1978.10.24: Student Strike Committee Strikes Back (Mass Media, UMass-Boston)

Mass Media (UMass-Boston)
October 24, 1978

Student Strike Committee Strikes Back
[Written By Michael Letwin]

Open Letter to Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Steamer

The Student Strike Committee is outraged, but not surprised, by your ignorant and condescending outburst in last week’s Mass Media. You stated that “faculty who encourage student participation are acting irresponsibly.” You imply that students also acted irresponsibly.

We were not railroaded into this action by the faculty. Our action was a conscious, self-initiated decision made in the light of the fact that students have interests which are supported in the Union demands. If you stepped out from your office at any time during this activity you would have seen signs of this: the many meetings held and attended by hundreds of students, and the persistent hum of students discussing the issues in the halls and initiating them in their classes. The issues themselves were so blatant that they solicited our support.

You also said that we should remain uninvolved because “students are transient.” By this you can only mean that transient people like students should have no rights. Furthermore, while transience is a normal feature of any student body because students graduate and leave, an important issue which must be discussed is why UMass students are more transient than others.

A couple of the many reasons are that child care has always been inadequate (and if the UMass administration has its way will become non-existent) and financial aid is unavailable for many who should receive it and inadequate for those who do. What do you expect when an institution doesn’t come close to meeting the basic needs of its predominantly lower income student body?

Next, you said that the “better students were not involved” in the strike. No doubt you regard “better” students as those who have been molded well by the UMass assembly line, meant more and more to create passive, robot-like followers who have faith in the decisions of their “superiors” in the administration. No matter how many “A’s” such students bring home, we reject that these students are any better than the rest of us — the 85% who didn’t cross the line.

However, students at UMass are much “better” than you realize, as demonstrated by the virtual shutdown of the school as a result of the student strike. This is what we mean by better students those who are conscious of their interests as working class people, understand that the university has little interest in meeting these needs, and who are willing to organize themselves in defense of the attacks on their education. In this way, students at UMass are becoming better and better.

What your statement shows is the degree to which you are removed from and unconcerned with the pressing issues that face students, and the contempt you have for the vast majority of us who have taken a first step towards control over our lives at UMass.


We continue to struggle for a better education. The Student Strike Committee meets on a regular weekly basis, the next being on Tuesday (TODAY) at 2:30 at 1-006. Among the items on the agenda are future issues for our struggle and demonstration at Knapp’s inauguration on Sunday, October 29 in the event of a mediation breakdown. All are welcome to work with us.

The Student Strike Committee


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