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Students and Chaos



     When I arrived at Berkeley in 1937, I already foresaw the trouble universities were in for if the propensity for student demonstrations spread. It did, and the world is seeing the results. At Berkeley, the so-called "Free-speech movement" led by cheap demagogue Mario Savio, made free speech impossible. Martin Lipset chose to leave and go to Harvard. At Stanford, where I had encouraged students to engage in civil debate, a student leader came to my office and announced that they were going to take over the university.
     While the movement spread abroad, notably to Paris, the worst impact has been in Latin America. Yesterday in Colombia, a country tormented by guerrilla activities, students at the Universidad del Atlántico, with the usual hoods on their heads, did their best to wreck the university.
     As mentioned in earlier postings, the once great National University of Mexico (UNAM) has been closed for almost a year by striking students. Even though the students voted by a large majority to reopen the university, the strikers blocked the plan and insisted that university authorities continue the useless dialog with them in the Mining Palace down town.
     The whole network of university establishments was hit, and No. 3 Preparatory School was the scene of violence in which many people were seriously hurt. A university spokesman said what has been obvious for a long time: that subversive forces were behind the violence. Since the city police, controlled by the forces of Cuauténmoc Cárdenas, refused to intervene, the government sent in the "preventive police,"
     The university president, Juan Ramón de la Fuente, called a meeting at the Academic House in the university area. He began delivering a sober statement denouncing the violence when he was interrupted by a striker who rushed up to the podium and demanded that the dialog be resumed in the Mining Palace. The mob of photographers covering the event rushed around the podium to get a better picture, and the meeting ended in confusion.
     There is an international network behind the troubles. In Madrid, where President Ernesto Zedillo was an official guest, he and Prime Minister José María Aznar gave a press conference. While President Zedillo was speaking, a man in the audience asked a question implicitly blaming the Mexican government for the situation prevailing in the university. He put him in his place with admirable calmness.
     When will it end? How will it end?

Ronald Hilton - 2/2/00


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