Friday, November 15, 2019

CMU and the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam: 50 Years Later

by Bryan Whitledge

50 years ago, during the height of the Vietnam War, people from across the spectrum of American society joined in the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. Moratorium had two major components: The first was local demonstrations and programming that took place in communities across the US on Wednesday, October 15. These were followed one month later by a large demonstration on the National Mall in Washington, DC. For the October 15 Moratorium, activists and students at CMU worked through the summer of 1969 and into the fall to organize local events in Mt. Pleasant.

October 15, 1969 Moratorium Event at Finch Fieldhouse
The organizers planned a day of teach-ins, lectures, films, music, arts, peace vigils, and activism. Support came from all corners of the CMU and Mt. Pleasant area—businesses, activists, Greek organizations, student government, the Young Republicans and the College Democrats, the student newspaper, and even the President of the University and chair of the Board of Trustees. IM sports were cancelled, freeing up students from having to choose between skipping their games or participating in Moratorium.

CMU President Bill Boyd (center) during
the candlelight march, October 15, 1969
By all measures, the Mt. Pleasant event was a success. The October 15 Moratorium in Mt. Pleasant brought out thousands—students, faculty, staff and administration at Central, as well as members of the surrounding community. Among the highlights of the day was the candlelight vigil and march during the evening (pictured).

The CMU organizers achieved their goal for October 15. The next step was supposed to be figuring out how to get those CMU students who wanted to go to Washington for the November 13-15 events to connect with the other Michigan delegations and head to the nation’s capital. The national organizers made those connections easier for the CMU activists—they asked Central students, led by Paul Puma, to head up the coordination of all of the activists in Michigan who wanted to go to Washington. Michigan State University organizers may have led a march to the State Capitol and the University of Michigan Moratorium may have brought in 50,000 to Michigan Stadium, but the Central students garnered the attention of the National Moratorium Committee for their energy and organization.

As the statewide leaders, on November 1, a conference was held at the CMU University Center, with 25 Michigan colleges and universities represented. Throughout the planning process, a CMU office and a Detroit office were established to provide services for Moratorium organizing efforts across the state. Signatures from people throughout Michigan who did not travel to Washington were collected on a 75-foot-long banner to be taken to the National Moratorium.

75-foot-long signed petition
For Central specifically, planning meant transporting activists from Mt. Pleasant to Washington, DC safely. Each student who was traveling was advised to pick up a sheet with information about where to go if one encountered trouble, the location of the meeting point for all Michiganders, who to contact in case of emergency, and more.

Planning also meant raising funds: Students could catch a round trip on a chartered bus for $24. The Moratorium committee sold photo books from the October event. They sold handmade holiday cards. They sold baked goods. Student government pledged a loan of up to $2,500 to fund travels if the money couldn’t be secured from other sources, but that pledge wasn’t needed because the Moratorium committee secured loans from other CMU students and faculty members in short order. The organizers hoped to host a “kegger” to raise money, but the police informed those planning the event that charging a cover fee to a venue serving alcohol required a liquor license—so, five bands showed up, day-glo body paint was suppied, and they held a dry party instead. Moratorium organizers also asked Greek organizations to donate the cost of one party to the Moratorium effort, and many came through with the funds.

Poster from Washington, DC, Moratorium
All of the planning efforts culminated on Friday, November 14, when five buses left CMU, to return on the 16th. Originally, organizers thought they had seven buses to use, but President Boyd made it clear that the two CMU-owned buses would not be used because Moratorium was not a CMU event and CMU didn’t operate motor coach company. While CMU couldn’t supply buses, the administration and staff supported the trip in other ways. Food services made sandwiches and snacks for every student on the buses—not enough for the whole trip, but enough to lighten the burden on the activists. President Boyd told students that a member of the administration, Harry Travis, was attending a different meeting in Washington, DC, and would be available to students in case of emergency.

