SDS Reawakens – More History from Alice Embree

In spring 1967, six members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Texas in Austin ran for Student Assembly on the following platform. The original platform was mimeographed. It has been reproduced in 2007 for cyberspace consumption so that it can be a reference for students who are again organizing chapters of SDS across the nation. Alice Embree


Why the hell are students second-class citizens – denied even basic Constitutional rights?
Why are so many dissatisfied students without the power to change their circumstances?
Why is education such a dull, static drag?
Why is the Student Assembly an effectual machine which merely perpetuates the present stagnation at the cost of a truly creative education?

Because you the students are individuals without organization or direction.
Because you the student are subject to the manipulation of a non-educationally oriented administration.
Because you the student have never before been faced with the reality of your situation.

1) Student-Faculty Control of the University

Those engaged in higher learning and those engaged in the administration of higher learning have nothing in common. The former aim to freely pursue knowledge and share it with their fellows. The latter aim to control a large organization through the imposition of bureaucratic routines and mechanical structures. The students and faculty should control all academic matters; the administrators should be their servant.

2) Grades and Other Academic Procedures (required courses, etc.)

No single plan can adequately meet the educational needs of the majority of the students. The present mechanical routine has been created largely to facilitate the work of the administrator, not the student. It regiments rather than educates. Education of free men [sic] must be a free activity.

Grades coerce students into compliance with the routines. As a language composed of only five symbols, they have no value as a description of a human being’s educational progress.

No student should have to submit to grades or required routines in order to use the facilities of the University. Students and faculty should be free to resolve themselves into smaller groups and programs for the purpose of authentically communicating with one another, initiating new programs to fit their educational needs, and eliminating the bureaucratic routines and authority of the present system.

Practically, we will work toward immediate institution of the pass-fail system of grades and unlimited admission of special (non-degree seeking) students.

3) Bill of Rights

Students and faculty engaged in teaching and learning need the maximum amount of basic freedom in order to conduct their work. Yet, self-serving politicians and dictatorial administrators have limited their freedom even more than that of the ordinary citizen. The basic Constitutional freedoms and rights should be guaranteed to all members of the academic community.

The first step will be to secure freedom of speech for all students and their organizations and to eliminate censorship of the Daily Texan and other student publications.

4) Student Life and Housing

Students attending the University should not be considered its special charges. The University should have no authority over students’ off-campus activities. Persons living in University housing should have the freedom of movement (with no curfew), dress, etc., accorded to all persons in the society. The required nine-month contract should be abolished.

In addition, the University should provide low-cost housing both for students who cannot afford high rent and to act as a depressant on the cost of housing throughout the campus area. Therefore, dorm costs should be cut 25% across the board.

5) Texas Union and University Co-op

The Union, supported entirely by student funds, should be controlled entirely by the students. The Board of Directors, presently divided between faculty and students, should have only student members.

The University Co-op does not respond to the needs of the students as a co-operative could and should. It should be publicly investigated and reordered so as to make it a more effective servant of the students. The primary goal should be a truly co-operative price (at least 25% below the present) on textbooks.

6) The University and the Military

a. The military recruiters who frequent the campus should be put in the employment office with the other corporate recruiters.
b. The personnel of the ROTC departments have no academic freedom; their minds are the property of the Pentagon. These departments should be abolished.
c. Defense research which is done on campus is not free but purchased and directed by the military establishment. Either the results from such research should be published openly or it should be disallowed on campus.

7) Employee Wages and Working Conditions

Graduate students employed as TA’s, graders, etc., should not be required to pay money into the teacher and employee retirement funds.

All employees of the University should receive, at least, the federal minimum wage of $1.40 per hour. This includes, among others, cafeteria personnel, grounds keepers, and library employees.

8) Black History

In order to make up for an inexcusable past deficiency, the University should immediately begin a curriculum in the history of Black Americans.

9) Parking

The administration should immediately begin construction of either nearby garages or outlying parking lots with free bus service to campus to alleviate the unbearable parking situation.

10) Campus Cops

Campus Cops should not be equipped with guns.

11) Faculty Facilities

The faculty ought to form a community with the students, not a separate tribe. To help effect this, we advocate the abolition of separate faculty restrooms and cafeterias on campus.

12) Methods for Seeking These Goals

We fully recognize the powerlessness of student government. We pledge to use these channels only as long as they yield significant results. Thereafter, we will go directly to the student body and rally the strength that their position and number at the University give them. This could take the form of organizing to work for a particular goal, or formation of a permanent union of students completely independent of the administration which could bargain for the students from a position of strength.


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