The recent mobilization for “Marquette to be Faithful to the Gospel and No Longer Host the Departments of Military Science” rises out of a 40-year history of resistance to military training at this Jesuit Catholic University. The resistance started in 1968 during the unjust war in Vietnam, and continues today with the unjust war in Iraq. The following will be a mix of scholarly research on this resistance and personal statements of participants. Everyone is welcome to add to this living history.
More from the past and present will be added to this page as the story unfolds.
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“By May 1968, the university issued a second set of rules, this time for ‘Faculty Participation in Disruptive Demonstrations.’ By then a key target was the Reserved Officers Training Corps, a fixture at Marquette since before World War II.” (Milwaukee Jesuit University, Marquette 1881–1981 by Thomas J. Jablonsky p. 329)
“During 1968–1969 there was an extensive campaign challenging MU’s alliance with the U.S. military, especially during that period of escalating warfare against the people of Vietnam, also Laos, and officially extended into Cambodia by the spring of 1970. There were also challenges to MU’s strong partnership with the draft/Selective Service machine, which was paternalistic, and above and beyond what colleges and university were generally required or expected to do (which I can expand on later, & specifically resulted in me being denied my college deferment when I challenged that relationship).
“Among other things, the fountain by the Joan of Arc chapel was died red, with a flier explaining why ‘our fountain is red,’ reflecting the bloodshed being caused by the U.S. military at the time. Bob LePage was directly involved in circulating that flier.
“The challenges to MU’s hosting ROTC & giving credit for courses that were of dubious value academically, culminated in c.65 students peacefully occupying the Joan of Arc chapel, to which the university responded with a disingenuous story and an attack by the MPD tactical squad under Sgt. Frank Miller. The police smashed open the door to the chapel, ordered everyone inside to remain, and then they were arrested & generally went limp — all on a bogus charge that there was a bomb scare that the students inside refused to cooperate with. I know, I was on the outside, offered to be a liaison to convey any messages inside via a walkie talkie, and neither the administration nor the police expressed any interest in same, but were very embarrassed when I witnessed the tact squad drilling inside a nearby MU building prior to the attack, as I was attempting to again convey my offer.
“Throughout, the critics of MU’s hosting ROTC were met with some skepticism/opposition, based on the notion that students were not forced into ROTC, and should not be denied their free choice.
“The university’s action, above, was followed by innumerable bomb scares called into the campus, at all hours of the day and night, greatly diminishing potential support for the critics, and extending into the next school year. There were other scattered such responses to the university’s action, resulting in some cancellation of classes but not broadening of support.
“There was also a confrontation of sorts, on the steps of the Gym by the ROTC office, where the Jesuit dean of students arbitrarily ordered students to vacate the stairs when they were attempting to demonstrate vs. ROTC’s presence, even though access was not blocked. This resulted in a “trial” of sorts, where the student court was only allowed to determine the fact of whether they were still there after this edict, which they were. The result was suspensions of several students, including Tom Boswell, I believe Rich Oulahan, sorry that I do not recall with reliability the others. I represented the students but also largely attacked the inherent unfairness of that process, from the start.
“Also, I was witnessing the ROTC graduation ceremony with Rep. Clem Zablocki, when an MU security sgt. grabbed and bloodied me, rather than allow me to witness what was going on, on my/our own campus, even though this was an outdoor, supposedly public event.
“All examples of the unhealthy atmosphere which the military presence has on campus.” (Art Heitzer, President of the MU Student Senate in 1968–69)
Richard Oulahin was a student leader of the resistance at Marquette. For his peace activities he was kicked out of Marquette. However, he went on to be an outstanding leader of the community and honored and respected for his outstanding concern for persons in need. Check out his obituary.
1969 “A subcommittee of the student government sent a respectful note to the academic vice president, questioning the propriety of a military training program at a Christian university. Two weeks later, nine department chairs from the the College of Liberal Arts endorsed this line of inquiry. A few days later, the student senate passed a resolution formally asking for a review of ROTC at Marquette. In response, Vice President Art Moeller asked the College of Liberal Art’s curriculum committee to look into the legitimacy of for-credit ROTC classes….One hundred protesters marched through the old gymnasium (which the ROTC used on a daily basis) shouting for an end to the ROTC on campus….The next day, opponents of the war endorsed a statement demanding an end to Marquette’s ROTC programs. A day later, on the seventeenth, dozens of demonstrators barreled past university security personnel in the gym, as they made their way toward the naval ROTC offices. The Milwaukee police suddenly appeared — at the request of the university, according to law enforcement; not so, replied the administration. The demonstrators dispersed while the committee on faculty decided to look into the appropriateness of an ROTC program at a Jesuit and Catholic university. Another confrontation took place at the gym on April 22, 1969, as demonstrators attempted to prevent ROTC members from entering the gym for a drill. The dean of men confronted these protesters; ultimately they departed the building with Milwaukee police stationed just outside.
