From the archives: Lack of policy bars Jane Fonda talk at Unihi

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In 1971, some politically precocious students at University High School in West Los Angeles founded a radical student newspaper called the Red Tide. Among the causes the paper would later champion was the case of Gary Tyler, a Black 17-year-old on Louisiana’s Death Row.

This summer, former Red Tide staffers met with Tyler, who was eventually freed and now lives in Pasadena. The reunion and the Red Tide’s lasting impact is the subject of a Column One by Doug Smith, who also chronicled the paper’s struggles against censorship in the 1970s.

Here is one of Smith’s original articles, about students inviting Jane Fonda to speak on campus. It appeared on Jan. 18, 1973, under the headline “Lack of policy bars Jane Fonda at Unihi.


WEST LOS ANGELES — Jane Fonda may someday speak to the students of University High School on the details of her trip to Hanoi—but not this week.

Instead, the school administration will meet tonight with the Community Advisory Council to work out a policy for bringing to campus controversial speakers on various subjects.

That was the decision made by University principal John Welch when members of the student leadership class approached him by surprise last week seeking approval of a voluntary assembly at which Miss Fonda would have spoken on Wednesday.

The arrangements for Miss Fonda’s appearance were already complete. Through Michael Letwin, a publisher of the student newspaper called the Red Tide, the actress and antiwar activist proposed several days she could come to the campus. The leadership class, consisting of the members of student council, voted to sponsor an assembly that students could attend voluntarily.

Welch’s approval was the last requirement for having the assembly. But he refused.

“My view is that controversial speakers are good and there is room for them in Board of Education policy, but I need time to set up the proper guidelines so I won’t get caught in a crossfire,” Welch told The Times.

“What it boils down to is that we don’t have a policy on controversial speakers, but we will have one after getting some feedback from parents at the Community Advisory Council. This is the kind of thing I think we ought to take to the advisory council. That’s one of the reasons for decentralization of the schools,” said Welch.


However, because there was some confusion about Welch’s initial reasons for refusing the assembly, the leadership class wrote and distributed a petition advocating the assembly. In one day they collected 1,074 signatures and student body president Michael Galizio handed them to Welch.

In addition, they began a campaign to gather support from the PTA, parents, community groups and the advisory council.

“We had a meeting of the faculty-student-administrative advisory committee,” said Galizio. “The faculty and administration were entirely in favor of having controversial speakers on campus. We are happy about that.

“There is a lot of student feeling here that we should be able to have Jane Fonda speak this week,” said Galizio, “but, if not, we feel we’ve made a big step toward getting controversial speakers on campus and we’ve shown that if we’re interested in something we’re going to carry it out.”

The Los Angeles School District has a set of guidelines for students bringing outside speakers onto high school campuses. They are summarized in the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities. The main requirements are that speakers should be approved in advance, their subject matter relate to the school’s educational program, efforts should be made to present all sides of controversial issues and attendance should be voluntary.

Within these general guidelines Welch believes there is room for each school community to establish its own policy and structure for obtaining speakers. To do this he will bring the question before the Community Advisory Council which meets at 7:30 tonight in the Felicia Mahood Recreation Center, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd.


“First we will find out if the council agrees with me that there should be contoversial issues presented on campus and then work out a system for smoothing the way for this to take place.

“I hope,” added Welch,. “that Miss Fonda will call me so we can set a future time when she can come to spaek.”

In the meantime Miss fonda will have to stay away and Letwin, the student who arranger her visit, isn’t happy.