In Washington, approximately 1,000 Central students joined hundreds of thousands of other activists in the national Moratorium events. With so much going on, Central students came back with a variety of experiences. Some remember the hospitality of families who opened their doors and gave them a place to stay. Others returned with ephemera from the event (pictured above). Others were caught up caught up in DuPont Circle when police broke up a conflict with tear gas. And some remember Pete Seeger leading hundreds of thousands in singing “Give Peace a Chance” near the White House.

Michigan Delegation in Washington, November 15, 1969
Back at Central, President Boyd acknowledged that missing classes was not something that should go without consequences, but he urged professors to lighten up on punitive action for those who missed class to participate in Moratorium events in Washington or on the CMU campus. At Central, students placed 1,900 crosses on the Warriner Mall to mark each Michigan service member killed in action. A documentary film was shown and lectures were given by activists, religious leaders, politicians, and community members.

In October and November of 1969, the “fired up and focused” activists and students at CMU stood up for what they believed and made a lasting impact in Michigan, Washington, and beyond.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Bath School House Disaster Presentation

Frank Boles

When people talk of violence in a school setting, most people think of places like Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two teens went on a shooting spree in 1999. Michael Moore’s film, Bowling for Columbine, used this tragedy to discuss guns in America. In a presentation Moore made about this film, he challenged his Michigan audience by saying, “but I bet not one of you remember the Bath School House disaster, do you?” noting that more people died in the Bath disaster than at Columbine.

George Robson was in Michael Moore’s audience that night, and he did remember Bath, vividly. After Moore’s talk, Robson approached him and told Moore what he knew of the events at Bath. After listening for a few minutes to Mr. Robson, Moore said simply, “you’ve got to tell people this story!” Which is what George Robson did on October 2 in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium in the Park Library. 

On May 18, 1927, Andrew Kehoe, the 55-year-old school board treasurer in Bath, Michigan, used timing devices to set off an explosion that devastated the north wing of the Bath Consolidated School building, killing 36 schoolchildren and two teachers. As rescuers began working at the school, Kehoe drove up in his truck, stopped, and detonated dynamite inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle. He killed himself, the school superintendent, and several others nearby, as well as injuring many bystanders.

What made Mr. Robson’s story more poignant was that both his parents were survivors of the disaster. That day, his mother had been in a second-story classroom when the bomb went off. After the explosion, the hall in front of the classroom door was gone. The door opened into the air. The building on the other side,  including the hallway, was gone. Eventually, people with ladders helped her and the other students stranded on the second floor to the ground.

George’s mother remembered that Mr. Robson’s father, the president of the senior class who had asked her to be his special guest at the coming commencement ceremony, had walked through that vanished hallway only seconds before. He was on his way to rehearse his commencement speech at a church next to the school. As he walked by, he had waved and smiled at her. A little more dynamite underneath the building or a few seconds delay in the hallway, and either or both could have been among those who died.

Although the disaster received significant coverage in newspapers, it soon was eclipsed by other news. 

On May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, having flown solo across the Atlantic from North America. As the papers turned their coverage to Lucky Lindy’s exploit, Bath was forgotten. In Bath itself, there was a reaction that many today would find curious. Today when disasters strike, there is a tremendous urge to remember and memorialize. But in Bath, the goal seemed simply to move forward. There were no vigils or memorial ceremonies, and only one, ambiguous memorial was created. 

In 1928, artist Carleton W. Angell presented the community with a memorial statue entitled Girl With a Cat. The statue was funded by pennies collected by schoolchildren throughout the state.

The statue, however, did not document the event or list the victims. Nor was the statue prominently displayed in the community. When George, as a youngster, first saw it tucked away in a corner of the school building that had been constructed to replace the destroyed Bath Consolidated School, he asked his mother about it. She simply said it memorialized a terrible tragedy.  

In 1991, a Michigan Historical Marker was established in Bath that recalled the facts of the incident. A separate marker listing the names of those killed was also installed in 1991.

