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Trouble in Buffalo

To the Editors:

In an action without parallel in any of the many tumultuous confrontations that have marked academic life recently, forty-five members of the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo were arrested on Sunday, March 15, in the administration building of the university. They had been attempting to communicate with the administration in order to protest the continued presence of hundreds of police on campus, despite an overwhelming vote of the Faculty Senate calling for their removal. They were immediately charged with criminal contempt of a court injunction forbidding obstruction of normal university functions—minimal on Sunday afternoons—and subsequently with criminal trespass; still later, two more charges of civil and criminal contempt were lodged by the administration.

This shocking event has at least the value of dramatizing the peculiar malevolence directed against dissenting members of the academy by both the civic authorities and the administration of the university. There have also been many cases of harassment through abusive, anonymous telephone calls and threats of physical violence, and continuous attack from local civic groups, of which the Holy Name Union is perhaps the least appropriately titled. The March Grand Jury is being held over to investigate the disorders at the university and their origins. It is to be hoped—though hardly expected—that it will carefully consider a report issued March 9 by a three-man Commission appointed by the Acting President and including the Chairman of the Faculty of Law and Jurisprudence, which concluded that, in an earlier event in this escalating series, “administrators accepted the risks of police action too readily. Resort to police force was taken too soon in response to fears and anxieties which were exaggerated by serious failures in liaison. Scant effort was made to obtain continuous, accurate information either before dispatching police to the general area of Norton Union or afterwards.” The incident referred to in this report occurred on the evening of Wednesday, February 25, when campus police, followed by city police entered the student union building in pursuit of two students accused of what the Acting President called “minor vandalism.” In the clubbing and macing that ensued among the bewildered students in the union building, who were using the facility for its ordinary recreational purpose and had no idea that any crisis existed, twenty-two of them and five police were injured.

SUNY at Buffalo is now a dangerous place, to be avoided by all who have no urgent business there. But a legal defense fund is desperately needed by these forty-five faculty and those who may be added to their number in subsequent actions. Please send any contributions to:

FRIENDS OF THE HAYES HALL 45

DEFENSE FUND

131 High Park Blvd.

Buffalo, N.Y. 14226

Edgar Z. Friedenberg

Professor of Sociology

State University of New York

Buffalo

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