Al McCombs

Al McCombs

Demonstrations that turn into riots are nothing new for this country, although they worry us still. They trace back to our Revolutionary War. Not all were disasters, and some got real results. Just ask King George III about the Boston Tea Party, the Suffragettes about their parade in March 1913 and Native Americans about the occupation of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay in 1969. Or Mario Savio at UC Berkeley in 1964. 

On August 5, 1970, the Roundup, reprinted in part here, discussed the last:

Campus anarchy was listed as the most important problem facing California today by those who responded to a recent questionnaire by (our then) Senator Bill Coombs. 

But campus unrest is just one aspect of a world-wide crisis, according to Arthur Sutton, public affairs officer and special assistant to the chancellor at the University of California, Riverside. Mr. Sutton told Chino Rotarians last week that there is a world “crisis of authority.” (Editor’s note--Remember this is 1970.)

It shows itself in the home and in the church, he said. But the campus scene reveals it in its most visible form because this is where thousands of young people gather and clash with tradition. Campus unrest has taken place in Japan and Germany. Two years ago, French students almost wrecked the economy. The revolt of youth is not an American phenomenon, it is found in all societies where there is a high living standard, increased affluence and a high level of technology.

He said the news media has tended to spread the feeling of violence and anarchy, impatience and dissatisfaction. Television and the satellite communications system amplify what happens and have an effect on the way people behave. A person in Chino, Riverside or Kansas who is feeling unhappy or anxious sees people at Berkeley doing something about it, and the tendency is to repeat the same thing that is seen elsewhere, Mr. Sutton said.

He predicted that five years from now the new world will be dramatically different than it is now. He said he didn’t think that today’s young people are going to follow the path to stable settling down to family life and work like their predecessors.

It’s a different generation with different values and ideas, he said. If you are parents, you can only begin to appreciate the problem on campuses when you project your own communications difficulty to the campus situation. There is a new attitude and life style in the young generation, developed from a system in which nobody takes anyone else’s opinion as final. A questioning time. It is a part of all our social institutions, Mr. Sutton said.

There is a large body of students honestly concerned about the United States and its problems. They have faith and loyalty, and can’t be written off because they are the next generation we must live with, Mr. Sutton said.

He added that the past policies and rigidity of administrators was so deep seated that students felt that the only way to get change was to resort to violence.

(I can’t help noting that those students if they are still around are grandparents and great grandparents. And that our First Amendment is still being tested.)

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