UB Today Alumni Magazine Online - Fall 2004
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A Stormy Spring
Pomp and Purpose
Sky Screeners
Thinking Big

Preserving the past

In the quiet suite on the fourth floor of Capen Hall, University Archives staff members carefully protect the pieces of UB's past, cataloging and curating the images, words and records of the university's 159-year history. A special—and growing—part of the collection pertains to the tumultuous years of campus unrest. Indeed, this collection goes far beyond the expected boxes of academic papers and other written records. Visitors to the Archives can examine a tear gas canister, protest flags, newspaper clipping compilations, buttons, banners, administrative policy missives, oral history tapes and transcriptions and, of course, photographs. The intensity and conviction of this era come alive through the extensive and detailed holdings, actually a series of collections that cover the years 1965 to 1970.

Many of the materials exist today because of the foresight of Shonnie Finnegan, archivist emerita, who collected contemporary records in the heat of the battle. “The basic collection was acquired by going out every day and picking up the pieces blowing around,” explains Finnegan. “We call them ‘ephemera,' because otherwise they would be gone the next day. I went to Norton Hall every day and attended all the rallies. I picked up strike papers, buttons, strike posters—it was history in the making. Sometimes people sent me things. The tear gas canister, for example (it had been detonated), was found by a faculty member. Most of the buttons I kept, and I took posters off walls when the date had passed. Graffiti was everywhere, and I tried to record that, too.”

To help grow the collection, John Edens, interim archivist, is interested in receiving material held by UB alumni—publications, broadsides, memorabilia, diaries or accounts of the events. He also wishes to collect material held by faculty and administrators, “regardless of how they viewed the events at the time.”

The importance of the collection is evident in related scholarly output, Edens reports. It was formative in the writing of two doctoral dissertations, one at the University of Pittsburgh and one at UB, the latter by Christine Dulski Ryan, Ph.D. '04, whose study is entitled “Administrative Response to Student Activism and Campus Unrest at the State University of New York at Buffalo, 1965–1970: Lessons Learned and Suggestions for the Future.” Ryan, now an academic affairs administrator at Canisius College, writes that in the period covered by her study, “UB administrators faced many daunting challenges from both within and outside of the academy. Fortunately, today's college administrators do not face exactly the same problems that were apparent in the 1960s.”

Images of unrest

Among the more than 60 individual responses received for this article was a set of remarkable photos by Gary Friend, B.A. '73, then assistant photography editor of the Spectrum.

Gary Friend in 1970.

“I still remember the acrid smell of tear gas in Norton Union, and huddling in the Spectrum office trying to understand why we were being attacked by police,” says Friend, now a podiatrist living in Northbrook, Illinois. “I saw students beaten with police batons. So I would get as close as I could to take pictures, while trying to keep a safe distance. One night, I climbed a tree between police on Main Street and students occupying and surrounding Hayes Hall. The tree provided a good vantage point for a confrontation that was brewing.

“The police started advancing toward Hayes, and I suddenly realized that they would pass directly beneath my tree. I stayed still as the first lines of officers marched past me. A few saw me, but they kept advancing. Then, one policeman spotted me. He stopped, pointed up at me and screamed, ‘We got one in the tree!' They surrounded me, and I remember some of their faces were angry, but others seemed nervous and afraid.

“My heart pounding, terrified of being clubbed, I started descending the tree, clutching my Spectrum press pass, and sputtering, ‘I'm a photographer for the Spectrum! I'm just taking pictures!' They didn't seem to know what to do with me. One shouted, ‘Get the hell out of here!' I did.”

In addition, several high-quality prints arrived in the mail from Joseph M. Parise, B.A. '73, now a family physician in Dover, Delaware, then a UB freshman majoring in biology and interested in photography. “I remember worrying that my car would be destroyed,” says Parise. “It was parked outside the student union; the crowds were gathered and they were mad! I was there to get an education; here I was cowering in my dorm bathroom, as tear gas filtered through the windows.”

