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Looking Back
   

Third College: Days of Rage
by Roger M. Showley, Muir ’70

It was 10:30 p.m. on a chilly Monday evening, in late November 1969, when a half-dozen staff members of the Triton Times rolled up in front of University House, parked their cars and knocked on the door of Chancellor William J. McGill. His wife, Anne, looked startled, as if she thought they were being assaulted by a radical student group. Editor Steve Landau immediately identified himself to the pajama-clad chancellor and announced: “We thought you’d like an advance copy of the paper, coming out tomorrow.”
The issue bore the profiles of an African-American and Latino, overlain on outlines of Africa and South America. The headline read, “Third College—The Quiet Revolution.”

“ Why is Third College unique?” editor Landau asked in the front-page introduction to the November 26, 1969 special issue of the Triton Times (since renamed The UCSD Guardian). “Because for probably the first time, an entire college is being constructed to serve the specific needs of a particular community—the Black and Brown. It is not a college that will serve Blacks and Browns by molding them into the established white society. Nor is it a college that will pacify students with doses of Black and Brown studies. It is, instead, the beginning of the commitment on the part of the University to correct its oversights of the past.”

Today’s Marshall College students might find the report surprising reading. But during that period of student activism, UCSD students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community all knew that the formation of Marshall College could make history throughout academia. Headed by Provost Armin Rappaport, the college was “to bring intelligence to bear on the problems that face mankind” through a series of interdisciplinary majors, an idea that threatened traditional departments and their budgets. Then came the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and the call by campus African-American students to redirect the college toward issues they felt were important and relevant to them. Members of the Mexican-American Youth Association, forerunner of MECHA, joined the Black Students Association in pressing the case. Months of committee meetings led to increasing frustration and the presentation in early 1969 of a series of “demands” for “Lumumba-Zapata College.”

Over the summer, a group of students, on the University’s
payroll, hammered out a new college plan that eventually was adopted that fall. “The faculty were afraid of radical rhetoric and Black and Brown student control of the college,” said Gabriel Jackson, then-chairman of the Academic Senate, in the student newspaper. “There is certainly some residual suspicion, but most would say that the real work done over this summer (of 1969) shows real cooperation and that the fears of last spring were greatly exaggerated.”

By the time the UC Board of Regents took up the plan in February 1970, most of the battle cries of a year earlier had died down and many of the concepts proposed by the student summer task force were adopted. “I am tremendously impressed with the (academic) plan,” said Regent John Canaday, “because it recognizes the great social problems of our time and intends to deal with them.”

For student journalists it was a heady time. In the spring of 1970, National Guard shootings at Kent State in Ohio prompted California campuses to explode in demonstrations. Governor Ronald Reagan ordered a temporary shutdown of campuses. Self-taught and barely supervised by faculty and staff, we watched events unfold dramatically, collected reactions from all sides and tried to go about our studies and part-time jobs in the midst of this unprecedented turmoil. Rarely in the past 30-plus years have events been as riveting and thrilling. Thurgood Marshall College survived a baptism of fire and opened on schedule in the fall of 1970.

It was this sense of history in the making that made us descend on the chancellor’s house and share with him our excitement about the present and the changes afoot in the future.

Roger M. Showley is a staff writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune. He was news editor of the Triton Times in 1969-70.

Triton Times