevailing American institutions, a vaguely democratic-socialist political ideology, and a commitment to involvement in social action. While the student left has grown out of an amalgam of shifting civil rights, peace, and anti-poverty sentiments and activities, its ultimate goal would be radical reform of American society and the characteristic nature of human roles and relationships on which it rests.

At present, the student left is crystallized around two organizations-- the predominantly Negro loosely structured Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC) and the predominantly white, nationally-organized Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The former is without doubt on the decline; the latter, in a period of transition, is attempting to move in new directions in the hope of extending its grass-roots support and thus prevent its demise.

The Student Right

This second general category of student dissenters directs its protest not so much at the status quo per se, but rather at what is perceived to be a rising tide of leftist influence ("liberal orthodoxy") on the campus and in the broader society. Thus the educationally oriented tactics of the student conservatives (for example, giving away copies of William Buckley's Up From Liberalism) are aimed cheifly at counteracting the efforts of both the student leftists and the nonideological campus-issue protestors (the latter, by supporting embattled administrators).

Easily the most important student conservative organization is the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), which claims a membership of 20,000 to 30,000 spread across some 200 campuses. YAF's financial support, based largely on contributions from a small number of conseravtive adults (rather than membership dues), is far and away the most impresive of any student political organization; and, YAF policy appears, not coincidentally, to be tightly managed in its national headquarters. From its founding in 1960, YAF grew to a peak in grassroot support during the Goldwater-Johnson campaign of 1964. Since then, YAF has probably been best known for its efforts in behalf of the administration's Vietnam policy -- demonstrations of support for various escalations toward a "military victory," blood donations, Christmas packages for the troops, and so forth.

A second, much smaller, national student organization goes by the name Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI). Other than that ISI is ideologically grounded in the "objectivist" philosophy (reason, self-interest, individualism, capitalism) of novelist Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged), little is known about this group.

The half-dozen or so empirical studies of student conservatives are summarized by Block, Haan, and Smith: parents of conservative students are disproportionately Republican and Protestant, and they tend to be authoritarian and achievement-oriented in their child-rearing practices; the students, themselves, tend to view their own value patterns along the lines of Ayn Rand's. Heavily concentrated in business curricula, student rightists appear to be active not only at the large, prestigious and visible institutions, but also at many smaller colleges -- especially church-related ones, southern universities, and technical and other career-oriented institutions.

All this said, our general conclusion on the significance of organized student conservatism in the 1960's approximates Lipset and Altbach's--that, despite impressive financial and organizational backing, student conservatives "have not been successful in building a movement which has much commitment from its membership," nor has it "made any real impact on the campus."

In the years "since Berkeley" (Fall, 1964), college campuses in many parts of the country have reportedly witnessed an unprecedented level of organized student protest over campus conditions. Many of the "issues" are old ones: food service, dress regulations, dormitory regulations, curriculum inflexibility, quality of teaching. Others may be new, such as the nature of rules regarding appearances on campus of controversial figures, alleged fraternity discrimination, degree of student participation in campus policy-making. During the academic year 1964-1965, more colleges were scenes of demonstrations about dormitory and other living group regulations and campus food service than about U.S. posture in Vietnam. And larger numbers of students, most likely representing wider cross-sections of student bodies, generally were involved in protesting the internal campus issues.

While many of the trouble spots are old and somewhat trivial, there none-theless seems to be a new urgency and stridency. The "campus-issue protesters," often led by legitimate (elected) student leaders, have borrowed some of the tactics of the student leftists -- the marches, sit-ins, and confrontation strategies of the civil rights movement, for example. Nor have the strategies of the Berkeley activists gone unnoticed by students around the country generally seeking more limited objectives.

But a certain similarity of means is about the limit of the comparability of the campus protesters and the off-campus oriented student leftists. The local issue protesters came together and then fade away as fast as campus sore points are discovered and then patched up. With only a handful of exceptions, such as Berkeley's SLATE, local-campus activism is entirely lacking in organizational and even personnel continuity. There have been no coherent sets of unifying beliefs -- educational or political.

By and large, however, student reform efforts, despite the assistance of the National Student Association (NSA) in this area, have not gotten much beyond such "problems" as student-faculty relationships, required courses (as in the church-related colleges), in loco parentis regulations on personal conduct, and so forth. The campus-issue protesters share no thoroughgoing estrangement from the university comparable to the pervasive estrangement from American institutions characteristic of leftists. In their issue-to-issue involvement, the former, in the terms of Neil Smelser's model, typify a "norm-oriented" movement while the student left more nearly suggests a "value-oriented" (ideologically grounded) movement.

Hippies, as is the fashion to call them, are the youths who in their total rejection of the values and roles of American society, "the system," have opted for a world of highly personal, often drug-assisted, perceptual experience. There is some question as to whether discussions of the hippie subculture is relevant in a paper on college students. For the confirmed hippie, collegiate life in its usual form is anathema. Their characteristic response is asthetic rather than intellectual. Whatever hippie students there are, and there numbers are probably growing, exist mostly on the periphery or in the underground of large urban colleges and universities, in a sense dropping in and out.

In contrast to the politically committed activists, hippies have withdrawn from American culture and despair of any hopes that they, the "new lefties," or anyone else can alter the prevailing patterns of that culture

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