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Springfield College Records: Office of the President: Dissent and Student Protests at Springfield College (RG 108-18)

People outside of Administration Building (ca. 1969)

Office of the President: Dissent and Student Protests at Springfield College

Amid a national movement of Black student activism and after a series of racist incidents on and off campus in 1968-69, a group of Black Springfield College students sent a memorandum to College President Wilbur E. Locklin in February 1969. In that memorandum, they stated that they felt displeased with the prejudices suffered by the Black community at the school. They go on to list nine demands of the college, such as the enrollment of 200 Black students into the incoming freshman class of ‘73, the addition of a Black staff member to the admissions office, and the hiring of a Black coach for one of the athletic teams. After several months in which Black student leaders grew dissatisfied with the lack of progress on the list of 9 demands, more than two dozen Black students protested the administration’s conduct by taking control of the Administration building on May 16, 1969. Dr. Jesse Parks eventually helped to escort the students from the building. All students involved in the May 1969 Administration Building takeover were placed on probation and required to perform 300 hours of community service, a punishment that drew criticism in the fall of 1969. Amid ongoing Black student activism and a perceived lack of sufficient action on the part of the college administration, a group of 49 students took control of the Massasoit Hall dormitory. The protesting students would remain there for two days, until the college obtained a Superior Court civil injunction and the Sheriff’s Department led all the occupiers out of the building and onto a motor coach bus to bring them directly to court. While none of the students was prosecuted criminally, the college suspended for one semester those students who had been involved in the Administration Building takeover in May 1969 and placed on strict probation the remaining student activists involved in the Massasoit Hall takeover. Many of the Black student activists who were disciplined as a result of their involvement in the Massasoit Hall takeover chose not to return to the college. Nearly two years after the first incident, student protestors again seized the Administration Building on April 6, 1970, this time by white students in protest of the perceived “double jeopardy” placed on the Black students in that they were punished by both the Superior Court and the College. The students were arrested by police, charged with trespassing, and later expelled from the school. The students sued the college in Probate Court because the college judicial system offered no due process to students. The court agreed and prevented the college from proceeding against any of the occupiers until a new judicial system was in place and approved by the court. During the Collegium that took place over the summer of 1970, college officials determined that the students that were removed from campus should be invited back by the President, and, if they chose to return, participate in a series of workshops with a group of College representatives to improve Black-white relationships on campus. President Locklin declined the collegium’s recommendation to readmit the suspended students. Throughout these two years and for a period after, the Locklin administration worked to meet some of the original 9 demands while deeming others to be impractical.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This Sub-Group contains materials that document events pertaining to the civil rights protests on the Springfield College campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Types of materials include newspaper and magazine article clippings, transcripts, periodicals, correspondence, memorandums, handwritten notes, reports, photographs, slides, and scrapbooks. The majority of the material in the collection is comprised of letters and documents created and collected by the Springfield College Office of the President. Materials include multiple lists of demands created by the Black students’ group as they pursued equal rights, representation, and access on campus and the responses of administrators, faculty, students, and alumni to these demands, materials on the Administration Building takeover in, both 1969 and 1970, and the takeover of Massasoit Hall in 1970, and information on the punishment and judicial process for students as a result of these events. The response documents include reports drawn up by faculty and student groups, legal documents pertaining to court cases that occurred due to these events, memos written to and from the Trustees, and many letters sent from Alum and other members of the Springfield College Community. There are many newspaper and magazine articles clippings detailing the events that transpired on the Springfield campus and on campuses across the nation. Some of these clippings exist in four scrapbooks created by the administration. Periodicals are few in number, but contain topics relating to Black pride and civil rights, such as the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the arrest of Black Panther leader Bobby Seale in Connecticut. There are complete copies of the African American newspaper in Springfield called the Negro Star. Also, there is information concerning the 1970 College Collegium, which looked at these events and other issues within the structure of the college. Finally, there are some photographic prints and slides within the collection showing, in particular, the protests that transpired on the campus.