Social psychology comes alive

Dean Pruitt, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus and retired UB professor of psychology, has had years to think about the UB campus unrest period, both as an academic conundrum and as a directly observed experience. He and James P. Gahagan, his postdoctoral assistant at the time, organized the study—now part of the University Archives collection—when an academic interest in social conflict led them to focus on the vivid events happening before their eyes.

Beginning in 1967 and working with a team of graduate students, Pruitt and Gahagan began to mentally prepare for the day when conflict might hit UB and they would be called on to record its import. “Our research project was about the dynamics of conflict,” he explains. “We were witnessing things going on around the country, predicting it would probably hit UB, and so made contingency plans for how we were going to record it.”

Pruitt and his team began to formally record the UB unrest as it happened in 1969 and on a more dramatic scale the following year. The Pruitt collection, presented to the UB Archives in 2001, consists of interviews, chronologies and surveys pertaining to the events on the South Campus from February to April 1970, and represents research on the subject between 1967 and 1972. Also included are narratives, handouts, affidavits, court orders and letters.

A Stormy Spring
Campus unrest 35 years ago changed lives of many UB alumni, dramatically altering perceptions of

Story by Ann Whitcher

Visiting the UB Archives and reading about the bomb threats, the late-night protest meetings, the still-controversial police presence and the disruption of academic life, these old, typewritten records suddenly come alive. Thirty-five years have passed since the Main Street Campus was torn asunder in violent dispute during a three-week period in 1970.

Today, alumni sentiment about those turbulent times is a complex range of opinions, experiences and emotions that this report can only touch on. While some events have grown hazy with time and the precise chronology elusive, the spirit of 1970 remains a vivid memory for a large contingent of UB alumni.

The following narrative is drawn from a detailed chronology by Dean Pruitt, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus, formerly of the UB psychology department and now a visiting scholar at George Mason University, along with other archival documents, interviews, press clippings and feedback from the many alumni who responded to a call for firsthand accounts published in the fall 2004 issue of UB Today.

Buffalo Police Officers arrive on Campus to quell disturbances. Their presence would prove extremely controversial.
February 25, 1970, was a chilly day in Buffalo, with flurries and temperatures dipping into the teens. The front page of that day's Buffalo Courier-Express gave little hint of what was to follow. While the Courier did run two UB stories on the front page (controversy involving College A and the cancellation of the men's basketball game because of a sit-in protest), the paper focused mainly on other news: French president Georges Pompidou was visiting Washington, a New Jersey woman gave birth to quintuplets, avalanches in Switzerland took many lives, the Buffalo Common Council approved a bond issue for Memorial Auditorium.

Meanwhile, across the country, a cultural revolution was brewing and college campuses were incubators for social protest, with a national student movement emerging from 1964 to 1969 in response to the Vietnam War, civil rights and other issues. At UB, student activism was fueled not only by continuing protest over the Vietnam War, but also by such local concerns as open admissions and the presence of Project Themis, a large research project that was controversial because it was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Norton Union (now Squire) was the focus of much student activity and some vandalism during the period of unrest.

Marc Berenbach, M.S.W. '70 & B.A. '68, a retired clinical social worker in Roseburg, Oregon, vividly recalls the campus climate as events unfolded that spring. “SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) was holding almost daily rallies in the Millard Fillmore Room of Norton Union and on the steps of the union building,” he says. “The news of the day was about anti-war activity on campuses all over the U.S., as well as around the world. Demonstrations at UB that spring became more intense and bold. Student leaders exhorted students to take to the streets. A few UB students staged brief takeovers in some buildings, and marches on and off campus were carried out regularly.”

What began as a protest over Buffalo police presence at the February 24 basketball game (they had been called to a demonstration connected with allegations of racism in the athletics department) quickly mushroomed into a much larger conflict. On February 25, 40 to 50 students, including many of the campus “radicals,” proceeded to the Hayes Hall office of Acting President Peter Regan to demand an explanation for the police presence the previous evening. Rocks and ice were thrown at Regan's windows, and campus police arrived in riot gear.


Spectrum photographer captured these images after tear gas entered Norton Union.

