The following article was originally published in the April 28, 1970, issue of PAW and was also included in The Best of PAW: 100 Years of the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 2000.
Shortly after 8:30 on Thursday evening, March 5, 1970, Secretary of the Interior Walter J. Hickel rose to his feet and began to ad-dress a crowd of nearly 2,000 persons assembled in Jadwin Gymnasium. At the same time, a group of about 75 young men and women sitting in the upper balcony of the gym began to chant, jeer, and shout insults at the speaker.
Pausing only to catch his breath and quickly glance up at the protesters, Secretary Hickel continued to read off his text. The chanting mounted in volume: “Talk about the War! Talk about the War!” And, “Talk about the oil! Talk about the oil!” Several young people, wearing buckskin fringes and headbands with red smears on their foreheads, began to shout out Indian-style war whoops. President Robert Goheen, the only other person sitting on the speaker’s platform, stared silently up at the disrupters, his hands tightening on the arms of his chair.
The Secretary of the Interior had come to Princeton to speak to a Princeton University Conference devoted to the topic, “Ecology and Politics in America’s Environmental Crisis.” The members of the conference had been seated by themselves in Jadwin’s lowest level, closest to the speaker; the general public, including the hecklers, had been admitted into the balcony, Occasionally, members of the audience, including alumni in a “Princeton Today” program, turned to look back angrily at the disturbance, but most tried to ignore the noise and gazed straight ahead at the speaker.
After a few minutes, it was apparent that the clamor was not going to stop. The group in the balcony, composed mainly of students (although a few townspeople were present) raised what seemed to be a surprisingly loud cacophony of jeers and yells for their small number. The chants continued: “Hickel is an Agnew! Hickel is an Agnew!” Or, “Today’s pigs, tomorrow’s bacon! Nixon and Hickel better start shaking!” After perhaps seven minutes, President Goheen rose part way from his chair, as if to take the lectern, but Secretary Hickel motioned him away.
Meanwhile, several deans, proctors, and administrators had moved to positions in the balcony surrounding the hecklers. Edward Sullivan, Dean of the College, and Henry Moses, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, stood grimly in the aisles staring at the demonstrators. Dean of Students Neil Rudenstine, Dean of the Graduate School Aaron Lemonick, and Chief of Security Allen Kornblum all gathered in the balcony. One dozen proctors (two-thirds the entire force) were scattered throughout the audience.
About midway through the speech, which had taken on an unreal quality as Secretary Hickel continued doggedly to ignore the catcalls drowning out his words, President Goheen again rose and took the microphone. “I wish everybody here to recognize that this kind of disturbance is not only a grave dis-courtesy to guests of the university,” he said. “This kind of interruption of a speech, as you know, is in direct violation of university policy as clearly stated and will subject those who continue it to university discipline. You are now on warning. In addition to that, if you would listen, you might learn some things that would please you.”
He then took his seat, and Mr. Hickel resumed his speech. Yet the hecklers, who had laughed and jeered during the President’s warning, continued to shout and chant. At one point, several whooping students ran down an aisle holding a device that sputtered forth an acrid, yellow smoke. Dean Lemonick, who was standing nearby, ran after the students and, after a brief scuffle that left him obviously angry, put out the flare and sent the two young men back to their seats.
Immediately following the President’s warning, Dean Rudenstine instructed the proctors to begin to identify the hecklers. One proctor began taking Polaroid pictures, while others asked disrupters for their names. A few responded, but others smilingly answered “Ho Chi Minh” or “Che Guevara.” Some of the proctors and deans began to write down the names of students they recognized.
When the Secretary’s speech finally drew to its close (running several minutes longer than its scheduled length of 17 minutes), he received a standing ovation from most of the audience, few of whom had heard more than a single word. President Goheen then asked how he felt about continuing with the scheduled question-and-answer period. Hickel replied that the situation was maybe “too rough,” but he left the decision to Goheen. The President had already concluded in his own mind that the shouting made it impossible to receive questions from the floor; he took the microphone, thanked the speaker, and said: “It is too bad that many in the audience could not hear—some in the audience would not hear—an extremely challenging, humane and visionary talk. I would like to say that in my judgment those who have so deliberately and persistently interrupted this university meeting have shown just about a total disregard of what a university is for, what the values of thought and inquiry and discussion are in our society.” He then assured the audience that “university discipline will be exercised” and closed by apologizing for the university to Secretary and Mrs. Hickel and to the guests of the Princeton University Conference.
