Students should learn from 60s activism

CHR01212014A04 Colby Patterson
Nick Ketterer

Nick Ketterer

The ‘60s and ‘70s were two of the most fascinating decades in United States history. These two decades saw an escalation of social unrest, the emergence of new forms of art and music and a variety of other factors that have had a long-lasting impact on American culture. That is why I was surprised to learn Salt Lake City was a major hot spot at this time, and the activism of ‘60s and ‘70s college students far outdoes the activism of modern students.

This is something that isn’t talked about much in Utah, but the hippie scene hit conservative Utah hard, primarily the music scene. Salt Lake City has always been a kind of crossroads for the West. Everything from California and the rest of the West Coast passes through Utah before it gets to the East. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, this interchange propelled many musicians to play in Salt Lake.

They would travel through Salt Lake and play shows before moving on, allowing the hippie spirit and new ideas to percolate into the valley. Some of the artists who played here were Big Brother and the Holding Company, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Jefferson Airplane, Spirit, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more.

During these times, students at the U were a major impetus for cultural change. Many of these bands were covered by The Daily Utah Chronicle. At this time the U was going through a phase of student activism that seems ridiculous by our standards.

There were protests going on and other forms of student activism. The U had its own chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a radical left-wing movement. To us their actions seem almost insane, but they were simply exercising their First Amendment rights. In 1967, someone (presumably the SDS) sent both then-Gov. Calvin Rampton and then-President of the U James Fletcher bags of marijuana as Christmas gifts. And this is a mild example of student activism at the time.

We could learn something from these students. As students, we have a tremendous impact on the surrounding society. We are no longer children, but young adults working to receive our education. Students have an integral voice that we no longer use.

As students we occupy an interesting place in society. We are not full-fledged adults with a secure income. That means we stand in a place where we can criticize and look at society critically. A university setting allows students to come together and discuss these ideas. Universities go one step further by providing students with the means to act.

Universities allow students the means to act and affect the larger society. Through student activism larger societal changes are able to gain momentum. We modern students have forgotten this, but it is still possible. If we are to begin to remember the power we students have, there is no better place to look than the past. The students of the ‘60s and ‘70s will always stand as an example of the power students have.