Reformed militant activist urges students to organize

Taylor Rogers

Students struggling to initiate political change should come together with common goals, said formerly militant activist Mark Rudd.

“People have forgotten how to organize,” Rudd said of the lack of political debate and protest in today’s age.

Roughly 30 students and community members assembled in Oscar Ritchie Hall Wednesday for the May 4 Task Force’s 36th annual Fall Educational Forum, where Rudd spoke on modern student activism.

Rudd’s history as chairman of Students for a Democratic Society at Columbia University during the 1960s as well as his work as a national organizer of SDS gave him years of experience in political activism.

He also helped to form the Weather Underground, a radical left organization active during the 1970s.

But Rudd admitted to a time when his activities weren’t constructive. He and his other politically minded friends thought an arms revolution was the only answer to disputing the government and ending the Vietnam War, he said.

“We were utopians,” Rudd said. “We thought we could do everything at once. In retrospect, we were wrong.”

Rudd spent seven and a half years as a fugitive before turning himself in.

“I had made a classic mistake,” Rudd said. “I had substituted a quick method, which I thought was revolution, for the hard work of organizing.”

Rudd now spends his time speaking and writing about his experiences and his thoughts on the current political climate.

To motivate campus political groups to come together, he gathered students from the May 4 Task Force, Ohio University’s chapter of SDS and Black United Students to form a panel.

Rudd took a seat in the audience while each panel member described student activism as it is today and how it could improve.

“It’s hard to get people out,” said Krista Napp, co-chair of the May 4 Task Force, referring to the lack of political enthusiasm among students.

The older generations have the advantage of growing up during the Civil Rights Movement, Rudd said. The message of that time was that young people can make a difference.

The panel also discussed the difficulty of bringing together students with diverse backgrounds.

“How do we unite when people are different?” Rudd said.

He encouraged them to research past political and social movements and to get out of the mindset that they can’t create change.

Cathy Nagy, sophomore English major, said the 40th commemoration of the May 4, 1970, Kent State shootings inspired her to learn more about activism. She recently read Rudd’s book “Underground” and attended the event because she wanted to hear more from students at Kent.

“Just seeing that other people feel the way I do and seeing that they want to get something together,” Nagy said. “It gave me a little hope.”