Reawakening SDS – Some History – A. Embree

In the spring of 1966, Gary Thiher, a member of the University of Texas’ chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, ran for president of student government. He lost, but his energetic campaign changed the student dialogue. An SDS candidate, Jeff Jones, was elected president of the UT student government in 1970. Some of the ideas – radical at the time – now seem like ancient history. The cost of housing ($40 per month, the special housing rules applied to co-eds, the lack of birth control information at the health center, the demand that UT pay the federal minimum wage and eliminate questions on race and religion from housing questionnaires seem decades distant. The ideas of free tuition and a Peace Study with funding similar to R.O.T.C. seem as revolutionary as they were four decades ago.

This document appeared in a mimeographed format in 1966. It has been typed for cyberspace consumption in 2007 as SDS again organizes chapters across the nation. The 1966 campaign helped build the UT SDS chapter. While SDS was known for its antiwar activism in the 1960s, it also focused on student issues. The radical idea that students should have a say in the decisions that affect their lives was relevant then as it is today. Alice Embree

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? THIHER’S PLATFORM

I am entering this campaign to effect change in the University – to return power over academic affairs to the academic community and control over student life to the students. I am not entering in order to play the timeworn game of student politics for personal prestige.

This platform has been constructed to inject ideas into the wasteland of student government campaigns. These ideas are put forth as my conception of progressive improvements for the enrichment of the University. I have proposed planks that could be achieved by strong presidential leadership and active student support.

Decision-making concerning university life is being further removed from the academic community. The student assembly is at best an advisory body, its resolutions and judgments subject to review and veto by the administration. Powerless, it has become a plaything, the manipulative jousting ground for fraternity politicians. With the creation of a state super board invested with immense powers, the faculty’s sphere of influence is also being reduced. A unified academic community could reverse this trend.

The University should be solely concerned with education, not with students’ personal lives. The concept of the university as a parent impedes students; maturation, for maturity comes from the responsibility for decision making. Students not only have the right, but the need, to be responsible for their decisions. A system whereby the University censors student publications, restricts speech and the right to ideas, restricts living choice, and dictates student ethics produces graduates ill-quipped to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood.

Professors and students controlling their ac academic affairs in a stimulating and free environment is the vision that has given birth to this platform.

VOTE THIHER

BILL OF RIGHTS

There exists no statement of students’ and professors’ rights at the University. The professors must rely on the faculty council and their professional associations; the students are forced to rely on the good intentions of the administration.

I believe the academic community should be guaranteed all the rights granted by the United States Constitution, in particular the right to free speech, press, and assembly. I also believe that American legal procedure should apply to university disciplinary cases. Therefore, I advocate a code of basic rights and liberties for the academic community.

GENERAL STATEMENT

The jurisdiction of the University does not extend past the physical boundaries of the University and, within those bounds is limited to matters of academic concern.

ARTICLES

1. Free discussion and evaluation being vital to an academic community, the University shall make no regulation abridging the freedom of speech or of publication and distribution; nor abridge the right of persons to peacefully assemble and petition.
2. An active and interested university population being necessary for self-government, the right of persons to form associations or unions for the promotion and protection of their interests shall not be abridged.
3. Any person and his domain is excluded from unreasonable search or seizure; nor shall the University require forfeiture of any student’s academic or creative endeavors; nor shall any person be prevented form working in any area outside the university.
4. There shall be no religious or political tests or requirements for admission to the university; nor shall any person be expelled for any reason from the university; and no person shall be suspended from the university for a period of more than two years – with such suspension being subject to appeal at any time.
5. The University shall make no regulations concerning the private, moral, or religious life of any person, nor deny a y person the right to freely participate in the life of the community.
6. The University shall make no retroactive laws; nor deny any person the rights of trail commonly accepted in American jurisprudence.
7. In the exercise of his or her rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as needed for the purpose of recognition and respect of these rights and freedoms to others.

HOUSING

Freshman and sophomore male students and all female students under 21 years of age, or senior rank, are forced to live in approved housing – either University or privately owned. Approved housing is unresponsive to student needs.

In most instances it is too expensive. Two persons might share a rather small room without a private bath, each paying $40 per month. This $80 would rent a rather nice apartment in non-approved residences. This example is typical. Contracts and deposits are required which make it impossible for the student to change residence without forfeiting deposits up to $100.

University regulations concerning the approving of student housing are rarely enforced. Many of the residences are not conducive to study, at best, and dangerous to live in, at worst. In disputes, the University usually sides with the landlord, enforcing rulings against the students by disciplinary procedure, withholding credit, etc.

