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Since `69, Protests' Nature Changed

Apathy Takes its Toll

By Sandhya R. Rao

When students wanted the University to sever its ties with the U.S. military in April 1969, 300 of them forcefully took over university Hall.

Last month, when the Minority Student Alliance (MSA) protested the lack of minority faculty and ethnic studies courses, about a dozen students held signs and chanted in front of the Science Center.

Student protests on campus have declined. The confrontational, in your-face demonstrations of the late 1960s have dwindled into small groups of peaceful picketers outside the Science Center.

And the change in the way students protest belies a sharp shift in generational attitudes and beliefs.

In 1969, the Vietnam War and a belief that they could change the world mobilized students to protest. Today, apathy, pre-professionalism, the lack of unifying cause and the University's willingness to negotiate have scaled down protests and chipped away at the legacy of activism left by the students of 1969, according to past and current students administrators.

Harvard's History of Protest

Few protests have caught the atten- tion of the campus and the national media asthe protests of 1969 did.

Following on the heels of the 1969demonstrations, students enlisted in two decades'worth of protests demanding the divestment ofUniversity holdings in colonized and apartheidcountries.

These protests began in 1972 when 34 studentsoccupied Massachusetts Hall to force theUniversity to divest from South Africa. The issueresurfaced again in 1978 when more than, 1,000students participated in rallies, marches andblockades of administrative buildings.

The rallies continued, but studentparticipation began began to drop drasticallyafter 1985 until the recent events in south Africarendered divestment an obsolete issue.

In March of last year, the Coalition forDiversity stitched together a patchwork ofminority groups, galvanizing the concerns andprotests power of nine campus organizations.

One of the largest alliances formed at theCollege, the coalition issued an ambitious list ofdemands, including increased minority facultyhiring, a minority resource center and "anofficial investigation into the role ofinstitutionalized racism."

Although the coalition had the potential forprotest rivaling those of 1969, the actualdemonstrations involved little more than a dozenpeople clothed in black handing out flyers.

The crusade for the coalition's demandscontinued this year with the protest of a JuniorParents' Weekend panel, but again, thedemonstration was relatively small.

Last year's selection of former Chair of theJoint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin L. Powell as the1993 Commencement speaker provoked outrage amonggays and liberals.

Three hundred students protested inTercentenary Theater, issuing demands thatincluded a call for the University to denounce theban on gays in the military "from the Commencementstage" recognition of domestic partnerships andthe creation of a gay studies program.

At Commencement, however, the protests wereless forceful. With "Lifts the Ban" stickers ontheir mortarboards and pink and black balloons inhand, the students listened respectfully as Powellspoke.

Today's Protest

Changing times and different priorities havehelped engender the change in how studentsprotest, according to former and current studentsand administrators.

Many say that undergraduates have engaged inmore peaceful and practical protests since 1969because students fear the repercussions ofenacting social change by engaging in a forcefuldemonstration.

"Security is a very prized possession and tocause any uprising at Harvard is threatening for astudent's future," says Zaheer R. Ali' 94, formerpresident of the Black Students Association (BSA).

Student's pre-professional and economicconcerns are other reasons why many students donot participate in '60-s type activism.

"What was interesting was that students whorebelled were very wealthy," says Anne W. Pusey'69, daughter-in-law of President Nathan M. Pusey'28.

In fact, for the vast majority of thoseinvolved in the 1969 protest, money was not aconcern. Of the 300 students who stormedUniversity Hall, only one needed financial aid,according to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III.

"Surely students have become much more moneyconscious," says Professor of Bibliography andLibrarian, Emeritus Douglas W. Bryant, whowitnessed the 1969 protests. "They didn't worry asmuch about jobs after college because there werejobs [during the 1960s and 1970s]."

Epps adds that today, students regard collegeprimarily as a training ground for a career andnot as place to engage in social action.

