Strike: Support for Kent State
[hide-featured] On May 4, 1970, several unarmed students at Kent State were killed during an anti-war protest. The event was seen as a national tragedy, and all over the country, other colleges showed their support by canceling classes, holding memorial services, and mourning the tragic consequences of social turmoil. Here at Madison, the SGA held an open vote to decide whether a “strike” should be held to honor the victims of the Kent State shootings.Strike would involve the cancelation of classes. Instead of classes, students would be encouraged to participate in open, honest dialogue about social and political unrest. The idea was to show support for Kent State, create opportunities for safe discussion about Vietnam and Cambodia, and to show respect for those students who had lost their lives. The term strike was chosen because the decision to cancel classes at a state school sends a message to the government. Jay Rainey encouraged the student body to support the strike saying, “strong action is needed to guarantee that we will have no more Cambodias and Kent States… We need to go beyond the tactic of only protesting, students needs to take a firm and positive stand on a national level” (continue reading Strike Proposal).
After the vote, the SGA decided there was simply not enough student support to merit the cancellation of classes for the rest of the term. Truthfully, it is highly unlikely that the administration would have honored their decision regardless of student support. In fact, the SGA attempted to host a memorial service on a Friday in honor of the Kent State victims. Unfortunately, the administration vetoed the decision because they were not willing to cancel classes even for the one afternoon.
To read students’ reactions to the failure of the strike, click here.
Though strike did not come to Madison, it is still significant that the idea was even considered. Once again, evidence seems to suggest that there were at least some student activists on our campus in the 1970’s. They did not constitute a majority, they did not always win, but they did manage to have their voices heard.
Featured Image Citation: SGA 93-0401 box 2 , Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
Rainey, Jay. “Strike Proposal.” JMU Special Collections. SGA 93-0401 box 2 Harrisonburg, VA.
The Fixer Vol. 1 No. 16.