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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 11, 1970)
lUtbDAY, AUGUbT I I, 1970
University power structyre is not
Editor's note: This storv is reDrinted
from "Campus in Crisis," a special
report issued by students and faculty in
the School of Journalism on the campus
distmptions of last May. the sit-in at
the Military and Naval Sciences Building,
the student .strike, the Town Hail
Meetings and the Peace Rally.)
By Mary Kay Quinlan
A university fs not a one man band.
A university is not a corrective, penal
A universy is not a giant corporation.
A University is not a miniature pc'itical
Three top University of Nebraska ad
ministrators quickly point out what a
universiy is not, but when it comes to
defining what a university is, the answers
immediately become complex.
The University of Nebraska exists
because the taxpayers of the state have
said such an institution should exist, said
Chancellor D. B. Varner.
"But beyond that, the nature of the
university confuses the general public
because of its highly diffused power
structure and complex purpose.
"The layman," he explained,
"sometimes assumes that the students
are here to learn, the faculty is hired to
teach them and the Regents are elected
to run the place. But in reality, it's much
more complicated than that."
R is complicated. Understanding how
e university functions and the role it plays
in society is in itself a complex task.
When a university is faced with a strike,
such understanding becomes evern more
complicated. And understanding power at
a university is the key to sorting out this
Varner emphasized that the people of
the state have the "ultimate authority to
make decisions" regarding the Universi-
thecal effects off
By BRUCE WIMMER
The 1970 spring semester at the
University of Nebraska began like any
other semester. All indications were that
it would continue like any other.
Students, faculty and administrators
went about the day-to-day activities that
make a university community what it is.
Visiting dignitaries, alumni and tourists
came and went.
Everyone was aware of campus
demonstrations afltolleges throughout the
country, but few if any imagined NU
would join in. The attitude seemed to be,
"It can't happen here."
But on a warm May afternoon it did.
The realization that the University of
Nebraska was no longer immune to the
campus protests that have been evident
across the nation was probably one of the
most Important occurrances in the
history of the institution.
Students had been concerned before.
There were marches to the state capital
or rallies on campus, but nothing to wor
ry about Even after a group of students
occupied the Military and Naval Science
Building most of the state seemed too
dazed to comprehend what happened.
But after the town hall meetings, the
mass rallies, the sometimes inflam
matory (and sometimes conciliatory)
speeches on the campus and the hurried
negative responses from the rest of the
state, something was different. It hap
pened, it appeared over, but there was a
strike and the question remained, "What
One thing is clear. No one can continue
to proclaim Nebraska's immunity to stu
dent activism. Suddenly Nebraskans had
reason to worry. Congressional mail was
running five times the normal rate.
Legislators' phones were ringing con
stantly and Regents' mailboxes were
la Lincoln, few results of the protest
were visible to those outside the
University. For a while there was a flop
py tent blowing in the wind that sym
bolized a "new society and a new
University,1 but that soon disappeared.
The real effects of the strike did not
disappear; they were apparent in the
classrooms, dormitories and the
Nebraska Union, where students and
faculty discussed the events. The same
varied opinions that were and still are
evident throughout the state and nation
were held at the University, too. But
there was a difference.
These Individuals had experienced a
crisis together and survived. There were
divergent views, but even during the
Csak-of activity, the Committee for
ndisrupted Education (CUE) and the
Strike Committee had booths side by side
In the Student Union. There wece cons
tant debates but they were constructive
and people on both sides listened. When it
ended there was a new sense of respect
and understanding. The University com
munity was drawn a little closer
Some results of the strike were evident
almost Immediately. Many may not be
apparent for some time.
The state"! sudden awareness of stu
dent activism and the new community
feeling within the University were shrt.
term results, though they may have more
Other outcomes will be long-term, and
may not be evident until the fail
semester, the next calendar year or even
later. Ttw problem is, however, that
these king-term results can be expressed
only as opinions or predictions until they
Or opinion centers on the apparent
concerns expressed In the initial strike
resolution. That resolution called for a
strike because of "concern over the ex
panding war in Indochina."
What effect did the strike have on
alkylating that concern?
Philip Scribcer, associate professor of
philosophy, said, "The strike may have
no immediate effect on any national
issues but It was at least important In an
Indirect way. Popi know that we are
concerned and that we will try and cope
with some of the serious problems facing
f i mn up ii. i
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Photo by Jim Doan
Gilbert (left) Prof. Robert Knoll
ty through the election of state legislators
and the Board of Regents.
"The Legislature provides financial
support for the University, and while it
has delegated general governing powers
to the Regents, it does retain residual
power to over-ride decisions of the
board," he continued.
"The Regents are primarily responsi
ble for hiring and firing a chancellor.