“Regan asked the campus police to arrest these students, who ran to the Student Union with the campus police in pursuit,” recalls Pruitt, who remains a scholar of the era. “The campus police handcuffed two of them and clubbed one of them in the union, leading an angry group of students to chase the police across the campus. One policeman was seriously injured. The Buffalo police came onto the campus again and confronted an angry mob of about 500 students who had been in the union. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.” A total of 16 persons, including non-students, were arrested that day.

In search of open debate

In the aftermath, Regan and Acting Executive Vice President Warren Bennis issued bulletins emphasizing safety, open debate and appropriate discourse. At subsequent meetings in Haas Lounge, the University Student Strike Committee emerged for the first time as an organizational entity. Elected student government and the more radical student leadership represented by the strike committee organized rallies to determine a student response to the incidents. Soon the strike committee would take over student government offices in Hayes Hall, as “mainstream” student government essentially ceased to function.

During the next few days, a set of nine demands was endorsed by the strike committee and became very familiar to chroniclers of the period. They included the barring of Buffalo police from campus, the resignation of the acting president, and the abolition of ROTC and of research supported by the Department of Defense. At this point, strong community sentiment emerged, often quite negative toward protesting students, and centered on the perceived transgressions of College A, a unit in the experimental academic entity “the Colleges,” established in the late 1960s by UB president Martin Meyerson, who at this point was on leave from his position, having recently announced that he would soon become president of the University of Pennsylvania. Then, on February 26, several hundred books were destroyed when a firebomb was thrown into Abbott Hall (then Lockwood Library).

In viewing the violence that was gripping the campus, many perceived it to be the work of “vicious vandals,” i.e., a small group perpetuating acts of violence and widening the crisis. Regan had first used the term in a March 1 television address concerning the unrest, and it seemed to have gained currency among concerned community members, judging by press coverage of the period. On the other hand, many criticized the administrative handling of the conflict, and continued to do so in the days ahead. During his televised address, Regan called for a one-day “breathing spell” and the establishment of a Peace Patrol.

Marilyn Blakley Passer, B.S. '74, a physical therapist residing in Honeoye, New York, helped staff the volunteer Peace Patrol, organized by two faculty members and dedicated to nonviolence. “We had an office in Norton Union and patrolled the campus in pairs day and night discouraging confrontations between students and police,” she says. “We wore our names and student numbers on our coats in response to some police officers not wearing their names visibly. Before classes were stopped, if students or faculty went to classes, we carried a damp washcloth to breathe through if teargassed. I can still vividly remember living with that smell hanging in the dorms and on campus.”

Jack Heck, B.S. '71, a retired mechanical engineer in Knoxville, Tennessee, still has his armband worn as a Peace Patrol member. It's a reminder of what Heck calls “a unique time in history, in students' attitudes about government, morality, activism, responsibility and justice, and one that will likely never come around again.”

Thirty-five years after experiencing the watery eyes and throat irritations, the memory of tear gas remains indelible for many graduates interviewed. “The moments of Vietnam War protest I most vividly remember were of a day when I entered the modern languages department building, smelled faint traces of tear gas, and walked up to my Old High German seminar, while students demonstrated loudly outside the building,” says Dennis Anderson, Ph.D. '75 & M.A. '71, a corporate manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, then pursuing graduate studies in German. “The incongruity struck me.”

Upset by events, in particular her roommate's illness brought on by the tear gas, Jane Itzkowitz Klein, B.F.A. '71, now a teacher in the Bronx, New York, remembers a standard class assignment from which she turned away and also a split in her immediate academic community. “Instead of completing my English paper on The Great Gatsby, I wrote about what was happening with the war protest on campus,” she says. “I was an art major and there was a divide between the students. Half of them wanted to close down the art department in protest, the other half just wanted to keep painting.”

Cancelled classes and academic frustration

During this period, members of the loosely knit strike committee—about 400 students strong—tried to persuade professors to cancel their classes or students to leave them. Some classes were cancelled or boycotted. Others were held in off-campus locations. However, the strike committee's well-organized campaign to discourage students from attending classes was only partially successful, with attendance curtailed by about 30 to 40 percent, according to Pruitt.

When classes on campus were cancelled because of the strike, this biology class was held in an area church.

