A Haven for Dissent
Whether this is. a manifest or latent ‘function of educational institutions can be argued Universities deal with ideas. Any serious discussion of ideas is certain, sooner or later, to lead to dissent. Since universities in the past were rather small, isolates} enclaves of scholars and young gentlemen and not closely” connected to the seats “c.political power and important practical decisions, a good deal ‘of dissent was generally tolerated as “harmless.” Student dissent was viewed rather indulgently, since students generally grew more “sensible” (i.e., conformist) as they matured. University students in Asia, Africa, and South America have a long history of political activisrri. Student strikes were common, and
university administrations and even governments were sometimes overthrown. Faculty also were politically active and, as intellectuals, were expected to be critics of the existing system. Even after national independence had been achieved in former colonial countries, universities continued to be centers of antigovernment activity, much to the annoyance of t~'” flew nationalist governments [Silcock, 19O9.
American college students have traditionally been socially conformist and politically inactive. This changed in the 1960s as a wave of student activism swept over the Western world. Universities are no longer small and isolated from the mainstream of society. Students have few vested interests to lose or
employers to antagonize and can afford to toy ·”with radical ideas. Marxist ideologies.. anti colonialism (anti capitalist colonialism but not anticommunist colonialism), civil rights, and the unpopular Vietnam war were major issues [lohnson and Feinberg,·1980). During the’1970s, the .wave of campus activism subsided.’ The. Vietnam war ended, the civil rights movement gained some victories and then lost momentum, university administrators made many concessions to students, and employment anxieties spread among students. Whether the high degree of campus dissent will ever recur is uncertain, but at this writing, the campus is calm