From the Readers
Reactions across the spectrum to "The Sit-In of '69." Also: President Veitch questions, Grant Dunlap '46 remembered, and Joanna Gleason '72 applauded
The Sit-In of ’69
When I attended Oxy in the mid-’60s it was a pretty placid place, so I was interested in reading about the unrest that occurred a few years later (“Civil Disobedience,” Fall 2014). I missed all of that, including the Summer of Love, Woodstock, and other things as I served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1969. While I can understand and appreciate the motives of those who sat in, there were also other views at the time.
The war itself may have been an ill-conceived enterprise, but that does not detract from the courage, honor, and sense of duty of those, including Oxy grads, who went to Vietnam. For many it too was an act of conscience. Some paid for their choice with their lives. Looking back on the experience from the perspective of nearly half a century I can say, as did the protester quoted in your article, that we also are proud of what we did.
Toby Fuller ’64
1969 was an exciting time to be at Oxy. There was political diversity on campus with students being engaged in the political process. As a participant in student government and the hunger strike, I talked with other students, the faculty, and the administration about our role in the community and the world.
Your article states, “During the winter quarter, the ASOC Senate voted to disband itself due to internal dissent on a variety of issues, including recruiting. As the spring quarter began, an Interim College Council was formed because they were not heavily involved in or identified with any particular campus faction.”
I was an ASOC senator at the time and remember the reason we abolished the Senate. It was because we, as representatives of the student body, were neither acknowledged by nor listened to by the administration. We had no voice on political issues important to our constituents, such as wanting the College to stop investing in companies doing business in South Africa. It therefore made no sense for us to continue as representatives of the students. We believed it was important to make the political statement of abolishing ourselves. The administration then took advantage of this opportunity by creating a new student government that would agree with the positions that the administration supported.
Today many political observers note that protesters in Hong Kong are using civil disobedience to protest the Chinese government’s policy of allowing only those candidates deemed acceptable to Beijing to run for office. This model seems strikingly similar to the way I saw the political activities when I was at Oxy.
The lessons of 1969 are the same ones being learned today at Occidental. It is much easier to talk about change than to implement change and face the unknown. It is much easier to eliminate the voices of change rather than to listen to them.
Tom Yeager ’71
While I thoroughly enjoyed your article on the campus protests, there were actually many more issues for which the war in Vietnam became the focal “point of the spear.” Medgar Evers was assassinated on June 12, 1963; President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963; Malcolm X was killed on Feb. 21, 1965; Watts went up in flames on Aug. 11, 1965; Detroit came apart on July 23, 1967; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968; Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968; Hispanic workers were largely lumped under the bracero label and truly were “La Raza,” a forgotten people and treated in that way. And the draft was still in place. The years of those events roughly defined my pre-college and college experience.
I truly admired students like Dave Totheroh ’70 and all who stood up for their beliefs. I also knew that because of the special status one could maintain as a student, either because one could afford to stay in school or because of “connections,” someone else from a lesser socio-economic status was going to take the place of most of Occidental’s graduates in the military draft. I salute those who gave up their citizenship or pursued another course to stay true to their beliefs. I also salute those who served their country. The historical record has yet to be decided concerning the Indochine. Those who served stood, by their actions, with those defining issues, and less fortunate souls, of the ghettos and barrios of the 1960s.
Barney Ballard ’69
I am a bit dismayed at the cover to the Fall 2014 magazine. I see no reason to promote the sit-in of 1969 on the front page. If you would like to report its anniversary, I do not think you needed to use the cover to do so. It is one way, however, to promote activism and to discourage alums from giving to the College.
I believe in free press, but I think we need to consider what we are promoting when we use the press. There is too much going on with the press these days that is not legitimate reporting, but editorializing.
Peter R. Palermo ’59
While I respect journalistic independence, I wonder if you considered the effect your article would have on others who are Oxy graduates and who either served in the military or otherwise disagreed with the protestors who burned flags and mocked returning veterans.
