Some interesting Williams history from Christopher Marcisz.

Forty years ago today, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on a group of Kent State students protesting the invasion of Cambodia, killing four of them. The reverberations of this tragedy were felt around the country, including at Williams (the website of the College’s archives has a timeline of this turbulent time here).

That Monday night, 1,300 students jammed into Chapin Hall and discussed the matter long into the night, and decided to call an “indefinite” strike. They were encouraged by a statement from College President John E. Sawyer, which was greeted by a standing ovation when it was read to them. According to The Williams Record, Sawyer said,

“Any responsible person close to an American campus today must say to Mr. Nixon and Mr. Agnew that present policies cannot be continued without tearing this country apart. The leadership of this nation must stop and listen to these young people, most of whom care intensely about the best in America and are desperately worried about where their country is heading.”

The faculty was supportive as well. Earlier in the day, at a special faculty meeting, they too agreed to suspend classes. Political Science Professor Vincent Barnett read their statement to the students:

“The faculty shares the concern of Williams students with respect to the escalation of the Vietnam War, and their commitment to some kind of effective response in the days ahead. Moreover, the faculty wishes to express its support of students’ efforts to bring about a change of policy through organized effort and public persuasion.”

It was a remarkable flare-up of anger, as just a few weeks earlier students had responded coolly to the first Earth Day, and there was some grumbling in the Record that the spirit of student involvement had died with the 1960s.

Read the whole thing. There is a great senior thesis to be written about Williams in the spring of 1970. Who will write it?

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