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University of Mexico Student Strike

From Mexico, Marco Gómez reports angrily on the student strike at the huge national universiy (UNAM): "The strikers are a minority of students who disagree with the rise in tuition. Now students will pay 600 pesos (about $60) each semester, which is actually very little. The strikers have already used violence against the ones still attending classes. Some authorities declare that they might need to use force in case things get worse. If the students attending the biggest university of Mexico, the future leaders of the nation, behave this way, what can be expected of the less fortunate (perhaps they act more rationally)? I hope this problem will rise to the catastrophic proportions of 1968 (they were fighting for other causes, influenced by other people) , but, if the government is thinking of using force, please remember what happened back in 1968." My comment: I strongly agree with Marco Gómez. I have spent my life helping students, but I was disillusioned when, during the troubles of the 60s at Stanford, a leader came to my office and said "When we (the strikers...) take over the university..." Any attempt by the police to restore order triggered yells of "Pigs off campus!". In the present student riots in Mexico, the violent minority has been led by some with faced masked like Subcomandante Marcos. There are charges, probably well founded, that the leftist PRD is behind the strike, just as there were politicians manipulating the students in the 1968 demonstrations, to which Marco Gómez refers, and which were calculated to disrupt the city during the Olympic Games. Since then an argument has been going on as to who started the shooting. Students are prone to violence and counterviolence. When I was in Nazi Germany, the Nazis controlled the universities. Events in Indonesia and elsewhere show how student protests can lead to chaos. Even when the university administration discusses problems with students, as that of UNAM has done, there are always some ready and eager to start a riot. Students must be taught rational discourse, which is almost impossible at mass universities. I am convinced that this is best achieved through distance learning, which avoids mass agglomerations of students.

Ronald Hilton - 04/24/99