By Victoria Adewumi
May 4, 2010
Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the 1970 university-wide
strike in which both students and faculty refused to participate in
the last three weeks of classes and effectively shut down the school
until the end of the spring semester.
The Strike Rally, as it eventually came to be know, consisted of the
arrival of and the speeches given by three of the Chicago 8, the
infamous group of anti-war activists who had been charged with
conspiracy and inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic Convention
in Chicago for the protest they helped to lead against the Vietnam War.
The legacy of this peaceful protest has been social and political
awareness that still exists on the UNH campus today.
"I think this strike was a great opportunity to encourage a dialogue
between the administration and the students," Gulsun Cavusoglu, the
co-leader of Wildacts, said. "Once students are motivated to act,
it's really amazing the kinds of change that they can bring to the university."
In 1970, UNH Student Body President Mark Wefers asked Abbie Hoffman,
Jerry Rubin and David Dellinger of the Chicago 8 to come to the UNH
campus, and speak out against U.S. policies on the Vietnam War. What
followed landed Wefers in court, and brought an anti-war response to
UNH that would make history.
The day before the Chicago 8 members were scheduled to take to the
Field House stage, the Kent State massacre occurred.
The event, in which National Guardsmen killed four students on the
Kent State campus, was a protest against the expansion of the war,
and specifically Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia rocked the nation.
Fear and concern that the arrival of the Chicago 3 would inspire
similar riots lead the Board of Trustees to petition the U.S.
District Court in Concord to prevent the event from happening, or at
least from happening at night.
Wefers had scheduled the rally to take place at 7 p.m., and the
Trustees felt the possibility of rioting would be more likely later
in the evening.
After much debate, the court decided that the event would be allowed
take place, but it had to be held between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Despite
this directive, the Chicago 3 and Wefers himself, refused to obey the
On May 5 at 7:30 p.m. with National Guardsmen patrolling the area,
4,500 students packed the Field House to hear the protesters speak,
with another 3,000 standing outside to listen.
Overnight, UNH had become a leading campus in the U.S. anti-war movement.
The UNH administration was ultimately unable to prevent the campus
from galvanizing around the Kent State Massacre and the anti-war
rally, and the UNH community began to strike the next day, along with
350 campuses across the country.
Mark Wefers was charged with willful violation of a court order in
which he was sentenced to 20 days in jail and had to pay a $500 fine.
The sentence was later revoked.
"Not many students know that his happened at UNH," Joe Lavoie, a
Peace and Justice League member, said. "I think that this event gives
us the chance to learn from each other in a major way."
"This anniversary gives us an opportunity to learn what was possible
then," Peace and Justice League President Alex Freid said. "I would
say that is an important history."
The Peace and Justice League will be holding an event this evening to
remember and celebrate the events of those weeks in the history of UNH.
At 6 p.m. in Horton room 4, they will be screening "Mayflowers," a
documentary directed by alumnus Gary Anderson. Afterward, there will
be a panel that will include Mark Wefers and other student activists
from that time.
"The situation [in the 70's] is very similar to the situation we have
today, students not having a voice on campus; it all still exists,"
Lavoie said. "It's an event like this that really peaked people out
of their apathy. It showed that people need to wake up and start
taking back their freedom."