Letter to a Protesting Student


It is easy to understand your protest against the disruption of classes on your campus by student activists, and your dissent at the unreasonableness of some of the student demands. It does seem ironic that there is such unreason in the very seat of reason. I understand your point that all regular channels available for protest were not exhausted by the dissenting students.

Now, I don't want to romanticize or seem to legitimize the actions of the dissenting young people, but I would like to suggest that there may be something behind this disturbance that is deeper and more important than the surface evidence. How often you and I have talked about how universities and colleges need to be changed! You will recall the last time we discussed your concern about the irrelevance of some of your courses, the preoccupation of one of your professors with publishing rather than teaching, the less than competent teaching assistant in another class, the special difficulty that black students have in being able to stay in school, the refusal of your administration to listen to students or involve them in university committees. And there were other concerns too.

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What Do You Need to Be Happy?
August 30, 1969

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