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Barry Schrader


I wrote this weekly column for the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Illinois from December 2007 until May 2011.

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'Activist' label preferred to 'radical'

By Barry Schrader.................................October 11, 2011

Jerry Smith and I go way back to those glorious days of practicing student journalism at Northern Illinois University.
We became rivals as editors of opposing dailies in DeKalb a few years later.
But since I moved back here in 2006, Jerry likes to "pull my chain" by introducing me to people as an old campus radical from the ’60s.
Recently, in an acceptance speech for a “Good Samaritan” award (well-deserved by him), he referred to me as a “muckraker, then and now.”
I have to take exception with him this time.
He is probably accurate in referring to me as a radical in my undergraduate days at NIU, even though I would prefer the term “activist.”
But I did depart from the campus newspaper to start an underground magazine called “The Quarterback, a Journal of Fact, Opinion & Literature” with two other students, Rolf Johnson and Wally Wold, in 1961-62.
This bimonthly magazine was not well-received by the administration of President Leslie Holmes because it contained unfavorable, thought-provoking pieces by students and faculty.
We soon found ourselves forced to become a Student Activities Board-approved organization so we could use campus facilities for meetings and production. But we always printed off-site at the Genoa Republican, my hometown paper.
Then came the censorship issue. Our cover had a four-letter word scrawled on a wall of graffiti, and the dean insisted it be replaced.
So to get the issue circulated on campus we had a new cover drawn with a deer grazing by the Kish – as innocuous as we could be.
During all this we had a good support group among the faculty that kept us out of trouble most of the time.
Then a group of us decided to rally the student body to protest over certain “student rights” we felt were being denied to us.

A very young Barry Schrader, 21 at the time, put down his protest placard to address the crowd in front of the Biology Building in April 1962.

Peace Corps head R. Sargent Shriver (right) addresses a Northern Illinois University student protest rally in April 1962 while NIU President Leslie Holmes stands by. (Provided photos)

We wanted to protest issues such as girls’ hours (they had to be back in the dorm by 10 p.m. weeknights); off-campus housing for black students (they were being turned away by some landlords); lack of co-ed dorms; strict traffic violations that could result in dismissal from college; and not allowing controversial speakers on campus (some were denied access because of Communist or other radical party affiliation).
So a Committee for Student Rights was formed and somehow I got selected – or pushed out front – as its spokesman.
We took our issues to the Student Senate and then called for a campuswide protest, boycotting classes on April 12, 1962.
Some 1,500 students turned out on the lawn in front of the biology building where Lowden Hall is today.
I had been summoned to the dean’s office prior to this and warned that if any violence or vandalism occurred, I was history.
So with fear and trepidation I begged the committee to keep things calm; thankfully, not one rock was thrown or tomato aimed at Holmes.
Coincidentally, that day NIU was hosting R. Sargent Shriver on campus to review the newly formed Malaysian Peace Corps training program at the university.
Shriver jumped at the chance to speak to the assembled crowd.
He congratulated us on our activism and exhorted us all to join his Peace Corps.
Holmes was a bit chagrined by the campus unrest as you could tell by his facial expression in the above photo.
But we did eventually get a few of our demands met, and I was allowed to graduate.
Now about this “muckraker” label that means a reporter who digs up dirt.
I have to differ with Jerry by pointing to my later newspaper career where I tried to be objective and fair to all sides of an issue.
But I have to admit the “radical protester” side shows now and then when I get incensed over some perceived injustice.
I think one could even include Jerry Smith among the “community activists” in DeKalb County over the years.
But he is just too nice of a guy to be a “radical.”

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115