Sunday, March 6, 2011

Campus Radicals and Social Action

In addition to the usual collection of Marxists, Maoists, Spartacists and Objectivists, MIT had just plain old garden-variety social activists. The origins of the Social Action Coordinating Committee (SACC, for short) predated my arrival at MIT and probably predated the origins of thursday. They probably were motivated to action by the Vietnam War in the '60s, and since every other college campus was ablaze with unrest, they didn't think MIT should be left out of the party. However, the most they could muster was the invasion and occupancy of the President's Office, which was accomplished when a small group of students, no doubt inspired by outside agitators (like Richard Nixon), proceeded to break open the door with a battering ram one evening. If anyone got killed, maimed, arrested, investigated or even had their chocolate rations suspended as a result of this action, it certainly was not Kent State or Berkeley by any stretch of the imagination.

When I got to MIT, Nixon had just resigned and the Vietnam War was over for the US (and would soon be over for the Vietnamese in a few months). That left SACC with nothing really to complain about. Campus controversies, such as MIT's decision to train nuclear engineers for the Shah of Iran in 1975 and missile technicians for Chiang Kai Shek in 1976, failed to ignite the student body the way Transparent Horizons did when it showed up at East Campus.
Lacking a motivating cause, SACC decided that their purpose in life was to prevent backsliding at thursday. To that end, they waged epic battles for control of the editorial content of the paper between 1975 and 1978. They also led an effort to elect one of their own President of the Undergraduate Association, which succeeded in 1976 (as good and well-motivated a UAP as Phil Moore was, nothing really changed). SACC would not find a raison d'etre until Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980.

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