The mixed pattern of cancelled and open classes frustrated some students academically and interrupted others in their athletic achievement. “Our aquatics class/unit of about 20 men and women undergrads was in the Clark Gym pool on the deck in our suits just waiting for final assignments before we went into the water,” remembers Gene Elizabeth Verel, B.S. '73, a certified athletic trainer in Buffalo, New York, then a sophomore physical education major. “Rocks started coming through the windows, splintering glass everywhere. Coach (Bill) Sanford backed us up against the wall under the windows until the barrage stopped. A couple of guys in the class who were on the swim team went into the pool to try and retrieve the larger pieces of window from the bottom. We worked our way in our bare feet around the shards of glass back to our lockers.”

Fact-finding probes and police arrival

To address what had happened on February 25, Regan appointed a three-member fact-finding committee (later known as the “Greiner Commission”), chaired by a 35-year-old law professor, William R. Greiner, who later became UB's 13th president. The two other members were Lawrence Chisolm, director of the American Studies Program, and Konrad von Moltke, lecturer in history. On February 27, State Supreme Court Justice Frederick M. Marshall issued a temporary restraining order barring demonstrators from disrupting the university's normal operations. This order was reissued on March 5, 1970, by State Supreme Court Justice Gilbert H. King and played a major part in the sequence of events.

“It was an era when people were feeling their way,” Greiner says, looking back on the events of 1970. “Students knew how to irritate older and more conservative people—some got very expert at it.” He recalls talking to a student assistant in the law school who dismissed the rock-pitching at Regan's Hayes Hall office with the comment, “it's only property.” But Greiner countered with an analogy to the student's car, asking how he would feel if someone damaged or destroyed it. “I told him, ‘Somebody is going to get killed out of this stuff.' Of course, that happened later at Kent State. We had a minor bout, compared to others, though we definitely had some close calls that spring.”

When it became clear that the strike campaign was having only middling success, the strike committee on March 5 shifted its tactics and blocked the entrance to Hayes Hall. “I managed to wangle my way into the building, and the halls downstairs were full of strike committee members,” Pruitt recalls. “Two of them ejected me from the building. The next day, the strike committee was less in control of the building but they did manage to turn on the fire hoses, flooding the basement and endangering the electrical system.”

At this point, Regan and his administration made the critical decision to ask the police to occupy the campus. And so, in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 8, 400 Buffalo police officers arrived for an indeterminate stay. Their presence—indeed, the university's decision to call them in the first place—escalated the crisis in the view of some, while others viewed it as inevitable, given the property destruction and threats perceived by those trying to attend class or report to work. Still, it was a shock—a true historical departure—for a campus that had never seen an outside police force physically on campus before that spring.

“Even during the occupation of Hayes Hall the previous year, the police never came on campus,” affirms Archivist Emerita Shonnie Finnegan. “A famous photograph documents the police lined up on the Main Street sidewalk in 1969, but they didn't actually set foot on campus.” She explains that another injunction had been sought and obtained in 1969 to limit disruption after the students occupied Hayes.

The campus crisis brought national press attention to the university, with events finding their way to some foreign newsstands, too. “I was a UB student during those momentous times,” reports Laura Pesce Glasner, M.S.W. '88 & B.A. '71, now a licensed clinical social worker living in Victor, New York. “However, that spring I was in Mexico, as part of my American Studies program, which required that students live in a non-western culture for a period of time. While in Mexico City, I passed a newsstand with a display of papers, one with the headline, ‘Revolucion en los Estados Unidos?' and a front page photograph of students being teargassed [at UB].”

Commenting that his experience at UB that spring was more “shock” than anything else, then-freshman Barry Schwartz, B.A. '73, now a C.P.A. in Merrick, New York, talks about the unique difficulties of trying to take an exam in such circumstances. “After the final insult of being teargassed, I returned to my dorm (Goodyear Hall). I promptly called my Spanish professor to see if he would allow me to take the final exam in his office, so I wouldn't have to stay in Buffalo another week. Happily, he consented, at which time I called my anxious parents, who told me to pack my belongings and leave Buffalo as soon as my exam was completed.”

