Annual Letter 1970

100 Ivyhurst Road

Buffalo, New York 14226

December 24, 1970

 

Dear Friends:

We have been snowed under with work and are sorry that our annual letter will reach you so late this year.

To bring you up to date: Jeremy is back at Carleton College for his sophomore year, likes it quite a bit now, and has just decided to take an interdepartmental major in political philosophy. This spring he is going to France for a ten-week seminar sponsored by Carleton at the University of Caen on the French student revolt of 1968. Danny, who like many of his friends became increasingly critical of the routine and curriculum of high school, in spring after completing eleventh grade decided fairly much on the spur of the moment to finish high school in the summer and thus in September found himself at Canisius College instead of twelfth grade. Although he finds the work at Canisius more stimulating than at Amherst High School, he still complains that the curriculum is restrictive and hopes this spring in addition to his more conventional courses at Canisius to take one or two freshmen seminars at the University. Jonathan, who just turned fifteen, has become a giant. He is over 6 feet l and weighs well over 200 pounds. For the first time in Buffalo he has found a circle of friends and managed to win an election to the student council.

Wilma and my life have continued in our established.routines, punctuated at times by the excitement which has surrounded us. Wilma is quite busy at Canisius, particularly with her literature courses. I have been unusually busy because in addition to my courses here, I have since last spring also taught a seminar once a week at the University of Rochester so that we shall be able to afford taking the whole year off when both Wilma and I go on sabbatical next year.

The spring semester was an extremely tense one at the university; you may have read something about it in the press. Various tensions had been building up over the past few years involving defense research, ROTC, the absorption of minority group students, curriculum reforms and other issues.

Relations between the community and the campus had worsened as the private University of Buffalo, which had primarily served the local community, was transformed into a state university which attracted a more articulate student body and community. The tensions came to a head when a handful of students threw stones through the windows of the president‘s office. The police responded not by seeking to apprehend the culprits but by raiding the student union, which in the eyes of the conservative community had become the symbol of youth culture and radicalism, and indiscriminately beating students. This action provoked a major clash with 2000 students in the near zero temperatures. Instead of taking disciplinary actions against both campus police and students – a study commission appointed by the president described the police raid on the union as a police riot – the administration, under pressure from the community, fully endorsed the police action. The students responded with a strike to which the administration reacted by stationing four hundred city police on campus, an action which soon led to an even bloodier clash between police and students, after the administration had refused to follow the request of the faculty senate that the police be withdrawn from campus.

I like many of my colleagues, found myself in a very difficult position.

I sympathized with many of the specific grievances of the radical students, and fully shared their opposition to the war and to the involvement of the univer- sity with the military, I believed that the arbitrary use of police power by the administration and its refusal to listen to the majority decision of the faculty needed to be protested, on the other hand I also was deeply convinced that the rhetoric and tactics of violence used by the strike committee was both morally wrong and politically conterproductive. In order to resume some sort of dialogue with the administration which had refused to negotiate with us, to head off further violence, and to assume some sort of responsible leader- ship in a situation in which by default leadership had fallen exclusively into the hark of a small, totally alienated radical minority, a group of us, con- sisting of about fifty professors, decided to sit in the conference room of – the presidential suite on the following Sunday afternoon. We expected the president to talk with us instead he ordered us arrested. Forty-five of us, not including myself, were actually taken to the station house, locked up, and charged with both criminal and civil contempt of an injunction which for- bade blocking ingress and egress into buildings and disruption of the normal functioning of the university, which by the peaceful nature of our sit in we had not violated, and with criminal tresspass. In the atmosphere of hysteria which existed in Buffalo, a local judge promptly sentenced the forty-five to thirty days in jail, on the civil contempt charge which required no jury trial, a sentence which was stayed on appeal. The local newspapers and politicians strongly approved but the university was further polarized, the possibility of a middle which could speak with both sides was gone, and the atmosphere remained tense and violent until the end of the semester. A three judge appeal court in Rochester this November threw out the conviction and sharply rebuked the local court for its handling of the case. The two remaining charges have not been dropped yet and are scheduled for trial. Although the forty-five will doubtless be exonerated, this has been an extreme trial for them nervously as well as financially. Contributions for their defense are still needed and may be made out to the AAUP (SUNY/Buffalo), earmarked for the „Buffalo 45 Defense Fund“ and sent to Prof. Norman Hollander, 131 High Park Blvd., Buffalo, N.Y., 14226.

