Alumni reflect on antiwar movement in “Two Weeks in May”

Joshua Schuetz
Staff Writer

Former alumni and faculty from Minnesota State University served on a panel and presentation Tuesday evening, concerning the events of April and May, 1972, when the antiwar movement in Mankato came to its zenith.

The panel was preceded by a showing of the film ‘Two Weeks in May’, which is based on former MNSU president James Nickerson’s memoir, “Out of Chaos”. The film chronicles the figures and events behind the antiwar movement, including the radical ‘pied piper’, Mitchell Goodman, and the first international faculty member, Abbass Kessel. 

Some of the people whose testimonies are featured in the film served on the panel, including Dr. Don Strosser, retired professor emeritus of history at MNSU, Mark Halverson, a MNSU alumni who served as the county DFL chair and was an activist during the years, and John Anderson, a MNSU alumni who served in the Vietnam war and became disillusioned with it, joining the antiwar movement upon returning home.

The changes that MNSU was undergoing during this period also inflamed tensions. Rising enrollment, particularly of minority students, the split of the university between two campuses, and an influx of veteran students who had become deeply opposed to the war that they had been sent to fight, all contributed to the energy and intensity of the protests.

The number of students who participated in the protests was high. About one in every three students at MNSU participated. However, there were students who remained in favor of the war, and wrote to president Nickerson decrying the antiwar movement.

Dr. Strosser noted that tensions were not just present among students, but faculty as well. “Those against the war tended to come from the humanities and social sciences, while those who supported the war tended to come from business and physical science departments.” he said.

Describing the actions of the protestors, Halverson said, “Think globally but act locally. We brought what was happening far away in another country home to Mankato.” 

Divisions weren’t just between antiwar protestors and those in favor, however. Anderson stated that “there were two school of thought, the nonviolent and the more violent.” Tensions between factions could be just as rancorous as the tensions between those in favor and opposed to the war.

Mitchell Goodman, described by Dr. Strosser as the “pied piper or irresponsible radicalism” was among the more radical people, often accused of being a communist. His ideas were not necessarily violent, per se, but could certainly skirt close to it, and he believed that shutting the entire campus down was a necessary step in opposing the war. 

Other faculty disagreed. The debates often spilled into the student newspaper, with headlines like “Strike! Strike! Strike!” becoming increasingly common.

When asked what it was like for faculty during the times of the antiwar movement, Dr. Strosser said, “It was the best  of times, and it was the worst of times.”

Feature photo by Gage Cureton | MSU Reporter.

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