The ROTC building that was torched in 1970 was a symbol for the resisters. It was also a classroom where we were taught the fundamentals of flight in preparation for our commissions as Air Force officers. Why not celebrate the generation preceding the ’60s and interview some alumni from those years? Why not honor graduates like Col. Don Lyon ’56, whose remains were never found in the jungles of Vietnam? Yes, we can agree that it was a lousy war.
I had hoped that with the passage of years we would see Oxy give us a better sense that it fosters an authentic liberal arts program where teaching is a matter of encouraging thinking without bias. It is popularly thought that college-age students are impressionable. I agree but would argue that these same students are inquisitive and welcome diverse opinion.
A recent issue of the Occidental Weekly comes to mind, where it pictured students marching in protest against fracking for energy sources. The subject has political, economic, and environmental issues. Were the students given all sides of the argument?
Occidental has earned an outstanding position in academia. I just hope that it will also be credited for having a balanced agenda of teaching.
Russell L. Ray Jr. ’57
Great Falls, Va.
I was a sophomore in the fall of 1967 as the anti-Vietnam movement took hold at Oxy. As a son of immigrants from Mexico, it was confusing and upsetting. I was raised to be grateful to have been born an American and to stand by her through the toughest of times. Vietnam was defining and dividing our generation—those supporting our actions and those against the war.
I watched from the sidelines as faculty and students protested in silence from Oct. 16-20, 1967. It made me realize that I could not be a bystander to our differences; I, too, had to take a stand for what I believed in. On Oct. 25, 1967, I enlisted in the U.S. Army in Los Angeles and returned home to Northern California. My parents were surprised on my arrival. My dad asked why I was home and I told him I had joined the Army; all he said was “I understand.” On November 2, I took a bus back to Los Angeles to report for duty.
Vietnam was an awful period for our country. I arrived there in August 1969 as a Special Forces Medic assigned to the 5th Special Forces (Airborne). By mid-September I was further assigned to A-233, Trang Phuc, a Special Forces (Airborne) camp along the Cambodian border. My mission, beyond combat operations, was to improve the health standards of nearby villages from which we recruited Montagnards to form a roughly 600-man army. Montagnards were the invisible people not recognized by the Vietnamese as citizens and living in the “Stone Age.” They were good soldiers who admired our quest for freedom and equality for all men. We patrolled a 30-kilometer sector in search of Vietcong and for signs of North Vietnam Army movement. I learned so much about myself and humanity during my time in Vietnam.
For years I asked myself why Vietnam, why did we sacrifice so many, nearly 60,000; not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who were killed. It was the Cold War, and the superpowers were in the middle of a chess game to see which system would survive.
As the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I came to the realization that the Vietnam War was part of our journey, and that of the USSR, toward the end of communism as a threat to democracy.
I have no bitterness towards my fellow Oxyites who stayed and demonstrated for what they believed in. We both got off the sidelines and did what we needed to do. As time went on, after 24 years in the U.S. Army, I came to the conclusion that my greatest gift to my country was to serve so that others have the freedom to express their views, the freedom of speech. Freedom is what makes us, we Americans, a special people in the continuum of time.
Major Ray Celaya ’70 (Ret.)
Two reasons move me to commend you on your story on “Civil Disobedience” that intensively focused on the events of 1969. The first is personal. I spent that year at the University of the Saar in Saarbrucken, West Germany, as a member of Oxy’s first junior year abroad program. Though I knew quite a few of the people involved, I’d never had such an informative accounting until now. Further, and more importantly, it represents a nice contrast to a sentiment expressed in the just-published Harvard Magazine [January-February 2015] by a member of the Harvard Class of ’69 who rues how little attention Harvard’s alumni organizations have paid to the political turmoil of 1969, its causes, and its consequences. Harvard, too, experienced an unusual number of “dropouts” from the classes on campus that year. Many students, including the letter’s author, were placed on probation without a hearing or other form of due process. Though sympathetic, he had not participated in the demonstration, but was merely identified by a proctor to have been in the area as an onlooker. So bravo for the report. And if the outcome was not necessarily “Solomonic,” it compares favorably with what happened elsewhere.