What happened on March 5 was, in effect, that a well-organized group of 60-75 persons had prevented an audience of 1,700 from hearing a speaker. Some form of disruption had been anticipated a week in advance by university officials, who had been informed that ecology-minded students as well as members of Princeton’s branch of SDS/RYM (not to be confused with the nihilistic “Weathermen” faction) planned to protest the Hickel speech. The motivation of the ecologists was clear: they were outraged at what they considered the hypocrisy of the Nixon Administration’s attempts to use half-measures and insufficient spending to create an impression that the government was acting on the questions of environmental pollution (while at the same time giving a green light to such projects as the cross-Alaska pipeline).
The motivations of the SDS members were more complex. The central issue, it seemed, was their objection to Walter Hickel as a “war criminal,” a member of a U.S. cabinet that was committing systemic genocide and war crimes in Vietnam. Second, they felt that Hickel’s (and the Nixon Administration’s) sudden embrace of the ecology issue was a trick to take student interest off the war issue and focus it on the politically expedient ecology crisis.
Third, and somewhat contradictorily, they were quick to point out that Secretary Hickel’s own record on the ecology issue has hardly been praiseworthy. (He is said to have once asked, “Why are people so mad about a few dead seagulls?”)
Given these issues, the radical students took a most unusual means of dramatizing them. Before the speech, they did not try to organize support from more moderate, yet sometimes sympathetic, students. They did not approach the university administration to request that Hickel’s invitation be withdrawn. They made no effort to articulate their objections to Secretary Hickel. Indeed, they seemed to welcome the chance for a confrontation with not only the Secretary but also with a university noted for its “liberal” views.
The confusion that clouded the radicals’ intentions had its effect on university administrators as well. Rumors abounded that the protesters would attempt to bar Secretary Hickel from reaching the lectern, that they would try to take over the lectern itself, that they would throw garbage at the speakers. The most alarming rumor held that they would spill gallons of crude oil on the hardwood basketball floor.
From the start (and to its credit), the administration rejected the notion that local police would be able to remove several dozen demonstrators from the audience. One factor working in favor of those trying to minimize the effects of a disruption was that the location of the speech had been changed from small, dark, claustrophobic Alexander Hall to the vast, brightly lit, antiseptic Jadwin Gym. By segregating most of the public in the upper balcony, the planners reduced any physical threat to the speaker. Everyone agreed that there is little one can do to deter a group intent on disruption; President Goheen would issue a warning, names would be taken. Beyond that, the university had to trust its disciplinary procedures to work.
The process of university discipline actually began while people were still filing out of Jadwin Gym after Mr. Hickel’s speech. A meeting was hastily assembled in a lounge on “C” floor in the gymnasium in order to make initial identifications while the incident was still fresh in mind. Present at the meeting were Deans Rudenstine (for the first minutes), Lemonick, Sullivan, and Moses, Mr. Kornblum and several proctors, and several administrators, including Anthony J. Maruca, Leslie L. Vivian, and Henry Bessire. They gave the names of students they could identify and looked over the 13 Polaroid photographs in order to point out faces that were familiar but whose names were unknown. A “master list” was assembled, one that would eventually be used in pressing charges against the students.
More formal identifications were begun the next morning when Dean Rudenstine drew up a simple questionnaire for those persons wishing to make statements. For that day and throughout the next week, some 25 faculty members, students, and administrators filled out the identification forms. Eventually, the list grew to 23 students tentatively identified as having participated in the heckling. But further investigation reduced the list to 17 names, since Rudenstine and Lemonick had insisted that the evidence be conclusive against each student—a decision later inviting charges of a “purge” against SDS leaders.
On Tuesday, March 12, the proctors delivered by hand letters from Deans Rudenstine and Lemonick charging 17 students “for violation of the university’s stated policy on cam-pus protests and demonstrations.” The case would be heard by the Judicial Committee of the newly created Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC). The Judicial Committee had earlier agreed to hear the case instead of the usual student-faculty discipline committee, since the violation involved more than one of the university’s resident constituencies—as in this case, both undergraduate and graduate students—and because its charter required that it hear cases involving serious disruptions. The case would be the first real test of a committee that faculty and students had created less than a year before.
