ANN ARBOR, MICH., NOV. 19 -- Almost 3,000 students came to that first campus teach-in 25 years ago, responding to their professors' call to stay up all night to study -- not chemistry or calculus, but conflict in a distant Asian country.
On Sunday another group of professors asked students at the University of Michigan to spend half the night discussing a potential conflict in the Persian Gulf. Not only was this teach-in smaller -- about 1,500 -- and shorter -- lasting six hours until about 1 this morning -- it also was more restrained. The passions that mobilized the Ann Arbor campus and made it a vanguard against the war in Vietnam have not been inflamed by the possibility of U.S. military action against Iraq.
"We had a lot of 'red diaper babies' back then. Their parents were union organizers in Detroit," recalled Robert Hauert, a university administrator who attended both teach-ins. "I think they had more political consciousness than these students."
The times are different too, with no draft, no U.S. planes dropping bombs and no Americans in combat. But already professors and students on dozens of campuses around the country, borrowing a form of protest from the Vietnam era, have staged teach-ins in hopes of preventing a U.S. war against Iraq.
"We're here to argue for alternatives to war there," said Bert Hornback, an English professor and organizer of the Michigan teach-in.
Most students who were interviewed seem to expect a war in the gulf and are frightened at the prospect. But while they may disagree with the idea of fighting, they are not actively opposed to it, and many men said they would participate if necessary in a military draft if there is a prolonged war.
"There seems to be a lot of nonsupport for our role over there," said Christian Walter, 20, a junior from Jacksonville, Fla. "I'm not sure how much responsibility the United States should take for correcting the situation."
But while Walter said his Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers joke about fleeing to Canada in the event of war, "I'd feel it was my responsibility as a citizen to back what our country was doing."
The unemotional tone of the teach-in was set by keynote speaker James E. Akins, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1973-75, whose hour-long lecture was primarily historical and analytical. Not once was he interrupted by applause.
Akins urged the Bush administration to give economic sanctions a year to work and said it should open talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He predicted a war early next year, charging that President Bush has made a basic mistake in diplomacy by giving Saddam no honorable way to avoid war.
"We seem to have taken actions that seem to preclude anything but war or an abject Iraqi capitulation," Akins said.
After his speech, students rotated among a dozen seminars on such topics as oil, Middle East history and past uses of U.S. military force.
Charles Bright, a history lecturer, said Bush appears to have decided to use force against "meanies" -- dictators such as Saddam and Panama's Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega -- in the absence of communist antagonists.
"The enemies have not been commies, they've been meanies. This is George Bush's idea of a kinder, gentler world. We're going to purge the world of meanies," Bright said.
That was about as extreme as the anti-Bush rhetoric ever got -- slight sarcasm but not the ridicule generated whenever a speaker mentioned Ronald Reagan and nothing like the hostility that greeted any mention a quarter-century ago of Lyndon B. Johnson.
Occasionally there were traces of the old rhetoric. "I think it's another example of American imperialism. We have no business there," said Maurice Lotman, 21, a senior from a Philadelphia suburb. "I wouldn't go if I was drafted. I'd get out of here. I don't know where I'd go, maybe to Europe. I refuse to kill people."
Mary Roth, a veterans counselor who led a seminar on the draft, reassured students that "most middle-class people will wind up getting out of the draft" because they are educated enough to learn how to obtain the few remaining deferments. "It's a class-based thing," she said.
Several students said that the hotter issue on campus now is opposition to the university's plans to hire, deputize and arm 24 campus security guards, who critics fear will turn their weapons on students. Last Thursday, 2,000 students attended a "no cops, no guns" rally and 16 were arrested during a sit-in at the administration building.
"Mostly in our house we're still talking about 'cops and guns.' That's the big issue." said Micha Petermann, 20, a junior from Shelby Township northwest of Detroit.
The teach-in concluded with a brainstorming session focused on further protest. Few ideas were radical. Suggestions included calls to the White House, letters to members of Congress and staging a "die-in" on campus.
"Make sure you bring it up at Thanksgiving dinner," one student said.
Hauert, director of the campus office on ethics and religion, said the 1965 teach-in on Vietnam was more passionate in part because the nation was "deeper into" war by then.
One goal of protesting in advance of a Persian Gulf war, Hauert said, is to persuade policy-makers to "this time have your second thoughts first."