The April 1 PAW issue tripped an emotional toggle switch. Recollections from sophomore year tumbled off the conveyor belt from my cargo hold of memories of campus protests and a nationwide student strike in the spring of 1970. A blurb about an upcoming student referendum on bicker seemed trivial in contrast to the seriousness of the feature “A War’s Legacy” and references in the editor’s letter and Class Notes to alumni casualties and protesters along Nassau Street during the Vietnam War era. Still, the passing mention of bicker reminded me of something from that time.
Classes, exam schedules, and social activities were thrown into confusion. An emergency meeting was convened at a Prospect Avenue club where I had successfully bickered. In deadly earnest, a soul-searching discussion ensued on how best we should respond to the strike. A debate arose about canceling Houseparties. One proposal was seriously advanced that the planned formal could dispense with black ties and tuxes in solidarity with the strikers. It was at that point that I remembered the Selective Service card in my wallet and the real possibility of being drafted in a misbegotten conflict in which 1.5 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans eventually perished.
I never set foot in that club again — not out of disrespect for its members, but because life on the Street suddenly seemed irrelevant. An old order was collapsing around us. And there were far more important matters to face as I came of age in that season long ago.