Old Sem Takeover - Oct. 17, 1968
In October of 1968, students at Cornell College took over Old Sem. Black students had been asking for certain rights through other channels prior to that, but were unsatisfied with the responses. This section contains photos and articles related to the takeover, handbills that were circulated on campus by various groups, faculty response, and outcomes for the campus.
An article from the Cornellian about the Old Sem demonstration. Click the image to see more info and enlarge, or click the button below to see the full text.
Old Sem Captured By Students
Demonstration Rocks The Hilltop
[under photo] Gabe Wallace, Cornell senior, is here being mugged by the police while still on the Cornell campus: Wallace is the only Black student in the senior class and represents the first of Cornell's real involvement in recruiting Afro-Americans.
On Thursday, October 17, 30 Cornell students and three non-students were arrested on charges of unlawful assembly after barricading themselves for nearly five hours in Old Sem. The demonstrators had earlier presented to the College administration and student body four demands for an extension of rights for Black students on the campus.
The day's events began at approximately 5:30 a.m. when the demonstrators tapped in a window on Old Sem to get the maid's attention. After a threat by the students to forcefully break in, the maid opened the door and allowed them to enter.
All entrances to Old Sem except one were barricaded and only sympathizers of the demonstrators and members of the press were allowed entry.
A few minutes after 6:00 a. m. President Stumpf and Deans Good, Hooker and Reid attempted to arrange a dialogue with the students. The attempts were rejected when the demonstrators said they did not want to confront the administration until a time at which the student body would be aware of the demonstration.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., it was reported to THE CORNELLIAN, the police, a mixed force from the Linn County Sheriff's Office and the Iowa Highway Patrol, were notified.
As students started going to breakfast and their 8:00 a. m. classes, the activity at Old Sem began to attract attention, and a crowd began to gather.
At some time in the pre-noon hours the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees met and decided to expel the demonstrators.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. Dean Troyer asked the faculty to gather in Maxwell Auditorium in the library . for a special discussion on the demonstration.' Several faculty members who requested that their names be withheld gave THE CORNELLIAN the following account of the faculty discussion.,br> According to them, the president had been asked by several faculty members to call such a meeting. However, they said, the meeting was never formalized as an official faculty meeting (because there was no parliamentary structure).
The majority of the faculty arrived at 9:15 a.m., and at that time they were briefed on the situation. According to THE CORNELLIAN’S sources, ter there was pressure for the establishment of an official meeting, aimed at conciliatory measures toward the demonstrators.
At this time Doyle Raglon, the apparent leader of the demonstration, came out of Old Sem and addressed those assembled outside the building. (Raglon's remarks are reprinted in full on P· 2. ) This reporter noted that more applause than heckling greeted Raglon's remarks.
At approximately 9:45 a.m. President Stumpf and Dean Troyer crossed the mall to talk with Raglon who explained his demands. Raglon also stated that the group wanted a signed statement that their demands would be met by the administration and that no action would be taken against them.
At an open forum held in the Commons later that morning the substance of this conversation was questioned. (The transcript of this conversation appears in full on p. 2. )
Fifteen minutes later Professors Dana, Reichard, Krieger and Mikelson entered Old Sem to talk with the demonstrators. They told the group that police officers were on campus and that the demonstrators should voluntarily leave the building or they would be dragged out.
Raglon told the four men that the demonstrators would leave peacefully only if the administration would give· them written assurance that no action would be taken against them.
As the Chapel bell struck 10:00 a. m. , helmeted police carrying night sticks arrived on the Hilltop, led by Charles Cochran. The police proceeded in columns of two to the center of the Mall. The reaction of the crowd to the police began with a cheer but ended in nervous jeering and quiet.
At this point Raglon, followed by a number of the demonstrators, left Old Sem to talk to the sheriff.
Raglon was met there by President Stumpf who again listed to the requests of the demonstrators, indicating that the requests were "not acceptable" to him. He said the demonstrators had five minutes to evacuate the building, or, "We will have to repossess the building.”
Raglon went back inside the building to explain the situation to his followers. A few minutes later he reappeared with the rest of the demonstrators.
> As they left the building the demonstrators were arrested, ushered into school buses and taken to Mt. Vernon Justice of the Peace Woods amid choruses of “We Shall Overcome" and cries of "Join us. "
The demonstrators were arraigned on a minimal charge of unlawful assembly. Those who were Cornell students were released on their own recognizance, and the non-students were released on on $75 bail.
At 5:55 that evening President Stumpf released a statement saying that in its afternoon meeting: "The faculty of Cornell College has voted to suspend without prejudice the students who were in the administration building pending judicial determination of their cases by Cornell College."
