Over many months, alumni have sent us their own memories of the events from May 1970. We list their letters below.
From Henry Jackson, DAAP '74, Lexington, Ky.
Regarding why UC closed in the spring in 1970, my memory is that immediately after the Kent State shootings, the governor closed all the state schools [see May 6 above], and there was a fear over UC staying open — because it was still a municipal university and not subject to the governor’s order, it might attract a large protest, converging on the still-open UC campus. Actually the campus first closed for a week, then some days later decided to close for the remaining four (plus or minus) weeks of the quarter. At least that’s what I remember 40 years later.
From Robert Garfield, Bus '71, Oakton, Va.
It is amazing to hear the perspective of each individual who lives through an event that dramatically impacts the future. My perspective of the events unfolding after Kent State is a little different than those who have voiced opinions previously.
The evening following the Kent State shootings, many students, perhaps as many as a thousand, filled McMillan Avenue in protest. The Cincinnati police cordoned off the street in front of the crowd. The police moved barricades each time the students approached until at last the crowd dispersed.
The following day there was another confrontation with police in the park [Burnet Woods] across from the DAA building. The police department had set up a command post in the park. Again, the police defused the protest of the crowd by moving their command post. That afternoon many students staged a sit-in inside the administration building. Their demand was to shut down the school out of respect for the students killed at Kent State. The sit-in lasted a few days.
All sides seemed intransigent until a number of students took over the computer center of the school. It was at that point, one in which the school had to decide to evict the students forcibly or bend to their demands that the wise leadership of the university decided to close the school.
From Tom Hower, Eng., '71
I would like to add my own perspective on the history. On April 30, 1970, President Nixon appeared on television to say that he had invaded Cambodia to cut off supply routes to the North Vietnamese attacking South Vietnam. College students nationwide reacted with protest rallies. (Many students who were eligible for the draft protested loudest, believing the Cambodian incursion would extend the duration of the war.)
At UC, students marched down Clifton Avenue then dispersed. However, that week the protesting escalated and students occupied the UC Administration Building abetted by cheering crowds outside.
After a day of being ignored by UC's president, some engineering students realized that the administration building was not vital to university operation. So, they led 75 to 100 students from the administration building to the building housing the university financial offices and computers. An administrator tried to block the entrance but the students rushed in. By the next day the university announced it was closing temporarily and the buildings were cleared.
Some students drove to Washington, D.C., for an anti-war rally near the White House. During our return trip, the media reported the deaths at Kent State. After that, Governor Rhodes closed all state-owned universities, and UC also closed. (UC was jointly owned by the city and the state at the time.) [See May 6 above.] Since most classes were never completed, most students received marks of "pass" for the quarter.
The protests were not popular with all students. Some protested the disruption to their education and many continued to attend classes and to study without taking sides. Some of us even changed sides due to the recession. After protesting against the war in 1970, I served in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1971-73.
From David Steele, Bus '70, JD '73, Covington, Ky.
Dear somewhat misinformed friends: I remember 1970. It was the year I graduated from UC Business. What I distinctly remember was Antioch College students taking over Dr. [Walter] Langsam’s office, and he did nothing. One Antioch student tried to intimidate me with his shout that I should not cross his picket line. I informed him that if he tried to stop me from going to my class, he’d have his picket sign protruding from his mouth. He ran off with a whimper.
Ergo, I do not have “sweet” memories of those days. I had wished, and continue to wish, that Ol’ Langsam had exhibited some spine.
Editor’s reply: UC archivist Kevin Grace, MA (A&S) ’77, says “President Langsam did do something, although some may disagree with what he did. He refused to talk to students, then convened all his administrators to discuss his course of action, which was to close the university."
From Gil Waechter, Bus '71, MBA '72, Troy, Mich.
I was dismayed by the back cover ad of the March 2010 issue of "UC Magazine." "Attention Class of 1970" misleadingly suggests that the university closure in 1970 was due to Kent and Jackson State deaths. The News Record editorial of May 8, 1970, "Perversion of Purpose," does a much better job of background, saying:
"Essentially, students at UC were committed to peace; the more radicalized protestors, however, have been stimulated to such a degree that they have become susceptible to the influence of persons from outside who have come here to lead violent revolution. Until Wednesday, protests at UC were admirable and served an important purpose. Now, the sincerely peaceful students have been urged to damage the University."
This aligns with my recollection of why the university closed.
Editor's reply: The original ad read, "UC campus closed weeks before graduation in 1970, following the deaths of student war protestors at Kent State and Jackson State. Though UC did hold a commencement that year, many seniors missed it, having already moved home."
We also received a phone call from Missy Lane who objected to our simplification of the "deaths of student war protestors." Two of the slain students were not protesting at all, she said; one was simply walking across campus, and one was watching.
We did not intend to offer a full explanation of why campus closed in the two sentences accompanying the ad, but simply wanted to put the situation in a historical context that would resonate with people, so we could explain the Alumni Association event for alumni who graduated that year. We apologize to anyone who was offended.