Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rights and research: Institutional change and student activism at SIU Carbondale and UW-Madison in the Vietnam era
by Lowe, Michael, M.A., Western Illinois University, 2012, 220; 1517122
Abstract (Summary)

This work explores student activism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the University of Wisconsin during the Vietnam War era, using administrative papers and the records of student activists for a balanced perspective. The work also accounts for institutional growth and development in the 1950s and 1960s that preceded large-scale student activism. It describes student initiatives in a local and regional context and explores a variety of student concerns, but the main issues it studies are military-related research facilities and the place of this research on college campuses in the 1960s. Its main argument is that activists made major gains in student rights at these two very different institutions, while the issue of defense-related research brought new criticism of the military involvement in universities that had aided those universities' development significantly in the early Cold War era into the 1960s.

This thesis details the histories of the Army Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin and the Center for Vietnamese Studies and Programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale to show that these facilities presented unprecedented problems for administrators and faculty. It does so using primary sources from both universities' archives and institutional histories. For each campus, a chapter on context—mostly on institutional growth, civil rights, and student rights efforts in the early- to mid-1960s—precedes the chapter on a military-related research center. The chapters about early student activism on both campuses indicate dissatisfaction and a shift towards confrontation in the later 1960s as the Vietnam War became a more pressing issue. Black power and anti-administration sentiments produced additional institutional changes, and though this work employs a local perspective it accounts for these national contexts and posits that the Vietnam War was students' underlying concern. Increased antiwar sentiment and distrust of university authorities, based on the university-military connections shown most directly in these research centers, caused problems everywhere, but these issues are not often presented in a Midwestern context.

This work provides this necessary Midwestern context and compares the two universities themselves. It considers surveys of the national antiwar movement but gives preference to local and regional studies of Midwestern student activism. This work's point of departure is one of scope; it argues that campus events of the 1960s were unique, and consideration of these two campuses and their military-related research facilities provides a more complete understanding of student activism and the role of universities in military strategy. By reviewing the methodology of similar studies of Midwestern campus activism and campus research, this thesis justifies its own methodology and local-regional focus. This work explores the difficulties of this type of research and the relative prestige of these Midwestern universities. The Army Mathematics Research Center was established in the 1950s and performed theoretical research, and the Center for Vietnamese Studies and Programs originated in the late 1960s and fulfilled more technical purposes. Both facilities performed a contested task in American education during the Vietnam War era, but the types of research each school performed were linked to their prestige. This work compares these universities by emphasizing this dichotomy and arguing that the development and outcomes of these research facilities were related to the characteristics of these universities themselves in addition to the anticommunist foreign policy goals of the federal government in the Cold War.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Filipink, Richard M.
Commitee: Cole, Peter, Key, Barclay
School: Western Illinois University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 51/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Higher Education Administration, Social structure, Military studies
Keywords: Black student activism, Cold War / Vietnam War, College student activism, Military research at American colleges and universities, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, University of Wisconsin
Publication Number: 1517122
ISBN: 9781267572363
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