"People wanted to develop their philosophy oflife [in the 1960s]; now it's to gain mastery in afield, to get a job and be economically stable."

"Protests go with good times," he says. "We arestill in this recession-depression mode."

Demonstrations have also become lessconfrontational because students are usingalternative, less violent methods of protestingstudents say.

Hyewon T. Chong '95, a member of thepresident's council of the Minority StudentAlliance, says the alliance has sought other meansof protest, including sit-ins and teachins.

"Naturally sit-ins have been brought up becausea sit-in is a non-violent type of protest," saysChong, chair of the academic affairs committee ofthe Harvard Foundations for Intercultural andRace Relations.

"We're also hoping to take a more intellectualapproach," Chong adds.

Different Motives

Students for a Democratic Society's (SDS)motive in taking over University Hall was tocreate a catalyst for revolution, says Frank D.Raines '71, who was chair of the Student-FacultyAdvisory Committee. But he says this is not themotive for today's protests.

"They sought out confrontation because theythought [it] would lead to revolution," Rainessays. "There is no group on campus anymore whosepurpose is to seek confrontation."

Bryant says the lack of confrontation in recentprotest exists because students today are "lessprone to violence."

Epps says he believes students of the 1990s aremore practical than those of the 1960s and 1970s.

"Harvard students want to solve problems in apragmatic way," says Epps, who was assistant deanof students during the occupation of 1969.

Communicating Concerns

Current student leaders say the purpose ofstaging protests is not to create widespreaddisruption, but rather to inform both students andadministrators of campus issues.

"I favor protests that raise the issuesimportant to me in the forefront of other people'sminds like the faculty and administration, ratherthan bullying the administration into makingdecisions they feel are under duress," Chong says.

The protest is not the end all," Ali says "it'sa tool to gain a footing or to create a door toenter conversation."

In the spring of 1992, Ali organized the BSA ina protest of institutional racism on campus,door-dropping flyers titled," On the HarvardPlantation." Ali also mobilized the Coalition forDiversity for its March 1993 protests.

And using protest as a tool has helped not onlyto enlighten administrators, but also to informstudents about the concerns of their peers.

"There are a lot of uniformed students outthere," says Jennifer Ching '96, co-chair of theAsian American Association.

Student leaders add, however, that they walk afine line between being informers and being anantagonist when choosing how to protest.

"I feel a little wary of a more militantapproach because it seems to alienate some moremoderate students," says Chong, who herself is aprominent leader in the struggle to establish moreethnic studies courses.

"I don't want the issues to lose legitimacy,"Chong adds.

Changing Issues

Harvard administrators and alumni agree thattoday's issues are not as unifying and urgent asthose during the 1960s and 1970s.

"[In 1969], people were being drafted. Itimposed on people's lives in a very direct way,"says Elizabeth M. Harvey '73. "It created atremendous sense of immediacy and urgency."

Epps says that the life-or-death nature of theissues being protested was a factor.

"I think there was a strong element ofself-interest in protesting against the war," Eppssays. "people's lives were at stake.

But alumnus Timothy L. Carden '71, a protesterduring 1969, says the movement was supported by amajority of the students because their altruismenabled unity in protest.

"There was a belief in change and protests thatweren't just out of self-interest but rather aconcept of unity of purpose that is much moredistant today than it was back then," Carden says.

Unlike the anti-war movement during theVietnam War, protests today galvanize around morespecific issues that affect a smaller percentageof the student body.

"The difference is that, unlike the warmovement, there isn't a single issue whichmotivates a broad cross section of collegestudents the same way civil rights and the VietnamWar did," says Paul V. Holtzman '83, a leader inthe divestment protests.

Megan E. Lewis '95, co-chair of Radcliffe Unionof Students (RUS), says the issues today are notoften part of a larger movement.

"[Anti-war] was a movement , things aredifferent now," says Lewis. "Issues have less todo with movements."

"The issues have been personalized," she adds."[RUS] issues now have more to do with rape andsexual assault."