“I'm not sure I had a substantial formal education that semester,” adds Linda Sanders Lipiarz, B.A. '70, now a banker living in Oldsmar, Florida, “but I was introduced to the real world in a blatant way. Classes were few and far between that semester—one philosophy class was held at a professor's apartment. I remember having only one class for an entire month—ice-skating—to fulfill the physical education requirement. All final exams were take-homes and, luckily, graduation went on as usual.”

Wynne S. Korr, Ph.D. '75 & B.A. '70, now dean and professor of social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, had transferred to UB as a psychology major a few months earlier. “I lived off campus, so the full reality of [the crisis] did not hit until I went to take a test in my experimental psychology class that met in a large lecture space on the main campus,” Korr says. “Inside the building, just outside the classroom, police were marching/patrolling. Crossing through them made me feel as if I had been transported to Nazi Germany. I walked in sobbing; few students arrived. The professor and TA announced that those not in attendance would fail. Somehow, my tears and explanation of why learning and police don't mix convinced them to reschedule the test.”

In a statement issued soon thereafter, Acting President Regan said police had been called only when peaceful efforts to remedy the “grave situation” had failed. “It is to protect the great majority and to allow us to reach reasoned decisions in a proper fashion that I have asked for this assistance,” he said. Late on that Sunday afternoon, March 8, nearly 2,000 students and faculty members [figures ranged up to 5,000 depending on the publication] demonstrated in opposition to the police presence on the campus, “staging a peaceful ‘solidarity' march,” writes Richard Siggelkow, then UB vice president for student affairs, in his 1991 book, Dissent and Disruption: A University Under Siege and quoting contemporary press accounts.

“It was frightening to see students totally out of control, using baseball bats to smash the police car windows,” recalls Jo-Anne Gilbert Perchick, Ed.B. '70, a former teacher and now hospital accounts staff member in Poughkeepsie, New York, at the time a senior elementary education major. “To get the students off their cars, the police were using their bats to beat the students off. Students were having sit-ins at many of the buildings on campus that classes were held in. Buildings were teargassed to evacuate the students. On the following mornings when I went on campus to attend classes, there were signs on the buildings that classes were cancelled due to the tear gas. This happened repeatedly.”

The unrest interrupted academic teaching careers for some alumni. Jeff Nesin, M.A. '76 & M.A. '71, now president of the Memphis College of Art in Memphis, Tennessee, was teaching what was called a “bulletin board class” on the history of American popular music in the upstairs music room in Norton, “when a pitched battle broke out downstairs between a helmeted squad of Buffalo police and a group of protesters. I led my students safely out of the building through a side door and resigned with regret the next day.” That February night witnessing a battle between police and students during his lecture, “still troubles me and in a real sense informs what I do each day,” Nesin says.

Allowing that hers is an atypical response among contemporaries, Gail Wallen Knight, B.S. '72, a retired FBI agent living in Woolwich, New Jersey, recalls transferring to UB in the spring of 1970, majoring in physical education with an eye toward teaching, and paying her tuition mostly through part-time work.

“My goal was an education and I felt that disrupting classes was not what students needed to do to gain attention to their opinions,” she says. “My hard-earned money was being protested away, and I was not happy about it. What I had learned on the campus in the spring of 1970 was respect for law enforcement. And, I didn't get that from a classroom. My degree qualified me as an applicant to the FBI [she would spend 24 years there], but my experience on campus shaped my entire future.”

A similar perspective is shared by David L. Graley, B.A. '70, an insurance company marketing director who lives in Columbia, South Carolina. “I remember being on campus at night, trying to dodge tear gas canisters when running to my car,” he says. “I think it was when the classroom windows were shattered by ‘protesters' during a geology class that I started to wonder how opposed they actually were to human torment. Fortunately, as the years went by, I matured into a conservative Republican who actually understands the ‘establishment.'”

In a March 9 letter of resignation as acting executive vice president, Warren Bennis said police occupation—“premature” in his view—had undercut the administration's credibility and effectiveness in dealing with disorders, and could only lead to an escalation of hostilities. “What started as a relatively small group of dissidents has become a massive group of angry students and faculty,” he said.

