1968 — The May 17 Vietnam Commencement convocation on the Sproul Steps, UC Berkeley
As the 1960s progressed, Berkeley students and residents shifted their focus from free speech issues and other less immediate concerns to the escalating Vietnam War. As early as 1965, Berkeley students had organized a "Vietnam Day" march to military offices in nearby Oakland, to demonstrate their displeasure with the Johnson administration's continued support of military intervention in Vietnam.
Draft deferments became increasingly difficult to obtain and more and more graduate students and graduating seniors faced potential military service in a war they feared and detested. Anti‑war protests became more frequent and more intense. By 1968, over 80% of Berkeley's eligible male students surveyed said they intended to avoid the draft should they be called to serve.
It was in this atmosphere that the campus organization Campus Draft Opposition proposed a "Vietnam Commencement Convocationl" to be held in May, 1968. The initial request for a formal ceremony at the university's Greek Theater to honor students planning to avoid the draft was denied by university officials, but approved for the steps of Sproul Hall, the University Administration Building.
At the Vietnam Commencement (see photos) graduating male students took an oath to resist the draft, while the eight thousand audience members and the two hundred faculty members present on the Sproul steps pledged to support them.
Students pledged to resist being drafted.
Approximately 200 faculty members gathered on the Sproul Hall steps in support of the students pledge to resist induction.
The faces of faculty at the Vietnam Commencement.
Anti- Vietnam war sentiment reached a peak on campus by 1968. This photo shows part of the crowd of 8,000 students attending the Vietnam Commencement.
A show of support by the crowd of students at the Vietnam Commencement.