For women the situation is worse. If an 18-year-old girl had left home to work, she would be her own master. However, when she chooses to seek an education at the University, her going and coming, her dress and actions, are scrutinized and regulated more strictly and arbitrarily than, in all probability, they were at home. This maze of infantile restrictions can only have a detrimental effect on her becoming a responsible adult.

In many private, and all University, residences the female student is forced to pay for meals with no regard for her desire to eat any, or all, meals elsewhere. Thus, the co-ed, for some obscure reason, is subjected to even graver injustices and insults than her male counterpart.

The University also sees fit to cater to the class structure of the society by providing expensive dorms with luxurious lounges for some, while maintaining its own slums on San Jacinto St. for others. University housing is not uniformly good or cheap enough to depress exorbitant housing costs in the University area – function it should perform. On applications for housing, the University inquires as to the applicant’s race and religion –facts which should be of no concern to an academic institution.

I THEREFORE ADVOCATE that the University makes living in approved housing mandatory for no students except those under 18 years of age upon written request from their parents. It should maintain an approved housing system for students desiring it. In this system regulations should be enforced making it economical, sanitary, safe, and appropriate for study. No discrimination because of race, color, creed, or national origin should be permitted. Other regulations should be made by the residents of each unit from semester to semester. The University should build and maintain more decent, cheap, living accommodations. Inquiries as to race and religion should be eliminated form all applications for university housing. The University should encourage student-owned cooperatives with aid and advice. Transferring tickets for campus cafeterias should be offered to all students at a discounted rate.

CONTRACEPTIVES IN THE UNIVERSITY HEALTH CENTER

The Sex Research Institute at the University of Kansas estimates that an average of three to four illegitimate children are conceived per thousand co-eds annually at state universities. With modern contraceptives, the conception of undesired children need not occur.

Recognizing the fact of pre-martial sexual relationships between students, the University Health Center should provide the same services as other health centers. This plank does not condone or condemn any individual’s sexual ethics, but expresses concern about undesired conceptions which lead to hasty marriage, abortion, or illegitimate children.

I THEREFORE ADVOCATE that the University Health Center should make available birth control information and prescriptions to any student seeking them.

CO-OP

The Co-op is said to be “the students own store.” Yet books are sold at publishers’ list price, and often ordered in inadequate quantity. The Toggery carries only expensive clothing. The “students own store” appears to be removed from effective student control, and unresponsive to the student body’s will. There are indications of price fixing on the repurchase of books and discrimination in hiring practices.

I THEREFORE URGE a complete investigation of the Co-op by a group of unbiased students, culminating in a full report to the student body. This report would include an appraisal of management practices, and the extent of student power in the Co-op board.

A PEACE STUDY

It is recognized than an institution dedicated to knowledge and learning, persons should have the opportunity to study areas of knowledge and learning which they choose. Further, it is recognized that there are persons who choose to study war and its practice. This study is provided by the University R.O.T.C. Those who choose its alternative – peace – should also have the opportunity to realize their choice.

The University provides the approximately $900,000 R.O.T.C. building (in which some non R.O.T.C. courses are also held). In the area of financial support, the R.O.T.C. receives from the University of Texas approximately $50,000 per annum.

THEREFORE, I PROPOSE that a “peace study” be established with the same accreditation, freedoms, restrictions, accommodations, and financial support which R.O.T.C. receives. Each student in the “peace study” should receive, at least, as much financial support from the University as does each R.O.T.C. student.

TUITION

Education is no longer a luxury in this complex age; it is necessary. Experience with the G.I. Bill of Rights has shown that the recipients of a free education increased their earnings more than enough to pay back in taxes every tax dollar spent for their education. An opportunity for free education to the highest level of the individual’s ability is a right that must be guaranteed to all citizens.

THEREFORE, I WILL SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE the legislature to eliminate the tuition required of residents of the state of Texas who desire to attend state educational institutions.

MINIMUM WAGE

The University should be a leader in setting wage standards. The exploitation of students now practiced is a disgrace to an academic institution. At the wages now paid to students, the University could not find non-students to fill the jobs presently held by student help. In addition, these low wages tend to depress those received by students working in the surrounding business community.

THEREFORE, I ADVOCATE and will work toward the University’s paying the federal minimum wage to all employees.

REVIEW

I ADVOCATE a general review of the requirements for admission, degree plans, and degree requirements. This review is to be executed by a faculty-student conference with department representatives elected by instructors and the student majors in each department.

This entry was posted in RagBlog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.