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Berkeley recalls little about bomb suspect Assistant professor left few traces in 1969 when he abruptly quit TTC

April 07, 1996|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN STAFF

Even then, when he was in his late 20s, there were signs of the solitary life he would come to lead. Mr. Kaczynski shunned not only his colleagues; he seemed to shy away from interactions with students as well.

"He absolutely refuses to answer questions by completely ignoring the students," was a response on a student evaluation questionnaire. According to six respondents, his lectures were "useless and right from the book."

Although his academic career would take him through three of the most politically turbulent campuses of the 1960s, Mr. Kaczynski was not known to have been involved in any of the movements of the time -- anti-war, civil rights, free speech or any of the establishment-challenging actions.

Like Mr. Kaczynski, Dr. Hirsch, 62, was teaching at Berkeley then, although he has no memories of him. His remembrances of the time, though, are vivid: protests at the military draft offices, successful efforts to bring more blacks onto the staff, students and some faculty who seemed to spend more time in jail than in the classroom.

"I think they were wonderful years," Dr. Hirsch says rather fondly now. He was active in anti-war and civil rights protests. "So many things were going on"

Dr. Addison is less nostalgic about those days, and keeps his personal politics mostly to himself. "There was almost an emotional turmoil here, it was a strain on everyone," he says. "You didn't know if the colleague next to you had opposing views from your own."

It is still a mystery what happened to Mr. Kaczynski in the midst of this swirl of activism. It's all a guessing game at this point.

Something, though, triggered a turnaround, and he quit his academic career and apparently moved to Salt Lake City.

And yet, the speculation is unsatisfying to those who knew Mr. Kaczynski.

"I don't know what happened. He was so brilliant. He got a tenure-track job at Berkeley, and he quit," says Frank Livingstone, an anthropology professor at Michigan who taught Mr. Kaczynski. "It seems like his life took a turn there."

Today, the Unabomber's anti-technology rage would find few adherents here, where students and faculty are as likely to offer e-mail addresses as phone numbers.

The student groups that set up shop at Sproul Plaza seem to be more diverse. There isn't just a single Asian-American student organization; there are different ones for Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, those from Hong Kong and those who are both Asian and Christian.

One group is having a bake sale, another is selling daffodils. No one appears to be calling for the overthrow of the government. "There are only a very few progressive parts of the campus," says Tom Dietrich, 26, who is about to graduate with a degree in conservation resource studies. "It's a pretty conservative place."

That the man now accused of being the Unabomber once walked this same campus is, for some students, hard to imagine if only because it seems to have changed so much.

"They say students are apathetic now," says Kevin Zwick, 20, a sociology student who mostly disagrees with that assessment. "But at his time Berkeley probably was the most liberal, out-there campus at the time."

Some, though, would argue that even then, Berkeley wasn't uniformly radical. Indeed, yearbooks from Mr. Kaczynski's era have photographs that seem out of the 1950s, sweethearts of Sigma Chi, big games and all.

"It's much more subdued now," says Professor Addison. "But if a new mass movement were to start today, Berkeley would still be a likely place for it to start."

Pub Date: 4/07/96

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