Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Lilian Hill

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Thomas V. O'Brien

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Kynna Shelley

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Holly Foster

Committee Member 4 School



From 1967 to 1970, an era remembered as the height of liberal activism in American higher education, instances of on-campus backlash to progressivism appear exceptional in historical literature. Reaction on the Right asserts that conservative recoil in American higher education during the late civil rights and Vietnam War years was more than episodic. This research documents the small yet boisterous anti-left presence on campus which challenged demands to end war-related job recruitment, defied calls for Black and Ethnic Studies programs, and resisted other reformist causes. Supplemented with punitive federal and state legislation and backed by financial support from alumni and local business leaders, this study argues that in many instances, conservatives successfully moderated progressive outcomes in the academy.

This narrative history is informed through archival collections from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon presidential libraries, and news coverage from the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times, and regional or community print news. It is supplemented with specific chapter-level artifacts and student news publications from a broad range of university special collections. The researcher has conducted dozens of oral history interviews with surviving alumni whose testimonies corroborate archival data. While historical, the researcher has attempted a quasi-ethnographical approach in methodology.

Available for download on Monday, May 14, 2170