A Decade of Dissent: Student Protests at the University of Michigan in the 1960s
In March of 1965 a group of professors decided to cancel class to protest the US occupation of Vietnam. The professors faced hostility from both Governor George Romney and University President Harlan Hatcher. In addition to opposition from the administration and state government, not all faculty agreed about striking. After a series of meetings, however, the majority of the faculty agreed upon the strike option.
Students at the Drugs Teach-in, January 7, 1968,
An announcement was sent to the press, intensifying the tension between the
administration, the faculty, and among the faculty themselves. The faculty senate
considered censuring strike supporters. In this heated atmosphere, Arnold Kaufman
called for a meeting at his home on the night of March 17. Professors at this
meeting tried to think of alternatives to the strike that would both send a clear
message regarding their feelings on Vietnam and allow them to save face for going
back on their strike plans. Marshall Sahlins of the Anthropology Department finally
suggested that professors teach their classes that day but continue teaching all
through the night. This teach-in would not be a discussion about the pros and cons
of Vietnam, but rather "constitute a clear factual and moral protest against the
war.” 1 A final meeting was held the next night, where the
teach-in idea was brought to more of the faculty and agreed upon.
The teach-in on March 24 and 25 consisted of guest speakers, seminars, and films. Over 3,000 students attended and 200 faculty members showed their support. Although the teach-in was momentarily disrupted by a bomb scare, it proved overwhelmingly successful. Other schools across the country started using teach-ins on their own campuses, and at Michigan teach-ins were subsequently held on a wide range of topics such as the environment, drugs, and women's issues.
1. Jack Rothman to William Haber, 1972, pp. 11-12, Teach-in Vertical File, Bentley Historical Library.