Panel discussion commemorates 1968 strike
February 27, 2008 4:13 PM
Coinciding with campus-wide events celebrating Black History Month, nearly 70 people gathered Wednesday afternoon in the Rosa Parks Conference Center to take part in a panel discussion commemorating the SF State student strike of 1968.
Included on the panel were former leaders of various campus organizations including the Black Student Union, La Raza, The Third World Liberation Front and Students for a Democratic Society.
“We did not see the strike as a struggle solely for issues regarding this campus,” said panelist and former student-activist Hari Dillon. “We were addressing social and educational issues that involved all of America.”
The panel agreed that although the reasons for the strike were numerous, the lasting result is a legacy that continues to this day.
The 120-day strike led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies, the first of its kind in the United States. Today it remains the only college in the world devoted entirely to Ethnic Studies.
Many in attendance were eager to learn about the student experience at SF State during the 1960s, although one student expressed his concern over the disconnect between generations.
“It’s good to talk about the past, and it’s great to see all these leaders together,” said Luis Aroche, a La Raza student, after the event. “But there is a 40-year gap between us. The social problems that students face today have changed.
“They are inspiring individuals, but it’s hard to relate what their saying to today’s world,” he added.
Another student attended the event to increase her own personal awareness.
“I came here initially for extra credit, but I hope today’s event will inform me about different problems we face as students,” said Kristin Umadhay as she waited for the program to start.
The panelists agreed with several faculty members in the audience that the power to create social change lies in the hands of the students.
“It’s important for students to build on this legacy,” said international relations professor Margaret Leahy to the audience. “It’s their responsibility to ensure curriculum stays relevant and I urge all students to question faculty, the administration, and each other.”
Her statements were greeted with loud applause from audience members, which included 12 former students who had participated in the strikes.
Dr. Kenneth P. Monteiro, the current dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, applauded the efforts of the former students-activists to initiate change and create a lasting legacy.
“The point is not the strike itself,” he said. “The point is to appreciate the values they came in with and the product they created.”
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