Meanwhile, the entire university community had taken up the debate over the disruption. The person who seemed most disturbed was Goheen himself. On the final day of the University Conference, he made an unscheduled luncheon appearance and once more delivered his apologies along with a short talk on the problems of university discipline. “You can’t just summarily dismiss 50 people,” he said, and noted that the university in encouraging free inquiry should “be exempt as far as possible” from outside police influence, but that with-out police control universities become vulnerable to “interruption by small groups.” He concluded, “This incident may end up strengthening free speech instead of having weakened it” if it stirred people into thinking about how to maintain order on the campus instead of “just taking it for granted.” That night, he spoke at the annual Princetonian banquet and departed from the occasion’s usual hilarity to dwell on the implications of the disruption. One student said later that he had never seen the president so upset. Others said that the president’s anger and “fulsome” introduction of Secretary Hickel showed that he too had violated the university’s supposed political neutrality.
The pages of the Princetonian were filled for the next week with letters from angry faculty members denouncing the SDS action and from students defending the radicals. Two seniors began to organize a “petition of apology” to Secretary Hickel and eventually collected 1,400 signatures. Another petition was passed in the student center supporting the disrupters.
At 2:15 p.m. on Monday, March 16, the disciplinary hearings, which were opened to the public, began in the conference room of Corwin Hall. Thirteen students were to be charged. The Deans had agreed to drop charges against three students who affirmed that they had stopped heckling after President Goheen’s warning. The only black student charged, John D. Semida ’72, had requested a closed hearing (all charges against Semida were dismissed later due to lack of evidence).
Who were the hecklers? The deans named nine undergraduate males, two undergraduate women, and two graduate students. All were said to be members of the Students for a Democratic Society—though the loosely organized group does not publish a membership list. Their ages ranged from 19 to 29, the 10-year period that is increasingly becoming the province of the educated young. Ten of the 13 are from the northeastern states. Two of the students are graduates of Philadelphia main line schools: Germantown Academy and Germantown Friends School. On the whole, they have better-than-average academic averages. In short, they came to Princeton from the same sup-ply of outstanding secondary school students that Princeton has drawn on throughout this century.
The inevitable question: why do “nice kids” like these dress up like Indians and heckle down a speaker? What drives them to an action that appears not only reprehensible to their elders but could only be calculated to alienate their potential sup-porters among the “liberal” faculty and students? Even radical students have argued that the heckling tactic was “counter-productive.”
Perhaps one should begin by noting that none of the theories advanced by the many professional observers of radical student behavior seems adequate in itself. The popular notions, as put forth in dozens of Sunday-supplement newspaper articles, hold that the New Left is composed of Dr. Spock’s “spoiled children” of affluence, that the students are guilt-ridden for not having had experience in significant work that would give them their identity, that they have watched too much television and expect instant gratification, and that they are symbolically murdering their fathers in a recurrent, ritualistic melodrama of generational conflict.
The trouble with these sociological pot-boilers is that none meets the often devastating political and cultural critiques of the students on their own merits. Yet one hesitates to com-fort the militants by announcing that students protest be-cause this is a racist, imperialistic society, or because the curriculum is irrelevant, or because the university has sold out to the military-industrial complex, or because the trustees want to turn out bureaucrats to grease the machinery of capitalism, or because the professors have copped out to profitable re-search projects, or because the university is a soulless factory of certification.
In his useful collection of essays, The Making of a Counter Culture, Theodore Roszak *58 argues that the political and cultural “revolutions” of the young spring from their rejection of “technocracy,” the overwhelming conspiracy of scientific progress and objective thinking to rob each man of his humanity and his mystery. Thus, when the Princeton hecklers wore Indian costumes into Jadwin Gymnasium, they were doing more than suggesting Secretary Hickel’s supposed mistreatment of Alaskan Indians or of this country’s historical destruction of an entire Indian civilization. To many students, the Indian is everything that technological man is not: the Indian is close to nature, he lives in a Rousseau-like simplicity, he is “irrational,” and he is allowed the luxury of his own mysticism.
