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Commentary by Luke Boyd: College Revisited

I went back to college in 1968. It was a sobering experience. I had graduated from Ole Miss in 1955, had served a stint in the Army, and had been teaching and coaching at a private boarding school.  

Of course, I had commuted three summers to MTSU to get a master’s degree and had been to a couple of six-week summer institutes on college campuses but that was not really like being a regular student during the regular school year.  
 
And some of you may be old enough to remember the student protest/hippie movement that swept U. S. college campuses during the 1960s. Trying to teach and work on a doctoral program at UT in the midst of that chaos was interesting, to say the least.
 
These protesters protested most everything they considered a practice or standard promoted by “The Establishment.”  One of their common slogans was “never trust anyone over 30.” 
 
Of course, they failed to look far enough ahead and realize that in only a few years (if they didn’t overdose on drugs) they would be in that category.
 
One of my office mates got all caught up in the movement. One day she invited us all to a protest they were holding that evening. I asked her what they would be protesting. She said that they would be protesting “the plasticity of women” and that they were going to burn their bras.  
 
She got a little miffed when I asked, “Will you be taking them off first?” I thought if they didn’t, it would be a show well worth seeing. Sure enough the next day’s issue of the student newspaper ran a front-page photo of her and several of her friends, waving flaming bras.
 
Her husband was one of the leaders of the campus protesters. One time he got a lot of coverage (even TV) when he challenged the Chancellor to a duel at high noon.  
 
It was never real clear what this would prove or disprove but he showed up outside the Chancellor’s office building at the appointed time, dressed in full western regalia and armed with two cap pistols.  
 
The Chancellor did not show, leading “Cowboy Bob” to claim a victory.
 
One method of protesting was not getting haircuts or shaves or washing themselves or their clothes. You did not want to get caught in a confined space (like an elevator) with even a small number of them.
 
They began a “Free University” and scheduled all sorts of esoteric classes, taught by themselves out under trees and other places and demanded that the University grant credit for them. It didn’t happen.
 
I had an extreme flower child in one of my classes. She always had flowers pinned up in her hair, which was long and flowing as were her dresses. The lack of undergarments presented quite a picture when she stood at a window with the light behind her.  
 
Her voice was low, soft, and dreamy as if she were always mellowed out on something.  One day she came in and asked everyone to sit on the floor with her including me. 
 
I declined saying (truthfully) that sitting cross-legged on concrete hurt my ankles. Though no one else did, she sat in the aisle beside her chair but had a hard time managing her book and notes. At about midpoint of the class, she got in her chair.
One thing these protestors liked to do was to take over various offices and classes.  At one school they staged a sit-in in the President’s office, which lasted a couple of weeks.  They destroyed all the files and about everything else before they were dislodged. This was tried at UT but never amounted to much. One of the most unusual attempted takeovers occurred in my department.
 
Dr. Haas was lecturing to a class of about 200 on the period in Europe prior to World War II. Suddenly, both classroom doors burst open and about a dozen protesters rushed in. 
 
The leader, who had at one time been a teaching assistant for Dr. Haas but had gone over to the dark side, came to the lectern, grabbed the microphone and announced, “Dr. Haas, we’re taking over this class. What are you lecturing on today?”
Dr. Haas was taken aback by this turn of events but managed to stammer out, “G-G-Gestapo tactics.”
 
He did not realize the irony of his answer but many of his students did and began to laugh.  
 
This infuriated the hippie leader who berated them for laughing and launched into a speech on how they were being brainwashed by “The Establishment.”  
 
This produced more laughter.  Several students rose to their feet and threatened bodily harm to the invaders if they didn’t “get the hell out of our class.”  They left, squelched and defeated.
 
I think the ones of us who survived all this chaos and still got our degrees should have gotten a special citation.

Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at coondogspress@bellsouth.net

 

Posted on: 10/3/2013

 
 

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