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Administrative Pressures and Student Political Activity

Postscript (1998)

      As published by the only means at our disposal -- our typewriters and secretarial IBM-Selectrics, and the ditto machines still used for routine departmental bulletins, made available by friendly staff -- these texts amounted to 136 pages of single-spaced typescript with narrow margins, in a motley of typefaces, mostly quite small and often changing within a document, all printed in the pale violet ink of ditto transfer, scarcely less legible now than they were then.

      The stencils faded rapidly and were good for 80 copies under ideal conditions. We pushed them to produce the Report in an edition of about 110 copies -- saving the best ten impressions of each page for FSM's formal presentation to the CCPA, and distributing the faint ones democratically among the remaining copies. Each set of texts was bound together with the eight-page, summary essay -- printed by offset in 5,000 copies and widely distributed -- using brass clips and cardboard portfolios. We rushed from our final collating party to deliver the first ten, prime copies to FSM's representatives just in time to present at the fifth meeting of the Committee on Campus Political Activity, three days before FSM's response to the committee's deadlock prompted the Chancellor to dissolve it. Some 60 copies were distributed to FSM's constituent organizations through their representatives on ExCom. Copies were placed at the main campus library and at every specialized branch that would make them accessible, and were dispatched to President Kerr and the Regents. A few remained for the project's key staff.

      Given the rush of circumstances, as well as the density and faintness of its text, it's doubtful that anyone on the CCPA read much more of the Report than its summary essay, if even that much. If any other administrator or faculty member on campus read its detailed studies, no word of this ever reached us. Quite conceivably, the entire readership of the original edition -- beyond the cooperative circle of its producers, and the few researchers commissioned to prepare comprehensive reports on the conflict -- amounted then to a few dozen students motivated to extend their vague knowledge of local history and political dynamics; and has amounted since to as few, inquiring more selectively into the few copies preserved in institutional libraries. By this measure, our project was a large investment with a small payoff, scarcely utilized.

      Even so, the Report made a satisfying thump! on the conference table, weighing in at nearly two pounds; and thousands of people heard it, within and beyond our ranks. For the substance of its gesture was more important in the moment than the substance of its text. Hardly a month had passed since the police-car dialogue had made students widely aware that a history of grievance undergirded the FSM's struggle for free political expression. Some few long-term administrators understood this sympathetically; more understood the radicals' perennial complaints of oppression as ungrateful noise confusing the progress of true liberalization, if not as more pernicious. The faculty were still so insulated even from concern for student activism, let along from knowledge of the actual textures of our institutional experience, that few had more than an inkling that a coherent historical case might be made for our stance.

      In the vitalized atmosphere, news of our project spread widely during the feverish weeks of work.

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