The Sticking Place

A Campus Rebel’s Confession

Boston Globe
October 1, 1968

The very young and personable Mark Rudd, a leader of last Spring’s rebellion at Columbia University, obliquely disclosed on his week-end visit to Harvard and Boston universities the essential tragedy of the disordered which he and other student leftists create.

“Let me tell you,” he confessed to local student groups as he listed the reasons for the Columbia revolt. “We manufactured the issues. The Institute for Defense Analysis is nothing at Columbia. Just three professors. And the gym issue is bull. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody. I had never been to the gym site before the demonstrations began. I didn’t even know how to get there.”

All of this was indeed “bull,” as Mr. Rudd so inelegantly put it. The real issues, as he also confessed, were racism, the war in Vietnam, and “the university system as a furtherance of the ruling class structure.”

But these are legitimate national issues standing all by themselves. And students, as well as others with Mr. Rudd’s potential for leadership, do neither themselves nor their legitimate causes a service by formenting needless disorders which alienate the public support without which they themselves are powerless.

“I was amazed at the complacency at Harvard,” Mr. Rudd confessed. “Can we go there and say we [Students for a Democratic Society] will solve their problems when, basically, they don’t have any?”

The answer to Mr. Rudd’s question, of course, has to be No. But this high spirited young man is entitled to additional counsel, as are his confreres on campus and off.

No man who knows his American history will damn a rebel out of hand. He will say only that it is easy to let a problem become unsettling, or to make it so. The difficulty is in devising a workable and satisfactory solution. A rebel worth his salt comes up with useful answers as well as probing questions and disorderly demonstrations.

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