Anti-Vietnam Protests (continued)

Lincoln Gordon, Former President of JHU, 1970

Lincoln Gordon, Former President of JHU, 1970

Protests against military recruitment and more generally against the war persisted all throughout April of 1970. Letters to the administration and statements by groups such as the Johns Hopkins Strike Committee indicate that the protesters were dissatisfied with President Gordon’s handling of the protests, which was perceived as dismissive at best and repressive at worst. A report from the Office of the Provost details an incident in which a crowd of some 250 demonstrators threatened to occupy Homewood House and had to be dispersed with a court-ordered injunction. The incident triggered outrage in some circles of the student body. On April 21, 1970, the Johns Hopkins Strike Committee released a statement in conveying its goals of ending ROTC, on-campus military recruitment, and Hopkins defense research. In the same statement the group expressed frustrations with President Gordon’s response to student anti-war initiatives, including those pushed through the Student Activities Commission and other institutional means. It demanded a democratic reform of university governance based on a “one name one vote” system and including all students, faculty, and employees. Finally, the Hopkins Strike Committee called for a 3-day strike to force President Gordon to address its demands.

According to administrative documents, such as the Provost’s Office’s transcript of a statement by Dean George Benton, the 3-day strike ended with an April 24 agreement to symbolically suspend active military recruitment on campus. The move triggered a quick response from previously quiet supporters of military recruitment, in the form of petitions, letters and phone calls to the administration. As a result, Dean Benton announced a referendum on April 30 that would allow students and faculty to vote on the reinstatement of military recruitment. The referendum failed by a narrow margin (1183 opposed to 1121 in support of reinstatement), and military recruitment remained suspended.

Abolish ROTC Pamphlet from Students for a Democratic Society

Abolish ROTC Pamphlet from Students for a Democratic Society

May 1970 saw a new wave of protests triggered by President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and by the killing of four student protesters at Kent State. Several student flyers and a Provost’s Office report about the student unrest record a suspension of classes on May 6 and a general strike on May 8. On May 19, President Gordon led a Hopkins trip to Washington to discuss the war with Maryland representatives. In October of the following school year, Dean Benton wrote to President Gordon expressing concern over a new law that would phase out “defense supported research” for the Department of Arts and Sciences if Johns Hopkins continued its ban on military recruitment. Benton recommended that the April 30 referendum be overruled and military recruitment be reinstated in the interest of avoiding far-reaching “personnel and fiscal problems.” On October 14, 1970, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees stated that on-campus military recruitment would be restored.

Overall, writings of President Gordon and other administrative officials indicate that despite the highly emotional nature of the protests, there were no incidents of violence or property damage, and most of the students involved were relatively moderate.

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