Hal Hansen ’71
During the time frame recounted in the “Civil Disobedience” article, I was actively teaching at the college/university level [Southern Methodist University]. It was no secret that more than one undergraduate male student suddenly decided to go into the ministry, since the Perkins School of Theology was right there. In fact, there were at least 16 I knew about, of which some 14 jumped ship as soon as they thought it safe to do so.
At any rate, how sad it is that so many of our young people really have no idea how this country came into being and what men had to do in order to make it so. How sad it is that so many of our young people really have no idea that the USA is the only country in the world with a government which operates by the consent of the governed. That by itself has made America an international threat to all other governments since the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Thomas Jefferson, generally acknowledged not to be prone to military action as his first choice, did set up the Marines (and a Navy of sorts) and sent them into Tripoli to save American lives. At the same time Jefferson also remarked once that “we are friends of freedom everywhere; custodians of our own.” In the case of Vietnam, there was the geographical object of taking over the Malaysian Straits by China to block shipping and therefore international trade in that direction. More important was the desire to crush a people under the thumb of communism quite against their will.
My wife and I were there and had the opportunity to see what Pol Pot did to the Cambodian people, where every literate person in that unfortunate society was taken out and killed, often in large groups. Out of a population of about 8 million, nearly 2 million were murdered outright.
Some years ago it was my good fortune to have lunch with the man who flew the last transport plane out of Tan Son Nhat airport. His description of Vietnamese citizens trying to escape the communists was riveting. He managed to smuggle one young lady into his plane and seated her on the floor of the cockpit. Others were pushing and shoving to get aboard. The plane became overloaded, and the pilot told the ground crew to prevent any more climbing aboard. He taxied out to the end of the runway, the third of three planes to take off before a mortar shell actually hit the runway itself. As he began lifting off the ground, he then looked out and saw Vietnamese who could not get into the plane holding onto the wings, while some were on top of the cabin holding on to the tail of the plane and the aerial system. As he climbed to 1,500 feet at nearly full throttle, he looked out his window seeing Vietnamese clinging desperately to the wings. As the plane gained altitude, most of these people could no longer hold on to the wings or tail and eventually fell to their deaths. Were these people not interested in the freedom we have?
Should Oxy students who were so selfish and immature as to threaten the free exercise of normal rights of others be celebrated in an article in Occidental magazine? Not in my view.
George E. Klump ’57
A World Apart
Although I enjoy all the articles and features in Occidental, I loved “The World After Oxy” (Fall 2014). They are such nuggets that tell us a lot about what people have done—and it isn’t the usual meanderings (interesting but different) that people self-report in the class notes.
Celinda Jungheim ’61
Marina del Rey
MEChA and the Movement
In “A Chronology of Oxy Unrest,” the item listed under April 24, 1970, is incorrect. I was a freshman active in MEChA, and nearly a dozen of us actually met with President Gilman and a number of trustees in a scheduled meeting to address our list of concerns and recommendations for change. We addressed Oxy’s low Latino enrollment, very limited offering of Chicano/Latino studies, and under-representation among the faculty.
We also brought up the need to improve deteriorating College and community relationships, since the local community was shifting toward more Latino residents in Highland Park and Eagle Park. A number of conflicts had occurred. We even brought up the issue of serving non-UFWOC grapes and lettuce in the cafeteria.
Much good feeling was generated, although a number of us did not see much concrete commitment or follow-up. We, MEChA, had planned Semana de la Raza (Week of the Race) to coincide with this meeting and Cinco de Mayo (May 5). Our efforts were immediately overwhelmed by the majority of students’ adverse reaction to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the Oxy faculty’s vote to suspend classes. The resulting teach-ins and activities generated were mostly anti-war. Our Semana de la Raza activities continued with a sparsely attended Feria on Cinco de Mayo, followed by standing-room-only attendance for a speech by Dolores Huerta of UFWOC in Thorne Hall that same day. Teatro Campesino also appeared, and one of the first Chicano art exhibits ever held on campus was curated by the Goez Gallery of East Los Angeles.
MEChA’s efforts were mostly overshadowed by the anti-war sentiment until members began using each event as a platform to show that the African American and Latino communities were subjected to disproportionate negative impact. We pointed out that the low enrollment of minorities in colleges and universities was directly related to our overrepresentation and higher proportion of front-line soldiers with casualties and fatalities in Vietnam.
