In March 1965, the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War was at its peak with more than 200,000 troops on the ground in Southeast Asia, and Operation Rolling Thunder in full effect, all of which he opposed.
Tension between government and concerned citizens about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War began to bubble over, and a group of U-M professors, Thomas Mayer included, decided that protesting in traditional ways — apart from their titles as educators and their affiliations with esteemed universities — was not sending a big enough message to lawmakers and policymakers.
After several meetings, it was decided that the professors would stage a teach-in — an event named after the popular sit-in protests — as a way to effectively get their point across. It eventually spawned a movement and gave birth to a new way of protesting across the spectrum of higher education.
The teach-in was held from 8 p.m. on March 24 until 8 a.m. on March 25, complete with informational sessions, group discussions, seminars and even folk singing.
What began as a group of fewer than 10 educators, soon swelled to a group of more than 220 professors who led discussions and speak-outs against the war. And what was expected to be a modest turnout for the 12-hour event, wound up being more than any of the organizers could have anticipated.
In total, there were about 3,000 participants. Haber said that some of the speeches and discussions — which were hosted at campus venues such as the Angell Auditorium, the Diag and the library steps — were broadcast to students and faculty at more than 100 college and university campuses across the country.
From the steps of a U-M library, the movement quickly spread. Two days after the teach-in in Ann Arbor, there was another teach-in at Columbia University. Two weeks later, there was one at the University of California, Los Angeles. Subsequent teach-ins were held at Wisconsin, Berkeley, Michigan State, and dozens of other campuses.
Moving forward, teach-ins would become a regular way of protesting at U-M and they happened on a regular basis, sometimes even monthly.
Note: In the 1960s, coeds at the University of Michigan had curfews. After the faculty decided to change their protest from a teaching moratorium to a teach-in, the University responded more positively by allowing all women to stay up all night for the event. Photo courtesy of Alan Glenn, University of Michigan
For the full article, see Jeremy Allen, “U-M professors’ first teach-in 50 years ago launched a national movement”, MLive, March 22, 2015.
For more information, see “The First U of M Teach-In (March 1965)”, Resistance and Revolution : The Anti-Vietnam War Movement at the University of Michigan, 1965-1972 part of the Michigan in the World series features exhibitions of research conducted by undergraduate students about the history of the University of Michigan and its relationships beyond its borders. The project was made possible through funding from the University of Michigan History Department and the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, with additional support from Lisa and Timothy J. Sloan.
Alan Glenn, “Teach Your Children Well: 50th Anniversary of U-M Teach-In”, UM Alumnus Magazine, Spring 2015.
Allen Glenn, “Teach-in +50”, Michigan Today, March 17, 2015.
Bill Bonds, WXYZ,reporting on the Night’s events, courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.
Note: The video above : UM School of Visual Arts Video of 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the First Vietnam Teach-In War