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The Notre Dame 10

Mark Mahoney and John Eckenrode | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today is the 40th anniversary of an important event in the life of Notre Dame. On Nov. 18, 1969, 10 students were suspended under the famous “15-minute rule” after a demonstration protesting the presence of recruiters from Dow Chemical and the CIA. The 15-minute rule, announced by Fr. Hesburgh earlier that year, was viewed nationally as a get-tough response to student protests. “Disruptive” students were to be given 15 minutes to “cease and desist.” If they failed to disperse, they would be suspended. If they remained five minutes longer, they would be expelled and subject to arrest.

This was at the height of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Dow was the maker of napalm used against civilian as well as military targets. The CIA had been involved in the efforts to overthrow Salvador Allende, as well as deeply involved in the Vietnam War.

Prior to the protest, the Student Senate had passed a resolution requiring any recruiting agency to submit to an open forum to discuss its practices, so long as a sufficient number of students petitioned for such a forum. Despite a petition for such an open forum presented to the administration, they refused to make arrangements for such a dialogue between recruiters and students, thus setting the stage for the Nov. 18 action. The demonstration stemmed from the belief that students had a right to ask whether they were being recruited for jobs that were consistent with the teachings of Jesus, the Catholic Church or their personal consciences.

Following the suspensions, weeks of events in sympathy for the Notre Dame 10 took place. Several faculty came to the assistance of the students. A written “defense” was presented at an appeals hearing where the students presented their legal and moral position. The judiciary board overseeing that meeting recommended that lesser punishments be imposed, a conclusion rejected by the university. Most of the suspended students returned to complete their degrees, but three did not.

Although this action was modest in magnitude to subsequent antiwar events, such as the Strike in the spring of 1970 that brought many campuses to a halt following the invasion of Cambodia and the shootings of students at Jackson State and Kent State, the Dow-CIA Protest and its aftermath raised unique issues for Notre Dame in its role as a Catholic University with ties to military and industrial entities that were implicated in the conduct of the war.

Today at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Social Concerns in Geddes Hall, as two members of the Notre Dame 10, we will join two former Notre Dame faculty members, Dr. Carl Estabrook and Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, for an open forum to discuss the events of 1969. We hope to reflect with the audience on the relevance of these issues to Notre Dame today and the challenges inherent in maintaining Christian moral positions within a university during times of continuing war and violence. 

 

Mark Mahoney is a 1971 Notre Dame graduate. John Eckenrode is a 1972 Notre Dame graduate.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.