The rest of the year was less eventful. Wilma was quite busy in March and April with the preparations for the meeting of the North East Modern Languages Association of which she was president and which met at Canisius.

Jeremy was busy with his application for conscientious objector status, came home briefly in April for a discretionary interview with his board whichs turned him down despite what we thought was an excellent case, but did succeed in obtaining his conscientious objector status at his personal appearance in June. Danny, too, will file for CO status when he turns eighteen this coming spring; We spent a relatively quiet summer at home, leaving only once for a few days to go to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford and once more to spend a week in Allegheny State Park. Danny and Jonathan were in school a good part of the summer. Jeremy unable to find a job in Buffalo organized a painting company with a friend and spent the major part of the summer painting houses. With part of the money, he and some friends were going to go to Montana to work on the farm of a friend of theirs in August but then when they were already in Montana on their way there were involved in a head- on crash. The three other kids in the car all received nasty fractures, from which they fortunately have now recovered, but Jeremy almost miraculously escaped injury when he was thrown out of the car and landed on his feet.

The university began again in September amidst ominous rumors of new disruptions but has remained amazingly calm. During the summer a new president was appointed from within the university, a long-time administrator who was apparently the choice of the local businessmen who control the Univ- ersity Council in Buffalo and who won out against some hesitations in Albany.

The faculty was not seriously consulted on the appointment. The Meyerson period with its experimentation and its desire to make the university into a major state university, „the Berkeley of the East,“ seems to have ended and a period of academic retrenchment have set in for the immediate future.

Our community involvements have remained basically the same, although the emphases have changed somewhat. Wilma has continued as faculty moderator of the Students for Peace and Involvement at Canisius College. A position which has become increasingly difficult as students become increasingly radicalized in directions which challenged the basically pacifist orientation Quakeraround which the group was organized. I spent considerably more time counseling for the Draft Counseling Center of Greater Buffalo than I did last year. The center itself, which is located at the Friends Meeting House, has changed considerably as a young Quaker, Larry Scott, devoted himself fulltime to the reorganization of the center, retaining old and training new counselors, and bringing an air of professionalism, but a very humane one, into the center.

The Center now counsels about a hundred kids a week, most of whom are determined not to enter the armed forces and almost all of whom succeed in obtaining conscientious objector status or other deferments. The Center has thus contributed to keeping many kids in this country who otherwise might have fled to Canada, where conditions are relatively hopeless for many draft refugees.

I continue to be involved in the local NAACP as co-chairman of the education committee. On the old fashioned level, reminding me of our days in the South, of litigation we continue to be successful. The Buffalo branch succeeded in having the 1969 New York anti-bussing law declared unconstitutional. We are making much less headway in our negotiations with the Buffalo Board of Education on implementing a meaningful plan of desegregation and none in the suburbs.

A very limited program which was to be initiated by the boards in one of the suburbs was unfortunately defeated by irate opposition in the suburb. We have had a small but quite successful tutoring program of 5th to 8th graders at Canisius College in which Danny and Wilma have also been involved. Danny has been particularly successful in recruiting high school kids as tutors for the program. The co-operative program between Buffalo and Philander Smith College has.officially come to an end after four and a half years, although I hope some informal co-operation will continue.

We are now in the midst of completing our plans for the sabbatical. We expect to be in Buffalo until the middle of August so that Jonathan can take some of.the work in the summer which he will miss next year. The major part of the academic year we expect to spend in Germany, preferably, if we can make satisfactory school arrangements there for Jonathan, again in Göttingen.

Jeremy will probably stay at Carleton, Danny‘s plans are not yet quite clear.

Wilma plans to continue her studies of Jewish themes in German and Czech literature. I shall continue my work on trends in contemporary historical thought, continuing to explore some of the problems with which I dealt in my book on German historiography but in a broader international setting.

We expect to spend about three months in Paris in connection with my work and shorter periods in Poland, Amsterdam, East Germany and Czechoslovakia in connection with Wilma‘s or my work. Our charter plane will land in London, which will give us an opportunity to see relatives and friends again, and if time end money permits we would very much like to go to Israel for a short while.

With our best wishes to you for the holiday season and the New Year.

Georg and Wilma Iggers