Activism in the Seventies and Eighties|
Many observers, particularly those who had been political activists in the 1960s, sneered at the college students of the 1970s and 1980s. Derisively labeled as members of the "Me Decade," or later as the selfish members of "Generation X," it is often assumed by outside observers that the college campuses of the 1970s and 1980s were devoid of any type of awareness of the world's problems and were simply racing to complete a degree that would get them lots of money....
The material madness and the Animal Housestereotypes offer too simplistic an indictment of college students during the 1970s and 1980s. Throughout this period there continued to be many political and social causes for which students were willing to, and did, voice their concerns. For some, despite the myth that it had been done away with by the protests of the 1960s, it was the continuation of in loco parentis at the University. Others participated in environmental, gay and lesbian, racial, and feminist activism with all the vigor of their sixties brethren. Although it is true that the number of students who actively lobbied for political causes declined in the 1970s and 1980s, and it would be an error to label the decades as revolutionary in nature (although many alumni of universities around the nation have lately tried to do just that), many college students were still willing to "take to the streets" for causes in which they believed.
The issue that most galvanized the nation's universities during this period, including Syracuse University, was the debate over the academy's alleged collusion in South African apartheid. Early in 1978, colleges and universities around the nation began to pressure their boards to sell any stock in companies that did business in South Africa. One report to the Board of Trustees claimed that the University held an endowment of $50 million, some $15 million of which was in corporations with South African interests, and estimated that it would cost the University between $150,000 and $200,000 in commissions or replacements to divest....
In April 1978, the Executive Committee voted not to divest the endowment of its stocks in companies that did business in South Africa, arguing that "pressure from foreign companies on the government of South Africa is an effective means of bringing about change in that country, and because the black people there are most likely to suffer from any economic sanctions...."
On April 22, 1985, students representing a group called the Coalition Against Racism and Apartheid hammered homemade wooden crosses into the grounds surrounding the Administration Building and splattered red paint, symbolizing blood, on the crosses. They also camped out on the lawn in a tent encampment they called Crossroads-named after the |
site of a South African clash.
Unlike some protests of past years, the South African issue was not a transient one. Rather than disappearing with a summer vacation, the issue stayed alive at colleges all over the countrywell into the mid-1980s.... |
As a result of the board's refusal to divest, Syracuse University would play a part in a national protest against South African apartheid. On April 22, 1985, students representing a group called the Coalition Against Racism and Apartheid hammered homemade wooden crosses into the grounds surrounding the Administration Building and splattered red paint, symbolizing blood, on the crosses. They also camped out on the lawn in a tent encampment they called Crossroadsnamed after the site of a South African clash.
Despite his competence, courage in the face of adversity, and importance as a transitional figure, John Corbally was not at Syracuse long enough to articulate a coherent vision for the future. However, [William P.] Tolley and Eggers were both able and willing to look forward. These men shared a vision of continual internal progress and physical growth. Tolley dreamed of an institution expanding beyond its roots as a small liberal arts college to become a modern research institution. Eggers dreamed of taking that institution to heights of national acclaim. Both men met quite different challenges: Tolley faced the chaos of World War II, the crisis of McCarthyism, and the upheaval of Vietnam; Eggers faced financial disruption and declining enrollments. Few whom we interviewed could fully agree on how these men conquered those challenges. However, they all agreed -and the evidence...confirms-that conquer them they did.