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Prelude: A Decade of Campus Protests

A Teach-In At the University of Wisconsin in 1965

A Teach-In at the University of Wisconsin in 1965.

Throughout the 1960s issues at home and abroad prompted protests, demonstrations, and other activist behavior among students on college campuses. The New Left caught hold of the imagination of many young adults in the 1960s who believed that their generation could change the world for the better. The Civil Rights Movement “sit-ins” of the early 1960s got students involved in movement and protest culture (Rudy 151). In the mid-1960s University administration’s crackdowns on student freedom in reaction to protests movements at the University of California motivated the Free Speech Movement in 1964 (Rudy 151). Students were increasingly dissatisfied and disillusioned with the so called “multiversity”. Its shortcomings were “its impersonality, its huge lecture sections evaluated by multiple choice examinations that were graded by machines, its preoccupation with lucrative contracts for “practical” research projects, and, above all, its lack of concern for students as individual human beings.”

 These movements in the first half of the decade in the 1960s primed student culture for the real battle to come, the battle over Vietnam. In the second half of the decade protests to end the war in Vietnam consumed activist student life. While, “college students and professors were slow at first to react to the step-by step involvement of the United States in the fighting in Vietnam… a series of traumatic events during the years 1963 to 1965 shook the campuses and led students to become more vocal in their criticism of the government (Rudy 153).” The first major domestic protest of the Vietnam war took the form of Teach-Ins, originated at the University of Michigan. Through the Teach-In, in 1965 academics were able to make “American foreign policy the subject of open campus debate for the first time since” the interwar period (Rudy 155).

Prelude: A Decade of Campus Protests