One way to consider student activism is to consider that for many young people, protest and distrust of the American system is a way of life. The only freshman among the Prince-ton 13 is Rebecca Foulk, an attractive brunette who recently returned from cutting cane in Cuba with the Venceremos (“We Shall Overcome”) Brigade. She was 9 years old when President Eisenhower sent the first American “advisers” to Vietnam; she was 11 when John Kennedy sent the first troops; 13 when the first protests against the war in Vietnam began. For Miss Foulk and her peers, contemporary American history consists of a disastrous foreign war interrupted by riots in the cities and the assassinations of the few political figures that young people have had reason to admire.
Events on and off campus this year have steadily built pressure toward the simultaneous climax and psychological release in Jadwin Gym on March 5. The first war protest on campus, the October 15 Moratorium, was a mild affair in which many students and faculty passed a pleasant night and afternoon listening to speeches. In retrospect, the most significant talk was delivered by a university trustee, Richard Cass ’68, who argued that individual moral commitment was inadequate unless coupled with the political power of institutional commitment. That same month, he and another trustee, Brent Henry ’69, introduced a motion before the board condemning the Vietnam War. It was defeated, but several trustees met unofficially later to approve the resolution.
In November, the uneventful Princeton Vietnam Assembly was followed by the March on Washington, when well over 1,000 students traveled to the nation’s capital to demonstrate against the war. President Nixon’s assertion at that time that he would not be affected by such a large peaceful protest, coupled with his decision to watch a football game during the gathering, did little to restore the faith of students in democratic processes.
In late February, only one week before the arrival of Secretary Hickel, two events made the resulting confrontation al-most inevitable. On Monday, five of the so-called “Chicago 7” conspiracy defendants were found guilty and sent to jail for what then appeared an indefinite period. It would be almost impossible to overestimate the impact of this trial on the cam-pus. It suffices to say that for many students—radical and conservative alike—the Chicago trial gathered together all the varied strands of cultural and political change within their generation (from Jerry Rubin, perhaps a genuine fanatic, to Abbie Hoffman, the clownish Yippie) and put them on trial. The trial itself seemed to confirm all the assumptions radicals have made about American justice.
Three days later, a “Repression Teach-In” was held in Dillon Gym under the joint sponsorship of the Junior Class, SDS, the UGA, and Whig-Clio. The keynote speakers that evening—Leonard Weinglass, a defense lawyer for the Chicago defendants, and David Hilliard, current Black Panther leader—both aroused student awareness of social injustice and raised the level of rhetoric on campus by several degrees. Disturbingly, only a few faculty members were present.
Given these circumstances, it is predictable that the university’s invitation to Secretary Hickel would be taken by SDS as a challenge to its power. It was as if the university were to invite George Wallace to speak, and the black students would feel obligated to demonstrate their disapproval. What form that protest should take, of course, is subject to debate. Some Princeton faculty members have suggested that the hecklers’ acts—throwing paper airplanes, wearing costumes, yelling sing-song chants—are an unconscious form of self-protective, regressive behavior. “They were inviting a definition of themselves as mischievous children,” explains one. “It is as if they are reluctant to confront the real meaning of their acts, so they act like fun-loving kids teasing the bumbling cops. That puts most adults in an ambiguous position regarding the seriousness of their behavior.” The events of the resulting disciplinary hearing seemed to lend further credence to that idea; in adopting a frivolous posture, the student radicals sacrificed some of the intellectual integrity that makes the acts of dissenters like Fathers Daniel and Philip Berrigan so memorable and many acts of SDS so forgettable.
From the moment the opening hearings began, it was apparent that discipline at Princeton would never again be the same. Gone are the cozy conferences in the dean’s office; gone are the letters to be signed by parents requesting readmittance; gone are the students packing up to leave on the basis of a few meetings and little else than a handshake.
At the front of a large square of tables in Corwin sat the Judicial Committee. The chairman was William Dix, a distinguished, pipe-smoking man who has been the university’s Librarian for 17 years. Two undergraduates, two members of the faculty, and a member of the administration also sat on the committee. On the far side of the square tables, places had been arranged for Deans Rudenstine and Lemonick on one side, and on the other side for the defense, which was com-posed of Michael Teitelman, a brilliant, 26-year-old philosophy graduate student who was a defendant, and Charles Wheatley, an articulate assistant professor of sociology who is widely known on campus for his radical politics. The side of the tables facing the committee was reserved for witnesses.
