Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Pio Past: 2 Arrested, 15 Suspended in Recruiter Demonstration

Originally printed April 18th, 1968.

Author unknown

Two Whitman students were arrested Monday in connection with a demonstration against the appearance of military recruiters on campus. Charles Lawrence and Mike DeGrasse were taken into custody after refusing to halt obstruction of the Navy Air vehicles in the SUB* driveway.

Approximately twenty-five students joined in a protest that covered two days and included nonviolent obstruction in the driveway, and demonstrations in front of the recruiter’s table in the SUB and by Dean Knopf’s office in Memorial Building.

In addition, 13 other students were suspended from school after joining in obstruction with Lawrence and DeGrasse. All but the two arrested moved when Chief of Police Watts offered the last chance to avoid arrest.

The fifteen were suspended until they agreed not to obstruct the open-campus policy expressed in an Administration statement. As of noon Tuesday, 3 of those suspended had expressed compliance with the college and were again enrolled in school. The others were in the process of appeal and faced a 2 p.m. deadline before facing possible eviction from college housing.

Monday dawned sunny but brisk as the demonstrators confronted the Naval Air recruiters as they drove up to the SUB. Dean Scribner arrived on the scene to find a peaceful tableau: approximately 25 students sitting in front of a parked station wagon convertible.

Scribner stated the policy of the college, that the administration supported the right of expression and the goals of the protest, but that they were not in sympathy with the action being taken. He urged the demonstrators to move aside and stated they faced dismissal or suspension if they carried on their present actions.

All but Lawrence and DeGrasse stood up and moved and the two remained their 2 1/2 hours until finally arrested. After the two refused to move the Council on Student Affairs was convened to consider the charge against Lawrence and DeGrasse and that they “did intentionally obstruct the access of military recruiters to the College and thus knowingly contravened the office college policy regarding the principle of the open campus.”

At 12:30 Dean Knopf returned with the unanimous decision of the CSA, that the two would be suspended until they submitted a statement they would comply with the college open campus policy. Knopf went on to say the same policy would apply to anyone who took their place, and civil authorities would be called if they still refused to move.

They maintained their post and were joined by 13 others who waited until the police arrived. Their names were taken and they were placed on suspension on the same terms as Lawrence and DeGrasse.

All 15 were willing to be arrested, but bail money was available for only two, and when Chief Watts gave the final warning all but the two stepped aside. Both were escorted quietly to a waiting police car and charged with unlawful assembly and disobeying an order to disperse and released the same afternoon on $100 bail.

The recruited drove through the crowd and set up a table in the SUB opposite a SDS booth dispensing information on the draft. Throughout the afternoon 30-40 students lay in front of the table, leaving 18 inches of access to the recruiters.

The action stretches back to Jan. 17 when the ASWC Student Congress unanimously approved a resolution stating that, “in order to protect the constitutional rights of freedom of speech of the students of Whitman College, the ASWC Student Congress requests that military recruiters henceforth be banned from the Whitman Campus until recision of the Hershey statement is made .  . .”

The statement referred to an Order from Selective Service Director that allows local boards to reopen the classification of those invovled in disruptive demonstrations interfering with recruitment into the armed forces. The resolution was reaffirmed by a vote of 7-2, Feb. 21, and given final, unanimous approval on March 1.

While the Academic Council and the administration considered the matter, recruiter visits were suspended.

On March 4, the first to state their position was the Academic Council, a position in effect supported subsequently by the administration. The declaration pointed out a long-standing Whitman tradition of maintaining an open campus to representatives of all beliefs, and opposed recruiters on campus only if they were persuaded that Whitman students involved in protest were actually reporter to their draft boards.

That afternoon saw the dropping of two simultaneous bombshells with the announcement of an Administration policy statement ignoring the ASWC resolution and supporting recruiter visits and the scheduling of an appearance by the Air Force.

The administration announcement stated in part, “We believe that we do not have the authority to ban any lawful activity from access to the campus of Whitman College, and we further believe that it would be unwise for us to condone any attempt to do such a thing.”

A protest meeting of concerned students was called and a course of action planned similar to the protest carried out in the SUB Monday. This action proved unnecessary as the appearance was cancelled due to the visit of the inspector-general to the recruiter’s Pasco office.

Following spring break, two organization meetings were called last Friday and Sunday to decide on the nature of demonstration against the appearance of the Air Force this week. From these meetings emerged the idea of actual obstruction, “We felt it was the only effective way to protest the action and convince the administration of our view-point,” stated Lawrence. “It was an act of conscience, as the situation had reached the point where this was the best way to register our disagreement. We had decided on the course of action and anybody who wished to join was welcome.”

Following the Sunday night meeting 10-15 expressed willingness to face arrest in the act of obstruction.
* = Student Union Building

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