Table Of Contents
The Campus Unrest Collection focuses on volatile events involving students that occurred at the State University of New York at Albany (now the University at Albany), as well as other campuses around the country. Inspired by national and local influences, these events occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s and involved student-faculty relations, race relations, the Vietnam War, and the shootings at Kent State University. All served to raise tension among students, faculty and administration, most noticeably during the 1969-1970 academic year.
At colleges and universities around the country, this period witnessed the end of the institution serving "in loco parentis" or in place of parents. Universities, including the State University of New York at Albany, allowed for greater freedom of the student body by removing curfews and dress codes. Students transitioned away from older campus traditions and established new ones. Many students (and faculty) protested the escalation of U.S. troops serving in Vietnam.
While these national trends were in evidence at the State University of New York at Albany, other institution-specific developments also affected campus life. The school became a State University of New York (SUNY) University Center in 1962, opened its expanded Uptown Campus for classes in the Fall of 1966 and the size of the student body grew exponentially and became more diverse. As a result, administrators and faculty no longer shared personal connections with as many students, severly affecting two-way communication. The University also responded to the heterogeneity of the student population. Then President Evan R. Collins created the Afro-American Studies department in January 1969 in direct response to demands by an increasing African-American student population, led by the Black Student Alliance, for entry level courses in Afro-American studies. The new department offered its first courses in Fall 1969. The following year, the Department of Judaic Studies opened.
On October 15, 1969, the State University of New York at Albany participated in events for a national Vietnam Moratorium day. The University held a twenty-four hour vigil during which the names of those killed in the Vietnam War were read on the academic podium. Speeches and workshops also were held.
During March 1970, the State University of New York at Albany did not renew the two-year contract of popular assistant professor Gerard Wagner of the Department of Rhetoric and Public Address. As part of reaction to this news, students protested, some broke windows and others occupied the halls outside of Acting President Allan A. Kuusito's office.
In the early spring of 1970, African-American faculty and students submitted several proposals addressing racism on campus to the administration. Proposals included seeking better representation of black students among Resident Assistants, hiring of black food service workers, and issuance of guidelines to existing staff and faculty about treating all students equally. These groups also documnted reports of racial incidents on campus. This communication was one part of an ongoing discussion of race relations on the campus. In April 1970 African-American students became angered at the policy of checking student identification in order to eat in the cafeteria resulting in two incidents in the Colonial Quad dining room. According to students, this policy of strict identification checking was not the norm in Colonial Quad and some believed that African-American students were unfairly singled out. In the more volatile, second incident, approximately 75 students allegedly assaulted a cafeteria supervisor, broke windows, threw food and upturned tables.
Students overall also demanded greater participation in University decision making, especially following the anger over the contract renewal debate about Gerard Wagner. In response, the University suspended classes and held two Dialogue Days in March of 1970 where students attended workshops such as "Legal Procedures - Amnesty for Students," "Racism on Campus," and "50-50 Faculty-Student Control of the University." Departments held meetings with students and the Library invited students to come by at any time to meet, convene or suggest ideas. As part of the dialogue with faculty and administration, students aired grievances about many aspects of University life from the University Senate (more student representation necessary) to the Library (request for one central circualtion desk) to advising services (inadequate).
Other sources of tension on campus during 1969-1970 prompted additional student activism. These included a women's group's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to establish an on-campus child care facility, conflict with the academic calendar and religious holidays, drug arrests by police and a People's Park demonstration which delayed construction of two courtyards on the academic podium.
The events of this volatile school year culminated in May 1970 when the Nixon Administration announced U.S. troop movement into Cambodia, touching off unrest at campuses across the country, helping lead to the shootings at Kent State on May 4. State University of New York at Albany students protested and demonstrated their anger by vandalizing the Library on the night of May 4. On May 6, 1500-2000 students gathered en masse and marched to downtown Albany where the group burned an effigy of President Richard Nixon and listened to speeches. Other disruptions of regular campus activities in the days following Kent State included bomb scares, the throwing of fire bombs and Molotov cocktails, destruction of campus property in addition to the Library, fires in residence halls and repeated false fire alarms. The University also canceled several events including Alumni Day, Parents Weekend and a University Community Symphony Orchestra. Many students did not attend classes at the end of the semester. Some elected to strike because of the myriad of immediate events, the many fire alarms disrupted classes and some students cited fear for their personal safety as a reason for leaving campus before the semester officially ended. As a result, President Kuusito issued special guidelines and alternatives to faculty on May 12, 1970 regarding the completion of course work during a crisis.
Compared to other colleges and universities in the SUNY system, the State University of New York at Albany experienced less vandalism and damage on campus than other schools during 1969-1970. According to a report prepared by John J. Mather, assistant to SUNY Chancellor Samuel B. Gould, and issued in July 1970, the total amount of damages at 26 SUNY schools for 1969-1970 was $518,000. Albany's share was only $85,000 compared to $233,000 at SUNY Buffalo. The bulk of damage occured on and immediately after May 4, 1970.
This is an artificial collection, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, and fliers and printed materials, predominantly from 1969–1970, collected to document unrest on the State University of New York at Albany campus and at other institutions across the country. The majority of the material from the University at Albany details events from the Spring Semester 1970. Alice Hastings, the University Librarian, Fredericks Volkwein, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies, and Dr. Frederick D. Weinstein of the School of Library Science gathered the collection as background information for a 1971 report on campus unrest at the request of the Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs. The report is found in Series 1.
Of interest to researchers may be shards of glass resulting from the vandalism and unrest on the University at Albany campus following the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970.
For researchers interested in more materials on campus unrest, please see the following related collections: John J. Mather Papers (APAP-107) Series 2, Subseries 1 and the Vietnam War Collection (UA-950.006). Please see the Department of Africana Studies Records for materials related to the introduction of Afro-American Studies at the university.
The collection is organized into the following series:
Series 1 - Unrest at the University at Albany, 1968-1972, Undated
Series 2 - Unrest at Universities Across the Country, 1967-1971
All series are arranged alphabetically by subject.
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
State University of New York at Albany
State University of New York at Buffalo
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Campus violence--New York (State)--Albany.
College students--Political activity--New York (State)--Albany.
Student movements--New York (State)--Albany
Genres and Forms
Files by subject
Fliers (pritned matter)
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, Box, Folder, Campus Unrest Collection, 1967-1972. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Campus Unrest Collection).
The collection was gathered as background information for a 1971 report on campus unrest at the request of the Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs by the University Librarian, Alice Hastings, Fredericks Volkwein, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies, and Dr. Frederick D. Weinstein of the School of Library Science.
Finding Aid Information
Created by: Angela Perez