The atmosphere immediately before the hearing began was one of revolutionary anticipation that must have rivaled the Tennis Court Oath. Supporters of the 13 defendants had crowded the room, many lined up along the walls, sitting in the aisles and on windowsills. For several minutes, the defendants and their supporters joined in loud choruses of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Deans Rudenstine and Lemonick, sitting on the side reserved for the “prosecution,” both looked uncomfortable.
Hardly had Chairman Dix finished reading the committee’s general rules than the tone of the hearings for the remainder of the week began to develop. Professor Wheatley asked that the charges be dismissed since the defendants were being “tried” on political grounds. Chairman Dix overruled the motion, but only to the sound of considerable booing from the audience. Mr. Teitelman, a man said to have considerable personal charm, who wears his hair flowing to his shoulders, then asked for a dismissal on the grounds that the committee had broken its own procedural rules. Chairman Dix ruled negatively. Again there was general disturbance in the room.
The first person to be called be-fore the committee was Professor John Tukey, chairman of the statistics department and generally acknowledged as a man of prodigious energy. He was first asked to explain the nature of the ecology conference. Then Teitelman asked him if he thought the Nixon Administration had protected the rights of black people or people in Vietnam. Dean Rudenstine objected, but Chairman Dix ruled that the committee would allow considerable leeway in the questioning. When Professor Tukey answered that his feelings were “mixed,” a sudden burst of booing and hoots of derision came from the audience.
Other witnesses included an obviously angry graduate student who said that he and other graduate students in the field of ecology had wanted to “pin down” Secretary Hickel with potentially embarrassing questions but had been unable to ask them. Anthony J. Maruca ’54, a university administrator, said that he had moved from the floor of the gymnasium to the balcony to see what was causing the disturbance. At that, Professor Wheatley interjected: “Could you see all the way to Wall Street, Washington, and Saigon?” The audience roared its approval.
As the afternoon went on, the atmosphere became increasingly intimidating for witnesses. Every person who testified was led through a narrow aisle crowded with students demonstrably sympathetic to the defendants; loud jeers and shouts were directed at the witnesses while testifying; the defense “advisers” asked the most personal questions. At one point, during a discussion over the nature of the university, a voice in the audience shouted “Burn it down!” to widespread laughter. When one of the defendants, Rick Ostrow, was given the floor he denounced the hearing as “an incredible railroad job” and added that “They’re trying to purge us out of this university. Soon they’ll have to have us bound and gagged the same way they did to Bobby Seale! We don’t recognize the legitimacy of this committee. We shouldn’t be on trial. Hickel should be on trial here.” His rhetoric, as well as much of that which followed, were reminiscent of George Orwell’s observation in his essay “Politics and the English Language,” that, “if thought corrupts language, then language can corrupt thought. . . . As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract, and no one seems able to think in terms of speech that are not hackneyed; prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like sections of a prefabricated henhouse.”
By the end of the first day, two things were apparent: Michael Teitelman was emerging as far more formidable an opponent than anyone had imagined, and he had almost single-handedly succeeded in turning an investigative hearing into an adversary process, placing on trial not the hecklers but the university and its disciplinary process. The committee, in its eagerness to be fair, had allowed the defense to do almost whatever it wanted to do. Teitelman charged that their rights were ill-defined before a judicial body with no set rules, that certain depositions had not been made available to the defense (an allegation later denied by the deans), and, on broader grounds, that they had not disrupted a “legitimate” university function. It was not “legitimate,” they said, to invite a war criminal to speak. This was a political act, they argued, and they had responded in kind with a “political disruption” of his talk.
When the second day of hearings began, one obvious question was what would be the response of the deans. They were undoubtedly unhappy in their new public role as prosecutors; Neil Rudenstine had worked for a year and a half to earn the trust of the students and now all that threatened to dissolve. A soft-spoken, almost shy man, he did not relish the job of taking the offensive against the students. The gregarious, ebullient Lemonick was temperamentally light-years distant from Rudenstine and far more willing to do verbal battle with the student defendants. Several times in the proceedings, the more prudent Rudenstine was seen to move the microphone out of Lemonick’s reach. It appeared that Rudenstine hoped that, despite obvious strains, the proceedings were essentially sound and that the truth would eventually win out.
