Tom Hayden, Student Activist Leader of 60s, Dies

October 24, 2016

Tom Hayden, who played a key role in student activism of the 1960s and went on to play a role in higher education as a California legislator in the '80s, died Sunday at the age of 76.

Hayden was one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society and was the chief author of the Port Huron Statement, which defined the goals of SDS and other activist groups of the '60s to create a more just society in the United States.

While the goals of SDS and the principles of the Port Huron Statement were about all aspects of American society, they also contained specific criticism of higher education. "Our professors and administrators sacrifice controversy to public relations; their curriculums change more slowly than the living events of the world; their skills and silence are purchased by investors in the arms race; passion is called unscholastic," the statement said. "The questions we might want raised -- what is really important? can we live in a different and better way? if we wanted to change society, how would we do it? -- are not thought to be questions of a 'fruitful, empirical nature,' and thus are brushed aside."

In the 1980s, Hayden's subsequent political career had him serving for five years as chair of the California Assembly's Higher Education Subcommittee. In that role, he pushed to limit tuition increases, urged universities to sell holdings in companies that did business in apartheid-era South Africa and sought more support for AIDS research.

Throughout various stages of his career, he also continued his activism, as in the 2004 rally depicted in photo at upper right.

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