About the Davidson Difference

While larger universities made headlines with their radical student activity, Davidson remained more quiet. The small student population was one factor that seemed to differentiate Davidson from more volatile schools. A psychology professor commented in 1968 that “Davidson merely lacks critical mass necessary to trigger an explosion.” Most discourse about the Vietnam war took place through polite op-eds in the college newspaper, the Davidsonian.   Additionally, students and faculty alike often gave their opinions about the discussions themselves, a common theme is a desire to keep Davidson engaged but civil and polite. In one letter to the editor, written by John Napier ’69; Martin Brochett Jr. ’68; John Giles ’68; and Gary Homric ’70, these more moderate students contended that a minority of their peers were “able to project an image of discontent that is not necessarily representative of the entire student body” [1]. They were technically correct; antiwar views were the minority opinion among college students through the end of the 1960s, especially at schools in the South [2]. Davidson’s small size, location, and tradition of civil discourse meant that the antiwar movement never reached the same fever pitch as it did at other schools—like Kent State.

1. Davidson College. The Davidsonian Vol. 57. Davidson: Davidson College, 1968.

2. Fry, Joseph A. “Unpopular Messengers: Student Opposition to the Vietnam War.” The War That Never Ends: New Perspectives on the Vietnam War, edited by David L. Anderson and John Ernst, University Press of Kentucky, 2007, pp. 219–44, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrrsx.14.