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Stanford in Turmoil
Campus Unrest, 1966-1972
By Richard Lyman; Stanford University Press, 2009, 248 pp.
During the Clinton era, many politically engaged students identified themselves as "activists" and sought policy reforms, often by working with the campus administration. Rarely did they confront the underlying power structures and economic imperatives at play. They were reformers, not radicals.
Through the latter half of Bush II's presidency, however, radical demands were raised at prestigious institutions of higher education. Students increasingly began speaking about racism, sexism, capitalism, and imperialism. Many more now identify themselves as anti-authoritarian and revolutionary. Importantly, students have zeroed in again on the university as a site of struggle, contesting its investments, research priorities, accessibility, and representation; confronting its trustees, regents, and administrators as agents of power.
For example, at the nation's biggest school, the University of California, a reinvigorated labor movement has rattled the Administration and successfully struck for dignity and economic justice. Students played key roles in this struggle. A radical anti-war mobilization focusing on the UC's military-funded research and development, especially nuclear weapons, has also roiled campuses up and down the west coast since 2002. Across the country, a student coalition occupied New York's New School for Social Research over the past year demanding democratization of the school, dismissal of the president, and a sweeping reappraisal of the institution's role in society. Other colleges have seen similar political visions articulated. Overall, the time seems ripe for a reassessment of anti-authoritarian struggle on college campuses, especially as we enter the presidency of Obama.
Richard Lyman's book Stanford in Turmoil: Campus Unrest, 1966-1972 about Stanford's heady days of student activism is his chronology of political conflict around the Bay Area's most elite and private university. It's also a unique insider's view of the administration's efforts to thwart fundamental change. Lyman was provost—second in command—during these tumultuous years. From 1970 to 1980 he was Stanford's president. His analysis is indelibly marked by his position in Stanford's hierarchy and his allegiance to the status quo.
In this way his book differs little from other professorial classics on student revolts, like Seymour Martin Lipset's centrist Student Politics and The Berkeley Student Revolt to more conservative polemicals like John Coyne's The Kumquat Statement. More so, his views are shaped by his status as a full-fledged power elite. After Stanford, Lyman took over the presidency of the Rockefeller Foundation and was later a director of Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute (more on this below). His official biography lists him as a former director of IBM and Chase Manhattan bank and notes his membership in the Council on Foreign Relations and Council on Foundations.
Lyman explains in his introduction that his main objective is to recount the challenge posed by radicals, but to emphasize that even during the "turmoil," the university made "startling progress." Accordingly, by the 1980s Stanford remained a major multiversity serving up technology and policy to the military, CIA, and corporate sector. Indeed, Stanford in the 1980s supplied more than a few of the Reagan administration's key staff. In other words, this is a self-congratulatory book spliced together with a wishful obituary of radical student movements.
Shortcomings in Lyman's perspective are many. His treatment of the Black freedom movement in relation to college campuses is brief and parochial given how critical it was in inspiring and transforming disillusioned white youths. Lyman devotes one short chapter to the Black Student Union at Stanford and, because it's Stanford where the few non-white students in attendance were mostly upper-class "black bourgeoisie," he mistakenly portrays their conservative nationalism for the wider Black freedom movement that was so critical to teaching and leading young whites at Stanford, Berkeley, and beyond.
Lyman's chronology of events recounts things from an almost caricatured liberal, academically insulated, and, in the words of many a Stanford student radical, "petit bourgeois" mind set. This is particularly amusing when reading Stanford in Turmoil because he quotes several movement publications referring to him and the school's faculty in precisely these terms. He never entertains the possibility that his perspectives might be rooted in his class and race privileges and experiences, and that the curious types of "nonviolence" and "freedom" he so firmly advocates might be little more than passivity and moral failure, the kinds Gandhi and King were just as quick to condemn.
Lyman is fond of quoting various liberal faculty and administrators who denounced radical efforts to put an end to Stanford's role in developing chemical and biological weapons, counter-insurgency technologies, and anti-personnel weapons. He channels the great liberal denial of the age, the bad faith in which so many members of the university machine lived with themselves even though their work was directly killing the people of Vietnam and Cambodia and wreaking ecocide there. He implies at various points that if only the radicals would have adopted pure nonviolence they would have achieved more positive changes at Stanford. This of course requires forgetting that Stanford's R&D activities directly fed into a chain of violence aimed at colonized peoples in the global south.
