Principle of non-violence

August 16, 2012

Martha Biondi claims that the Harvard University student strike in April 1969 had as one of its demands the creation of black studies ("Let academic freedom ring", 9 August). No, it didn't. I was there.

The strike was about the university's treatment of the protest group Students for a Democratic Society. The SDS' chief demand was the expulsion of Harvard's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC, pronounced "Rotzy"). It made other demands, too, but not support for black studies.

On 9 April 1969, more than 100 SDS members took over University Hall, an administrative building. Harvard's president, Nathan Pusey, called the police: I remember hearing at the time that the Massachusetts National Guard attended, but I think that was probably wrong. In the middle of the night, the police forcibly ejected the protesters, causing some avoidable injuries, although none life-threatening.

It was the forcible evictions that brought the student body out on strike. People who had no great interest in SDS nevertheless felt that the university's use of violence against it was wrong. One consequence was that support grew for ROTC's expulsion - a demand that was soon met.

Harvard was at the time discussing the creation of a black studies programme - following the Rosovsky report that Biondi mentions - but that campaign did not attach itself to the coat-tails of the student strike.

David Hartley, Walsall

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze

Thorns and butterflies

Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, says Ruth Barcan