Students passed out copies of this handbill that lists the requests of the black students. Click the button below to read, or click the image to enlarge and see more information.
Whereas certain Black students apparently by their presence at this demonstration, feel that the various policies and curricula in this institution make no allowance for the edification,either academically or socially,of its Black students within the context of their blackness, and whereas we feel that said allowances are essential in order to insure a more meaningful educational experience for both Blacks and Whites,in the following manner: by providing the former with a long-denied historical and cultural awareness of his identity on an individual as well as a collective level: and by informing the latter of those distinctpsychologioal and emotional characteristics of his Black colleagues resulting from the Black experience in America.
Acting in accordance with our commitment to the realization of this allowance as stated above, we submit the following list of proposals to the administrative body of Cornell College justly demanding their immediate fulfillment in toto.
l. We propose that plans be drawn up for a Black Activities center; to be located in the building presently referred to as Old Guild Hall, or any other standing building within the physical plant. A possible alternative is the hiring of a reputable architect (preferably Black) for the purpose of designing and building such a center.
Facilities to be provided by the center are:
1. A Black library consisting of works by Black authors in various Academic disciplines. Also containing an adequate assortment of Black periodicals and magazines.
2. An assembly hall, lecture hall, and an area reserved for social functions.
The Black activities center, though oriented toward Black objectives, Will be open to the public in general. It id to be directed by a council of five students or which no less than three must be black. This council, similar in purpose to the Commons Union Board,is to serve in an adminintrative capacity in accordance with the policy of innovating Black awareness.
We propose to provide the sum of $3,000.00 toward the establishment of the center. and ask that the remaining cost be supplied by the college.
II. Since we are required to attend a designated number of convocations, weask that at least ten per cent or the total number be given to Black speakers and entertainers .
III. We propose that Cornell establish a Black Curriculum of studies offering courses in the areas of art,literature and history,and others pertaining to African, and Afro-American Culture.
IV. We propose that efforts be increased to acquire Black instructors and at least one qualified Black person to serve in an advisory capacity.
Black Liberation handbill. Click the button below to read, or click the image to enlarge and see more information.
It is my roost serious conviction that Cornell College must arise from her soft and protected bed of complacency, that is to say,she must by any moans necessary become aware of he Black Students. Not only must Cornell become more aware, but he awareness must be followed by actions that sustain and support this black awareness. Therefore, a number of black students and white Students have chosen a course of action they deem necessary to bring about black awareness. We think that if there is any contusion it probably will result from the necessary means that we have chosen. We feel that in no way punitive measure should be taken against us for believing in something that we think right and necessary. We are not a “bunch of radicals” trying to necessarily bring Mother Cornell to her knees! We are not black and white guerillas setting out necessarily to destroy Cornell, who we think is a bad partner of the ugly white establishment. We are not punks and thugs passing the time away. But, we are thinkers attempting to solve the problems of the world in an intelligent manner. We are humans deeply concerned about humanity and feeling that any means is justified as long as it puts humanity back in the proper framework. We are men and women of the fact that we have chosen a way that is dangerous and uncomfortable tor all. However, when the last word has been said and we must account £or our actions we believe that we have chosen the best route and have traveled it with intelligence being our guide and fearlessness being our weapon.
We have chosen to accomplish our goals through channels contrary to those sanctioned by Cornell That is to say, we feel that our purpose is of such a nature that it couldn’t be brought about by the usual means of procedure. We think that Cornell must take immediate actions to stop its conscious and unconscious acts of psychological imperialism must be stopped. It is not something that we feel should be stopped tomorrow (in a hundred years)but the problem is such a serious nature that we must make up our minds to solve it today ,and even now. We, the Black students, don' t in any way wish to be white, We ,the white students, don’t want to in any way wish to see the Black students become white. There are, we feel justified in burying ourselves in Old Sem, until Cornell College decided to make up its mind to stop its acts of psychological imperialism.
We feel that it is not “absolutely” necessary to create acts of violence to solve this problem. We feel that Cornell has serious and vested interests in its Black student,and as a result will see that it is necessary to take our demands seriously and bring about their validity. We in no way feel that it is necessary to throw tears and threats upon Cornell to get her to act. However, we feel that our demands are of such a nature that any means is justified as long as we go about it intelligently and bring about our desired result:
ln conclusio, we hope that Cornell will act wisely and see as we do that we must stop making of blackman whiteman. We must make an all out effort to convince the fluctuating Negro that his life and future is dependent upon Black reality and white morality, Let us ask today to combat psychological imperialism of Black students.