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Action Party | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Action Party

Historical Note:

The Action Party was the first student political party on campus at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC).  The party began in the spring of 1965 as the Rational Action Movement, and its establishment was influenced by the 1964-1965 Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley.  It was a student led movement against “in loco parentis” rules and regulations imposed upon students at SIUC, and advocated for various student’s rights causes.

Shortly after 1965 the Rational Action Movement evolved into the Action Party.  At the time, it was against university policy to allow students to form political parties.  But the party was eventually approved by the Dean of Students.  It was committed to nonviolent political action through the student government political process and discussions with university administration.  Party members attended resident hall meetings to promote the group.  The nonviolent approach and promotional efforts gave the party broad appeal.  It was comprised mostly of students ages 20 and older, and included students of Greek organizations, Young Republicans, and Young Democrats.  From roughly 1966-1968, the party achieved significant representation in SIUC’s student government.

The Action Party campaigned against the limited visiting hours in the women's dormitories, the curfew imposed on women students, issues pertaining to the curriculum and General Studies, experimental final exam scheduling, the administrative attempt to shorten spring break, the administrative censorship of the Daily Egyptian, and issues pertaining to student motorcycle rights on campus, among other causes.  The Action Party was also responsible for bringing entertainment to campus including the New Christy Minstrels and The Supremes.  The Action Party was not a catalyst in the student protests against the Center for Vietnamese Studies and the Vietnam War that eventually closed campus in May 1970.  Robert Wenc, former SIUC student and chairman of the Action Party, credited the violent nature of the Vietnam protests as a reason the party was not involved.  While the exact date of the party's dissolution is unclear, it had lost influence by 1970 as the Vietnam protestors became increasingly active and prominent.

Sources: Robert Wenc, phone interview with Matt Gorzalski, May 20, 2015.
Note Author: Matt Gorzalski

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