For information about collections at the Northwestern University Library, you may visit their website.

Northwestern University Library
Northwestern University Library

Guide to the Anti-Vietnam-War Strike Materials 1970

Overview of the Collection

Northwestern Anti-Vietnam War Strike, May 6-12, 1970

Title:

Anti-Vietnam-War Strike Materials

Dates:

May 6 - 12, 1970

Size:

3.00

Repository:

Northwestern University Archives

Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Abstract:

The Anti-Vietnam War Strike Materials Collection comprises a diverse assortment of documents and other materials relating to the University-wide strike that took place over a seven day period in May of 1970. The collection spans the period of the strike and its aftermath through the summer and fall of 1970, and includes several items predating the strike but important to its eventual realization. This collection of newspaper clippings, press releases, flyers, and memosrecords the events that too

Biographical Information

As on many university campuses throughout the country, the spring of 1970 proved to be a watershed moment in the history of student activism at Northwestern. Campus reaction to a series of events coalesced to produce a climate of political ferment, culminating in a student-initiated University-wide strike that lasted for seven days, from May 5 through 12, 1970.

Although many factors contributed to the explosive situation on campus at that time, two events may be cited as immediate causes of the May 1970 strike. On April 25, 1970, President Nixon announced that US military operations in South East Asia, already fully engaged in the Vietnam, would expand into Cambodia. This was a direct reversal of Nixon’s campaign pledges to reduce American involvement in the region, and accelerated the rapidly growing anti-war movement on college campuses throughout the country. Then, on Monday, May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University, killing four students and seriously injuring nine others. The Kent State shootings sent shock waves throughout the nation. The outrage over the Kent State shootings, and the escalating war in South East Asia, caused hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States—including Northwestern—to join in a loosely organized but highly effective “nationwide strike.”

The events of the Northwestern strike were highly charged but primarily peaceful. On May 5, the day after the Kent State shootings, a groundswell of student outrage prompted student leaders to convene a forum, at which it was decided to strike. Chancellor J. Roscoe Miller responded the same day with a statement that condemned violence, be it in South East Asia, at Kent State, or at Northwestern, and ended by declaring that members of the University community should “show their concern in a manner consistent with the traditions of the academic community.” An emergency session of the University Senate resolved to suspend classes for the remainder of the week in recognition of student concerns and issued a resolution to “join the developing nationwide strike of the entire academic community.”

On the following day, May 6, students initiated the strike with a series of demands:

• end the war in South East Asia

• bar campus security from carrying guns or other firearms

• open the University stock portfolio and eliminate any “war stocks”

• remove academic credit from NROTC

• convert NROTC facilities on campus into a childcare center

In addition to these demands, students made clear their intention to shut down the normal operations of the University. In their public statements, students were careful to point out—and administrators were anxious to emphasize—that the strike was not against Northwestern, but rather with the institution in opposition to the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings. For the remainder of the week, students leafleted the Evanston community and organized demonstrations and protests on Deering Meadow and at other campus locations.

Several events of the strike merit special mention. First, for several days student activists managed to erect a barricade at Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue, even as Evanston Police re-routed traffic around areas of student congregation. The Sheridan barricade proved to be a point of contention between the students and the Evanston community, as many community members expressed frustration at the inconvenience. Second, although the University Senate initially resolved that the strike would last only through Friday, May 8, students voted on that Friday to extend the strike through the following Wednesday. That evening, a rally at Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field) attracted about 5,000 students and community members. Evanston city officials, fearing violence, requested that the National Guard be called in. However, the Guard was diverted from the stadium at the last minute and conflict was avoided. Third, on Wednesday, May 13, the day the strike was to end and classes resume as normal, a group of about 40 students and other young activists broke into the Northwestern NROTC headquarters in Lunt Hall, where they broke furniture and destroyed files and other organizational material. There were only minor injuries, but despite student protests the administration decided to press charges against the 33 Northwestern students arrested at the site. This incident proved to be the only violent episode of the strike.

One significant product of the strike was the creation of a short-lived “New University” to educate the community about the war in Vietnam as well as other social and political issues of concern during the course of the strike and beyond. The New University involved faculty as well as students, who were successful at designing and implementing courses, art projects, performances and demonstrations. They also produced their own daily newspaper, On Strike! The Official Newspaper of the New University (May 6-17, 1970; see the University Archives’ Serials Collection, call number 31/00/99).

