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Activism and Protests

Chancellor Daniel Aldrich addresses protest rally against Clark Kerr firing, January 23, 1967.

The opening of UCI coincided with the politically-charged climate of the 1960s.  Despite its small size and its location in a relatively remote suburban area, the campus was not immune to the strong sentiments and activism that were so prevalent at large metropolitan campuses such as Berkeley and UCLA.  Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a left-wing radical organization started by students in Michigan in 1959, had an active chapter on campus.  They led protests of the Vietnam War and fought for racial equality and academic freedom.  The University Moratorium Committee, a group that consisted of students, staff and faculty, joined together against the Vietnam War, staged a large "live-in" in November 1969, and called for campus walkouts to protest the draft.

In February 1968, ASUCI President Michael Krisman and Vice President Craig Harlan resigned their positions.  Both dedicated activists, Krisman and Harlan blamed the lack of interest and involvement of most of the student body.  They were frustrated by a lack of communication among students.

Eldridge Cleaver speaks at UCI, 1968.
Eldridge Cleaver speaks at UCI, 1968.

Eldridge Cleaver, Information Minister for the Black Panthers and 1968 Presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom party, became a central figure in UC history when Governor Reagan spoke out against Cleaver being hired as a lecturer at UC campuses.  Students throughout the state protested against Reagan and the UC regents for trying to silence a controversial voice.  At UCI, English professor Steve Shapiro had invited Cleaver to lecture to a series of classes.  This did not prove popular with Hazard Adams, Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature.  But it was only the start of Professor Shapiro's problems; a few months later, he was fired.