History Department


History 100: Introduction to the Study of History


Andrew Morris


During Robert E. Kennedy’s presidency at Cal Poly from 1967 to 1979, Cal Poly experienced many protests on several different topics, but all ended peacefully, without incident. I argue this is largely because of the peaceful mindset of the student body, faculty, and administration to keep the peace, making Cal Poly a more conservative campus compared to other California Universities, such as the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University. For students, such as those involved in SNAP, violence was not a means to an end and one of their key goals was to educate rather than yell at others. They believed in Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” motto and chose to actually enact it by protesting, but also allowing open discussions about political issues and allowing people with dissenting opinions to voice their opinions without fear of persecution or the threat of harm. The faculty were also very concerned with the issues that were brought up and became involved in protests and held debates in which they had faculty with opposing viewpoints in open discussions, setting an example for their students. The administration also played a huge role in keeping the peace on campus by showing students that their dissatisfaction was not unnoticed by the heads of the school. Kennedy would listen to students, even if he had no real answer for them and would show them that although they tended to associate him with “the man,” that he was indeed also human, like them, and that he understood how frustrated they were. He cooperated with them by giving them times and locations to protest, instead of denying them the opportunity to make their viewpoints known.