Responses from the Community
The Chancellor’s Office received hundreds of letters commenting on Corbally’s handling of the Student Strike as well as the strikers and their demands. On May 18, Chancellor Corbally sent a letter to parents and alumni outlining the events of and administrative response to the Strike. It was accompanied by a letter from the Strike Committee of the May 4 Coalition reiterating the Strike’s core demands and the impact of the action groups. The responses from recipients of these letters were mixed, to say the least. Many on campus joined in expressing their opposition to or support of the Strike through flyers, petitions, and letters to University leadership.
Corbally’s acknowledgement of the Student Strike’s successes and his decision not to call in police or National Guard troops to break the Strike led many to criticize him for what they perceived as conciliatory or weak leadership.
Many parents of students wrote to University offices requesting full or partial refunds of their children’s tuition and room and board due to the cancellation of classes and disruption of regular academic activities stemming from the Strike. Some even threatened legal action.
On May 4, 1970, Chancellor Corbally co-signed a telegram from the presidents and chancellors of several American universities to President Richard M. Nixon condemning the invasion of Cambodia and expressing concern over the potential increase of unrest on college campuses it would cause. Many who opposed Corbally’s handling of the Student Strike at Syracuse University also opposed his taking any public stand against the war in Vietnam.
The ROTC Commissioning ceremony, which had traditionally been a part of the regular commencement exercises, instead took place as a separate event during the 1970 commencement weekend.
Although many faculty and staff supported and even joined with the striking students, others were angered by the disruptions caused by Strike activities. This letter from the staff of Huntington Hall is one example of letters received by the Chancellor’s Office expressing these frustrations.
Reactions to and participation in Strike activities varied among the student body. While a great number of students participated in the Strike and teach-ins, others found it disruptive, did not agree with the demands, or opposed any changes to academic norms. Many of those opposing the Strike and its aims were members of the student group Young Americans for Freedom.
Conversely, many parents, alumni, faculty, and community members wrote to offer their support for how Corbally and the University had navigated the Strike, as well as for the ways in which Strike participants had taken action in support of their causes. Many parents of Syracuse University students expressed their gratitude for the coordination between Corbally and Chief Thomas Sardino of the Syracuse City Police Department in avoiding the type of violence that had occurred on other campuses, including Ohio’s Kent State University and Mississippi’s Jackson State College.
Throughout the Strike, but particularly during its early days, faculty and departments across the University passed resolutions supporting the demands of the May 4 Coalition and advocated for cancellations or changes of course schedules to facilitate the Strike’s work. Many of these resolutions were particularly supportive of student opposition to the draft and the Vietnam War.
Many student organizations and collectives on campus such as the Nottingham Co-Op pledged their support to the Strike in various ways. In addition to issuing this statement offering both tangible and ideological support to the Strike by its residents, the Nottingham Nation served as one of the Strike’s first headquarters.