To hear Mr. Robson’s presentation click on this link:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Shaping Memories Through 3 Lenses

Frank Boles

Thursday, September 26 the Clarke Library opened its current exhibit, “Shaping Memories through 3 Lenses”. The show features photographs from Peggy Brisbane, Robert Barclay, and Steve Jessmore, who from 1980 through 2018 served as CMU’s campus photographers, and who collectively have contributed over one million images to the CMU University Archives.

At the exhibit opening each of the photographers was asked to select and describe a few of their favorite images. The images, and the stories each photographer shared, made for a fascinating evening.

Peggy Brisbane told one story of one of CMU’s most iconic photos: the toilet paper toss that once was a part of every CMU home basketball game. For reasons that were never quite clear, in 1986 students began to toss rolls of toilet paper into the air when a member of the CMU basketball team made the team’s first basket. Thousands of rolls of toilet paper would go flying – so many that local stores had toilet paper sales on the day of home basketball games. Janitors also noticed that bathrooms in the residence halls and other CMU buildings were emptied of toilet paper in the hours before the game.

Sports Illustrated picked up Peggy’s picture of the toilet paper toss and ran it in a small corner of the magazine. Without telling Peggy, a student submitted an article about the toilet paper toss to People Magazine. People’s editor loved the story, but also wanted a picture. Peggy filled out a standard PR request from the magazine for the image with little thought. She was shocked when the picture ran across two pages in the magazine.

The student who submitted the article received a small stipend from People, and sheepishly asked Peggy if he should share it with her. Peggy responded that taking the picture was her job – and she was quite happy with settling for “merely” a by-line in a national magazine. The “tradition” came to an end in 1987 when frustrated basketball officials decided that the 10-15 minutes needed to clean up the mess on the court constituted a “delay of game,” and began to assess CMU a technical foul for the behavior of its fans.

Robert Barclay shared a story about a photo he had taken of the late Dick Enberg. Robert had just been hired in 1980, and was excited to learn he would be photographing Dick Enberg at the spring commencement ceremony. Enberg was a CMU alumni and one of the country’s leading sports announcers. He was also a veritable legend to Robert. 

Robert was there when a student passing by Enberg shouted out, “I’m from Armada.” Armada, Michigan, with a population of about 1,700, was also Enberg’s home town. When Enberg heard the student he smiled broadly and gave him a big thumbs up, an image Robert caught. Enberg liked the photo, and asked for a dozen or so for his personal use.

In 2012, a bust of Enberg was donated to the university’s Kulhavi Events Center. Enberg was invited to campus for the unveiling of the art work. Enberg reminisced that the bust was based on one of his favorite photos, a picture taken by a photographer here at CMU when he spoke at the 1980 commencement. In a private moment with Enberg, Robert told him, “that’s my photo,” to which Enberg replied, “you’re still here?” 

Steve Jessmore spoke of how serendipity and patience could play an important role in his work. He displayed an image of a young man, wearing a gold hoodie, walking in front of Warriner Hall, framed by maroon and gold. Steve started by noting that he always tried to take a different route to and from his appointments on campus, looking for pictures. As he walked by Warriner Hall that day, he realized the autumn leaves and chrysanthemums would frame a perfect shot of a student walking by Warriner. There were two slight problems – the student needed to be wearing school colors for the picture to work, and to get the angle he wanted he had to push his way into the bushes. He felt like a stalker, waiting to leap out at a passerby dressed in maroon and gold. Forty-five minutes later however, his ability to envision a picture and his patience in waiting for just the right moment had created a photo that would appear on the cover of the CMU Bulletin.

