Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 1 18 February 1970

Student Protest in Britain & America — Extracts from a Report on Student Counselling

page 11

Student Protest in Britain & America

Extracts from a Report on Student Counselling

Dr A. J. W. Taylor, formerly Head of the Student Counselling Service and now a Professor of Clinical Psychology here, presented a report to the University Council towards the end of last year on his overseas study tour. In his report, Dr Taylor made a number of interesting observations on student demonstrations in the United Kingdom and the United States. Some extracts from Dr Taylor's report follow:

Students in many British universities complained that the staff was out of touch with them, but that could not have been the only factor behind student unrest because there were unruly demonstrations in the new universities where the staff/student contact was very good. Perhaps too great a proportion of potential demonstrators was drawn together in the new universities by the prospect of a progressive educational policy, and they felt they had to establish their identity as rebels in the eyes of students elsewhere. As an academic visitor during the 'strike' at L.S.E., I saw staff-student relationships at their best and at their worst. At their best, some of the staff tried to negotiate between the dissidents and the administration, and they engendered enthusiasm among their students by organizing makeshift classes in out-of-the-way places. At their worst, some of the staff were relatively unconcerned by the mounting tension and were in no position to help to reduce the strain when the School was closed. The revolutionaries might have been restrained had there been more concern among the staff and cohesion between them and the moderate students.

The militant students at L.S.E. were unlike the radicals of earlier years who gave the place an international reputation because they were as vigorous in their revolutionary activity as in their debate. They drew their inspiration from the writings of the 'new' left and the activities of the 'new' revolutionaries (Bourges, 1968; Robertson. 1968; Ali, 1969). They declared that society was so corrupt with capitalism that they had no alternative but to destroy it. They were not interested in education, not the politics of education, but they were simply interested in politics and power. They selected the universities for their prime targets because they were so vulnerable to physical attack, and their plan was to turn their attention towards other social institutions in due course. They were confident that new institutions would emerge from the ruins of the old, with none of the chronic maladies that had previously beset them.

There were no data on the militant students, but they seemed to me to be from the upper middle class in England, fortified by some radical post-graduate American students. They began to put their anarchistic plan into operation by trying to convert themselves from the upper and middle class into the working class much to the wry amusement of the real working class who were puzzled by this example of social nihilism. They chanted slogans such as 'Revolution is the Carnival of the Masses', and 'The use of authority perverts, and submission to authority humiliates', and they pretended to have no leaders. They selected one issue after another as in a game of chess that was calcutated to bring them into conflict until finally they could change the balance of power. They did not care whether their administrators were progressive or reactionary because they were seeking political power no matter how it had been used. Indeed, the reactionary opponents were preferred to the progressives because they were unlikely to investigate any complaints. The militants knew that any careful investigation of an apparent issue would retard their revolutionary cause and force them to seek other plausible issues for promoting anarchy.

The militant students at L.S.E. were so fanatical by January 1969 that nobody could have changed their minds. Hence, the administration tried to control their intolerant and destructive behaviour while responding to the demands of the moderate students for some responsibility in university affairs. Unfortunately, the administration gave specious reasons for having some protective steel gates erected, and succeeded in alienating the moderate students. However, the subsequent closure of the School did much to give everyone the chance to reconsider events and to plan afresh. The furtive arrangement of classes during the strike also introduced an element of vitality in the teaching that was as welcome as water on parched soil.

In the United States, the deans of students were key figures in difficult negotiations on matters of policy between students, faculties, and administrators, and they facilitated the appointment of counsellors from minority groups as occasions arose. A few universities also appointed ombudsmen to settle specific grievances of which the students complained, but they too could not solve widespread discontent nor could they relieve the staff of its administrative and teaching responsibilities.

