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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, November 26, 1990. Interview L-0145. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A decade of tumult at University of North Carolina

Friday describes how University of North Carolina was characterized by ten to twelve years of tumult during the 1960s and into the early 1970s. In addition to the Speaker Ban controversy, the campus was swept by various episodes of social unrest. Citing the food workers' strike of 1969 as especially symbolic of this tension, Friday expresses pride in the fact that UNC avoided the explosion of such tensions into violent conflict. Friday emphasizes the role of activists Howard Fuller and Governor Robert Scott in helping to assuage tensions in these kinds of conflicts.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, November 26, 1990. Interview L-0145. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
And, yes, those were very trying times. In fact, there was a ten to twelve year span there, when we were not put out some very severe crisis. And I'll tell you, it is very hard to keep a program going while your dealing with all of that. And that particular issue just moved the actors over into another arena. But the intensity factor didn't diminish. The public factor didn't diminish. The animus, if anything, increased rather than decreased. And the extent of itߞthe spread of it all over was bigger. And, maybe I told you before, with reference to the cafeteria issues. Howard Fuller was the man who was leading the workers' side of this thing. And I knew that he knew of all the controversy that was going on with Governor Scott and everybody else, about the troops, or no troops. And I've never met the man, but I give him credit for avoiding, what would have been a very unfortunate confrontation kind of thing. He took his people out of the [unclear] . And there was nothing left in front. And I've remembered all these years later. Because I thought that was an act ofߞit showed that man had a sense of judgment about the situation. Where all would be lost from his point of view. He became a militant confrontational kind of leader. Also, there was a recognition that if anything could be done, it had to come from us. And the best way to do that is to work with us to get it done. And then we've set back to raise the pay, and do all of those things we did with the personnel office. And getߞthese were legitimate changes that should have been made. I never will forget those days. Governor Scott had one advisor over there who was going to send the troops tomorrow morning. And I said, "No your not." And we had a violent argument right there in the Governor's office, one afternoon. About who was going to do what. But Fuller, Howard Fuller deserves a lot of credit. And he's over in your town now, I understand.
WILLIAM LINK:
Is that right?
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
Running some kind of college over there. You might be interested in reviewing his point of view.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. I didn't realize he was in Greensboro.
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
He just dropped out of the whole activism cycle, at that time. I don't what or where he went. But he's at Greensboro, I think, running a college over there of some kind.
WILLIAM LINK:
Did youߞOne of theߞI guess the culmination of that conflict over the cafeteria strike was the intervention plan of Bob Scott. Did you see that coming? Did you see ߞ
WILLIAM C. FRIDAY:
Well, you don't see it that clearly. Any of these things. Your there, with living literally hour by hour. It wasn't day by day. You didn't know where it would break out. And I think the wisest thing that happened was the whole business of saying that the personnel office would be willing to sit down, and go through all of the job qualifications. You had problems there of reaction to supervision. Hostility toward themߞyou see, all of these kinds of things a president never hears. Or never knows about. Or nor chancellor's as far as I know. It's just something that should be settled down at another level of administration. But when it boils over, you know where it is. And it was a part of the syndrome of the times. It was going on all over the United States. And happily for us though, it worked out the way it did. Because we avoided gun fire and burning, and stopping school. And all of these things. We didn't do a bit of. You've got to give peopleߞthe participants a lot of credit here. I've often felt Bill, that Chapel Hill, in terms of student self-discipline, with all the violence that you see here, there is still something that's very important here. And I think that when all those thousands gathered out there in the mall of the South Building to Wilson Library one day, and listened to the Chancellor and had their say, and all of it worked out in a conversational way. [unclear] and all of that. But still no taking of the law into your own hands attitude. Well, that comes about when you trust people. And you say to people, "Alright, your free to be free. But you've got to remain responsible if you going to maintain your freedom." That means you act with a certain sense of self-discipline. And I've recounted all of this to President Nixon, when I was one of the eight President's up there, after Kent State, as a means by which you get students to believe in you. That they are heard. Now, you can't do it as some kind of superficial sham. You've got to be genuine about it. And I think Carlyle Sitterson deserves an enormous amount of credit for what happened there. He took a lot of criticism. But he was right. And he saved Chapel Hill from a lacerating scar that would have been there to this very day. So, I've always praised him. I think he was aߞshowed a lot of strength. And I know of other administrator's around the country who would have gone the other way. Stacked the guns and been very happy about it. I've saw them do it. And there no longer president's. [Laughter]