University media coverage of draft shows bias, growth

By: Carlie Porterfield

 

SDS Members Stage Protests, late summer of 1967, The College Star

It Is Our War!, late summer of 1967, The College Star, pg. 2

Anti-war leaflets stir emotions, Jan Albricht, October 20, 1967, The College Star, pg. 1

Writers protest, defend protesters, October 17, 1967, The College Star, pg. 3

 

Too young to die

In the late 1960s, the United States began drafting young men to fight in the Vietnam War, a conflict that intended to rid Vietnam of communist rule. For Mary Bradley, who attended Southwest Texas State University from 1966 to 1970, the issue of the draft was a personal one.

Men ages 20 to 26 were the most likely targets during the Vietnam War draft. For this reason, university campuses were heavily affected. Bradley had many friends and classmates who were drafted, she said.

“I was dating a young man and he was drafted and he left. I never heard from him again,” Bradley said. “I’ve often wondered if he ever returned from war.”

Anti-war and anti-draft demonstrations were being held on college campuses all over the nation. Students felt that the proxy war against the Viet Cong was being fought in vain, and against the best interest of America and it’s citizens.

“You had a group of kids who felt they were too young to die, and didn’t see how what was happening in Vietnam affects the security of our country,” Bradley said.

 

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SDS Members Stage Protests, late summer of 1967, The College Star

 

 

Protests reach San Marcos

The first student protest on the Southwest Texas State University campus covered by The College Star, the on-campus newspaper, came late in the summer of. On a Tuesday morning, 7 University of Texas students came to San Marcos to distribute anti-war handouts. According to the article, the students were members of the UT chapter of Students for a Democratic society. One of the members, George Smith, was quoted as saying he hoped to bring a chapter to SWT in the future. After only 20 minutes of distributing handouts, the group was asked to leave by the dean of students. They obeyed.

Though peaceful, the first protest shook the foundations of the school’s belief system.

“Texas State, at that time, was a very conservative college,” said Bradley. “Most of the students supported the war, not so much the war itself, but supported the government, thinking they wouldn’t lie to us.”

 

 

 

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It Is Our War!, late summer of 1967, The College Star, pg. 2

 


The Star’s Initial Response

Several days after the protests, the editorial board of The College Star published a scathing response to the demonstration, titled ‘It Is Our War!’ It portrayed the UT students as unpatriotic and ungrateful.

 

The editorial also name dropped President Lyndon Baines Johnson, SWT’s most famous alumnus, who had been editor of The College Star in his day. Johnson had recently visited campus recently and was reportedly pleased with the lack of Vietnam War protests at his alma mater. It was he, after all, who had pushed for the escalation of America’s involvement in the conflict.

 

 

 

Tension escalates

However, that was not to be the last protest on campus. In October of 1967, Bradley witnessed a less peaceful demonstration outside of the student center.

“I came up to the student union and there were protesters in front of the union protesting the war. They had a table and they were passing out leaflets,” Bradley said.

A young man walked up and asked to take some of the pamphlets with him, Bradley said, and the protestors said he could take as many as he would like.

“He gathered up all of the pamphlets, walked down the steps to the leveled pavement, and set them on fire,” Bradley said.

As it turned out, the young man, named Cliff Berkman,was a returning veteran and had been in the Vietnam service, Bradley said.

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Anti-war leaflets stir emotions, Jan Albricht, October 20, 1967, The College Star, pg. 1

The incident was covered by Star editor Jan Albricht in the October 20, 1967 issue of The College Star. According to her article, at one point, “a short scuffle occurred.” The anti-war protesters were greatly outnumbered.

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Writers protest, defend protesters, October 17, 1967, The College Star, pg. 3

The backlash
One week later, The College Star published 10 letters to the editor, taking up a full page of the broadsheet. The letters illustrated what Bradley said was so terrible about that time.

“Every side had such passion for what they believed,” Bradley said. “There seemed to be so little middle ground.”

The opinions expressed ranged from calling the anti-war protesters “commendable” to “cowardly.” The majority of students seemed to disagree with their anti-government views. However, generally speaking, most agreed it was their First Amendment right to protest. Some people who even disagreed with the protester’s opinions still praised their willingness to speak up.

“IT FINALLY HAPPENED!” wrote one such person, who withheld their name. “SOMEONE AT SOUTHWEST TEXAS SCHOOL OF MEDIOCRITY AND APATHY FINALLY EXPRESSED AN OPINION ON A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE!”

 

Lessons learned

Bearing witness to the freedom of expression despite conflict helped Bradley find her place in the changing political atmosphere that would come as a result of the Vietnam War.

“I think because of what I experienced at that time in school, I have become a better American,” Bradley said. “I think democracy depends on questioning your government and holding them accountable. That’s what I learned from all of the turmoil of the sixties.”

 

Carlie Porterfield is journalism junior at Texas State University, and the Senior News Reporter at The University Star.