In America, as in Britain, some of the university staff was quite out of touch with students and their problems, but their remoteness was more understandable because their universities were so huge. As a matter of fact, many American academics were as remote from their colleagues as they were from their students because of the size of their departments. The planners had not given sufficient attention to the optimum sizes of a university, a university department, and of a teaching group. Some academics had lost interest in teaching because they found it difficult to establish viable groups of students. Others had succumbed to the temptation of producing research papers that had more effect on their promotion than had their teaching. Those who concentrated upon research were aware that they were contributing to the status of their institutions, as well as to their coffers, by the research grants they were attracting. Many universities looked forward to receiving an administrating bounty from research grants to supplement their normal budgets, and they paid insufficient attention to the content of the research for which the grants were made. As a result, the universities jeopardized their cherished status as independent educational institutions, and academics compromised the rights of academic freedom for which they had vigorously fought during the McCarthy era.

Photograph of a student protest march

Academic freedom is a cherished principle that helps to safeguard the rights of university staff to take an independent stand on public issues. In the past, the principle had been confined to matters of tenure (Joughin, 1967), but it could have been applied to matters of research. Had this been done, the academic community might have seen that it had compromised the independent status of universities by concentrating upon research of a military or industrial rather than educational or scientific character. Few academics raised questions about the research of their universities on defoliants, early warning radar, counter-espionage, and atomic bombs (Ridgeway, 1968). It was left to the students to ask the universities to focus upon research that was socially constructive and reconstructive rather than destructive. Socially constructive research was never more needed, as a graduate of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology implied when he told me that rationality had brought a technology that humanity could not control.

From the speed with which various university research departments switched the nature of their research, it must be assumed that the students had stirred the conscience of those in authority. Had there been a U.S. Department of State to conduct the Government's research, the conflict of research interests might not have arisen. Time and again I thought that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in New Zealand and its counterparts in the United Kingdom and Australia had saved the Commonwealth universities from some of the troubles that beset American academia. However, academics everywhere would benefit if the principles of academic freedom and of education were made explicit and keenly examined instead of being left as a noble sentiment to be used for promoting self-interest. As an initial statement, I would say that academic freedom is both the right and obligation to study and to conduct research, the results of which may be expressed without fear, and the content of which will maintain the educational integrity and independence of a university.

A number of American scholars and research workers were aware of the major problems that beset their universities, and they were trying hard to solve them (Eurich, 1968; Linton and Nelson, 1968; Toussieng, 1968; Tyler, 1964). Many regretted that they had not heeded the early warnings of Myrdal (1944) and Riesman (1958), but they were currently attending to Keniston (1965, 1968) and Lipset and Wolin, (1965). They cannot be blamed for ignoring the warnings because even Sanford (1962) in the most definitive study of American colleges had not forecast the growth of the radical movement. When the struggle was actually in progress it was too late for the agitated and anxious academics to suggest even short-term solutions for restoring the calm. Instead, the university authorities seemed to capitulate too readily to the demands of extremist students. Had the academics not been so steadfast in maintaining the scholastic tradition of individual autonomy, they might have been able to work together as a team to counter the offensive. In the event, there was a sharp division between the university administration and the faculty, and disunity among the faculty itself. The staff rebels took to the streets with the protesting students, the reactionaries clung grimly to power, and the moderates either preserved a political silence or kept away from the campus altogether. One academic passed the laconic remark that the faculty in loco parentis had long since become the faculty in absentia.

From my observations, I would say that the manner in which some of the staff reacted was as much a function of their personalities as of their situation. In future, more attention must be given to the personal qualities of stability, enthusiasm, loyalty, and responsibility of academics as well as to the quality of their degrees. New members of staff must be encouraged to develop teaching skills, and the more experienced to undertake refresher courses. Teachers have an obligation to preserve the right relation between their duties to students, colleagues, universities, their subjects, and their careers. The right relation' will not be easy to decide but, if it is kept in mind from time to time conscientiously, it is more likely to be decided properly than if it were left in abeyance. Also, no effort should be spared to combine the academics and the page 12 administrators into a team to work with students. The universities can solve educational problems, even if social problems are beyond their grasp. If they do not, the demonstrations will continue unabated, and eager groups of reactionary politicians may try to take control of the universities under the guise of law and order' (Eisenhower et al., 1969). The outcome will be far from satisfactory, as the Californian academics realized in May 1969 when their politicians ordered the police and troops to use guns and gas on the students at Berkeley.

