Student protestors less active today

By Jamie Bowen, Staff Writer

Bob Huefner remembers sitting in the business school at Harvard University when rumors of a bomb streamed into his classroom.

“In Harvard yard, (students) were taking over the administration building,” said Huefner, a U alumnus and emeritus political science professor.

Huefner recalled the sound of students breaking windows of banks in Harvard Square and how faculty led him and other students out onto the lawn in front of the school where he finished his test. It was the spring of 1969.

The protest was part of a wave of events that set a model for student protestors that has never been rivaled, despite civil rights issues in the ’80s and multiple conflicts with the Middle East.

At the U in the early 1960s, many people were beginning to respond to the Vietnam War, the draft and government intervention limiting their freedom of speech.

Jonathan Hepworth, a senior library specialist at the U, described the events of 1967 in his paper, “Unquiet Crisis: The James Chipman Fletcher Years at the University of Utah.” It all started in October 1969 when about 4,200 people marched from the Park Building to the Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City to protest the Vietnam War.

In April 1970, tensions about free speech had risen and the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce imposed new rules provisioning that anyone who would not follow guidelines would be arrested.

On May 4, 1970, U students heard about the Kent State Massacre, where the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four Kent State University students protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.

“Before the evening fell, signs began going up at dormitories and other campus buildings declaring “Strike for Kent,'” Hepworth said. On May 7, about 900 students walked to the Park Building for a sit-in. Police arrested 81 students for their actions.

Students during the 1960s fought against what they considered unjust government restriction to protest, and students now are fighting similar battles for their beliefs.

In the past year alone, students have taken an active interest protesting animal research, gay rights and budget cuts to state schools.

When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported a bill against gay marriage in California, U students and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community waved signs downtown near the LDS Church offices and organized a vigil outside the Capitol Building.

Jacob Whipple, a senior in Spanish who helped organize some of the protests, said students of today have a much harder time protesting.

“Candlelight vigils and sit-ins help garner the media to gain support,” Whipple said.

Whipple said they receive permits to protest and send out messages about events and issues via social networking sites like Facebook.

The protests generally stay within the law, but in April 2008, students were arrested for protesting animal research at the U.

U students stood outside the home of a U faculty member while waving signs and chanting against a researcher who had been working on animals. Police arrested students for targeting the researcher and standing within 100 meters of the house, based on an ordinance enacted in January 2008 by Salt Lake City.

In light of some recent laws against protests, students like Amy Meyer, a senior in environmental studies, have been motivated to do more.

“It inspires me to continue to support those who are going to court,” Meyer said. “The biggest thing I notice (with these laws) is that it makes it more difficult to get people to be part of our movement.”

Students have been leading animal research protests for years, but the rallies and marches seem minor in comparison with the events of May 11, 1970.

Just a few days after protesting the Kent State Massacre, 500 students were rallying on the Union lawn listening to U President James Fletcher when someone yelled, “Fire!”

People rushed to the bookstore and found it enveloped in flames. The fire came “as a cold shock to most students,” Hepworth said. It shocked many students because up to that point, students had taken a non-violent approach in protesting.

Doug Caudell, a U accounting alumnus from 1971, was studying at the U when the bookstore burned down and recollects how surprised he felt upon hearing the news.

“I remember thinking, “Why would anyone do something so stupid?'” Caudell said.

Huefner saw the student protests at Harvard University before returning to the U where he originally studied to teach in 1971.

“I found everything to be pretty calm here,” Huefner said.

France Davis, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church and a U professor, said he too feels that in comparison to protests of the late ’60s and early ’70s, students have settled into milder protests.

“The main concern is to just get through school,” he said. “I think that student issues (of today) are none about freedoms. Our issues were about opportunity.”

Huefner said he doesn’t believe students today have as much to protest.

“We had a draft (back then)…most male students had a (larger) concern about the war,” he said.

Nonetheless, students today spend hours discussing political issues and organizing protests against things they consider unjust.

“I’ve started to believe that you (can) achieve things (by protesting),” Meyer said.

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