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I read with interest the May 2 News article, "UB's Vietnam-era days of rage on Main Street," which took place while I was vice president of student affairs.

A primary concern centers around frequently inaccurate reports by the media that fuel generally held beliefs that large numbers of UB students were directly involved as militant activists in the anti-war demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The late professor Robert Rossberg accurately reported in "Dissent and Disruption -- A University Under Siege" that an overwhelming majority of UB students -- 90 percent -- recoiled from the far left and never became activists.

Some watched, but serious students wanted only to continue their education without interruption. Anyone disagreeing with protesters was labeled "apathetic" but the uninvolved also understood that arguing with closed minds was an exercise in futility.

Rossberg's analysis included a series of concentric circles that accurately describes UB and matches reports about students at other public universities. "The smallest, innermost and most identifiable sphere encompasses 45-50 anarchists, nihilists and others of uncertain ideology . . . dedicated to the total destruction of the social order."

A second circle -- 150-200 "militant activists" -- were related to, but not as extreme as the hard core. Another layer of 250-300 "active sympathizers were most likely to be left-liberals concerned with reform and very willing to de-escalate confrontation if a reasonable share of their goals could be achieved by negotiation and compromise."

The combined size of these three groups approximated only 4 to 5 percent of the total student population, and attendance of one of their sponsored rallies could reach 450 to 500 participants, especially when augmented by local high schoolers and non-students.

Surrounding the first three spheres was "a variable reserve" of "latent sympathizers" whose size was unpredictable. Their involvement was determined by issues and responses by authorities.

A good example of this took place on March 8, 1970, when perhaps 2,000 marchers -- the university's largest demonstration -- peacefully circled around the campus.

Not to be overlooked are "pseudo-liberals" who never marched during inclement weather but still wanted to be able to tell their children how they helped to bring about the end of the war.



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