Violence mixed with civil disobedience

Roasting the Erie County Sheriff in effigy at March 10 "pig roast" was "unreal," recalls photographer.

Tuesday, March 10, brought the infamous “pig roast” to protest the police presence. According to the Pruitt chronology, “While the pig was roasting, a hi-fi with two speakers and the volume turned up as high as it would go played music from a window in Foster. One was the Beatles song, ‘Piggies.' For the most part, police studiously ignored what was going on.” Taube N. Ponce, B.A. '71, a corporate paralegal in Atlanta, Georgia, recalls other madcap theatricality that spring. “I remember attending on-campus gatherings, including one in which I seem to remember some kind of bonfire and the more hippie/anarchistic students dancing around it in a kind of primitive rite.”

There was more violence on March 12. University Archives records show that 58 people were injured, including 35 police officers. According to Pruitt, “The strike committee called a ‘war council' for that evening to discuss confronting the police. The war council, consisting of several hundred students, moved onto the lawn in between Hayes Hall and the street, confronting a line of policemen guarding Hayes. Some students began throwing stones and ice at the policemen, who finally attempted to disperse the crowd with billy clubs. My observers got the distinct impression that the police lieutenants were trying to restrain the rank-and-file policemen at the moment they charged the crowd. This suggests that the policemen were not ordered to move forward, but did so voluntarily in response to the missiles that were being thrown at them.” By 12:30 a.m., three ambulances had been called to the scene.

By this time, the campus climate was a series of “conflict spirals.” Dean Pruitt uses the term in his 2004 book with Sung Hee Kim, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement, in a discussion of the events that rocked the UB campus that spring. According to the authors, conflict spirals “produce escalation of tactics when, as is often the case, each reaction is more severe and intense than the action it follows. The sequence of actions in the UB campus crisis, which started with stones thrown at the president's window and ended with an ugly confrontation between a mob of students and a number of city police officers, also illustrates such a spiral.”

Faculty 45

Sunday, March 15, brought the Hayes Hall sit-in by a group that would become known as the “Faculty 45.” Their goal was to peacefully move the situation away from what one of the participants—UB Professor of History and American Studies Michael Frisch—today calls “a catastrophic bind,” in which violence between police and students had been escalating nightly. “The hope,” Frisch says, “was to break the cycle, convene a kind of constituent town meeting, compel the administration to negotiate and to get the police removed.” About 12:45 p.m., a group of faculty proceeded to the president's suite in Hayes and began a sit-in with “the police offering no resistance,” according to the Pruitt chronology.

However, things changed. Arrested and held for several hours at the police department's Kensington Station, the 45 were released only after frantic efforts were made to meet a stiff bail, followed by a successful effort to track down a judge, who then released the faculty members on their own recognizance. The 45's subsequent trial and conviction on a contempt charge stemmed from the State Supreme Court injunction that had been put in place to prevent campus disruption. In November 1970, an appellate court reversal found that contempt had never been demonstrated. Moreover, the injunction against “campus disruption” was so vaguely and sweepingly restrictive as to be improper and invalid, the court ruled.

Indeed, the Faculty 45 incident and the group's legal plight became a cause c8El8Fbre, with many faculty and students voicing their support for the embattled participants. Even a local hit record emerged from the incident—“Hayes Hall Blues” by Vizzy Goth and the Vicious Vandals. The song, written by Vizzy (aka Frisch) and Vandal Charlie Keil, a UB American Studies professor, was issued on the “45 Revolutions Per Minute” label specially created for the occasion. (See online edition.)


By Tuesday, March 17, spring break was fast approaching (mercifully so, it now appears in hindsight), so faculty and student activity began to wane. Even so, the university survival group (a self-appointed group of 30 professors, deans and department chairs that had emerged in an effort to fill a perceived gap in leadership) met with the acting president and asked for his resignation. Early that afternoon, New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller announced a meeting to review campus disorder to include trustees, legislative leaders and rank-and-file legislators.