To enjoy the full presentation please click this link: The exhibit, curated by Janet Danek and Peggy Brisbane, will remain open until February.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Indigenous Peoples' Day 2019

By Frank Boles
With one of the nation’s premiere collections documenting the history of the People of the Three Fires, the Clarke Historical Library’s material speaks with many voices regarding the Chippewa, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples.
On this day we remember one of those voices—that of Simon Pokagon. Born in southwest Michigan in approximately 1830, Simon Pokagon was the son of Leopold Pokagon, who was a leader of the of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Simon would also become a leader of the Band. Pokagon was well educated by the standards of the day. He attended both Notre Dame and Oberlin. He eventually became an author and spokesperson for his people.
One of his most remembered addresses, which he also published as a pamphlet, occurred at the World’s Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair). In the 1880s, several large cities had expressed an interest in organizing a World’s Fair to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America. The interest in sponsoring the fair was very pragmatic. The crowds that everyone anticipated attending the event would generate an immediate profit for those who underwrote the fair’s expenses. Other hoped-for benefits included boosting local real estate values and generally promoting the city in which the fair was held.

When it became clear that several cities planned to go forward with their own fair, Congress became involved and belatedly selected Chicago as the fair’s site. Because of its dithering in making the decision, Congress officially declared the fair would take place in 1893, rather than 1892, the more precise year for a Columbus quadricentennial.
The World’s Columbian Exposition opened on May 1, 1893. In order to help attract an audience, the fair’s organizers regularly sponsored “Special Days.” Almost every day the Fair was open a Special Day celebrated one group or another, from the Ancient Order of Foresters Day (August 15) through Venezuela Day (July 5). As part of this endless string of Special Days, October 9 was designated Chicago Day. To celebrate, Simon Pokagon was asked to come to Chicago to represent the original inhabitants of the land. Pokagon was invited to ride on a parade float, and more importantly make a speech. It is said that he spoke to nearly 75,000 people. 
Whatever the actual number of people, the speech Pokagon gave was not likely the one the crowd expected. Titled, The Red Man’s Rebuke, Pokagon pointed out that the arrival of Columbus was something to celebrate if one were white,
On behalf of my people, the American Indians, I hereby declare to you, the pale-faced race that has usurped our lands and homes, that we have no spirit to celebrate with you the great Columbian Fair now being held in this Chicago city, the wonder of the world. No; sooner would we hold the high joy day over the graves of our departed than to celebrate our own funeral, the discovery of America. And while...your hearts in admiration rejoice over the beauty and grandeur of this young republic and you say, 'behold the wonders wrought by our children in this foreign land,' do not forget that this success has been at the sacrifice of our homes and a once happy race.”
Simon Pokagon’s published works, including printed versions of The Red Man’s Rebuke which he printed on birch bark, are found in the Clarke Historical Library.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

CMU Faculty Association Celebrates 50th Anniversary

by Bryan Whitledge

Growing Pains When Moving from a College to a University

The 1960s were a decade of extraordinary change at Central – buildings sprouted up south of Preston Street, the number of students enrolled crossed the threshold of 10,000,[1] and the number of faculty nearly doubled, from 270 in 1959, when Central became a university, to 531 in 1969. Some faculty also grew unhappy with existing policies. For instance, the early 1960s were marked by personnel procedures that were not necessarily well defined; one critical example was that a faculty retention or promotion decision could come down to a faculty member's "usefulness to the University" – a term the administration never clarified.[2] Another policy that raised eyebrows was that of removing tenure from women professors who married.[3] While not all faculty were unhappy with the administration in the early 1960s, some faculty members sought an increased role in institutional governance and defining personnel policies.

Concern in this area first emerged in 1956, when faculty at Central organized a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP was and is active across the country supporting faculty in dealing with issues of tenure and academic freedom. In the beginning, Central’s administration expressed little concern about the AAUP chapter.[4] But within a few years, the AAUP chapter became a vehicle through which dissatisfied faculty criticized the administration. In 1963, the Central Michigan AAUP released a comparison of compensation between faculty at CMU and other institutions. The AAUP assigned CMU a grade of "D" on an A-E scale.[5] By the time this report was released, the campus AAUP chapter was both battling CMU President Judson Foust about a number of issues and bringing their complaints to the AAUP’s national leadership. From 1964 to 1966, the conflict between the faculty and the administration grew and deepened.