Once more, the hearing room was packed with more than 300 people, taking up all available seats and standing on tables and along the walls. Chairman Dix began by reading a statement from President Goheen stating that he was removing himself from his review function over the decision in order to end any doubt about conflict of interest or fairness. Again, the reading brought forth loud shouts and derisive noises from the audience. When Mr. Dix warned that if the racket continued, he would be forced to close the hearings, Teitelman replied that such a statement was bound to bring ridicule from the audience. Chairman Dix, who had demonstrated a remarkable patience up to that point, answered that the remark was “re-ally quite out of order.” The defense seemed little concerned about Dix’s reprimand; as they readily admitted, they hoped to appeal primarily to public opinion, to drum up so much support for their cause that the university would be unable to punish them without provoking another, perhaps more disastrous, confrontation.
The hearings took up their familiar character. Security Chief Kornblum was questioned by the defense regarding his previous employment with the FBI and his opinion of J. Edgar Hoover. Another proctor, Russell H. Shangle, a large, good-natured man, first identified ten of the charged students and then was cross-examined by Teitelman and his undergraduate assistant. In the eyes of many observers, the defense then made an unfortunate mistake. By asking long, intricate questions, Teitelman forced Shangle into a number of contradictions and grammatical errors that brought forth titters from the group of Princeton-educated defendants. In one exchange, Shangle said that he had met Teitelman at an earlier demonstration.
“That was in April, wasn’t it?” asked Teitelman.
“Yes, I think so,” Shangle replied.
“I am prepared,” said Teitelman with a dramatic gesture that would have put even Perry Mason to shame, “to produce documentation that I was a duly registered student at Cambridge University in England in April, 1969!”
The debater’s trick had humiliated Shangle and raised considerable conviction that the defense was less than admirable in its tactics. Rudenstine, who had maintained cordial relations with Teitelman before and during the hearings, was over-heard telling him after that day that he did not want to talk with him then or ever again.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with a blend of impassionate rhetoric and frivolous high-jinx. At one point, after borrowing drinking water from the deans’ pitcher, Teitelman made a grand show of pouring fresh water back into their glasses. “We are socialists,” he proclaimed to the delight of the audience. “We have taken their water; we will replace their water!”
Not so light-hearted were the remarks he made a few minutes later. “We have put the committee on trial, and now we’re putting the prosecution on trial,” he said. “We stand for the radical revolution in this country. We’re not going to stand for the same sort of oppression that has kept the black man down for 300 years. We’re not going to shuffle our feet”—Chairman Dix tried to restore order, but Teitelman continued—“We’re not going to let them take our heads off. We’re going to take the guns and turn them around and blow the heads off the ruling class” [Orwell, again]. “This is a political trial, and that’s what we want everyone to understand. We’re not on trial here. What’s on trial is the ruling class and its racism, imperialism, and male chauvinism.” When another of the charged students, Matthew Meyers, denounced the proceeding, the audience answered with a deafening chant of “Mis-trial! Mis-trial!”
Chairman Dix then recessed the hearing and said amid general bedlam that the next day’s proceedings would be closed to the public.
Later that afternoon, nearly a dozen faculty members and friends met with the deans in the Woodrow Wilson School to discuss the proper course to take to save what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating situation. Several people present wanted to take a hard line against the defendants, others wanted to grant a mistrial and begin the hearing from scratch. In the end they agreed with Neil Rudenstine that the hearings should continue, that they should remain open, and that Aaron Lemonick should try to take the offensive and re-direct the issues of the hearing away from the procedures themselves and back to what they felt was the central issue: free speech at the university.
Wednesday, the third day of hearings, opened to another packed audience in 50 McCosh Hall. The crowd had doubled to about 600, with people standing and sitting in the aisles of the lofty lecture hall. Among the spectators, in what surely was an eerie coincidence, was Herbert Marcuse, the Marxist philosopher and patron saint of the New Left, who was delivering a series of lectures that week. For the first time, large numbers of faculty and administrators and wives were present, dividing the sentiment of the spectators roughly one-half for the defendants, one-half for the deans.
