Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University

By Mary Ann Wynkoop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Awakening of Activism:
1965–67

Among students today, there is a common misconception that students in the 1960s were all long-haired radicals who spent most of their days engaged in protesting the war in Vietnam, smoking dope, and making love. In fact, the reality was much less colorful. First, for most students, alcohol was the most popular drug in the early and mid-1960s. Second, most young women (and their parents) viewed pregnancy out of wedlock as a fate slightly worse than death or injury, so most sexual activity tended to be fairly tame by today’s standards. And third, the majority of students at Indiana University and most other campuses could not have located Vietnam on a world map, much less have been concerned about what was going on in that country. The path toward student activism, especially in the Midwest, was gradual and somewhat winding.

At Indiana University, most students in the 1960s were like students today—concerned about getting an education, graduating, and getting a job. However, a small group of students were thinking about larger issues, including American military involvement in Vietnam. In their determination to arouse others to the dangers of that involvement, these young activists began by working on causes closer to the hearts and minds of their peers. They used the university’s rules governing student conduct, primarily the ones that determined when women had to return to their rooms at night, as a way of engaging student interest in politics.

From that initial campaign, activists built a larger constituency promoting free speech on campus and criticizing American policy in South

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