“About sixty students then strode from the gymnasium to the Joan of Arc Chapel which they entered during the 4:00 p.m. Mass. Once inside, they locked the doors, securing them with timber. Seven hours later, the police received a call from the Milwaukee Fire Department: they were headed to the chapel to investigate a bomb scare. After repeated warnings by the police that they needed to enter the building — warnings that may not have been heard by those inside — officers crashed through the doors, arresting sixty-eight individuals. Gathered outside of Joan of Art was a second group numbering between one and two hundred and consisting of a mixture of protesters, curious onlookers, and journalists. They were cordoned off to one side while the police and firefighters moved into the chapel. Later, about 150 individuals from the second group marched to O’Hara Hall where they protested into the early morning hours.
“…The next night (the 25th) following the Pere Marquette faculty dinner in the union ballroom, the president and a group of faculty members went downstairs to the grill where they meet with about eight hundred students. Several days of meetings followed. Another protest took place at the university tennis courts during an ROTC awards ceremony on the twenty-ninth and peaceful assembly of protesters at the chapel followed in the early morning hours of the thirtieth.” (Milwaukee Jesuit University, Marquette 1881–1981 by Thomas J. Jablonsky p. 329)
“SDS, led by SDS demonstrators at Marquette University succeeded Tuesday in forcing postponement of a routine drill march by ROTC.” (April 16, 1969. Journal Times, Racine, WI)
“Dissent, activism and the drive for reform at Marquette are characterized by a reliance on Christian principles.” (Feb. 1969 Catholic Herald)
“Reserve Officer training corps should not be accepted as part of the official academic structure according to popular theologian and writer Harvey Cox.” (Feb. 1969 Catholic Herald)
“About a 100 Marquette University Students marched Friday to protest the reserve officer training corps program on campus. The demonstration against the ROTC was the third this week.
“Michael Coffman, one of the leaders of the protest released of the ANTI-ROTC Coalition which said ‘ROTC has no place in a Christian institution.’ The statement said the existence of ROTC units at Marquette make Marquette a supporter of the objectives of ROTC. The statement said the Marquette administration refused to give similar support to open housing on grounds of academic freedom.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Saturday, April 19, 1969)
“Dear Friends, The late Mary Durnin, a close friend of Dorothy Day, came to our vigils near the ROTC at M.U. She often asked that there be a Peace Institute of Studies at M.U. to replace the ROTC. The late Adele O’Shaughnessy, a close friend of Casa Maria and the Peace movement, offered her support and request to the M.U. Administration to create a Peace Institute of Studies at M.U. to replace the ROTC. She often referred to the ROTC at Notre Dame and regretted the fact that they would not get rid of it on campus. Don Timmerman and others from Casa Maria started monthly vigils at the ROTC at M.U. in 1978 and kept going up to 2000 when Don Timmerman was attacked on the street leading him and his wife Roberta Thurstin to go north to a less stressful place. During that time they were arrested several times for chaining themselves to the doors of the ROTC and refusing to leave the Administration building when they wanted to speak to the President of M.U. and were denied permission. We were happy to see some of our old signs still being used in protest of the ROTC. Thank you for doing that. We will join you again when we can.” (Don Timmerman Catholic Worker at Casa Maria)
“I have fond memories of the several years I’ve lived in Milwaukee, joining Phil Runkel and many others in our regular demonstrations at Marquette, urging the closure of ROTC.” (Fr. Jerome Zawada, OFM, Peace Activist)
“The SJ’s let us Catholic Workers spend the whole day occupying their ROTC Offices…. it was lots of fun.” (Frank Cordaro, Phil Berrigan CW House, 713 Indiana Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50314)
A Description of the Occupation by Frank Corado
“For the past 15 years the folks from the Milwaukee Casa Maria Catholic Worker Community have demonstrated against the presence of ROTC on Marquette University’s campus. About 50 Catholic Worker’s from the conference joined with members of Casa Maria for an hour-long vigil at noon on the corner of 16th and Wisconsin Avenue, a main intersection on Marquette’s campus.
“The leaflet used during the vigil gave three reasons for the demonstration: 1) A Christian institution should be training students in nonviolence. ROTC teaches doing violence to the enemy while Christian teaching is to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you and do harm to you. 2) Marquette University could offer scholarships other than that of ROTC and has continually refused to do so. 3) No student in a Christian institution should be put in a position of doing violence done to them for the sake of getting an education. If an institution calls itself a Christian institution it should be teaching the Gospel of Christ and not sponsoring an ROTC program that has a philosophy directly in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus.
“Following the noon-hour vigil and leafleting, the demonstrators proceeded to the ROTC building on campus. Fifteen Catholic Worker’s entered the building and occupied the main hallway servicing the ROTC offices. Previous anti-ROTC demonstrations at Marquette had never reached the inside of the ROTC building. In the past, any demonstrations attempting to enter or block the entrance of the ROTC building were immediately arrested. There were no arrests this time.