In 1966, amid the immediate aftermath of a scathing State Senate investigation into the faculty-administration relationships[6], and in the context of the passage of the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) of 1965, some faculty members began to urge the creation of a faculty organization to engage in collective bargaining with the University. A survey of the faculty showed that this goal was not universal and there was no support, at the time, for founding a new organization. A majority of faculty members did not support collective bargaining. Of those faculty who did support collective bargaining, the majority hoped the AAUP chapter would serve as their bargaining agent.[7]

Aerial view, CMU Campus, ca. 1969

Labor Organization on Campus

While some faculty members continued to explore their options, they undoubtedly paid close attention to other unionization efforts on campus. In 1966, CMU kitchen, maintenance, and custodial workers formed AFSCME Local 1568. In October 1966, AFSCME members picketed to demand a contract with the University. Their picketing was informational rather than a work-stoppage. But as negotiations, which were already months behind schedule, continued to drag on, the union threatened a strike. Before a strike occurred, a contract was signed.[8]

Another potential strike was averted in July 1968 when CMU staff represented by AFSCME voted to strike.[9] After last minute negotiations, an agreement was reached. Although, at this time, the faculty were not part of any labor organization, many instructors and professors sympathized with those who were unionized and were watching the outcome with great interest.

Change Comes to the University Administration

President Judson Foust’s retirement was announced in the May 19, 1967 Central Michigan Life. A committee of four faculty, four administrators, and one alum counseled the Board of Trustees, who selected William B. Boyd as CMU’s president in April 1968. Boyd was considered a liberal administrator with experience in the California system as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UC-Berkeley. Many hoped he would be an administrator who could work successfully with the faculty.[10]

Boyd was extremely effective in dealing with student challenges and protests during a particularly tumultuous time in American higher education. Boyd attempted to use these same skills to develop better relationships with the faculty and to convince the faculty that he had their best interests in mind. He appointed faculty who identified themselves as activists to committees and invited them into the administrative apparatus of the University. Within two years of Boyd’s appointment, the University Senate (now Academic Senate) was restructured for the second time in six years to increase faculty participation.[11]

But the animosity that had developed between the administration and some faculty members since the early 1960s could not be healed with dialog and the greater participation President Boyd proposed. Even during President Boyd’s "honeymoon period," some faculty expressed concern over what they perceived as hostile actions by CMU’s administration. During Boyd’s first year in office, the Trustees abandoned the idea of a salary schedule that would have been a move toward a standardized pay and promotion policy.[12] Arbitrary decision-making about pay and promotions was a long-standing complaint among some faculty. They clearly felt that nothing of substance had changed, even if there was a new president. Immediately after the salary schedule was dismissed at the April 1968 Board meeting, an administrative officer reportedly stated to the Board of Trustees, "I believe you have just asked for collective bargaining."[13]

Faculty Concerns Lead to Organization

The faculty did indeed begin organizing and the AAUP was contacted and asked to serve as a bargaining agent. When the AAUP proved unable to serve in this capacity, a group of faculty members contacted the Michigan Education Association (MEA), which since the 1965 PERA legislation had been active in collective bargaining in K-12 education. The MEA agreed to be the affiliated agent of the faculty at CMU and, as outlined by state law, arrangements were made to hold a vote among the entire faculty to decide whether or not to organize as a bargaining unit. The date was set for September 24, 1969.[14]

Prior to the vote, the Board of Trustees and the Boyd Administration attempted to head off unionization. In the summer of 1969, the Board of Trustees requested a meeting with faculty members "to have a conversation on personnel matters of mutual interest."[15] President Boyd, during his faculty address on September 8, made direct comments about the vote later that month. He stated that he understood where the desire to organize came from, noting both past difficulties with the administration and the Trustees actions that did not allow for adequate faculty consultation. Despite this history, President Boyd could not have been clearer in sharing what he believed would be in the faculty’s best interest:
"Personally, I hope that this faculty will reject the proposed approach of collective bargaining and rely instead on the continued development of internal governing procedures which will give the faculty a collective and powerful voice in the establishment of budget priorities and in the determination of salaries."[16]