Beyond that, they have delegated much
Students were learning to cope with
problems through student activism and
that meant discussions, striking and
But the learning experience wasn't
limited to students. According to the dean
of faculties at the University, C. Peter
Magrath, the strike was a learning ex
perience for all involved.
"This strike was the first taste of con
frontation politics at this University, and
confrontation politics is a dangerous
game to play because there are few win
ners and a lot of losers," Magrath said.
All elements of the University com
munity made mistakes during the first
student strike in the history of the in
stitution. Fortunately, the mistakes could
be overcome, and the campus learned to
Students, for example, learned that
certain words, such as "strike," produce
a negative reaction that, cause only
"The choice of the word 'strike' was an
unfortunate mistake because students
were never on strike in the bad sense of
the word," according to Wallace
Peterson, professor of economics at the
Peterson, also a Democratic candidate
for the U.S. Senate in the May primary,
said students learned they had to express
themselves fully, to say what they meant.
He added that students learned that
demonstrations really have little effect.
The final answer, he said, is still working
in the political process.
Learning experiences extended into
other areas. Students now know the value
of organization. English Professor Paul
Olson said. "Students are now organized
to express their griefs. This is nothing to
fear, however, because the real danger
occurs when there are no controls and
emotional, adrenalin politics prevail."
Many students were also surprised to
learn that the administration at least ap
peared concerned. During the strike,
students found a sympathetic ear within
the administration. Before the strike
many students thought of the ad
ministration as an element that blocks
change. Obon said he was convinced that
the strike left the administration in a
much more credible position with
The Associated Students of the
University of Nebraska (ASUN). official
representative body o' the students, got a
sltot in the arm by coordinating strike
A month before the strike ASUN could
barely muster enough Interest to get 2,300
students to vote in campus elections.
After coordinating the strike, ASUN, was
at least well-known. Students In favor of
the strike applauded the organization's
efforts. Students opposed to the strike
began working to change the student
The strike was vatuabte also in forcing
student-parent discussions. When worried
parents called their sons and daughters,
the conversation often concerned the
student protest and the war.
The faculty also had to face students.
"For tlie first time the faculty had to
confront the left on this campus and we
learned, too," Olson said.
When the Faculty Senate voted down a
student request fur a two-week vacation
period before the November elections a
number of student observers expressed
their disgust by booing.
"We were forced to think about the
issue but I think the faculty made the
correct decision. Students have to realize
that campaigning can be done on their
own time just like every other citizea
They are not an elitist group," said
Robert Stock, assistant professor of
Stale Sen. Roland Luedtke, whlse 28th
Legislative District contains a large
number of University faculty members,
said c had many calls from la trus
tors. "They Indicated the faculty had a con
tractual obligation to teach classes and
they were willing to meet that obliga
tion." he said.
Must professors seemed to agree. Even
decision-making power to administrative
and faculty committees."
The largest such administrative-faculty
group with authority to make recom
mendations on most matters directly to
the chancellor and Board of Regents is
the University Senate.
According to the By-Laws and Rules of
the Board of Regents, the Senate is
"composed of the Chancellor, all deans,
all directors and all faculty members
with the rank or equivalent rank of
assistant professor or above."
Members of the Senate are given
jurisdiction over "matters affecting more
than one college," according to the
Regents by-laws, with all decisions sub
ject to appeal to the Regents. The "im
mediate government" of each college is
delegated to "Its own faculty."
"There is no doubt in my mind that the
weight of faculty opinion expressed
through the Senate can significantly In
fluence the direction of the University,"
remarked Dr. R. E. Gilbert, chairman of
the Liaison Committee, one of five stan
ding committees of the University Senate
specifically mentioned in the Regents' by
laws and rules. Gilbert is a professor of
The chancellor agreed that most of the
influence for decisions about the "Day-today
functioning" of the University lie
with the faculty.
"Since a university aims to enrich and
stimulate the intellectual processes, the
principal beneficiaries of the university
are the students," Varner continued.
"And as a prime reason for the
university's existence, the students are
playing an ever increasing role in
determining how the functions of the
university are implemented."
The chancellor condemned as "sheer
nonsense" the idea that a university
belongs to the students.
student strike may not disappear
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Crowd of students
faculty supporters of the strike indicated
that they made every attempt to fulfill
their contractual obligations and hold
Not everyone was satisfied, however.
Rumors circulated that certain instruc
tors would be fired for their part in the
strike. State Sen. Robert Clark of Sidney
said, "I think that is only fair. We pay
those people to teach certain classes. Any
Instructor who was out there urging
students to demonstrate should be out."
Magrath, the dean of faculties, said he
felt that much of the problem Involved
the unpreparedness of the faculty to deal
with such situations as the strike. He said
that as a result of the strike the faculty is
preparing a statement of faculty
Then there was the administration
learning process. Administrators learned
the virtual impossibility of discussing
Issues with large groups. "Effective and
meaningful communication with groups
that have no spokesman Is a serious pro
blem," Magrath said.
