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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The diffusion of novelty in American higher education : the antiwar student movement Le Brun, Thierry Georges


The study is concerned with the recurrent diffusion of novelty in American higher education. By novelty is meant any body of thought, organizational form, and spontaneous phenomenon of collective behaviour which is perceived as new by members of academic institutions. The general thesis of the work is that the dissemination of novelty typically occurs along lines of decreasing academic prestige. This view is derived from a host of porpositions about the relationship of institutional prestige with academic talent, the creation and communication of novelty, the academic marketplace, permissiveness, imitation, and embarrassment. This thesis is verified for the interinstitutional diffusion of the antiwar student movement of the nineteen sixties and early seventies. The central' hypothesis of this case study is that the more prestigious an academic institution was at the time of the birth of the movement, the sooner some of its students initially protested against American involvement in the Vietnam war. Institutional prestige, the independent variable, is operationalized in terms of "objective" indices. The dependent variable is the degree to which students in an institution were relatively earlier in initially protesting than students in other institutions. The antiwar student protests used to test the hypothesis were collected from The New York Times Index. For each institution that was reported, only the first or earliest campus protest was considered. It is assumed that the criteria governing the newspaper's selection of protests were the same for the entire duration of the movement. Two counter-hypotheses are also examined. It is proposed that the larger an institution was at the time of the birth of the movement, the less time it took for some of its students to initially protest against the American involvement in the Vietnam war. It is also hypothesized that the older the institution, the longer it took before some of its students first protested against this military participation abroad. The results provide, at best, moderate support to the main hypothesis of the case study while flatly rejecting its counter-hypotheses.

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