YSU Faculty Panel Speaks on 1968 Protests

By Brianna Gleghorn
Jambar Contributor

A Youngstown State University faculty panel led a discussion along with a question and answer session to remember a massacre of hundreds of people 50 years ago in Mexico City during a protest.

The discussion took place in the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor, also known as the Steel Museum, on Oct. 11.

On Oct. 2, 1968, the police and military shot down a group of students protesting in the Tlatelolco plaza. This was one of many protests happening over the world in 1968.

The panelists included: Brian Bonhomme, Alicia Prieto Langarica, Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, Rachel Faerber-Ovaska, David Simonelli, YSU student Sylvia Arias and Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez as the moderator.

During the discussion, the panelists spoke of protests in the Soviet Union, Paris, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the U.S. and many more that weren’t discussed. All of these protests happened in 1968 making it a memorable year on a global scale.

Prieto Langarica, instructor in mathematics and statistics, spoke more in detail of the Mexico City massacre. She also discussed the divisiveness in politics that each side may perceive.

When a conversative student said he could not express his views, Prieto Langarica was quick to respond.

“The government convinces us we are divided into groups, but when we come together we realize we both want the same things,” said Prieto Langarica. “We want to be happy and live our lives.”

Arias, vice president of the Youngstown’s student Latino Organization, discussed the need for peace in the world.

“There has got to be a way where we all get together and have some peace,” said Arias.

Simonelli, YSU associate professor of history, spoke of the serious problem with how these protests were handled when the protesters were only college students.

“In college, students are learning new political ideas and protesting. Do you deserve to be shot for this? Dead no,” said Simonelli. “These governments handled these protests with an extreme force that was not needed.”

Bonhomme, chair of the history department at YSU, spoke about protests in the Soviet Union.

“It was a difficult place to protest,” said Bonhomme. “Protest while you can because it can become impossible.”

This discussion showed students the historical impact that protesting had across the world and the similarities with today’s students movements.

The discussion and Q&A were a part of the university’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.


  1. Just a quick thought from this TV news-watcher of 1968.

    Dissent that leads to a good outcome may be pretty near impossible. Why? Because nothing succeeds like crap ideas. Huh? Crap ideas create undue enrichment, induce vicious rent-seeking, create jobs of dubious value, and grasping constituencies for those jobs.

    I’ve been doing smalltime writing about health care for a long time, and it’s fair to describe American health care as serial crap ideas masquerading as good ideas.
    For political leaders, crap ideas are wonderful. Why waste energy governing, when you can let the contentiousness induced by crap ideas do the governance for you?

    Vietnam. Diplomat George Ball tried early on to warn Presidents Kennedy and Johnson away from Vietnam. Ditto journalist Bernard Fall. America was fighting for dryasdust legalisms cooked up in Geneva. North Vietnam enjoyed the moral high ground of fighting for national unification, liberation from the Western colonialist yoke, the home court advantage, and whatever promises of social justice were offered by Karl Marx. Vietnam’s embassy in Washington may still offer a bibliography of the Vietnam War as seen by the North Vietnamese leadership and ordinary soldiers. Eye-opening stuff.

  2. What ought to have been protested in 1968 that wasn’t protested in 1968? Here are my picks:

    Ending Latin instruction at my junior high after Miss Macchione took ill and wasn’t replaced. Yes, it’s something of a dead language, intimately tied to social class and religious vocations, but an American physicist–no less–recently wrote of classics instruction:

    “Greco-Roman civilization is the best example we have of a civilization that ran its course, that is in many ways ancestral to our own, and for which we have an enormous amount of documentation. On the face of it, if we wish to better understand human nature, and better understand ourselves, we should learn what we can from that civilization — from their mistakes, their errors, and their crimes as well as their creations and achievements. I think that point would have been endorsed by most educated Westerners since the Renaissance.”

    The 89th Congress’s Social Security Amendments of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid. Yep, no kidding, that ought to have been protested. A few cranks probably guessed what those super-inflationary Amendments would set in train, but nobody listened. (Think Harry Lime debauching a specific medical market in “The Third Man”; then think of farty Congressmen doing the same thing wholesale from a different angle under color of law and deliberative process.) Too late now.

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