From Vietnam to today in academia

From the early days of the Vietnam War, there was a real, if small, anti-war movement. It included people sincerely troubled by the war, but as David Horowitz said, was led by “Marxists and radicals who supported a communist victory.” Until 1967, the Vietnam anti-war movement was something of a sideshow — in that year it began to grow significantly in numbers and organization. The growth of the Vietnam anti-war movement was in large measure grounded in self-interest. It became intense only after conscription expanded substantially in the young adult population (first to 29,000 a month and then to 42,000 a month by spring 1968), and after the passage of the Selective Service Act of 1967.

That Act made it more difficult to get a draft deferment, and in fact created the violent and intense war protests at elite institutions, since it cancelled graduate school deferments, beginning with the fall 1968 student year. As contemporaneous reporting in the Harvard Crimson demonstrates, the end of the deferments threw elite university students and professors into the frenzy of sit-ins, takeovers, and demostrations that began in 1968. Graduate school deferments channeled the anti-war cohort into academia, and many of the war protesters became tenured professors who chaired departments and promoted younger faculty members. In 2012, 96% of all political contributions from Ivy League professors went to the president. The sixties have cast a long shadow.

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