Following Huerta’s speech, a gathering occurred in the Quad, and a sound system allowed our MEChA program to continue. The Brown Berets spoke. One Occidental MEChA member created a controversial incident when he asked if anyone had a match—he wanted to burn the flag in front of Coons. Dean Culley held on to the flag while a standoff defused within an hour.
At another gathering, one MEChA member, who was a Vietnam veteran, pointed to a member of the standing audience and asked him to identify himself. He was confronted and brought to the campus administration to reveal his undercover status. As the week cooled down, a small group of Latino students left the Cooler and overhead the report from campus security that a fire had started at the ROTC building behind the track. The campus security officer had a disabled arm, and we asked for the fire extinguisher to run and put out the flames which had just started and were rising up at the corner of the ROTC building. We were fortunate to have responded quickly.
MEChA had an office in the ROTC building which we continued to use regularly for a hangout and meeting location. We made it known at following student teach-ins that we disagreed with destruction and asked that the student body and faculty help work towards improving Occidental’s multicultural programs.
A little more than three weeks remained before the eventful 10-week quarter concluded. The heady weeklong experience of Cinco de Mayo week in 1970 remains vivid in my memory to this day.
Ricardo P. Reyes ’73
Other Times and Forgotten Signs
In the “Changing Times and Protest Signs” sidebar (Fall 2014), your timeline lists a three-day sit-in during April 1996. There may have been a sit-in during 1996, but then the list misses a similar incident during my sophomore year, probably April 1991. The multicultural hall I lived in that year, Chilcott, organized a protest for the nebulous causes of multiculturalism and “student power.”
I was late to the first day of protest and arrived after security had locked access to the Coons Administrative Center. Having worked in the computer facilities, I was able to gain access to the back entrance and walk through the office areas to join my comrades. My roommate and friends brought me a care package including my pajamas and my blanket. Thus arrayed Linus-like, I stood with a group of protesters and discussed our grievances with a Channel 13 reporter through the glass doors on the second floor.
I spent the night uncomfortably on the carpet on the first floor and developed a fever. I left the protest to recover from a cold that weekend, which was just as well because my heart wasn’t really in protest, and certainly not over multiculturalism.
Clarence “Regis” Wilson ’93
In regards to “Civil Disobedience,” I was riveted by the stories Paul Robert Walker ’75 shared from the history of the College. However, the article omits mention of protests from my time at Oxy that I feel should have at least been recognized in the chronology (“Changing Times and Protest Signs”). When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, campus life stopped for a day.
Shortly afterward came the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001, then Iraq in 2003. There were speakers and events on and off campus where students analyzed the events and the history that led us there, and discussed how to proceed. I also recall a hunger strike on campus. Many students protested the war efforts at rallies, while others felt military action was justified. The complicated effects of the decisions made by the American government to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 are still playing out in current events. Although the participation in the anti-war movement of the early 21st century was not unanimous within the student body at the time, I still believe it deserves recognition in the historical context and conversation about protest on the Occidental campus.
Audrey (Biernacki) Demick ’03
Coach, Friend, and Hero
I was saddened to learn of Grant Dunlap ’46’s passing on September 14 (“A Student of the Game,” Fall 2014). Grant was my basketball coach at Oxy from 1965 to 1969, as well as a role model, mentor, and lifelong friend.
When I came to Oxy, he believed in me when others didn’t. He told me I was better than I thought I was, and he has been a constant source of encouragement to me for almost 50 years. He taught me the art and science of how to play the game of basketball, and was extremely patient with me as I worked hard to get better. He was a true Renaissance man in that he was a successful professional athlete and coach, as well as a highly respected member of the faculty. Almost every time I saw him over the last 50 years, he asked me what books I was reading, and he always had a book or two to recommend. I always looked forward to our get-togethers and golf games, and always came away with something new to think about. By the way, I don’t think I ever beat him in golf. Grant Dunlap was one of my heroes, and he will be missed.