University administration was no sinecure. In America, the presidents were required to act as scholars, businessmen, judges, ombudsmen, negotiators, apologists, recruiters, and battle commanders. Little wonder that their turnover was high, and that in June 1969 there were more than 300 presidential posts vacant. The following job description for a university president in the Los Angeles Times contained too much truth to be really as humorous as the columnist intended:

'Help wanted: Mature man, must be willing to work 90 hours a week in an academic setting. Duties include dealing with conservative legislature, radical students, ambitious faculty, irate alumni, Also public relations and fund raising.'

University presidents and vice-chancellors were facing pressures that they and their predecessors had not encountered. The newly appointed presidents were offered some experience of group conflict in short courses that were organized by the American Association of University Professors, but they might also have benefited from some experience in executive positions outside universities where militant groups operate. The more weather-beaten administrators did their colleagues a service by writing about campus combat for several professional journals and publications (e.g., College Management, N.A.S.P.A.J., Education at Berkeley. 1966; Crisis at Columbia. 1968; The Student in Higher Education. 1968). Similar material was presented by student welfare personnel at national conferences to their fellows who had yet to face the force of protest. The students helped to balance the issues by presenting their own point of view (Cohen and [unclear: Hale]1967; Avorn et al., 1968: Crisis at San Francisco State, 1969), and the general population was kept informed of the most dramatic events through the daily press, radio, television, and weekly magazines.

Many moderate students in America shared the complaints of the faculty. They felt alienated in universities that were enormous institutions with over twenty thousand students, rather like overcrowded supermarkets in which the vigorous might obtain their requirements but the hesitant were brushed aside. If the students were able to create a sense of belonging to small working groups, it could last only for a semester until the group members set off on other legs of their courses. The students also complained that the senior academics had long since withdrawn from the university milieu and had loll their Ph.D.-hunting juniors to carry the burden of teaching. Consequently, they wore denied the benefit of personal contact with senior members of staff, and they felt that they were unwelcome me intruders in the rooms of the already over-commit "d juniors. The students in these circumstances had of necessity to forage for themselves and, somewhat resentfully, they raised questions about 'student freedom' as distinct from 'academic freedom'. They wondered what reasonable expectations a student might have when enroling for a course of instruction at a university. The students wanted the academic staff to accept their leaching obligations, but also they wanted the content of the courses to be change They complained that too many of the academice courses were socially levant and unrelated to their humanitarian interests and some of them organized the own inter-disciplinary programmes of study as an example for their teachers.

The students were also unsettled because they were liable to be conscripted at any time between the ages of 18 and 25 if either the strategic situation required it or their marks dropped below a minimum level.

Many administrators were sympathetic the students and the went so far as to appoint official 'draft counsellers to help students to exercise their rights (Griffiths, 1968). Some students resolved their uncertainty over conscription for Vietnam by serving periodically with the National Guard for seven years, but that alternative did not appeal to them all. However, it was as well that there were students among the National Guardsmen because they were less inclined than the police to take precipitant action against their fellows when they were called out for duty. The other students, who either supported or accepted the policy of conscription, were able to undertake the unpopular Reserve Officers' training in a university corps (R.O.T.C.) as part of their undergraduate work. Personally, I thought that the R.O.T. C. plan was good in that it gave potential servicemen a 'liberal' education before they narrowed their studies down to professional courses at military academies.

The students were not all fired with the purest of motives. In the United States, as in Great Britain, there was a hard core of anarchists among the students who were determined to over throw the existing order, no matter what the pretext. The American students, too, had chosen the universities as their first target before switching to industry, commerce, and the church. They began their actual demonstrations in Berkeley in 1964 (Lipset and Wolin, op. cit.), and subsequently triggered off other demonstrations elsewhere over the next few years until Columbia, Cornell, and Harvard Universities were involved.

