To Be A College President In 1970 – Past Daily Reference Room
Comment – Former President of Wisconsin State College Fred Harrington – May 2, 1971 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Since we’re coming up on an anniversary – the shootings at Kent State during an anti-War Protest, on May 4,1970, I was reminded of how embattled the position of College President was during those days. Campuses were hotbeds of protest, and the backlash to those protests took the form of dwindling support from Federal and State governments to fund those campuses.
It was a “damned if you do – damned if you don’t” situation. Case in point, the story of Fred Harrington, President of Wisconsin State, the scene of numerous clashes with police and National Guard – the anti-War protests, the radical groups, the bombings and the calls – both from the extreme Right and the extreme Left for Harrington’s resignation.
The staunch Law and Order types wanted Harrington to crack down on Student protests, shut classes perceived as fomenting dissent – cut off funding to those colleges engaged in radical activities. The moderates, the parents of the students and those who themselves were against the War in Vietnam, felt the protests were a right, the classes were engaged in Free Speech, and the loss of funding would have grave and lasting affects on the educational system in America.
And even though Harrington was only one embattled College President, he represented a wave of calls for resignations and removals of a number of College Presidents in the early 1970s. And the situation would only grow more volatile in the coming months.
As a reminder that College campuses were considerably different 46 years ago than they are today, here is an essay written and read by Fred Harrington – who resigned his position as President at Wisconsin State and went to work as a Ford Foundation adviser in India – very far away from the action and the teargas.
The anti-War atmosphere in America was strong – strongest perhaps on America’s Colleges and Universities – that was the place where those who stood the most to lose gathered and made their feelings known. Most all of those students were Draft age. The draft being the call-up for compulsory Military service during the Vietnam War era, until the Lottery system was installed. It was a strange and unsettling time – and the country was divided almost as widely as it is now.
Here is that essay, as read by Fred Harrington, on May 2, 1972 for the NBC News and Public Affairs program Comment.
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