Jan 18, 2013

May 6-7, 1970: MIT, Cambridge

Tuesday, May 5, 1970 - from the MIT Tech:


Well over 1500 members of the MIT community, most of them students, voted overwhelmingly yesterday to strike “in solidarity with the national university strike.” Even before the afternoon rally got underway, 1300 students had jammed Kresge... What practical effect the strike call will have remains uncertain...


The vote in Kresge yesterday afternoon was overwhelmingly in favor of a "university strike" for an indefinite length of time.
The Tech supports the concept of a university strike, and we call on MIT as a community to suspend its normal activities for a period of time to allow people the opportunity to signify their rejection of President Nixon's Asian policies and to actively work towards ending the war in Southeast Asia. We favor a massive canvassing effort intended to motivate people in the community to write their congressmen indicating their opposition to the war; to actively support peace candidates in November's elections; and to continually work in peace activities...
We call on the MIT faculty to meet Wednesday afternoon and suspend classes for the rest of the week...

* * *

Wednesday, May 6, 1970:


Schedule of Events
Following is a schedule of events planned for today in connection with the strike and protest of the Indochina war:

6 am onward – leaflets and canvassing information will be available in the Student Center West Lounge for use in canvassing factories.
12 noon – Humanities Department Meeting.
12 noon – Meeting of interested MIT employees in Walker Memorial.
1 pm – mass meeting in Kresge.
2 pm – There will NOT be a free concert by the Grateful Dead today.


* * *

Tuesday, May 12, 1970:

(excerpt from "The Strike!: Fantasies?," by Michael Feirtag)

The Grateful Dead played better (in this opinion, at least) Wednesday at the free concert. Thursday night’s paying attendance was largely highly energized strikers; the Dead played hard rock for dancing purposes. Wednesday, the audience’s kinetic energy was damped by the cold, the music was for listening, and hence better.
Wednesday. The sky an airbrushed blue-grey cloud cover, like a cheesy mural in a Howard Johnson’s. The Dead behind a gaggle of microphones, behind them two eight-foot coffin woofers, clusters of speaker horns.
Twenty or thirty people form a chain, whipping through the closely grouped crowd, looking like...like what? A ribosome, a chain of procreation dancing across a living cell, or Death leading his dancing subjects?
Grateful Dead?
Inane metaphors.


* * *

Monday, May 11, 1970:


Agreeing...that "academic activities cannot continue in normal fashion," the faculty yesterday voted far-reaching changes in policy for the remainder of the term... Students doing "satisfactory" work before May 4 are eligible for a "pass" grade, with full academic credit, whether or not they continue work in the course.
As at the last meeting Tuesday, sentiment on the motion was all but unanimous... The vote was overwhelming - of the 700 faculty that jammed Kresge, only 14 or 15 voted no.

The national university/student strike begins its second week today with over 300 schools on strike against the war in Indochina...



1 comment:

  1. There is not much about the Dead shows here, just a very brief bit in a longer article about the activities of the first strike week.

    (This was also the occasion when the Dead met Ned Lagin, then a student at MIT.)

    These short excerpts mainly set the Dead's MIT appearance in its larger context - the school was on strike. This was a huge nationwide event - the May 8 Tech reported that "80 colleges and universities are closed, with 337 institutions participating in the strike." The Tech summarized in each issue how things were going on other campuses.
    Sometimes it's said that the free 5/6/70 show was part of a rally to protest the Kent State shootings on 5/4. This isn't really so. In all these issues of the Tech, Kent State is rarely mentioned. Protests had actually been building up since Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia at the end of April, and reached a peak on the weekend before the Dead arrived at MIT.

    I highly recommend reading through these issues, for a dramatic sense of the times.

    The campus fervor seems to have petered out quickly, as later issues report - with classes canceled or optional, many students just stayed in or went home.

    May 12: Rally Debates Strike Goals
    Hampered by an overdose of rhetoric, the mass meeting in Kresge at noon yesterday achieved little. A secondary problem was that at its height there were only about 500 people, a sharp drop from last Monday's meeting which packed Kresge...
    Attendance dropped rapidly after 1:00 and the meeting became more disheartened. The last speaker summed up the feeling rather well when he said, "We don't have a majority. There are 50 people still here. There are over 6900 students who think what they are doing is more important."

    May 12: Canvassing Efforts Faltering
    A major drop in the number of students canvassing yesterday was attributed to the weather by one of the organizers at MIT. Another organizer suggested that many students were deterred from canvassing by the necessity of learning the status of their classes.
    300 to 400 students were engaged in canvassing efforts at the end of last week, but Sunday only about 30 workers were out. Monday morning's turnout was also disappointing.

    May 15: Local Strike Activity Slows
    The past week saw a slowdown of strike activity on most campuses... Campus strike centers in the area have had to adapt to the gradual decrease of participation.

    May 15: Poor Attendance Mars Canvassing
    Canvassing efforts continued to slip this week as the strike wore on and students began to leave the campus... The Student Center sent out only 20 people yesterday...
    The steady decline in the number of canvassers leaving MIT has been very depressing to the organizers of the effort. When reached for comment, one simply said that he was very disgusted, while another asked that The Tech do everything possible to urge people to go out and do the grass roots work necessary for success.