Local News Archive
Print Issue: November 2, 1967
Collegians Want power And They Want It Now
By Mary Lackie
College students want student power and they want it nowthis is the big issue on campus today, and it puts universities, colleges and even the country in a difficult situation, said Father Robert J. McNamara, S.J., Fordham University sociology professor.
Father McNamara, a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, addressed the sixth annual national conference in Atlanta last week.
In an interview with the Bulletin, Father McNamara said, Present day college students are much more concerned about public issues and university policy. They feel a need to express themselves by doing something to change what they dont like. They are not content to just talk about change.
The students are a real part of campus life, and should have a chance to express their opinions and be heard, Father McNamara said, but he does not believe they should be given unilateral powers.
One crucial issue for the students is the Vietnam War. Those opposed to the war are the most articulate group, the priest said. Fordhams campus is very small, but strident. The conflict comes when the liberal, anti-war group goes into obstructionist tactics. The group opposed to the war take a fierce dislike to their methods.
Between the two vocal groups is the large section of students who have not faced the question of the waror who havent made up their minds one way or the other, the priest said.
This is a question that has to be faced with responsibility, Father McNamara said. The issue hasnt split the campus, and I dont want to see an absolute split. It is legitimate to have toleration of dissent or assent among the students.
Fordham University is planning a student Think-In on the subjects of how one comes to decisions in public policy, American policy, and how the student can express his decisions and act upon them. Through this dialogue, both students and university officials will be able to handle difficult situations in a civil way, the priest said.
In contrast to the students concerned with modern life, the hippies have rejected those structures of modern life which they feel are crushing them, and they are saying, Nutsand worse than that.
Commenting on the recent lay congress in Rome, Father McNamara said, The conscience issue is a strong part of the birth control controversy, and the whole issue of birth control is up for grabs. He said the fact that the matter has been considered and is being considered show that people are following their own consciences. The publication by the National Catholic Reporter of the document of the Popes commission on birth control was taken by many as an indication that they should consult their own consciences and decide for themselves.
Like many of his priest colleagues attending the conference, the Jesuit priest wore a business suit and tie. To most people at the meetings, it doesnt make much difference one way or the other how we dress, said Father McNamara, but some find it easier to take part in academic discussions when a priest is dressed as an academician, and not as a cleric. There is a time and place for uniforms, and I dont think that an academic meeting is the place. The decision to dress as a cleric or wear a business suit is entirely a personal one, left to the discretion of the priest, he said.
Men attending the two-day conference studied the aspects of religion form the social, psychological, psychiatric and social points of view.