Mind Over Miller: A planned prank that turned real
There was a veterinary conference held on the University of California Santa Cruz campus in the late '60s. The Santa Cruz campus is the most beautiful I have ever seen. Close to the Pacific shore, it harbors a magnificent stand of great redwood trees.
It was the height of the hippy era, and college students—the males hairy and the maidens barefoot with flowers in their hair—lounged under the trees and on the lawns. Some played flutes or other musical instruments. Others smoked. It was all very laid back. We veterinarians, appropriately attired in suits and ties as was the standard of the day, looked out of place.
Lunch was served in a tree house restaurant. I remember that it was my first experience with carrot cake. I thought, "Why not celery cake or turnip cake?"At lunch, I picked up a copy of the school newspaper when an inspiration hit me. I suggested to my colleagues that it would be interesting to publish a fake edition with a front page lead story: "Twenty million dollars donated to U.C. Santa Cruz by Weyerhaeuser" (the giant lumber company) with the provision that a school of forestry be added to the campus and that it be permitted to harvest all the redwood trees on the campus.
My suggestion was received with enthusiasm by my colleagues. But one prudent soul pointed out that such a story would probably result in students burning down the administration building.
"Right!" cried a more prudent voice. "Let's do it on April 1 and on the inside page of the newspaper we can print 'April Fools!'"
We all agreed that we wanted to be on campus to see the initial reaction by the students.
"Wait!" said another inspired colleague. "Let's add that another $20 million was donated by Swift and Company (meat packing) with the stipulation that, after the redwoods were all removed, an animal husbandry curriculum be started and cattle introduced to graze off all the grass on the campus."
One doctor who was on the faculty at Stanford University volunteered the Stanford newspaper staff to actually print the newspaper. We estimated that we'd need a thousand copies.
For the rest of the conference, we hilariously planned our plot in detail. Then we all returned to our busy practices, and that was the end of it all.
Forty years later, I read this item in the Los Angeles Times:
REDWOOD SITTERS END DEVELOPMENT PROTEST
SANTA CRUZ — The 13-month anti-development protest being held in redwood trees at UC Santa Cruz has ended peacefully, even after mediation talks failed earlier in the week.
On Saturday, protesters voluntarily abandoned their perches above Science Hill as crews were set to cut down 48 redwoods and 11 oak trees in preparation for the construction of a new university biomedical facility.
Police arrested one sitter... who remained in a tree on the perimeter, and cited him for trespassing and violating a court injunction.
The other sitters said they ended the sit to avoid potential harm or arrest, but vowed to fight the school's plans in other ways.