The Phoenix Network:
 
 
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
 
News Features  |  Talking Politics  |  This Just In
Best2011Vote-1000x50

1004_bu_main
RALLY CAPS: Forty years ago this month, in the wake of the Kent State shootings and volatile anti-Vietnam sentiment on college campuses across the country, Boston University canceled classes and called off commencement. Instead of donning caps and gowns, the class of 1970 joined with students from throughout the region for an anti-war rally outside Harvard Stadium. Officials at BU have invited members of that class to join current graduates at the this weekend’s commencement ceremonies.

Boston University’s class of 2010 celebrates its commencement this weekend, and BU has invited the class of 1970 to tag along. See, the class of ’70 — my class — never had a commencement ceremony. On May 4, 1970, four students were murdered in Ohio by trigger-happy National Guardsmen during an anti–Vietnam War demonstration at Kent State University. And 10 days later, Guardsmen killed two people in Mississippi under similar circumstances at Jackson State. Dangerous times.

In an effort to defuse the tension after the Kent State shootings, BU canceled classes, suspended remaining finals, and called off graduation ceremonies. That, and Richard Nixon’s recently announced invasion of Cambodia, was the context for the class of 1970 losing its commencement. And this is what BU wants to make up for. (That potential alumni donors of my class are retiring and likely making out their wills around now may or may not be a coincidence.)

Following Kent State, a nationwide student strike against the war and racism, in progress since May 1, gained momentum, and, on May 8, morphed into a citywide student rally. Contingents from BU, Northeastern, Boston College, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the smaller schools converged from their respective campuses in a mass march to the field outside Harvard Stadium. It was the one demonstration I ever participated in where widespread violence seemed likely. Marchers were angry and no longer afraid. The tension wrought by an expectation that things could erupt was heightened by the fact that we marched in absolute spooky silence. This was something more than a public protest. The ideological, cultural, and political revolutions we’d championed were suddenly headed for something ugly and evil and we had no choice but to keep on walking.

I remember striding past the old Commonwealth Armory and wondering if there were National Guardsmen lurking inside. I remember a group of potbellied early drinkers loitering on the sidewalk in front of an Allston bar and how they erupted in laughter at one of their own’s witticisms, only to be stared into silence by the passing parade of angry eyes. Flash points were everywhere.

But there was no violence — that day, at least. My BU diploma arrived in a cardboard mailer addressed to my parents’ house. I truly value my education, respect my school, and cherish my time at BU, but given the circumstances of May 1970, sitting in the sun for three hours on Nickerson Field for a self-congratulatory faux-Medieval ceremony wasn’t much to give up. If any of my classmates really feels cheated and craves closure because the school shut down while the country was falling apart, I have to wonder whose side they were on in the first place.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Questioning the Legality of Straight Marriage, Howard Zinn: 1922-2010, Karen Schmeer: 1970-2010, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Education, Ivy League, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  More more >
| More
1 Comments / Add Comment

ValleyofDeath

In 1968 I was an infantryman in Viet Nam with the 11th ACR. When I came back, broken and sick, I went to BU. I didn't go to graduation. I knew that my classmates would someday be sending young kids to die for some manufactured reason. Well, here we are again. With no draft, who cares about the 300,000 soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors overseas involved in wars propped up by lies and propaganda? It seems like the lessons of the '60's have faded tone and tint. But if you asked me back then if the exact same ignorant and criminal reasons, and benefactors, would still be pushing war and empire as America's primary business, I wouldn't have believed it. Well, believe it now and watch as we join the garbage heap of history's empires who thought them self the best the world has ever seen. That's your closure.
Posted: May 16 2010 at 10:42 PM
Add Comment
HTML Prohibited

 Friends' Activity   Popular   Most Viewed 
[ 02/21 ]   Easter Vomit + Ming Ming + Rene + Free Pizza  @ Great Scott
[ 02/21 ]   Humanoids + Uncomfortables  @ Charlie's Kitchen
[ 02/21 ]   Joe Fig: "Inside the Painter's Studio"  @ Massachusetts College of Art and Design
ARTICLES BY CLIF GARBODEN
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   PBS LOOKS AT THE DARKER SIDE OF CHANGING THE WORLD  |  January 11, 2011
    Sometimes you want to give PBS a big grateful kiss just for staying the course while most of TV, losing ground to the interweb age, hovers between cultural hemorrhage and commercial death.
  •   REVIEW: GOD IN AMERICA  |  October 10, 2010
    For all our bragging about separating church and state, throughout our nation's history, religion has never been on the sidelines. If
  •   A BLOOD-BOILED APPEAL TO THE YOUNG AND BEWILDERED BOSTON NEWBIES  |  August 31, 2010
    You students are back. We locals, many of the best of whom began our lives here as scholar-transplants from that Other America ourselves, know this without consulting a calendar.
  •   REVIEW: THE WORLD THAT NEVER WAS  |  August 17, 2010
    Some marketing wizard gave Oxford-based historian Alex Butterworth's exhaustive history of the international anarchist movement a fun title it doesn't deserve.
  •   FASHIONABLY GREAT  |  August 10, 2010
    New-York-born-and-based photographer Richard Avedon (1923–2004), who's rightly credited with revolutionizing fashion photography, was more than a couturier-mag genius.

 See all articles by: CLIF GARBODEN

MOST POPULAR
RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 



  |  Sign In  |  Register
 
thePhoenix.com:
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
TODAY'S FEATURED ADVERTISERS
Copyright © 2011 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group