Among those feeling their lumps as a result of campus disturbances at San Francisco State College are two clergymen whom police clubbed and arrested on riot charges: Lutheran campus pastor Gerald Pederson, 43, and Methodist Claire Nesmith, 50, father of two State students. Demanding jury trials, the pair said they and other ministers intended only to prevent violence by “both sides.”
Churches and preachers have figured prominently in the strife-pocked dispute over militants’ insistence that the campus be closed down until fifteen “non-negotiable” demands are met, including creation of a black-studies department (under way), virtual student control over curriculum and policies, unlimited and unqualified enrollment, amnesty for strikers, and others.
Ecumenical House, a joint campus-ministry center located across the street from State, has been the scene of much strike and police activity. Acting college President S. I. Hayakawa called it “a staging area for revolution.” Militants representing the Black Students Union, Students for a Democratic Society, Third World movement, and other groups had made the house their headquarters. But complaints from neighbors and from irate church members to denominational executives pressured the campus ministry’s board to cancel such house use. Strike leaders then moved downtown to Glide Methodist Church, where activist Cecil Williams, a vocal black backer of the strike, is pastor.
All the campus ministers expressed sympathy toward the strike, even though only a fraction of the school’s 18,000 students (less than half of whom are fulltime) voted for it. Says Presbyterian staffer John Clinton Jones: “State is a microcosm of America’s urban problems; students want self-determination, and they ...1
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