Memories Of Dean Channing Briggs

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April 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary 

By DOUG WEISKOPF

 

I recently received an announcement of a new academic dean at my alma mater, Portland State University. It instantly brought back memories of one of my favorite people during my student days at the university during the late 1960’s, Dean of Students, Channing Briggs. As a member of a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters I was a part of constantly challenging his authority and railing against him for trying to keep a calming atmosphere on campus, when we felt that red hot rage was the only morally appropriate response possible to the war.

Once when Dean Briggs tried to put myself and four other students on disciplinary probation for disrupting on-campus military recruiting we were brought before a student/faculty hearing committee, which we not only attended but packed the room with several dozen sympathizers who booed when Dean Briggs sat down to make his case against us (it was like that comical scene in the movie, “Animal House, made a few years later). During the middle of his testimony as to why we should, in effect, have our hands slapped by the school, he began to fight back against his own impulse (unsuccessfully) to start giggling at the absurdity of the comic opera he found himself involved in.

I did find out somewhat later that Dean Briggs had been a Conscientious Objector during WW2 and volunteered in lieu of combat duty to be part of a governmental study which, incredibly, did experiments to starve people in order to find out how they could help post-war prisoners who were suffering from long periods of incarceration in POW and concentration camps.

Several years after graduating from PSU in 1970 I met Dean Briggs on a street in downtown Portland and started to apologize for how I and my war protesting friends had treated him during the late 1960’s and how it was truly not personally aimed at him, but only at his position of authority, blah blah blah. Before I could get half finished with my little speech, however, Dean Briggs held up a hand to shush me and replied, “Doug, stop……the truth is you kids were right….you were right about the war, you were right about Nixon, you were right about everything”. I can say with all honesty that his response nearly moved me to tears of gratitude towards him.

 

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