On Tuesday, May 12, students voted to return to class on May 13 under a provisional plan which provided that they could attend their regular classes or go to alternative New University classes designed to further the aims of the strike. Negotiations of various student demands continued over the remaining weeks of the semester; trustees agreed to open the stock portfolio to public scrutiny but administrators declined to disarm University security personnel.

The nation-wide campus protests of May 1970 brought a new level of attention to the anti-war sentiment of the American public; in this way, they were responsible in some part for the eventual withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam in 1973.

Access Terms

This Collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Corporate Name

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)--Student strike, 1970

Topical Term

College students--Political activity--Illinois--Evanston--History--20th century

Northwestern Anti-Vietnam War Strike, Evanston, Ill., 1970

Student strikes--Illinois--Evanston

Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Illinois--Evanston

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

This collection is formed of materials acquired in three accessions: Accession No. 74-120, consisting of materials removed from the University Archives general files; a significant portion of Accession No.80-114, transferred to the Archives by Thomas Lifka, Associate Dean of Students, on August 4, 1980; and the photocopied newspaper clippings that comprised Accession No. 85-117, transferred to Archives by Mel Lewis, Office of the Chancellor, in April, 1985.

Processing Information

Leon Hilton, Summer 2005

Conditions Governing Access

None.

Related Materials

Series 31/6/89, Student Protests and Strikes at Northwestern, 1965-1979; University Archives Photograph Collection (“Student Protest”); Subject file, “Anti-Vietnam War—Student Strike” (Archives Reading Room); Student Portest and the Technocratic Society: The Case of ROTC, by Jack Nusan Porter (copy in Archives NU History Section, Reading Room); student papers (Archives Reading Room); Eva Jefferson Biographical File (Archives Reading Room); Files on individual student groups (Archives General Files, Student Activities); On Strike! Newsletter (Archives Serials Collection).

Arrangement of Materials

The collection is organized into six subseries and materials are arranged chronologically within individual folders.

Scope and Contents

Leaflets/Distributed Information includes publicity for gatherings, protests and counter-protests, leaflets distributed by students in the Evanston community, form letters sent to University and government officials, and political statements circulated by individual students and organizations. Of particular interest is a file (Box 1, Folder 10) containing a collection of material appearing in faculty mailboxes over the course of the strike, and a leaflet lampooning strike demands for a modified grading system.

The Official University Position/Administrative Response is documented by various University press releases reacting to and commenting upon the strike, as well as inter- and intra- administrative correspondence during and after the event. Included also is the official administrative response to demands presented to the University by Eva Jefferson on behalf of the Associated Student Government and the strike committee; the University call center log, which provides a nearly minute-by-minute chronology of events; and a lecture entitled “The Idea of Disinterestedness in the University,” delivered at Northwestern in October of 1970 by Gordon N. Ray, then the president of the Guggenheim Foundation, discussing the significance of the Northwestern and other university strikes in the context of the broader politicization of the academy.

Newspaper Clippings were gathered from local and national newspapers (including the Daily Northwestern), and document the events of the strike as well as reactions, editorials, and letters to the editor. Several entire issues of the Daily Northwestern published during the strike are also included in this section.

Files documenting significant Events of the Strike include material relating to the April 28, 1970, fire in the Linguistics building that exacerbated campus tensions leading up the strike (Box 2, Folder 7); the memorial service for the Kent State dead held on Deering Meadow (Box 2, Folder 11) and proposals for the “New University” (Box 2, Folder 10) that was set up by faculty and students during the strike to educate the University community about the Vietnam War and other issues of concern to the student body. Of interest, as well, is a proposal by a group of students for the permanent closure of Sheridan Road inspired by the “festive atmosphere” of the barricade during the strike.

Files documenting activities and responses from Student Groups involved in the strike are organized alphabetically by the name of the group. These files contain political statements, flyers for events, and leaflets distributed during the strike and its aftermath. The Associated Student Government file (Box 2, Folder 15) contains a daily strike schedule and frequent “news releases.” Included in this subseries are files on CADRE (Chicago Area Draft Resistors), the Northwestern chapter of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), and the Young America Foundation, a conservative student group that opposed the strike.

Faculty Participation in the strike is documented by departmental statements of support, a petition circulated opposing the University’s sanction of strike activity (Box 3, Folder 17) and a file on NUFAC (NU Faculty Action Committee), a group committed to furthering the aims of the strike against the escalation of the conflict in South East Asia and the use of force against students on university campuses (Box 3, Folder 23).