Attentive Administrators

A more attentive administration andbureaucratic changes stave off the need fordisruptive protests today, students and alumnisay.

"[Now], the administration has a differentattitude which I think is more flexible," saysRobert M. Krim '70, a member of the StudentFaculty Advisory Committee (SFAC). Krim is also aformer Crimson editor.

Ali also notes "a shift in the administration,which has expressed a willingness to negotiate."

Since the protests of 1969, many committeeshave been formed to improve interaction betweenthe administration, faculty and students on campusissues.

"There are fewer sharper edges," Raines says."There is all this interaction."

Lewis says she believes this has engenderedbetter student- administration dialogue.

"People don't feel like they have to fight asmuch from outside they system," Lewis says.

But other students maintain that theadministration has not changed much since the1960s.

Some students even say the administration hascreated diversions, such as groups and committeesto study student concerns, but has not madedrastic structural changes.

"The difference is that Harvard was willing tomake institutional changes in 1969, but thishasn't been as clear cut since 1980," Chong says.

Student Apathy

Others, however, say the smaller-scale oftoday's protests stems from student indifferencetowards issues in the campus spotlight.

"Honestly, the severity of issues hasn'tchanged, but what has shifted is the studentsapathy," Ching says. "There's no widespreadsupport of the student body and there's no unity".

Some student leaders feel there is a lack ofunity because the momentum generated by theprotests is disrupted every year by turnovers instudent leadership.

"The challenge is: can we sustain the discourseon these issues?" Ali asks. "To transfer ourstruggle in the turnover of students, in that wehave fallen short."

"I think there's a lack of continuity interms of vigilance," Chong says.

Some suggest that today's students areskeptical that their protests can effect realchange.

"Today, people are cynical about being able tomake a difference," says Jomo A. Thorne '97,President of College Democrats. "People havestopped believing in anything. People aren't aspassionate as they used to be."

Chong says she believes students areindifferent because they hope the administrationwill take necessary steps to resolve conflicts.

"I think that people [today] trust that thestatus quo will change things," she says.

But in 1969, Chong adds, the status quo waschallenged because activism defined the era.

"1969 was a very different year. Just theatmosphere was one that questioned authority andthe traditional ways," she says. "people tried tosee things from a different point of view."

Archives research for this article and thesupplement was performed by Gaston de losReyes.Crimson File PhotoStudents tends to an injured protestershortly after police break up the University Halltakeover in April 1969.

Following on the heels of the 1969demonstrations, students enlisted in two decades'worth of protests demanding the divestment ofUniversity holdings in colonized and apartheidcountries.

These protests began in 1972 when 34 studentsoccupied Massachusetts Hall to force theUniversity to divest from South Africa. The issueresurfaced again in 1978 when more than, 1,000students participated in rallies, marches andblockades of administrative buildings.

The rallies continued, but studentparticipation began began to drop drasticallyafter 1985 until the recent events in south Africarendered divestment an obsolete issue.

In March of last year, the Coalition forDiversity stitched together a patchwork ofminority groups, galvanizing the concerns andprotests power of nine campus organizations.

One of the largest alliances formed at theCollege, the coalition issued an ambitious list ofdemands, including increased minority facultyhiring, a minority resource center and "anofficial investigation into the role ofinstitutionalized racism."

Although the coalition had the potential forprotest rivaling those of 1969, the actualdemonstrations involved little more than a dozenpeople clothed in black handing out flyers.

The crusade for the coalition's demandscontinued this year with the protest of a JuniorParents' Weekend panel, but again, thedemonstration was relatively small.

Last year's selection of former Chair of theJoint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin L. Powell as the1993 Commencement speaker provoked outrage amonggays and liberals.

Three hundred students protested inTercentenary Theater, issuing demands thatincluded a call for the University to denounce theban on gays in the military "from the Commencementstage" recognition of domestic partnerships andthe creation of a gay studies program.

