An Alphabetical Revolution: Student Unrest at Indiana University in the 1960s

Students appeared not to have realized that human beings since the beginning of civilization have searched for self-identity as part of the adventure of living.  By 1960 it appeared evident that Indiana University was caught up in some form of incipient student revolt.

Thomas D. Clark in Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer (quoted here) details the restlessness on the IU campus in the 1960s and how it led to outward forms of protest and confrontation.  To a large degree, Bloomington was merely reflecting a general trend in college towns across the country.  Clark writes –

The age confronting the American campus in the coming decade was one of a great hailstorm of “alphabetical” national and campus student organizations.

Groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were pushing for reforms and growing increasingly impatient awaiting change.

In October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy visited Indianapolis and a group of Indiana University Medical students demonstrated – some to protest and others to support Kennedy’s Cuba blockade policy.  Protesters were representatives of the Student Ad Hoc Committee to Oppose United States Aggression and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.  Supporters included members of the Young Americans for Freedom and the Student Medical Association.  Clark summarizes the action —

This assemblage of such divergent groups resulted in some physical beating and shoving of students by the crowd while police did little or nothing to prevent violence.

Meanwhile another demonstration was getting underway at the University, as Clark writes –

On the campus in Bloomington a corporal’s guard of fifteen students met at 2:45 p.m. to protest the Kennedy blockade.  The Indianapolis News reporter estimated that a crowd of 3,000 disrupted the pitiful little parade… Fights occurred, most of them started by nonstudents. 

President Stahr tried to paint a smiley face on the events of the day as he told reporters as he told reporters —

… it is significant that out of a student body of 17,804, only a few hundred were unable to refrain from heckling the members of the so-called “committee”.

Stahr applauded the efforts to contain the demonstrations and prevent violence, hoping to wrap a bow around these incidents as isolated occurrences.    But the new Monroe County prosecutor, Thomas Hoadley, had something different in mind.  In January, 1963, he asked the grand jury to investigate both the Fair Play for Cuba committee and the Young Socialist Alliance.  Hoadly told the Louisville Courier-Journal —

I am not convinced that the total blame of this near riot should be placed on the shoulders of these two [the men charged with assault and battery] anti-demonstrators, as certain professors, committees, and other people suggest.

The Young Socialist Alliance, proposed by Hoadley to be investigated had been recognized by the Student Senate in 1962 after being denied on two previous occasions.  They were the youth wing of the Trotskyite Socialist Party.

Not everyone saw a threat in these student groups.  David Rogers, Bloomington representative in the General Assembly told reporters —

These kids are just a bunch of beatniks who like to play chess and raise a ruckus.

As the tension mounted over political policy, a situation would arise that would re-focus attention to social concerns on campus.  In my next post, I’ll explore  “The Curious Case of a Co-Ed and a Coffee Can”.

protest

(from Andrea Guedes onto vintage and retro fashion)

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