The UH NEWS Liberated Press and the
Student Revolution at the University of Hartford
by Benedict M. Holden
This was our golden year. Dan Riley had been chosen to be the new editor of the school paper which he renamed The Cauldron as in "cauldron boil." John Robinson was his assistant editor; all of our guys wrote for The Cauldron: Marty Bresnick, Jeff Lewis, Peter Ramon, Howard Gross, and Bob Skinner. Both Jack Hardy and I joined the staff.
Our muse and model was Ray Mungo, editor of The BU News. The idea was a paper which covered, instigated, and engaged in conversation about the times in which we lived: the war, the draft, civil rights, social justice, women's rights, peace, reproductive autonomy, participatory democracies, and politics no more eight-page papers from the public relations office. We'd put something big art or a photo on the cover and feature coverage inside. We had a new sort of layout, better use of black and white, multiple typefaces no gray, gray, gray pages.
Links and our SDS chapter held regular meetings. Links sponsored the showing of a documentary movie about the great HUAC riots in San Francisco. The good guys were all commies and the bad guys were congressmen and cops with clubs and fire hoses.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the great atheist who won the school prayer suit, gave a great "everything you know is wrong" speech. Her best comment was, "Considering the filthy world we live in and the body parts you may be touching, shouldn't you be washing your hands before going to the bathroom? What does it say about the people who want you to wash hands afterward?"
Ray Mungo spoke about the new underground press movement and the failure of most of the commercial big papers. They print administration lies about the war and the nation: Victory in la Drang, Pacification, "The Light at the End of the Tunnel" the big fake news of the day. Mungo saw a niche for weekly counter-programmed papers with expanded graphics, news about us, a real world view. The BU News, The Cauldron, The Washington Free Press, Jeff Sherro's Texas paper, one in Madison (The Rag?), The Berkeley Barb and the UH NEWS Liberated Press were the pioneers. Add personals and tobacco money, this was the model for The Phoenix, The Advocate, etc., etc., which swept the country pre-wwwland.
We enjoyed a weekend-long run of a dramatic reading of MacBird, a play based on Macbeth about LBJ and the Kennedy assassination. Sold out shows. This built a great social bond amongst our people and the leaners.
The Cauldron was controversial; it was supposed to be. We had feature coverage on birth control and abortion both were crimes in 1966. The Cauldron sponsored a talk by Bill Baird, an abortion advocate. There was an underground stream of transport to and from New York to provide illegal abortions.
The MOBE (The National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam) issued two calls for simultaneous demonstrations in New York and San Francisco and for a Vietnam Summer Project like the Mississippi Freedom Summer, local organizing about the war in all 50 states.
On April 4, 1967, Norman Thomas spoke at noon in Millard Auditorium and that night at UConn. He was greeted with a huge standing ovation. Raising his hand over his head he thanked the audience. His first line moved me as no one else ever. "I would trade 20 years of applause to have carried Wisconsin or Michigan once." Huge standing O!!! He spoke about America losing its soul over the war. The flame of liberty's torch is burning villages in Vietnam. This war destroys our capacity to work on our own needs like poverty and the environment. Come to New York April 15.
And one day John Robinson stood up on a cafeteria table to announce he was running for the SFA and that U of H would never be the same again. He lost his own election and had no base among the students in the other schools. A week later the new SFA replaced Dan Riley as editor with Ed Butler and a paper entitled The Challenge.
The big demo in New York City featured a march from Central Park to the UN Plaza for a rally. It drew half a million people. Times Square was closed for hours. We sent a hundred folks down by train and an equal number drove.
The Vietnam Summer Project worked around a polling technique using follow-up questions. We hit every residence in the town of Bloomfield and found support for the war was paper thin and opposition was growing.