At Commencement, however, the protests wereless forceful. With "Lifts the Ban" stickers ontheir mortarboards and pink and black balloons inhand, the students listened respectfully as Powellspoke.

Today's Protest

Changing times and different priorities havehelped engender the change in how studentsprotest, according to former and current studentsand administrators.

Many say that undergraduates have engaged inmore peaceful and practical protests since 1969because students fear the repercussions ofenacting social change by engaging in a forcefuldemonstration.

"Security is a very prized possession and tocause any uprising at Harvard is threatening for astudent's future," says Zaheer R. Ali' 94, formerpresident of the Black Students Association (BSA).

Student's pre-professional and economicconcerns are other reasons why many students donot participate in '60-s type activism.

"What was interesting was that students whorebelled were very wealthy," says Anne W. Pusey'69, daughter-in-law of President Nathan M. Pusey'28.

In fact, for the vast majority of thoseinvolved in the 1969 protest, money was not aconcern. Of the 300 students who stormedUniversity Hall, only one needed financial aid,according to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III.

"Surely students have become much more moneyconscious," says Professor of Bibliography andLibrarian, Emeritus Douglas W. Bryant, whowitnessed the 1969 protests. "They didn't worry asmuch about jobs after college because there werejobs [during the 1960s and 1970s]."

Epps adds that today, students regard collegeprimarily as a training ground for a career andnot as place to engage in social action.

"People wanted to develop their philosophy oflife [in the 1960s]; now it's to gain mastery in afield, to get a job and be economically stable."

"Protests go with good times," he says. "We arestill in this recession-depression mode."

Demonstrations have also become lessconfrontational because students are usingalternative, less violent methods of protestingstudents say.

Hyewon T. Chong '95, a member of thepresident's council of the Minority StudentAlliance, says the alliance has sought other meansof protest, including sit-ins and teachins.

"Naturally sit-ins have been brought up becausea sit-in is a non-violent type of protest," saysChong, chair of the academic affairs committee ofthe Harvard Foundations for Intercultural andRace Relations.

"We're also hoping to take a more intellectualapproach," Chong adds.

Different Motives

Students for a Democratic Society's (SDS)motive in taking over University Hall was tocreate a catalyst for revolution, says Frank D.Raines '71, who was chair of the Student-FacultyAdvisory Committee. But he says this is not themotive for today's protests.

"They sought out confrontation because theythought [it] would lead to revolution," Rainessays. "There is no group on campus anymore whosepurpose is to seek confrontation."

Bryant says the lack of confrontation in recentprotest exists because students today are "lessprone to violence."

Epps says he believes students of the 1990s aremore practical than those of the 1960s and 1970s.

"Harvard students want to solve problems in apragmatic way," says Epps, who was assistant deanof students during the occupation of 1969.

Communicating Concerns

Current student leaders say the purpose ofstaging protests is not to create widespreaddisruption, but rather to inform both students andadministrators of campus issues.

"I favor protests that raise the issuesimportant to me in the forefront of other people'sminds like the faculty and administration, ratherthan bullying the administration into makingdecisions they feel are under duress," Chong says.

The protest is not the end all," Ali says "it'sa tool to gain a footing or to create a door toenter conversation."

In the spring of 1992, Ali organized the BSA ina protest of institutional racism on campus,door-dropping flyers titled," On the HarvardPlantation." Ali also mobilized the Coalition forDiversity for its March 1993 protests.

And using protest as a tool has helped not onlyto enlighten administrators, but also to informstudents about the concerns of their peers.

"There are a lot of uniformed students outthere," says Jennifer Ching '96, co-chair of theAsian American Association.

Student leaders add, however, that they walk afine line between being informers and being anantagonist when choosing how to protest.

"I feel a little wary of a more militantapproach because it seems to alienate some moremoderate students," says Chong, who herself is aprominent leader in the struggle to establish moreethnic studies courses.

