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On May 8 the Vanderbilt Chancellor Alexander Hurd was extended an invitation to fill the newly created post of adviser to the president on campus affairs. President Nixon concerned over the growing campus unrest and incidents of violence decided to name a special advisor to keep him informed of current thinking in the academic community especially that of students during the next two and a half months. Chancellor Hurd met with the president on nine occasions for a total of 11 hours and along with Dr. James Cheek president of Howard University submitted to Mr Nixon memoranda totaling about 50 pages in addition to his personal conferences with the President Chancellor Hurd was involved in group meetings with representatives from about 35 campuses along with individuals who had specific data or viewpoints to contribute concerning campus conditions. He or members of the advisory
staff conferred with government officials including the secretaries of AGW labor agriculture and the interior. The attorney general and the leadership of Congress senators Mansfield and Scott speaker McCormick and Representative FORD Vice President Agnew asked for a meeting with the chancellor. One of their conferences lasted an hour and a half of crucial importance to the assessment of the nature of student unrest. It was a questionnaire circulated through the U.S. Office of Education to two hundred forty eight campuses across the country soliciting accounts of how the Cambodian intervention affected the student population by all these activities. He clearly indicated the nature of his assignment. That of adviser to the president not the president's representative to the campuses. Out of this research and consultation came several recommendations to the president including that he
attempt to increase his exposure to representatives of the campus and black communities that he assigned a White House staff member. The responsibility of being liaison with higher education that he take initiative in welcoming young people into political processes and that he and others undertake to more adequately understand fears of repression among certain groups in the country. Councillor Hurd declined to predict what action the president would take on the basis of those recommendations but did indicate both in his completions statement of July 23rd and in a news conference two days later that he felt Mr. Nixon was greatly concerned with campus problems and was entertaining a serious scrutiny of all the written reports and recommendations. And I think the. President has been serious. Yeah. Reading the written materials that we have sent to him the conversations that we
have had with him subsequent to submitting the written materials suggest that he has read them and has thought about them and I think his willingness to spend as much time as he did with President Xi and me testifies to his concern with the subject. Now he is president of a very complex country with many problems and I do not think I can undertake to predict precisely what actions he will take or not take on the basis of the suggestions that we have conveyed to him we indicated in the early part of the release dated July 23 but you have some illustrations of incidental matters on which we had conveyed to him suggestions and in which the actions that he took accorded with those suggestions.
This is not to maintain that he took those actions because we recommended them as opposed to someone else recommended by Theo. And I think President Sheikh joins me and that the presidents away on this. The scope and depth of disaffection among some students in the country and in the black community is a greater than it was two months ago. This is not to say that. We all we alone are responsible for that what we consider to be a wider understanding on his part but I do believe that is his understanding of the issues as we think they exist is greater than it was two months ago. I think as we indicate in this memorandum that it's very difficult to assign credit to one source the recommendation or another and it is very difficult to
really appraise what the effectiveness of anyone's suggestions and then you never know what might have occurred and what might not have occurred otherwise. And I would prefer to leave my assessment in the tone that is reflected in this release. The catalyst for the marked increase in the intensity of student arrest last Brame is generally considered to be the expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. The Southeast Asian war draws special attention and concern in the academic community. Chancellor Hurd gave his views of the role of the war in student dissent. Think that we've said about his health. As we hand our observations on that subject they appear as I recall in the third memorandum that is that was released
appearing on page 30 of the third full paragraph. And I think our general view is that if the war continues more or less at the same level that it will be an important source of tension on the campuses and in the society generally we emphasize here I would like to emphasize to you now. The fact that in our judgment and I think in the judgment of those many of those with whom we conferred. That. Our involvement in Southeast Asia was not by any means the only source of tension in the society. It happens in the United States. We think to be the prominent so us prominent being a synonym. Some of them for the word salient a prominent source the prominent the most prominent source of friction. But it is not the only one. And as we say in some places here if the war were over tomorrow in the draft the next day this would
not by any means I think remove the interest. That. Many students and others have in a wide range of public public policies. If the war is fought the right courses and SE Asia are perceived as widening the war then I think you have one condition. If war goes along and troop withdrawals continue on a fairly regular rate then I think you have another condition. And if through some piece of great good fortune the negotiations were to lead to a much swifter ending of the hostilities then you have a still of a convention and I think however as long as the war goes on it's a source of tension and if it widens it's a source of great attention. We indicate in the second memorandum the results of a Survey of Student opinion and report there separately the results from students who
consider themselves to be far right and conservative and students who style themselves as moderate and it seemed to us that even allowing for sampling arrows of various kinds and imperfections in the questions that the results of that survey it was so overwhelmingly. On one side that you can reach a very dependable conclusion that there is real disquiet among even moderate and conservative students as well as among others to its real disquiet and genuine concern. So of course there are students with many different opinions and I am sure you will know without my having to point out that when we say students we are speaking of a vast and varied lot of individual human beings. There is no monolithic student point of view there. The extreme student activists who frequently appear in the news obviously do not