Administrators also expressed concern
over decisions made on the spur of the
moment in a mob environment.
"This is not how a responsible acade
mic community should resolve pro
blems," Magrath said.
State Sen. E. Thome Johnson of Fre
mont said the administration did a good
job of handling the strike. Dan Elrud.
state senator from Grand Island, said
administration's handling of the strike
"proves their high quality."
Even the Nebraska executive branch
commented. Secretary of State Frank
Marsh said the administration showed
understanding toward the students but
also stood strong when necessary. Marsh
said his office "was aware of the desire
for a special session of the Legislature to
consider the strike." But Marsh urged
citizens to "listen to Chancellor Varner
and let him set the tone."
State Sen. William Swanson of Lincoln
summed up the comments of most
legislators by praising the overall con
duct of the administration but qualifying
his comments with criticism of particular
events such as the occupation of the
Military and Naval Science Building.
"That occupation was a direct violation
of legislation designed to prevent just
such action," he complained.
The administration was ready to
Administration spokesmen pointed to
the campus policy approved by the Board
of Regents which gave the administration
power to determine when "disruption"
had occurred. It was the position of the
administration that "no disruption" oc
curred dxiring the Monday night and
Tuesdajr morning occupation. But too
Dr. G. Robert Ross, executive dean of
student affairs, said that people
sometimes are "uneasy" about students
sharing in the decision-making process.
"But in reality, it's probably the way
most people have raised their kids," he
Dean of Faculties C. Peter Magrath,
whose responsibilities include authoriz
ing all faculty appointments, explained
that "pluralistic, fragmented power" is
characteristic of a university, but he ad
ded that the faculty does have "decisive
Commenting on student contributions in
decision-making, Dr. Joseph Soshnik,
president of the Lincoln campuses and
outstate activities, contrasted today's
students with those during the 1950s.
"During the '50s, students were willing
to let others make decisions concerning
their education because they were
primarily interested in working toward a
single personal goal," he said.
"But today, really interested and con
cerned students are willing to do the hard
work necessary to help make decisions
about the things that influence their live3.
Today's students want to throw off the
atmosphere of paternalism in decision
making and enlarge their area of
"In fact, with many on-campus issues,
the students' specific concern is likely to
be not the decision itself, but who is
Discussing the nature of the university,
Varner, Soshnik, Magrath and Ross all
supported the right of individuals within
the academic community to express
dissent, but all objected to "institutional
commitments of protest."
The chancellor criticized the May
strike activities as "not at all legitimate"
for an academic community, calling it a
gathers to observe May 5 faculty
administration was preparing an injunc
tion to remove students had they re
mained longer Tuesday morning. In ad
dition, the Office of Student Affairs plac
ed on probation over 75 students who
were identified as remaining in the
Because of the manner in which the
strike was handled. Joseph Soshnik.
University president, appears in a better
position than ever before. He seems to
have the support of the majority of the
students, faculty, Board of Regents and
Although the original strike resolution
was specifically "not against the
University," at the final town hail
meeting the concerns of the students
turned to that institution's structure.
Students claimed problems of war in
Indochina and racism were exemplified
in the University structure as well. The
finul resolution, which called for creation
of a new University, could be the most
tar reaching and important result of the
At a special Academic Planning Com
mittee hearing, students and faculty
proposed a multitude of reforms. They
expressed a desire to change the
University educational system to better
prepare students to cope with problems
they face in the world.
Specific proposals were heard for
creation of an annual Summer Institute
of Social Awareness, the reform of
grading systems, credit for social action,
student voices in deciding direction of
class discussion, special courses offered
by petiton and an enlarged pass-fail
4 V' ,-':Sei
"If a three-dav strike didn't bring
American troops out of Cambodia, how
about a three-week strike, or a year? Or
maybe it would do some good if we
burned all the buildings down?
"The point is," Varner continued, "that
when the university makes an institu
tional commitment of protest, it becomes
a political weapon."
Magrath agreed that as an institution,
the university "cannot take political
"For many years, universities have
fought for independence from external
controls," Magrath explained. "Now, we
must be sure we maintain independence
from internal control."
According to Ross, the nature of the
academic community is one of "rational,
Magrath agreed that issues should be
deliberated, discussed and argued, but
decisions should not be made under the
"emotional stress of .confrontation
According to the chancellor, it was "a
mistake" for the University of Nebraska
to "commit itself in a strike."