That day, which turned out to be the most dramatic of the hearings, was dominated by a lengthy presentation of the cause of the 13 students by Teitelman, followed by Lemonick’s equally vehement speech on behalf of the deans. Teitelman explained his case and struck a conciliatory note by saying that he regret-ted his treatment of Mr. Shangle and that he bore no ill-will toward the members of the Judicial Committee. Lemonick maintained that while he agreed with many of the things that Mr. Teitelman had said regarding social injustice, he was bound to protect the university by enforcing its rules.
After the speeches, the committee announced that the defense’s latest motion for a mistrial had been overruled. At that, all 13 of the charged students said that they could no longer “legitimize” the hearing by their presence. Along with their supporters they walked out and marched to the faculty room of Nassau Hall. There, they debated possible courses of action for well over an hour. Someone suggested withholding tuition to punish the university, but others pointed out that the university might withhold degrees and most were on scholar-ships anyway. Finally, unable to agree on much of anything, they left.
The next two days of hearings were relatively uneventful, since the defense was not present. In nearly two hours of testimony, Dean Rudenstine explained how the evidence against the students had been collected. While Rudenstine was finishing his testimony, another curious incident was unfolding a few hundred yards away in McCosh 10. Edward Teller, the physicist, had arrived to make a speech on “The Plowshare Project: Constructive Uses for Nuclear Explosives.” When he entered the room, he was confronted by students at the back and sides of the room, standing silently, holding placards of protest against nuclear warfare. Some of the students had deliberately gagged themselves. In one of the strangest definitions of academic freedom yet espoused, Teller said that he found it impossible to speak in an atmosphere where so many people disagreed with him. He left and later addressed a smaller group in a closed session in Jadwin physics building.
On Thursday evening, President Goheen appeared before the committee to give his testimony. His statement was received with applause from the few persons scattered through-out the room. He was then questioned by committee members (who now had apparently decided to resume their role as an investigative body) regarding the circumstances of the Hickel visit, on the matter of disruptive actions and discipline, and on his personal opinion of SDS leaders. To the last, he responded that he was worried about the tactics used by SDS and disagreed with them but did not feel any personal antagonism toward SDS leaders.
The final witness at the hearing on Friday was politics professor Stanley Kelley, the principal author of the “Kelley Report” that brought the Judicial Committee itself into existence. Professor Kelley presented an explanation of classic civil dis-obedience, arguing, however, that those who break the law should be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions. The final speakers at the hearing were Deans Lemonick and Rudenstine. Lemonick stressed the “nonselective” effort that had been made to investigate the disruptions. Rudenstine emphasized what seemed to him the importance of letting speakers of all political persuasions come before university audiences.
In closing, Rudenstine brought up what struck some observers as the only element of comic relief during the entire proceeding. A week earlier, several students had complained in a letter to the Prince that the 13 students had been identified “selectively” and that, in fact, they too had heckled Hickel. The dean told the committee that he had mailed forms to these cooperative students and hoped they would document exactly what they had done during the disruption. Later, it turned out, the students denounced Rudenstine’s forms as “self-incriminatory.”
Finally, at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 20, and after 17 hours of testimony, Chairman Dix adjourned the hearings and said that the committee would re-lease its decision after spring vacation.
One of the few things that could be said with certainty immediately after the hearings was that the university was lucky things were not worse. The 13 defendants may well have made a grievous tactical mistake by walking out on Wednesday; the hearings had given SDS a podium, a splendid opportunity to hold the floor. And everyone was listening. On the other hand, it can be argued that the walk-out was a simple necessity because the students could not sustain their momentum and, most significantly, could not mount a rational defense of their actions. The prankish sideshow routines that had proved so successful in the opening stages might have lost their appeal if prolonged.
