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Post Student Strikes 1970: Dartmouth
Created by John Eipper on 05/16/17 4:51 AM

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Student Strikes 1970: Dartmouth (Orlo Steele, USA, 05/16/17 4:51 am)

I would like to comment on David Duggan's May 12 report of students taking over the administration building at Dartmouth in 1969.

At the time, I had recently returned from a 13-month tour in Vietnam and as a Major, was serving as the Marine Officer Instructor (MOI) with the Navy ROTC Unit at the college. Beginning at the fall term of that academic year the burning issue at faculty meetings centered around the future of the ROTC programs that for the navy had been resident on the campus since WW II. The local SDS chapter, joined by a number of faculty members, was extremely vocal in its demands that the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units should be unilaterally terminated right away.

After considerable debate on the subject, in March of 1969, the college administration announced its decision to accept new ROTC students who were scheduled to arrive in the succeeding fall term, but that no ROTC students would be taken in thereafter. In essence, ROTC would be ended by attrition with the graduating class of 1973. It was this late afternoon announcement that prompted approximately 40 SDS activists to take over the administration building (Parkhurst Hall).  As reported, in the process they bodily evicted the Dean of Students. What David did not mention however, was that the activists also removed the President of Dartmouth, John Sloan Dickey, from his office as well. The heavy front doors of the building were nailed shut. Students sat in the building's windows and hung a large banner which said: "Join Us. Abolish ROTC and military recruiting."

Needless to say, the incident immediately drew a large crowd of onlookers and eventually television camera crews and print reporters. However the crowds were orderly and no students tried to join those who were already inside. By midnight, the temperature had dropped to -20 degrees, which was normal at that time of year. In the absence of activity, the crowd and media eventually disbursed and went home to bed. At 4 AM while the campus was completely quiet, a contingent of New Hampshire state troopers arrived and surrounded the building. Using a megaphone, the officer in charge told the students inside Parkhurst that they had five minutes to vacate the building.  When the time had expired, about three or four strapping troopers broke through the locked doors and all the students were quickly rounded up and placed under arrest. By 9 AM that morning each student had received a fresh haircut and found themselves standing in front of a magistrate somewhere in the state of New Hampshire. The common punishment for all the offenders was 30 days in the local county jail. Thus the total time it took for the New Hampshire police to restore order on the Dartmouth campus was probably less than thirty minutes. Moreover, the vast majority of student body and faculty were completely unaware that law enforcement officers from outside had even come and gone.

Years later when I was the Legislative Assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington DC, I happened to mention to Senator Rudman of New Hampshire that I had been the last Marine Officer assigned to Dartmouth College. He asked: "Do you remember when the students took over the administration building? " I told him I remembered it vividly. He then went on to tell me that as the Attorney General of New Hampshire he had written that contingency plan at the request of the Dartmouth leadership following the 1968 takeover of the administration building at Columbia University. He was clearly pleased that his plan had been executed flawlessly and without criticism from the media, or with anyone being injured.

For John Sloan Dickey however, the incident must have been personally saddening. Prior and during World War II he had a varied and illustrious career as a foreign service officer with the US State Department. In September 1969 he was scheduled and did step down as Dartmouth's twelfth President on the year of the College's Bicentennial Celebration.  For 25 years he had served Dartmouth with distinction and a calming steady hand and was generally regarded by students and faculty alike as one of the most effective and beloved Presidents in the 200-year history of the institution.

JE comments:  Pres. Dickey lived his final years at the Dartmouth infirmary, Dick's House, after suffering a severe stroke in 1982.  I saw him a couple of times when visiting ill friends.  At the time (1980s), Dickey was in his mid 70s, but seemed much older and frailer.  He died in 1991.

I'm proud to honor Orlo Steele for his recent contribution to the WAIS Development Fund.  Thank you, General!  Here's the info so you too can be included in the Honor Roll.  Remember:  WAIS donations are tax-deductible in the US.

1.  via check payable to WAIS:  c/o John Eipper, Goldsmith Hall, Adrian College, Adrian Michigan 49221 USA

2.  via PayPal:  donate@waisworld.org

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