Portrait of a 1980 teach-in:
In one corner, sponsored speakers were speaking against the draft.
In another members of the Communist Party were shouting their slogans above the din.
In still another, members of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's pro-draft-registration group were shouting their positions while being pelted with snowballs.
Adding to the circus-like atmosphere, teach-in sponsors were selling multicolored T-shirts featuring a dove with an olive branch and emblazoned with the teach-in's slogan, "Teach Peace."
Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark was there.
Sound familiar? It wasn't scenes from a new movie or a '60s retrospective. It was a teach-in this weekend at the University of Michigan called "Peace and Politics in the 1980s" and event organizers hope will help launch a new student peace movement aimed at preventing what appears to them to be an imminent war.
No one here is dismissing the ironic fact that on March 23, 1965, nearly 15 years ago to the day, the world's first teach-in was conducted on this same campus -- an all-night affair that was looked upon by many as the start of what was to become a full-scale nationwide protest. Organizers of this teach-in, however, deny that they are trying to relive the '60s.
"This is not a Vietnam-War-type protest," said Henry Hardy, an organizer of the teach-in. "We've planned this for 1980, not for 1965."
Clearly the participants, which organizers estimate, exceeded the 2,000 mark during the three days of speeches and workshops, differed in many ways from their counterparts of a generation ago. University of Michigan freshman Stephanie Arnold, who described herself as a vehement draft opponent, didn't look the part. She attended Friday's antidraft registration rally clad in cowboy boots, designer jeans and a fur coat.
At a workshop Sunday morning, it was evident that love beads and army jackets had given way to tweed blazers, down jackets and expensive running shoes. But though the students looked different, the reasons they gave for their attendance at the teach-in were familiar ones -- opposition to the draft and a fear of war.
"I want to learn," said Arnold. "I want valid reasons why we shouldn't go to war."
"I found out there's a whole lot I didn't know," said Chris Stylianou, a student from nearby Eastern Michigan University. "A lot of this is new to me. All the people I know don't care crap about these kinds of things, but they're important."
Not all the participants gave such lofty reasons for their presence. Tom Eff, a student, said he got up to buy a Sunday New York Times, saw a sign for the teach-in, and decided to come.
Many of the students at Friday's rally were simply sloshing through the campus diagonal on their way to or from classes, a few pausing briefly in the subfreezing sunshine to see what the crowd was gathered for.
And while many of Friday's teach-in events were filled to capacity, the vast majority of the students chose to ignore organizers' pleas for them to boycott classes as part of the weekend protest.
Attendence figures for the teach-in, which featured speakers and workshops on topics ranging from the effects of Agent Orange to U.S. foreign policy in the Third World, varied widely, but nearly everyone agreed that the turnout was higher than expected.
"This is pretty good considering that we don't even have registration yet," said organizer Dan Carol, surveying the 40 or so people who got up early Sunday morning to hear U.S. Rep. Robert Carr (D-Mich.), a member of the House Armed Services committee, discuss his opposition to draft registration.
"We have to raise the consciousness of the students," Carr said later, denying that he was troubled by the low turnout. "It's hard to engage in anticipatory politics, it's a gradual process, not like turning on a switch."
The keynote event of the teach-in was Sunday afternoon's address by Ramsey Clark, who received a standing ovation from the 250-member audience. Clark's speech was followed by a somewhat defensive response from assitant Selective Service System director Brayton Harris, the White House representative at the event.
"We have a military machine that's staggering," Clark said. "The world is spending $1 billion a day for war while millions starve.I oppose draft registration because to prepare for war is to make war imminent." Clark also called for an immediate dismantlement of the U.S. nuclear weaponry and called registration of women "equal injustice under the law."
Organizer Carol said he was impressed by the number of new faces he saw at several events, and was satisfied that the teach-in had accomplished what the organizers set out to do.
"The average student is never really going to be involved," he said. "The average student's realm of interest is so far away from U.S. foreign policy that it's really a matter of developing that interest over a period of time. We've been able to make people see that events in Iran and Afghanistan really do affect their lives directly. It's not just a little red map in Time magazine."
"This is a new peace movement that's going to prevent the next war," said organizer David DeVarti. "It's great that we turned so many people out. It's just like in 1965 -- this is the beginning."