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The United States National Student Association (NSA) was a confederation of college and university student governments that was in operation from 1947 to 1978.
The NSA was founded at a conference at the University of Wisconsin in 1947, and established its first headquarters not far from the campus in Madison. The NSA was led by officers elected at its annual National Student Congress. It later opened an office at 2115 'S' St. in Washington, D.C. William Birenbaum, later Provost at the New School and President of Antioch College, was an early leader of the NSA.
Beginning in the late 1950s, the NSA conducted an annual Southern Student Human Relations Seminar (SSHRS), educating Southern student leaders on issues relating to race and civil rights. In late 1959 the SSHRS leadership opened a year-round office in Atlanta.
The revelation of the NSA's ties to the CIA sparked a national scandal but did not measurably damage the NSA's standing with student governments. The NSA formally cut its ties with the CIA and began, for example, paying the mortgage on its offices in Washington, DC.
In 1969, the NSA held its annual meeting in El Paso, Texas, where thousands of student delegates overwhelmed the city, particularly the Hotel Cortez, with music, drugs, and free love. The NSA's Executive Vice President, James Hercules Sutton, presented testimony that year against an all-volunteer Army to a Congressional panel that included General Gavin and General Omar Bradley, expressing the view that such an Army would be racially imbalanced in enlisted ranks. Jim Graham, Washington D.C. City Councilman, was an NSA Vice President during this time.
The NSA originally housed the United States Student Press Association (USSPA), and its news agency, College Press Service (CPS). It was also American host for student Euro rail and air passes, and served as American students' representative to IATA, the International Air Transport Association.
'Who co-opted whom?' was a little joke whispered by former officers of the National Student Association once they joined CIA to run Covert Action Staff's Branch 5—and thus took over the youth and student field in the Agency's larger campaign.
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