THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY: Revolt on Campus 1968-69 by William J. MeGiI1

THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY: Revolt on Campus 1968-69

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Campus unrest in the late '60s was a nightmarish time for many--and still is for some, including former university head McGill: ""Sometimes late at night, when the house is still and the slightest sound is audible, I am suddenly awake in the darkness because I think I can hear them chanting again."" During 1968-69, one of the most traumatic of those years, McGill was chancellor of the U. of California at San Diego (which prepared him for the ordeals of Columbia, whose president he became in 1970). Here he recalls, with some straining at forgiveness, the crises he stumbled through: then-Governor Reagan goading a hostile student body by canceling credits for a course to be taught by Eldridge Cleaver; the American Legion attempting to block the contract of Herbert Marcuse--whom McGill detested but protected; Angela Davis building a fragile--and finally impossible--student coalition to get a new academic unit dedicated to revolutionary Third World studies (and named Lumumba-Zapata College). Finally, there is the mass of feckless and reckless students, faculty and outside agitators, of left and right. (One of the most moving themes is McGill's estrangement from his own faculty roots.) The book is permeated, even now, with fear that the university will collapse, and outright fear of violence. We never do learn what McGill was trying to achieve at San Diego, besides survive with some shreds of grace. There is next to nothing, certainly, about education. The conclusion is pedestrian and a little pompous (""Coupled with the political horrors of the Sixties, and the existence of an exciting, and at first effective, group protest mechanism, the psychological pressures pushed students into overt action""); the writing is fiat and clichÉd. Still, the stories are extraordinary--and do convey the exhilarating dangers of the times.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1982
Publisher: McGraw-Hill