“The occupation continued 5:00p.m. when the building was closing. The Marquette security people were prepared to wait us out beyond the 5:00 p.m. closing time, but we decided to end the occupation at that time and rejoin the rest of the conference, our message sent. (Sill Jesuits. They should have known better. You can’t invite a bunch of Catholic Workers onto a Catholic campus and not expect us to demonstrate against the presence of ROTC).” (From “Via Pacis”, the newsletter of the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community)
“ROTC is a legitimate reflection of the acceptability in principle of the notion of national security and self-defense. To recognize this in no way suggests university affirmation of all the uses to which military power may be put, but it does reflect a continuing judgment, on the part of the university, that ROTC in principle is an acceptable expression of one of the traditions in Catholicism…..During the Vietnam War, many universities yielded to the pressure put upon them by those who opposed that war and made the decision to close their ROTC programs. Marquette did not follow that path but instead remained committed to our long tradition of ROTC involvement, even to the point of adding an Air Force program to the Army and Navy programs already in place.” (Excerpts from an email from Fr. Wild to an individual who had written a letter to the Marquette Tribune questioning the military presence on campus. Feb. 2006)
In Response to a resistance group’s question: “Fr. Wild, is the War in Iraq a Just War?”
“You asked for my personal thinking on the whole question of whether or not the U.S. invasion of Iraq and subsequent war in that country is just. I would take note of the fact that the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, expressed on a number of occasions his serious moral concern regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For me the Pope’s assessment of this war clearly carries a great deal of weight.
“You also asked for Marquette University’s position on whether or not the war is just. It would not be appropriate for Marquette formally to take an institutional position on such a controverted matter. Why so? Because universities are privileged places at which discussion and debate can and should take place. That’s been true for the seven centuries that universities as an institution in Western culture have existed. People within universities take positions and argue them; universities as such do not do so except when there is need to maintain due.” (An email to an individual member of the resistance group. Nov. 6, 2007)
In Response to resister’s letter to the Board of Trustees
As Corporate Secretary, I must tell you that it will not be possible for your group to have a meeting with members of the Board of Trustees. Below is a message from Father Wild. He asked that I share it with you.
Assistant to the President and Corporate Secretary Marquette University
I have received your most recent letter. I acknowledge receipt of it, but do not have anything further to add. At this point, I think that we have to agree to disagree.” (December 2007)
In April a letter to MU Faculty and Staff was sent asking for support in moving military training off campus. They were also asked to sign the MU Peace Petition and join us for a rally to say No to the war in Iraq and military training at Marquette on May 2, 2008 in front of the Marquette Library.
In the rain on May 2nd a small group of high school and university students, faculty and concerned citizens stood in front of the MU library. The following statement was read:
“The war in Iraq would not be possible without military training. As testimony from Iraq veterans participating in Winter Soldier filters back to the public we now more than ever see the connection between Iraq and Marquette’s Departments of Military Science. We ask you join us at 11:30am to hear testimonies from Winter Soldier and a reading of the names of Iraqis and Americans killed as a result of this senseless training. We will march from Raynor Library to the old Marquette Gymnasium, the military training facility on campus. Our plan is to deliver a letter requesting these military officers to stop training students for participation in an illegal and unjust war.”
Some statements from the Winter Soldier eyewitness testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were read as well as some of the names of American military that have died in the Iraq war. The group than marched through campus to the Department of Military Science building on campus. They attempted to deliver a letter to the military officer in charge. They were told that one MU student could enter the building from the rear. After trying a few doors they were met at one door by an assistant dean at MU. He stated: “I will be glad to deliver any letter you have.” When the group stated they wished to present the letter personally he repeated the same phrase. In fact he repeated the same phase to every question or statement. Finally when he was asked for his opinion on training military for the Iraq war on campus he said: “Thank you for expressing your opinion. I will take it under consideration.” He repeated that phrase several times to questions and statements. Finally the letter was left with him and the group disbanded.
Marquette Teaches Killing*
* Marquette University Undergraduate Bulletin -Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), p. 129–132.’
11:30am-1pm 12th & Wisconsin’‘’
Distribution of Ashes
Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for repentance and a renewal of our commitment to practice the Way of Christ, to love one’s enemies. We ask Marquette to stop the killing of people by hosting and supporting the U.S. military on campus. The U.S. military has killed and continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people, mostly civilians, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lives of those killed are symbolized today by the ashes we brought here. Join us in stopping this killing. Join us in stopping Marquette U. from hosting the U.S. military on campus. Stop the killing. Repent. Study war no more!
This is the fourth year of holding a hour of prayer somewhere on campus on Wednesday during let praying that Marquette University Repent and Stop Teaching War and Killing.
February 29, 2012 in Raynor Memorial Library Lobby
March 14, 2012 in front of Jesuit Residence
Stations of the Cross in Front of Gesu Church on the Marquette University Campus