"The strike did not solve the Cambodia
Situation, and it hurt the University in the
eyes of the people of Nebraska," he
But Steve Tiwald, president of the
Associated Students of the University of
Nebraska (ASUN), emphasized that
strike activities were directed into
"positive, constructive, meaningful
channels, not destructive, counter-productive
Liaison Committee Chairman Gilbert
added that there have been "no real
negative results" of the strike.
He pointed out that as an indirect result
of the strike, the Academic Planning
Photo by Jim Dean
Bert Evans, professor of agricultural
economics, was another who urged
restructuring of the University. He was
concerned, however, with going beyond
the education aspects and examining the
Evans said the basic organization of
the University had not changed since It
was established as a Land Grant college
a century ago. He urged democratic
organization of the University and its
departments, and a complete overhaul of
the dean and tenure systems.
The administration responded by noting
that many of the academic changes were
being considered before the strike and
that the University had changed and
would continue to change without the
pressure of a strike.
The Planning Committee, however, did
produce some new ideas that are now
getting serious consideration. Ideas such
as setting aside Thursday afternoon for
speaker programs and having more
txmrses within living units may be
adopted because of the hearings.
The administration also admitted that
the strike spurred along many of the
programs under consideration. Dean
Robinson noted that credit for ROTC in
the College of Arts and Science was
reduced to 10 hours. '
"This resolution was passed this spring
and if it were not for the concern ex
pressed during the strike it probably
would have been a year before similar
aetion could have taken place," he
While the results of the strike perhaps
may not be too objectionable, there were
voices of concern. Stock, English pro
rnmmittee has a "stack of ideas a half
inch thick" for change in the academic
But Soshnik said that "dramatic
education changes" have taken place in
the past year without "disorder and
But wheather the "campus crisis of
May," as Magrath calls it, was a strike
against Cambodia or for education
reform, it was generally agreed that the
situation on the Nebraska campus was
much less serious than on many cam
puses across the nation.
Varner explained that the situation did
not become as serious at Nebraska
because the students "tend to reflect a
value svstem of their parents and com
munities which generally considers
destructive action inappropriate."
The chancellor also commended
"remarkabely good student leadership"
throughout the incident.
"They're willing to try legitimate
means first," he said, "but they'll take
thfngs into their own hands unless change
"I'm for a change, ferment, and
discussion too," Magrath said, "but
what's so great about chaos? When the
police have to be called in, what kind of
academic freedom will there be? What's
wrong with maintaining a stable
academic atmosphere on the university
Most people would answer "Nothing."
But maintaining stability on a
university campus is not accomplished
A university is not a miniature political
community or a giant corporation or even
a corrective, penal institution because its
power is diffused.
A university is not a one-man band. It's
a symphony orchestra.
fessor, said that as long as educational
reform occurred because of honest and
careful evaluation the change would be
for the better, but he warned against
making any serious changes without
During the strike the Legislature also
reacted with concern. "After all, the
Legislature is a barometer of the people,
and the whole state is wondering what
has happened at the University," said
State Sen. Wayne Ziebarth of Wilcox.
State Sen. Claire Holmquist of Oakland,
expressing concern for the University,
reportedly called for an investigation into
the situation on the campus.
But Holmquist, a member of the
Legislature's Executive Council, said he
simply had called for an inquiry, not a
full-scale Investigation that might get out
of hand. The senator said he thought the
Board of Regents, the body responsible to
the state for what happens at the
University, should conduct any in
vestigations. "But I hope they would report any fin
dings to the Legislature," he added.
Other senators agreed with Holm
quist. The Regents responded by requesting
the chancellor to conduct an investigation
.and then, by establishing a seven-man
committee, to assist the chancellor and
The University budget, always the
subject of a hassle, was in danger as a
result of the strike. "Increased expen
ditures, inflation and economic problems
will only be compounded by the strike
when the University budget comes up for
consideration," Sen. Luedtke said.
But most legislators, Including
Luedtke, seemed to agree with Ziebarth,
who said he felt that budget cuts would
simply hurt the majority of students who
had been instrumental In holding down
the strike, and the minority who did
strike would not be concerned about
budget cuts anyway.
Sen. Clark, who criticized the ad
ministration for allowing "foul language"
on a public bulletin board near the
College of Lite, said, "The radical
students at the University would love
nothing more than to see the University
shut down . . ."
Many persons think the student strike
also seriously harms any attempts by
young adults to gain more responsibility.
Attempts to lower the voting age pro
bably will suffer in Nebraska, as they did
in Oregon, because of student unrest.
But effects of the strike appear more
constructive and favorable than many
thought possible. Bad effects appear to be
That was this time. The biggest con
cern is a fundamental interpretation of
the strike. If students think this proves
that striking is a good means of achieving
change, they might be wrong.
Ziebarth said dissent was valuable In
producing new ideas but he warned.
"You have to be careful of what effects
change might have. If you pull down
everything just to get a portion of what
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