Vietnam War sparked protests on MU campus

Tuesday, February 8, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:59 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

In May 1970, the United States was experiencing a dramatic period of unrest. The Vietnam War, entering its sixth year, was spawning disorder and protest, especially on college campuses. Demonstrations were occurring across the nation, including at MU.

MU emeritus professor of rural sociology Daryl Hobbs, who was chairman of the combined sociology/ rural sociology department from 1967 to 1971, said that a meeting of the department in May of 1970 addressed the impact of anti-war activities at MU and the response the faculty should give. Some faculty members announced they would discuss in class the causes of local and national outrage, while others announced their intention to dismiss class for two days as a means of protest.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators requested a list of the professors who canceled classes. When Hobbs refused, the board suspended him for 10 days. The department kept no record of which classes had been held, which led Hobbs to file an appeal of his suspension. The board imposed punishments on eight professors for their involvement, temporarily suspending their pay and denying salary increases for the following year. One professor was denied tenure.

After Hobbs’ appeal of his suspension was denied, he filed a complaint with the American Association of University Professors. The association reviewed the cases of the professors and decided to censure the university in 1973, citing unsatisfactory academic freedom and tenure conditions for the professors.

The university worked to revise its tenure code to allow for more academic freedom and a better grievance procedure for professors to follow.

“Adaptations were made because it was clear there wasn’t much of a set of procedures to handle these situations,” Hobbs said. After the changes to the tenure code and repayment of the professors who were docked pay, the association lifted its censure in 1980.

Source: Research by former MU student Daniel Morrison

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