represent the vast majority of students. And so when you ask what will satisfy these students what you really have to. It is what will satisfy widely differing groups of students. These groups have entirely different expectations. I think that among a very very large number of students there is a very deep convictions about the war in Southeast Asia. Whatever its origins and without seeking to assign blame to anybody or any administration is a war that the objectives of which they don't understand and which they see going on indefinitely. And I think that if they could feel more certain about the usefulness of the conflict and more certain about the probability of it and that
this wouldn't comfort a great many of them and probably satisfy some of them. Chancellor Hurd pointed out that they Cambodian action intensified already existing anti-war sentiments but more importantly caused students who normally consider themselves to be moderate or conservative to adopt a negative view of the war and exposed some other surprising sentiments. Among this group a survey made by Louis Harris during that period May 20th through 26. Revealed that 70 percent of the students who consider themselves to be conservative or far right agreed that until the older generation comes to understand the new lifestyle of you with serious conflict will continue. Thirty five percent of the same group believe that it is possible to have a violent revolution in this country which would overthrow the government. Naturally these percentages increase substantially for students who categorize
themselves as moderates or liberals. Chancellor Hurd points out that the significance of these percentages lies in the fact that in a crucial segment of the population in which the future of our governance lies there is a definite lack of confidence in the stability and general condition of the country since so much of the student dissent lies with their view of the war. The validity and accuracy of those views might be closely examined when asked to evaluate the student's perspective on the Southeast Asian war. Chancellor Hurd stated that while there was a possibility that their perspective might be unbalanced it was not his job to pass value judgments on the views but to accurately report to the president what those of you whose war I think there is. A sense in the country citizens in
moving students and others. Are frequently not fully informed about national policy is either domestic national policies or are national policies overseas. And I think it is entirely possible that citizens including students may not understand the reasons our government does things at home and abroad. Our effort was to follow the president's request to convey to him the sentiments feelings and attitudes that I held on the campuses to help keep the administration abreast of the attitudes and sentiments. And it was not to. I pray is the. As we make clear I think you will find if you read the memorandum as we make clear in conveying reporting
these sentiments we did not undertake to evaluate their validity or to either to question their validity or to condone those sentiments. First of all remember what our charge is our charge is to convey to the president to report to him. Attitudes convictions beliefs held on the campus. Remember that is the that is the focal point about charge and the second is explained in this memorandum. Request from him was to suggest procedures and mechanisms by which he might in the future keep better abreast of these campus attitudes and beliefs. Now we have sought to convey what campus views came to us concerning the desires of young people generally and students in particular to have a voice in. There's other citizens
in national decision making our suggestions to the president have been to indorse for example his memorandum of March 31 1970 pertaining to youth but as a patient in the federal government which sets forth objectives which seem to us to be eminently tune to the contemporary moods of youth in their desire to have a part in government to be a part of the community decision making processes like other citizens. I think this is an accurate reflection on campus attitudes it seems to me also as you will note and a paragraph specifically set out at the end of the second. The memorandum which appears on
page 32. And if I may I will read this paragraph which I think is the most direct response to your question. It says young people and all that were right in conditions of organization need to be viewed as full fledged constituents of government. If active participation in politics and government by them increases their understanding of government and therefore when they are patients whether it increases their acceptance of the results of community decision making processes local state and national and increases their influence over substantive policy they are sometimes improving the quality of public decisions. I think that's the extent of the intent of our About meeting. Along with the war Vice President Spiro Agnew is held in low esteem by many students who are critical of the content of his speeches and his
manner of delivery. Chancellor Hurd said to the vice president revealed a genuine concern in the way in which the academic community received his speeches. I believe if you look at the record that sense the president's news conference on the evening of May 8. The vice president has not chosen to deliver a speech on the subject. Campuses across the country there have been one or two references in subsequent speeches which some persons on the campuses have thought included them in the sweep of the vice president's remarks. But the vice president has refrained for the last two and a half months at least from speaking explicitly about. Campus conditions met on two occasions with the vice president and on another occasion as this memorandum suggests with
members of his staff. And I found him interested and I think genuinely interested in the responses among our among academic people to his speeches. He delivered a speech some of you may be interested in checking if you happened in Detroit. I do not know the exact date on the general subject of dissent. He also at the time of the Voting Rights Bill was up indorsed the general concept of you participation in politics and expressed his views favoring 18 year voting. We have reported here in this release everything that we have said in. Writing to the president about the vice president on the May. Seven as has been publicly announced a group of eight
