I wrote this weekly column for the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb,
Illinois from December 2007 until May 2011.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
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'Activist' label preferred to 'radical'
By Barry Schrader.................................October
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).
Jerry Smith and I go way back to those glorious days of practicing
student journalism at Northern Illinois University.
became rivals as editors of opposing dailies in DeKalb a few
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.
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.
bimonthly magazine was not well-received by the administration
of President Leslie Holmes because it contained unfavorable,
thought-provoking pieces by students and faculty.
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)
So a Committee
for Student Rights was formed and somehow I got selected
or pushed out front as its spokesman.
took our issues to the Student Senate and then called for a campuswide
protest, boycotting classes on April 12, 1962.
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 deans office prior to this and warned that
if any violence or vandalism occurred, I was history.
with fear and trepidation I begged the committee to keep things
calm; thankfully, not one rock was thrown or tomato aimed at
Coincidentally, that day NIU was hosting
R. Sargent Shriver on campus to review the newly formed Malaysian
Peace Corps training program at the university.
jumped at the chance to speak to the assembled crowd.
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.
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
But he is just too nice of a guy to be
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115