was tremendously struck by the observation ("Letters,"
June/02) by another College Class of 1969 graduate that few of us send in class
notices or announce books published, and that perhaps this was related to the
turbulent events of 1969. She suggests, "There's a doctoral study in this,
somewhere." I would like to make a small contribution to that study.
1999 a University of Chicago professor sent me a copy of a study by the University
looking back at the events 30 years earlier. The description of the sit-in of
February 1969, from the point of view of the administration in 1999, chilled my
blood. After all these years I still feel anger and a terrible sense of waste
when I think back to that time and the people I knew who were suspended or expelled.
In my own life the way the University treated the students, refusing to let them
defend themselves collectively but condemning them in secret hearings for the
collective actions of hundreds of other people, had a huge and lasting effect.
was a senior, and it was a shocking violation of all the Platonic ideals I had
been taught for four years. When I saw the philosophy professors I had most admired
lie, with or without compunction, I realized that all their knowledge of civilization
and the classics had not shown them how to practice justice or share the life
of the mind. I counted up my courses and managed to graduate in March.
is unlikely that the administrators learned much from that time if the report
reflects history as they see it. During the sit-in, one of the professors' big
arguments against student power was, "We are here for the long term. You're
just passing through for four years."
the impact of the University's dishonorable behavior has been far greater on me,
who passed through and had to integrate everything I saw into my developing world
view, than on the administrators, who seem to be thinking-just as the faculty
did in 1969-that agonizing is just as good as acting morally. If that is the life
of the mind, I thought, count me out. Fortunately today I know that it is not,
but it took me decades to recover any ability to take philosophy seriously.
I am still unable to contribute to Chicago.
E. Abrams, AB'69
Santa Cruz, California