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December 28, 1934

Over 200 student government leaders from 150 colleges met in Boston for the annual Congress of the National Student Federation. In a letter to the gathering, President Roosevelt cited the students’ role in the nation’s economic recovery. “I am fully aware,” he said, “that economic recovery is ultimately to be appraised in terms of the enrichment it makes possible in human lives. Human resources are above physical resources. The purposes which inspire the college youth of today will determine largely the value of the human resources of tomorrow. Your opportunity and your responsibility are great.”

President MacCracken’s keynote address to the congress focused on the federation’s recent censure of two universities that expelled students for “radical” speech and on students’ need for a larger voice in the shaping and administration of their schools. About the expulsions, he said “Too often in America teachers who ought to be dismissed for negligence in their own specialties take compensation in arbitrary disciplining of a student.”

On students’ rights, MacCracken offered the student leaders two propositions. “I propose, first,” he said, “that the student body through their constituent society be granted the right of collective bargaining with the trustees of their college. All plans affecting the welfare of students, the endowments for scholarships and housing conditions, the expansion or contraction of college services, should come before this body.” In particular, he added, all matters of freedom of expression ought to be similarly discussed. And, he said, “the trustees should bring to the attention of students those matters in which in their judgment students have fallen short.”

“I propose, second,” MacCracken continued, “that through a student commission on the course of study, undergraduates should have the right of free expression of opinion in all requirements for degrees, as to hours of study, number of courses, standards of work. They should have the right not only of criticizing poor teaching but of seeking redress when such teaching interferes with their profitable use of time and money.”

The New York Times

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