Also on March 17, the Faculty Senate—outraged by the arrest of the Faculty 45 and deeply opposed to the police presence—passed a motion of no confidence in the administration by a majority of 70 percent. For their part, state legislators reiterated they could not support the state budget coming up the following week unless UB disturbances were settled quickly.

The Pruitt chronology for Thursday, March 19, opens with a sense of relief that must have pervaded the campus as spring vacation beckoned. “Not a single incident occurred on the UB campus today,” the report reads. According to Regan on March 20, the police would remain until there was no resumption of violence or vandalism. Though he had announced a phased withdrawal of the police nine days earlier, intervening events apparently prevented or delayed these plans. (Regan asked the police to leave campus later that month.)

In its findings published March 10, the Greiner fact-finding group said administrators “had accepted the risks of police actions too readily. Resort to police force was taken too soon in response to fears and anxieties that were exaggerated by serious failures in liaison.” At the same time, it acknowledged the remarkable circumstances of February 25 and, by implication, others that followed: “We recognize that the fears and anxieties felt by administrators that Wednesday night were grounded in a pattern of repeated insult and harassment, including the breaking of windows, consciously designed to aggravate tensions on this campus.”

“A good way to describe the conflict at that point is that the escalation on both sides had produced a heavily polarized community,” says Pruitt. “On the one side, you had the administration (supported by many alarmed townspeople). On the other side, you had 70 percent of the students who had taken some kind of action in support of the general protest (according to a sample survey we conducted at the time), and a majority of the faculty. The conflict spiral polarized increasing numbers of students and faculty until more than half of both groups were opposed to the administration's actions. The rest of the semester was spent trying to restore unity on campus.”

Following the invasion of Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State in May 1970, there was more unrest in the offing. However, the Vietnam War, which officially ended in 1975, was beginning to wind down. As a result, campuses around the country saw a gradual easing of tensions, and UB was no exception.

“Students and faculty members at over 400 universities also went out on strike in May 1970, creating a national student strike that shut down major university systems in California, New York and elsewhere,” recalls Paul Krehbiel, M.S. '79 & B.A. '75, today a union representative in Los Angeles, California, who was then a member of the strike committee. “This mass student and youth movement spread to other sectors of society and led an increasing number of congressional representatives to vote to cut off funds for the war, effectively ending it.” (Today, Krehbiel is preparing a memoir of the period entitled Shades of Justice, forthcoming later this year.)

Beth Scott, B.A. '72, coordinator of student teaching for the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, was a friend of Jeffrey Miller, one of the four students killed at Kent State. “On the one hand, I was in the role of a marcher, a peaceful protester. I will never forget being in Norton Union and a suitemate showing me the photo of Jeffrey in the New York Times lying in a pool of blood with a flower child kneeling over him. On the other hand, I was a cheerleader who remembers our days with ‘Mouse' McNally as our freshman football coach. Such a contrast! I remember going to Kent State the year after the tragedy for a football game and I can't even express the emotions. It was so hard to imagine what had gone on just one year prior.”

“I don't think that either the faculty or the leadership of the institution were at all prepared for the tactics used by the students,” Greiner says. “In my view, it was one sort of mistake after another. During that period, I think none of us was terribly skilled at how to deal with largely well-intentioned students—not all students were well-intentioned, of course. How do you deal with their concerns over a whole lot of things, including racial justice and the war in Vietnam?” Lessons learned from that era, Greiner says, led to increased professionalism and know-how in dealing with students on the part of academic administrators, campus police and others.

Marilyn Passer also recalls the jarring contradictions of that winter and spring. Even as she witnessed violence on both sides, she recalls a moment of human sympathy with a police officer stationed near the dorms, where, she says, students escaped to their perceived safety.

“I remember one long Sunday morning conversation with a police officer ‘guarding' the entrance to Tower, the large men's dorm, when the campus was occupied by the police,” Passer says. “All was quiet, tear gas hung in the air. I was walking to church, and he was concerned about who was milking the cows on his farm. He was a family man just doing his job, but not really wanting to be there. So many conflicts and inconsistencies made it a confusing time for all of us.”

Ann Whitcher is editor of UB Today.

Photos by Gary Friend, B.A. '73 And
Joe Parise, B.A. '73

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