While the faculty seemed almost uniformly opposed to the tactic of disruption, student opinion was more ambivalent. The Princetonian, which had published brief, unbiased, and some-what confused accounts of the trial itself, was unable to put together a coherent editorial policy. After the incident, the student paper proclaimed, “Any university that allows such a breach of the freedoms of speech and hearing without disciplining those who abuse those freedoms, will soon lose them. Despite their justifiable motives in the face of a deaf government, the SDS has broken a delicate trust and must pay the consequences.” In the heat of the hearing, however, the paper’s resolve weakened, and it called for a “mistrial” and sympathized with the walk-out as “eloquently expressing a justifiable rage against an inadequate judicial process.” Letters in the columns of the paper supported both sides with what appeared to be equal vigor.
The deans themselves were apprehensive about some of the hearing’s procedures. In retrospect, the strangest aspect of the affair was its adversary character. Due to prodding from Mr. Teitelman, who was rightfully unsure about the nature of the proceeding, the committee yielded to many of his suggestions and all but turned the hearing into a quasi-courtroom. The resulting hearing was filled with what most people took to be the elaborate appearances of a trial but with none of the procedures of the courts. In the end, it was unclear to everyone.
The deans thought that the commit-tee was a fact-finding, investigative body, not unlike a grand jury, which would call its own witnesses, ask its own questions, and arrive at its own conclusions. They considered it a com-promise that attempts to guarantee the due process to students required by the courts while not encumbering itself with the legal apparatus of a courtroom.
Such an informal procedure, of course, depends upon the mutual agreement of all participants that it is a fair one. From what one can tell, this sort of understanding on ground rules was never reached with the 13 accused students—though there is good reason to believe that they would never have agreed to any procedures suggested by the university.
One phenomenon noted throughout the hearing was the tendency of student radicals and their detractors to attribute extraordinary abilities of organization, uniformity, and malevolence to one another. Each side seemed to search out its own worst fears and then believe whatever evidence supported the fantasies and discredit whatever did not. Thus, if the SDS allegations were to be believed, Robert Goheen was so outraged by the heckling that he cracked his whip over the heads of a group of minion deans who cunningly set about to remove the SDS leadership from Princeton. That thesis alone supposes a degree of coordination, efficiency, and agreement that is practically unthinkable.
On the other hand, those opposed to SDS attribute it with a tactical genius and planning ability that is seldom realized. They may have heckled Hickel because they could not think of any-thing better to do. It was said throughout the disciplinary hearing that there were grave differences of opinion among the students; some favoring an immediate walk-out, others arguing to disrupt the hearings, others preferring a dignified defense. The same lack of uniformity was apparent among their supporters. Whenever Mr. Teitelman made an impassioned reference to the war in Vietnam, he was assured of vigorous applause from the audience. On other occasions, however, when he announced that the capitalist system was responsible for social evil, he received only perfunctory applause.
The decision of the Judicial Committee was announced and distributed in the form of a 24-page statement to the entire university resident community on April 2, 1970. Three seniors who had been on disciplinary probation in the past for violating the same university policy on protests and demonstrations were suspended until February 1971. Eight students were placed on disciplinary probation for the remainder of their stay as Princeton students, with the granting of a university degree delayed until February 1971 in the case of the other three seniors and Mr. Teitelman. Miss Foulk, a freshman, was placed on disciplinary probation until the beginning of her junior year. Charges were dismissed against Aristides Terzis, a graduate student, on grounds of insufficient evidence. All of the penalized students appealed the decision to Provost William Bowen.
The unanimous opinion also held that if any of the students placed on disciplinary probation were found guilty of a repeated violation of the same policy, they would be required to withdraw immediately from the university. “This implies that the university community will not tolerate disruptive demonstrations which prevent the orderly conduct of university functions and activities,” the committee wrote. “If the students penalized understand this, they may continue their academic career at Princeton, exactly as free to exercise their rights to speak out and to engage in demonstrations as they were before and as are any other members of the university community.”
Many students, while agreeing on the need to punish the disrupters, objected to the harshness of the three suspensions. In the weeks after the hearing, the faculty voted overwhelmingly not to urge a reduction in the punishments, the Undergraduate Assembly voted down a motion to “condemn” the hecklers but did urge that the penalties be reduced, and the University Council voted down a motion asking that the provost take into account “mitigating” circumstances in reviewing the appeal. Princeton’s SDS called several rallies and a class strike to support the hecklers: only 40 people—or about one percent of the student body—showed up for the rallies and classes went on as usual.