The Third Alternative: The Oral History of Duquesne University's Third Alternative

The Context

On May 4, 1970, students at Kent State were fired upon by members of the National Guard after they gathered to protest the expansion of United States military operations in Cambodia. Nine individuals were wounded during the thirteen-second barrage and four lost their lives. The Kent State massacre sparked a new and violent wave of college campus protests across the United States. Buildings were taken over or damaged, school property was defaced, and administrators were forced to resign. In contrast to these student activist groups, students of the Third Alternative at Duquesne dedicated themselves to saving their institution from financial collapse. 

The residents of Pittsburgh, aware of and angry with the protest wave, warmly received the Third Alternative, which was perceived as a positive counter to the negative student protests. Numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, highlighted the fundraising efforts. They declared that Duquesne University students were prime examples of appropriate behavior during tumultuous times. Alumni and community donors took note of the overwhelming positivity surrounding the Third Alternative and encouraged others to donate to a good cause.

Participating members of the Third Alternative did not wish to be labeled as the “good ones.” Many attended anti-war rallies and even vocally opposed the Nixon presidency. The efforts to save Duquesne University were local. But many students were aware of and interacted with the national counter-culture that developed in response to national and international events.

The Third Alternative presented their campaign as a beacon of positivity and donors supported them largely because of that. Thus, Duquesne remained open and remains open to this day. However, one cannot assume that the students involved in the Third Alternative were opposed to the causes of the era, or, at the very least, blissfully unaware of them. Rather, the students of the Third Alternative reacted to a local issue that directly affected their daily lives while remaining keenly aware of events in the world around them.


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