"I don't want the issues to lose legitimacy,"Chong adds.

Changing Issues

Harvard administrators and alumni agree thattoday's issues are not as unifying and urgent asthose during the 1960s and 1970s.

"[In 1969], people were being drafted. Itimposed on people's lives in a very direct way,"says Elizabeth M. Harvey '73. "It created atremendous sense of immediacy and urgency."

Epps says that the life-or-death nature of theissues being protested was a factor.

"I think there was a strong element ofself-interest in protesting against the war," Eppssays. "people's lives were at stake.

But alumnus Timothy L. Carden '71, a protesterduring 1969, says the movement was supported by amajority of the students because their altruismenabled unity in protest.

"There was a belief in change and protests thatweren't just out of self-interest but rather aconcept of unity of purpose that is much moredistant today than it was back then," Carden says.

Unlike the anti-war movement during theVietnam War, protests today galvanize around morespecific issues that affect a smaller percentageof the student body.

"The difference is that, unlike the warmovement, there isn't a single issue whichmotivates a broad cross section of collegestudents the same way civil rights and the VietnamWar did," says Paul V. Holtzman '83, a leader inthe divestment protests.

Megan E. Lewis '95, co-chair of Radcliffe Unionof Students (RUS), says the issues today are notoften part of a larger movement.

"[Anti-war] was a movement , things aredifferent now," says Lewis. "Issues have less todo with movements."

"The issues have been personalized," she adds."[RUS] issues now have more to do with rape andsexual assault."

Attentive Administrators

A more attentive administration andbureaucratic changes stave off the need fordisruptive protests today, students and alumnisay.

"[Now], the administration has a differentattitude which I think is more flexible," saysRobert M. Krim '70, a member of the StudentFaculty Advisory Committee (SFAC). Krim is also aformer Crimson editor.

Ali also notes "a shift in the administration,which has expressed a willingness to negotiate."

Since the protests of 1969, many committeeshave been formed to improve interaction betweenthe administration, faculty and students on campusissues.

"There are fewer sharper edges," Raines says."There is all this interaction."

Lewis says she believes this has engenderedbetter student- administration dialogue.

"People don't feel like they have to fight asmuch from outside they system," Lewis says.

But other students maintain that theadministration has not changed much since the1960s.

Some students even say the administration hascreated diversions, such as groups and committeesto study student concerns, but has not madedrastic structural changes.

"The difference is that Harvard was willing tomake institutional changes in 1969, but thishasn't been as clear cut since 1980," Chong says.

Student Apathy

Others, however, say the smaller-scale oftoday's protests stems from student indifferencetowards issues in the campus spotlight.

"Honestly, the severity of issues hasn'tchanged, but what has shifted is the studentsapathy," Ching says. "There's no widespreadsupport of the student body and there's no unity".

Some student leaders feel there is a lack ofunity because the momentum generated by theprotests is disrupted every year by turnovers instudent leadership.

"The challenge is: can we sustain the discourseon these issues?" Ali asks. "To transfer ourstruggle in the turnover of students, in that wehave fallen short."

"I think there's a lack of continuity interms of vigilance," Chong says.

Some suggest that today's students areskeptical that their protests can effect realchange.

"Today, people are cynical about being able tomake a difference," says Jomo A. Thorne '97,President of College Democrats. "People havestopped believing in anything. People aren't aspassionate as they used to be."

Chong says she believes students areindifferent because they hope the administrationwill take necessary steps to resolve conflicts.

"I think that people [today] trust that thestatus quo will change things," she says.

But in 1969, Chong adds, the status quo waschallenged because activism defined the era.

"1969 was a very different year. Just theatmosphere was one that questioned authority andthe traditional ways," she says. "people tried tosee things from a different point of view."

Archives research for this article and thesupplement was performed by Gaston de losReyes.Crimson File PhotoStudents tends to an injured protestershortly after police break up the University Halltakeover in April 1969.

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