Veterans gather to reflect '68 strike
October 17, 2009 2:50 PM
Veterans of SF State's historic 1968 strike came to speak at Alumni Day Saturday morning about the impact the protest had on the university. The veterans also opened up about their views on the now-diverse campus and how the strike continues to impact their lives 40 years later.
"The strike has impacted me in every way," said strike veteran Connell Persico. "It's taught me to be more open-minded."
Veterans remain shocked at how much the university has changed from the time they were students.
"Today there are many more students of color," said Jason Ferreira, strike veteran and professor assistant in race and resistance studies. "It's amazing. We've transformed an entire institution."
On Nov. 6, 1968, SF State's Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front led a historic strike, protesting for a College of Ethnic Studies and the reinstatement of George Murray, a graduate student who was suspended several days prior for his association with the Black Panther Party. After five months of angry protests, nearly 2,000 arrests, and dozens of faculty members fired, the campus reopened and established The College of Ethnic Studies in March 1969.
Out of the thousands of protesters that participated in what soon became the longest student strike in American history, nearly 15 of them attended the event.
During the panel in the Richard Oaks Multicultural Center at the Cesar Chavez Center, the veterans viewed a video that highlighted the main points of the strike and then sat around a table and discussed their hopes for the future of SF State.
"Students need to take their lives into their own hands because their future is basically being pulled out from under them," said Ferreira.
"The veterans are great because they don't simply talk about their struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments, but they remain inspirational to students who look for ways to find their own voice," said Larry Salomon, a lecturer in the College of Ethnic Studies.
Some veterans shared their opinions about the budget cuts and what they suggest current students do to stand up for their education.
"Students shouldn't always believe what they read," said Persico. "No matter what people say, there are always solutions. They should join with their faculty and propose longer-term solutions and find new ways of forming education."
Many have noted the profound impact the strikers have had on the university.
"The strikers thought that education should be relevant to who they are," said Robert Collins, assistant professor in American Indian Studies. "Because of them, we have the ability to recognize injustice and turn it into discussion. If the College of Ethnic Studies disappeared, it would be a horrible disadvantage for the students."
And some veterans were adamant about what can be done to end cuts on education.
"Students and faculty need to work together," said strike veteran and international relations professor Margaret Leahy. "Things will only change it we work together to change them."
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