On May 5, 1970, members of the Bowdoin College community voted 727 to 207 in favor of conducting a school-wide strike that would last the rest of the school year.
The strike was a passionate response to the ongoing Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia and particularly the killing of four Kent State University student protestors by National Guardsmen earlier that week.
Forty years later, Elyse Terry '11 thought to hold a panel that would allow alumni and former professors who were at the College during the strike to discuss what transpired.
"Chuck and I got talking about the fact that it would be pretty amazing if we got these people together...[to see] how they perceived the event and what it meant," said Terry, referring to Associate Professor of Education Chuck Dorn.
Terry will moderate a panel titled "Striking for Change: Alumni Perspectives on the 1970 Bowdoin Student Strike" today at 1 p.m. at Kresge Auditorium. The panel is part of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good series "ACTivism: Your Cause. Your Community. Your World."
"I think there have been moments where the Common Good more or less is acknowledged and celebrated in Bowdoin's history...[it] is a principle that is enacted over time both unconsciously and consciously," Terry said. "This period was a time when students weren't always connecting their actions to the Common Good, but I think this connection [in this case] exists."
The panel will feature three alumni and one former professor who experienced the strike firsthand.
"I'll be asking them to explore first of all what they recall about the event," said Terry. "I think they can give us a more well-rounded perspective, and I'm also really curious to know their perspectives on this moment of student activism."
The panel will aim to understand specific events, as well as gauge student activism past and present.
"Why did students decide on this in the first place? What do [the panelists] think about student activism as it is now? I think there tends to be a feeling...that students are apathetic and disengaged and don't care...I suspect the differences are more subtle and more complicated than that," said Terry.
Terry, who is also writing about the strike for her honors thesis, first heard about the 1970 strikes while looking for research topics for her education class, "The Civic Functions of Higher Education in America," taught by Dorn.
"I think it's interesting to note that the strike presents a departure from what we usually talk about when we talk about protest at that time...Bowdoin was an institution at that time that was undergoing a lot of change, but it was still a fairly conservative place—a heavily white, all-male campus," Terry said. "This doesn't necessarily seem like a place that would weather the wave of unrest that swept through the country particularly well, but [it] did."