university presidents met with Mr. Nixon and as was announced at that time discussed somewhat Probably they have use of the device even back in the country of comments made by some public officials including the vice president and I have really not pursued that very much beyond that point. The observations then being very explicitly made aside from what references you may find in here. We said nothing further in writing to him about it. The war in Vietnam fights president the credibility gap and a number of domestic issues are all sounding boards for student dissent. The more important substantive issue is what are the students really after. What is the underlying source of tension on the campus. Chancellor Hurd pointed out that it's dire of the students was not so much to have their way on any one particularly
issue but to be listened to to feel as though they have some part in crucial policy making decisions. But I think a good release is fairly clear that we we concluded from the conferences we had with back of the students and with others who observe them and with others in the university communities college communities too that there is a very genuine desire on the part of these citizens to feel that they have views their values their worries their hopes are considered seriously by those who make decisions at all levels of government I think we've found also consistently a recognition that no group in this society can expect the president to do what they want. They alone want. I think there was a full recognition
that you don't shape public policy effectively at least not over the long run by threatening public officials with one kind of reprisal or another. If they don't do what you want them to do I think the general mood among the large bulk of students whose opinions we think we sense. He is being highly responsible temperate students though greatly concerned about the fate of the United States. I think the great sentiment among them the great aspiration among them is to feel that what they feel and what they have said is carefully taken into account is way it is considered. And then if public policy departs from they are views of wise public policy that they have some understanding as to why public officials including the president felt it wise to do otherwise. I think the element of responsiveness has two components not simply do what I want you to do but
separate from that and probably in the long run more important a feeling that what I want you to do has been evaluated and weighed and if found wanting that that is then said You will see in the recommendations which are outlined in part three and outline that we prepared but which are not reported in full. A number of suggestions that they are on that point. We felt for example that it was very important that. There will be someone. Clearly no one in the White House to be concerned with matters of higher education and particularly with moons and trends on the campuses. And we recommended that such a person be designated. And it was announced in the press conference at the White House day before yesterday that Robert French had been designated as such a person. We also recommended as you will see on page 39 that the
president initiate an assessment of Youth Opportunity Programs in the federal government looking toward their own enrichment and better utilisation there is an enormous number of programs in place in the United States government. Many of them initiated since Mr. Nixon became president that are designed to invite young people into the federal government in one capacity or another. And it is our thought that better utilization of those can be made and perhaps others can be added to them we've also recommended to him all commended to him I should say the enormous resources already existing in the US government especially in the Department of Health Education and Welfare that can assess the president and other public officials in learning what is going on on the campuses. And we suggested that in whatever way is that you might think why is that he seek to have those resources put more readily more easily had his disposal you will note also
that we made a number of suggestions to him concerning consultations that he might have with us from the campuses. And incidentally that others might have also persons from the campuses and we suggested various ways in which that might be done. One thing that students must realize about any dialogue with the president is that he has the responsibility of making the final decision even if it differs substantially from their views on the Presidents view has prevailed. The president of all the countries elected for that purpose and he has the constitutional authority and under our system he is the only position to make these decisions. The pleas of the students here is that he take into account their views as he makes these decisions. The plea is not that you turn over to us. The role of deciding the United States diplomatic in military and foreign policy.
The only plea that can make any sense at all obviously is the one that says we think you have not considered it accurately and adequately all of the factors as we see them and we are asking you to do that now. Many students will disagree because student disagree among themselves some of them abound disagree with the resulting decisions are made but the main purpose here I think. Having said all that if the president confers understands and weigh is the views of any group in society and comes out with a conclusion different from that group in the society that group may still disagree with him. But if you ask me who has got to make the decision obviously the president has to make a decision. And in the case of foreign military policy in conjunction with the Congress and others who have a formal rules in the process.
Chancellor heard the report to the president reveals that students are becoming more political. That many students who manifested little interest in politics were brought out of hiding by the Cambodian action and that the Kent State killings enhanced the degree of their interest and concern in government of special interest to students returning to campus will be the fall elections. The evidence as we sensed it in May in June was quite clear that large numbers of students including those who normally would be very much involved politically and including many of those who in the past have not been sort of themselves politically active to the fall elections as an important opportunity to take part in the political process and hopefully in their view to influence public decisions. Now I think that the extent to which students and faculty members and others take part in the political campaigns this fall will vary that astrally from
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Alexander Heard
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Alexander Heard,” 1970-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 27, 2022,
MLA: “Alexander Heard.” 1970-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 27, 2022. <>.
APA: Alexander Heard. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from