Much of the "research" happening at American universities can't be approached as a subject of "dialog" as it is a direct and integral part of violence already being committed. Yet, like too many university leaders, Lyman values abstracted ideals like academic freedom and communication over concrete activities on campus that directly facilitate war and exploitation. His recollections of the faculty's perspective on these issues is useful today, as many contemporary student mobilizations still must confront the bad faith of teachers and fellow students.
Although he reaffirms his triumphant thesis in the conclusion—"Stanford's strength actually increased, despite the fears and turmoil"—by the end of Lyman's book it's clear that student radicals achieved a lot. It's also clear what produced these limited but tangible victories: direct action and disruption. Black and Latino radicals succeeded in transforming Stanford's lily white atmosphere by demanding change from the all-white Board of Trustees and administration. These demands were backed up with very real threats to shut the campus down. Unlike state schools which are legally barred from utilizing affirmative action, Stanford today admits more black students than any UC campus and its intellectual space has been pried open through struggle to include academic programs like Feminist and African American Studies.
The antiwar movement at Stanford succeeded in abolishing ROTC and divesting the university of the Stanford Research Institute, a major R&D organization using the university's name and resources to develop economic and psycho-sociological weapons, as well as chemical and bio-weapons. Classified research was banned following an occupation of the Applied Electronics Lab. Lyman is unequivocal about the administration's fear of tactical disruption: "Besides classes shut down, blocking entrances and thus closing down administrative offices and laboratories resulted in severe financial loss for the university...." Of ROTC's disappearance, he concludes that, "The riotous activities of the month of April no doubt had something to do with it."
One of the biggest movement lessons from Lyman's recollections is the importance of building cultures of opposition out of which political campaigns can grow. Rejection of the American "way of life" by the nation's most privileged youth was a terrifying experience for Lyman and others charged with their "education." Following the leadership of Black radicals and inspired by anti-imperialist movements abroad, students at elite schools were creating new value systems and building a social base from which fundamental changes could be made. Lyman quotes one Stanford student who put it this way; "We have shown the ruling class that no institution is safe from attack, that they will have to deal not only with those they are oppressing, but with their own sons and daughters as well." While he remains contemptuous, it's clear Lyman also saw this as a real threat to the multiversity's agenda and the wider economic and political structure.
That Lyman would write a book about "turmoil" is a clue to the sort of student politics capable of fundamental change. Disruption works. Preventing business as usual and demanding the impossible works. However, Lyman's memoir is also a cautionary tale for social movements. Without firmly rooted cultures of opposition, disruptive mobilizations can fail miserably. The student rebellions of the late 1960s through the early 1970s made it halfway down the cultural road, but ultimately never sustained very many oppositional institutions and communities.
Elites like Lyman—whose job it is to socialize the nation's privileged youth, teach them the means of empire, and hand the reins over to them eventually—understand the cultural side of this rebellion as a most dangerous possibility. The sons and daughters in line to inherit empire were rejecting it. More so, they were disrupting it, throwing their bodies on the proverbial "gears, wheels, and levers." Here is the greatest fear framing Lyman's memoir.
Largely because of his close contact with the empire's rebellious youthful heirs, Lyman spent his later career shoring up the ideological apparatus of the multiversity. The lesson of the era of "turmoil" for Lyman and his colleagues seems to have been that the U.S. was losing the battle of ideas, not only in the neocolonies, but in the very heart of empire. In the early 1980s Lyman observed that, "Stanford leads in science and technology, why shouldn't we also lead in politics and policy?" He personally drafted a report that led to the creation of the Institute for International Studies, now the Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford's primary international studies think tank, which provides inordinate influence on foreign, economic, and social policy. This was a departure for Stanford at the time as the university had been built largely around Frederick Terman's obsession with practical, worldly engagement in engineering and science to serve industry and military clients.
A greater emphasis on ideological work to serve empire was clearly a response of Stanford's elite to the years of "turmoil." By this point in his career, Lyman seems to have concluded that the students were rebelling against the techno-scientific machine because it was morally repulsive and offered no sophisticated justification of itself. Stanford, therefore, would have to be on the cutting edge of legitimating nuclear, chemical, and bio-weapons, counterinsurgency, neoliberal economics, and all the other forms of "progress" coming out of the Silicon Valley. Founding Freeman-Spogli and its subsidiary think tanks like the Center for International Security and Arms Control gave some sense of closure to the student's cultural rebellion in Silicon Valley and set up Stanford to lead another era of universities in service of the warfare state.
This should have been the epilogue Stanford in Turmoil. Instead, Lyman uses his last chapter to praise his colleagues and downplay the possibility that the university, as an institution, was facing a radical and powerful demand for change.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
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LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
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NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
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MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
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LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
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LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.