In justifying his hopes, President Boyd stated that collective bargaining would pit administration against faculty in an adversarial relationship defined in the traditional context of management and labor. In his view, an academic institution should be governed by reasoned deliberation among colleagues, rather than an industrial-relations model of two negotiating enemies. Despite his clearly stated preference, Boyd assured the faculty that there would be no professional or personal rancor on his part regardless of the vote’s outcome. Boyd assured all that he wanted to "proceed in good faith to work together for the continued improvement of the University."[17]

The election took place on September 24, 1969. Professor Sherman Ricards described the vote in his memoir:
"I remember the election took place in the Library and some of us were there when the voting finished to await the counting of the ballots. We were all as nervous as we could be but we were trying not to show it. As the man from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission opened the box the tension became almost unbearable. After dumping all of the ballots on the table, he began by sorting the ballots into two groups, though we didn’t know which was the ‘yes’ pile and which was the ‘no’ pile. When he finished sorting he began to count each pile, and I seem to recall he put them in stacks of ten or twenty. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time he announced that there were 231 yes votes and 221 no votes – the union had won!"[18]

CM Life photo, Sept. 26, 1969
The results reported by CM Life showed that 239 faculty supported the measure, while 221 said no.[19] Whether one takes Ricards’ tally or the CM Life tally to be accurate, the Michigan Association of Higher Education at Central Michigan University[20] was formed by a slim margin. For some, the narrow majority favoring unionization raised questions. Did the voice of a narrow majority carry enough weight with the Administration or within the faculty itself?

No matter the questions, the faculty at CMU were now a collective bargaining unit - the first such group of faculty at any four-year college or university in Michigan and the second collective bargaining agent representing faculty at four-year institutions in the US, after the City College of New York.[21]


1. Central Michigan University Bulletin, 1959; Central Michigan University Bulletin, 1969.

2. Cumming, John, The First Hundred Years: A Portrait of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Mich.: Central Michigan University, 1993, pp. 160-67.

3. Foust, Judson, "Correspondence – American Association of University Professors, 1961-63," found in Box 1, President Judson W. Foust Papers, 1923-2002, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.

4. Cumming, p. 160.

5. Westie, Charles, "Committee Z Reports," found in Box 3, Ardith Westie Family Papers, 1931-2018, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.

6. Central Michigan Life, June 3, 1966, pp. 1-4.

7. Faculty Association, "Faculty Association Brochure, 1978," found in Box 1, Central Michigan University Faculty Association Organizational Records, 1944-2003, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.

8. Cumming, p. 170.

9. "Staff Strike Threatened," Central Michigan Life, July 18, 1968, p. 1.

10. Cumming, p. 176.

11. Cumming, pp. 181-82.

12. Faculty Association, "Faculty Association Brochure, 1978."

13. Faculty Association, "Faculty Association Brochure, 1978."

14. Cumming, p. 182; Faculty Association, "Faculty Association Brochure, 1978."

15. Board of Trustees, Central Michigan University, Meeting, July 16, 1969, pp. 57-58.

16. Boyd, William, "Faculty Address, 1968," found in Central Michigan University, Office of the President, William B. Boyd Papers, 1968-78, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.

17. Boyd, William, "Faculty Address, 1968."

18. Ricards, Sherman, For Myself Alone, 1982, p. 255

19. Hanlon, Jim, "Bargaining agent accepted by faculty for contract negotiations," Central Michigan Life, September 26, 1969, p. 1.

20. The name was soon changed to the CMU Faculty Association.

21. Cumming, p. 182; Faculty Association, "Faculty Association Brochure, 1978."