INVENTORY

Leaflets/Information Distributed

Box 1

Folder 1

National/Chicago/Evanston Misc. Protest Material

May 1970

Box 1

Folder 2

Announcements, Strike-Related Activity and Information

1970

Box 1

Folder 3

Announcement of Rallies—Strike

May 1970

Box 1

Folder 4

Form Letters Sent to Officials in Support of Peace

May 1970

Box 1

Folder 5

Political Tracts and Petitions Circulated

May 1970

Box 1

Folder 6

Lampooning the Strike and its Demands

May 1970

Box 1

Folder 7

Tracts Urging the Continuation or the End of the Strike

May 1970

Box 1

Folder 8

Grading Proposals

Spring 1970

Box 1

Folder 9

Proposed Fall Recess

1970

Box 1

Folder 10

Materials Appearing in Faculty Mailboxes During the Course of the Strike

Spring 1970

Official University Position/Administrative Response

Box 1

Folder 11

Official University Communications on the Strike

1970

Box 1

Folder 12

Information Leaflets on the Strike and NU’s Position Distributed in the Evanston Community and on Campus

1970

Box 1

Folder 13

Student Hearing and Appeal Board

1970

Box 1

Folder 14

University Call Log During the Strike

1970

Box 1

Folder 15

The Idea of Disinterestedness in the University”

1970

Newspaper Clippings

Box 1

Folder 16

Xeroxed Newspaper Articles and Clippings

1970

Box 2

Folder 1

Daily Northwestern During Strike

May 1970

Events of the Strike

Box 2

Folder 2

Linguistics Department Fire

April 1970

Box 2

Folder 3

“A Preliminary Look into the Feasibility of Permanently Closing Sheridan Road in the Vicinity of NU”

June 1070

Box 2

Folder 4

Strike Information Center—NU Campus News and Strike Information

May 1970

Box 2

Folder 5

New/Alternate University

May 1970

Box 2

Folder 6

Memorial Service for the Dead at Kent State

1970

Box 2

Folder 7

Festival for Peace

May 1970

Student Groups/Response

Box 2

Folder 8

April 19th Coalition

no date

Box 2

Folder 9

Art Students for Peace

May 1970

Box 2

Folder 10

Associated Student Government (including Strike Newsletter and Schedule)

1968-1970

Box 2

Folder 11

CADRE (Chicago Area Draft Resisters)

1967-1970

Box 2

Folder 12

Evanston Coalition

1970

Box 2

Folder 13

Jewish Student Movement

May 1970

Box 2

Folder 14

Peace Train

May 1970

Box 2

Folder 15

Navy Times are Changin’

1970

Box 2

Folder 16

NU-PAC (Northwestern University Political Action Committee)

1970

Box 2

Folder 17

Reports from Strike Central Information on Other Universities at Scott Hall

May 1970

Box 2

Folder 18

Revolutionary Students Brigade (NU)

1970?

Box 2

Folder 19

Strike Media Center

1970

Box 2

Folder 20

SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) NU Chapter

1969-1970

Box 2

Folder 21

SMC (Student Mobilization Committee) NU Chapter

1969-1970

Box 2

Folder 22

SMC (Student Mobilization Committee)

1972-1973

Box 2

Folder 23

Vietnam Moratorium Committee

1969-1970

Box 2

Folder 24

Vietnam Moratorium Committee

Oct. 15, 1969

Box 2

Folder 25

Women’s Liberation and Abortion

1970-no date

Box 2

Folder 26

Young Republicans NU Chapter

1970

Box 3

Folder 1

YSA (Young Socialist Alliance)

1970

Box 3

Folder 2

YSA (Young Socialist Alliance)

1970

Faculty Participation

Box 3

Folder 3

Faculty Response

May 1970

Box 3

Folder 4

Anthropology Dept.

May 1970

Box 3

Folder 5

English Dept. Strike

May 1970

Box 3

Folder 6

History Dept. Strike

May 1970

Box 3

Folder 7

Northwestern University Library and the Strike

May 1970

Box 3

Folder 8

Positions of Actions Taken by Various Departments Concerning the Strike

May 1970

Box 3

Folder 9

NUFAC (Northwestern University Faculty Action Committee)

1970-1972