Don Riddell ’69
The letter by Sean Goldrick ’78, which questions the rehiring of President Veitch (“Dissenting Opinion,” Fall 2014), is right on target. He should not have been rehired. The Orange County Register recently reported that in 2011 President Veitch was paid in excess of $630,000 for his services that year. The following is some of what that salary bought the College:
1) The public humiliation and side effects of a negligent conduct policy that has resulted in several disparaging articles about Occidental printed in the Los Angeles Times over the last year.
2) An especially egregious out-of-court settlement with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred and her 10 student clients.
3) Two federal complaints, yet to be settled, filed against the College regarding handling of the sexual assault cases under Title IX, which may result in substantial federal penalties.
4) More than likely millions of dollars paid in litigation costs, penalties, and settlement awards.
I am not aware that President Veitch has yet publicly apologized to alumni, students, parents, and other supporters for the mess the College finds itself in. Additionally, the Board of Trustees should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of demand for accountability, and for being complicit in allowing this kind of situation to develop. This didn’t happen in a vacuum. They knew or should have known what was happening. There should also be some trustee resignations resulting from their apparent lax oversight of the College administration.
What has been going on at Occidental is the same kind of coverup that occurred on Wall Street, at Penn State, and more recently with Roger Goodell and the NFL. Where is the integrity and responsibility of the College administration? In my opinion the College and its leadership seem morally bankrupt.
Gil McFadden ’54
Seeking Middle Ground
I read the recent Pepper Hamilton report on Occidental’s Title IX policies, procedures, and practices with interest (From the Quad, page 10). It was quite thorough, and I believe it painted an accurate picture of the situation on campus. I was quite angry to read that they had not gotten much help from the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition (or from people working directly with the alleged victims of sexual assault). The report did not take a strong position objecting to this lack of support, although the report did mention the mutual distrust between OSAC and the College administration. The report encouraged these two groups to work on improved dialogue. I would have been stronger if I had written the report!
My impression is that OSAC is more interested in its 15 minutes of fame than it is in helping the College improve its policies and procedures regarding sexual assaults. The fact that OSAC filed a complaint with the Federal Office of Civil Rights, in spite of the fact that the administration appears to be working diligently to improve things, suggests that OSAC really isn’t part of the solution. The OCR has many such cases. Given the limited resources of OCR, they should be focusing on institutions where the administrations are still in denial and refusing to take positive actions to deal with this societal problem. By filing the suit, OSAC is wasting both OCR’s and Oxy’s time. Better they should create a healthy dialogue and find compromises that will make Oxy’s processes and procedures better. Oh, yes, I know that “compromise” is a four-letter word!
OSAC’s recent claim that attorneys Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez refused to talk to student survivors or their legal representatives strikes me as obviously false. What motivation would Smith and Gomez have to lie about something like that? The report describes the exact opposite situation. I think now that the report has called them out, OSAC is getting defensive. If you say the big lie enough times, maybe people will start believing you!
What really appalls me about OSAC is the behavior and attitudes of the faculty representatives. I understand that faculty members, especially the younger ones, have very high moral sensibilities and that they are easily outraged by the actions (or inactions) of the administration. But these people seem to have lost all of their objectivity. I worry about the quality of education offered by people like that.
James W. Craft ’63
So enjoyed your article on Joanna Gleason ’72 and her theatrical success (“A Body of Work,” Fall 2014)! As an Oxy Player and director of the Summer Drama Festival, I had the privilege of working with and directing Joanna. Even back then, Joanna’s enormous talent was evident and her self-assurance a hallmark of her acting. She was a stunning Rosalind in my production of As You Like It in the Summer Drama Festival. And she lent her excellent comic timing to my master’s thesis production of Chekhov’s seldom done early drama Ivanov (performed at Oxy in 1971, and not The Seagull as noted in your photo caption).
Joanna was always as lovely on stage as off, and while we haven’t been actual pen pals since we left Oxy, I did travel to the Big Apple to see her starring with John Lithgow in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on Broadway in 2005, and I was extremely touched when she called me after the death of my father.
Rob Hartmann ’69 M’71
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org