The more resolute of the anarchists belonged to the Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.) and the Black Students Union (B.S.U.), and others belonged to a more loosely organized collection of fiery irres-ponsibles of the Youth International Party (Yippies). The S.D.S. followed the intellectual lead of the philosophers Marucse (1964) and Debray (1967), and the strategies of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara (Lavan, 1967), and Mao. The B.S.U. were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, Newton (1967), and Cleaver (1968). The Yippies expressed an attachment to existentialism and were inspired by Hoffman (Free, 1968). At the time I saw them in action at Berkeley, all three anarchistic factions were united against the authorities, but at other times they were more divided in their objectives and their strategy. The S.D.S. was trying to break up society, the B.S.U. to break into it, and the Yippies did not care what happened so long as they found the process exhilarating.

The American anarchists, unlike the British, were prepared to use violence against people, as well as explosives against buildings, to attain their ends. Their use of violence was not perhaps so surprizing if one accepts the fact that violence is a regular feature of American life and that it has facilitated social change (Graham and Gurr, 1969; Bienen, 1968; Walker, 1968; Report of the National Advisory Commission, 1968). Several students told me that their patience had not been rewarded but their violent behaviour had. A strident black student at Stanford University told me that white men did not act, but from his experience he knew that they did react if they were frightened. He was also so convinced of the merits of his cause that he was prepared to die for it if it were necessary. He had identified with the militant Black Panther and Black Muslim organizations of older men (Chambers, 1968), and was training himself in the use of explosives.

As in Britain, the S.D.S. came from affluent families (Dickinson, 1969). They had good high school records, and in many ways they were an intellectual elite with a wide range of interests. They comprised between one and two per cent of the student population, but they had outstanding powers of leadership. Some of their less militant followers had begun to respond to the social problems of the underprivileged by staffing free medical clinics, legal aid centres, and social work agencies. Perhaps their professional elders might follow the altruistic example of the students and become less avaricious in their practices. Perhaps more psychologists might be inspired to address themselves to the personal and social problems of our time instead of focussing intently upon the measurement of the irrelevant—e.g., the presidential address to the Western Psychological Society from a Berkeley professor was not about student riots but the copulatory behaviour of live dogs and the chastity belt that he devised for their receptive bitch!

The black students were from underprivileged groups and they doubted the revolutionary sincerity of the affluent S.D.S. They had found a corporate identity for themselves during the course of protest, and they were determined to take their place as equal partners with the whites when they were ready. It was ironic that, having won the right for complete integration, the black students had set it aside to segregate themselves in the universities. They were setting themselves apart to train as a power group, to work out a strategy, and to establish tight group control and cohesion. When they emerged to face an apprehensive white community, they made impetuous demands for facilities, staff, and research funds, and brooked no opposition. They insisted that the proportion of black to white students be increased, and they scoured the ghettos to seek the most promising candidates—notwithstanding their low scores on the culturally biassed scholastic aptitude test (Green, 1969). They forced university courses in Afro-American history and Swahili through committees, and they introduced other courses on 'soul food' and exploitation that were less academic but emotionally significant for them. Their tactics wen successful, and were being adopted by the once even-tempered Mexican American and American Indian students. (Macias et al., 1969).

The Yippies began as an extension of the Hippie movement, but they thrived on violent and frantic behaviour, i.e.,

There is no doubt about it. We're going to wreck this society. If we don't then society is going to wreck itself anyway, so we might as well have some fun doing it.

(Walker, et. al. p. 29)


We've got to get crazy .... 'cause that's the only way we're gonna beat them.

(ibid., 1968, p. 32)

They were as irresponsible and impulsive as hooligans. They did not seem to be students, but people in their mid-twenties who roamed freely around campuses to no good purpose.

Amid all the campus turmoil, not a few people in America looked back to the Hippie students with some regret, because the Hippies had at least been passive and considerate towards other people. The Hippies lived on the effluence of an affluent society in their attempt to drop out of the cocoon of conformity in which they felt civilization had them enwrapped. They complained of the anonymity, conformity, automation, and environmental pollution, and since their demonstrations in 1965 they had left the metropolitan centres and had gone to country communes where