Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Students’ Adventures in University Archives

June 25th, 2019

This week’s post was written by Hannah Scupham, an English 102 instructor and Doctoral Candidate in English Literature at the University of Kansas.

“I feel like a detective!”

“I didn’t even know this stuff was here!”

“This is SO cool!”

These are just a few of the comments I heard as my English 102 students (mostly freshmen and sophomores) hunched over folders and boxes from the University Archives about past student life and organizations from the past 100 years at KU. For most of my students, this was their first experience in Spencer Research Library, and this experience with archival documents was new and exciting. Although most professors and graduate students use archives for their own research, undergraduate students are often unaware of why archives exist and how they operate. This past semester, I brought my English 102 students into Spencer Research Library and, with the help of University Archivist Becky Schulte, they got hands-on experience doing exciting research with primary sources from the University Archives.

Photograph of a CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall, 1964
A CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall (now the Watkins Museum of History), 1964. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1964 Negatives: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998
Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998. Photograph by R. Steve Dick for KU University Relations. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1998 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The goal of English 102 is to teach students how to become scholarly writers and researchers and to expose them to scholarly writing genres and research methods. For the past few years, I have always included a unit in my English 102 course that tackles debates and issues in higher education. I want my students to consider the point of their college education as well as learning about issues such as the adjunct crisis, student debt, academic freedom, and increasing administrative oversight. One of the major issues that my students enjoy debating and discussing is student activism. Many students hold the misconception that college campuses have recently become political spaces in just the past five years, yet after diving into the University Archives, we can see that universities and colleges have always been spaces that reflect and respond to the opinions, needs, desires, and politics of its students.

For this assignment, each student was responsible for learning about their chosen KU student organization through archival materials, and they shared their findings with their classmates through presentations that highlighted a particular object from the archive. By examining both the mundane documents of past student life organizations and the media coverage of former student activist groups, my students discovered the lives of past KU students.

Photograph of members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982
Members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/27 1982 Prints: Student Activities: Persons with Disabilities (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of members of KU's Tau Sigma Dance Society, 1932
Members of KU’s Tau Sigma Dance Society next to Potter Lake, 1932. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 67/100 1932 Prints: Student Organizations: Tau Sigma (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Taking all of the student presentations as a whole, the University Archives depict KU’s rich and vibrant history featuring passionate, curious, and community-orientated students. The Archives detail the past lives and struggles of KU student activists like the members of CORE, who fought for desegregation in Lawrence. The archival information about groups such as the Black Student Union, the February Sisters, and Students Concerned with Disabilities also serve as a potent reminder of how students can agitate for change within the university. The University Archives also offers a glimpse into the types of communities from athletics (Tau Sigma [Dance] and Sasnak) to events (KU Medieval Society and KU Home Economics Club) to specialized studies organizations (Graduate Math Women and Wives and the Cosmopolitan Club) that students have made possible throughout KU’s history. My students finished their time in Spencer Research Library not only knowing the basics of how to use archival sources, but also having a larger sense of how their own time at KU will contribute to a long tradition of student life. Many of them noted how much they enjoyed working with primary documents and how they hoped they would be able to return to Spencer Research Library for work in their future classes! (Perhaps there will be a wave of new librarians and archivists in the next four years? Hopefully!)

Personally, I want to give a big thank you to everyone in Spencer Research Library who helped my English 102 students during this process, and a very special thank you for Becky Schulte, without whom these projects could not have happened.

Hannah Scupham, M.A.
University of Kansas Doctoral Candidate, English Literature
Chancellor’s Fellow
Lilly Graduate Fellow

Throwback Thursday: Memorial March Edition

December 1st, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 31,400 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

This week’s photograph highlights a student protest that took place at KU on this date in 1972.

Photograph of a KU student protest, December 1, 1972

Students carrying a sign reading “injury to one, an inj[ury] to all” during a protest,
December 1, 1972. Dyche (left) and Spooner (right) halls can be seen in the background.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/18 1972: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

An article about the Friday protest appeared in the University Daily Kansan the following Monday, December 4th. (Only a portion is included here.)

Two University of Kansas black student leaders urged blacks at a rally Friday to stand together against “white oppression and racism.”

Mickey Dean, Sandersville, Ga., junior and president of the Black Student Union (BSU), and Ron Washington, acting assistant director of the Supportive Educational Services (SES), spoke to the predominantly black crowd of 300 in front of Strong Hall.

The rally, a memorial for two black students [Denver Smith and Leonard Brown] killed at Southern University [in Baton Rouge, Louisiana] Nov. 17 [sic], followed a march from the Kansas Union. The rally and the march were sponsored by the BSU…

The rally, which was called at the request of black student groups at Southern U., would let people of Lawrence know what blacks are thinking, Dean said.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Smoke and Fire: Political and Civil Unrest at the University

May 5th, 2015

By 1969 American society was increasingly uncivil and the University of Kansas was facing a crisis. The struggle for civil rights and racial equality continued, but was joined by a radicalized white youth. They did not believe that American involvement in the Vietnam War was justifiable and had no interest in being drafted. Tension would remain high throughout the year, culminating in the so-called “Days of Rage” that included racial conflicts, student protests, bomb threats, arson, and sniper fire. This second and final part in a series about two of the most tumultuous years for the University outlines the events from May 1969 to May 1970.

May 9, 1969: Protest Cancels ROTC Review

The annual Chancellor’s ROTC Review was cancelled when 200 protesters broke down the gate into Memorial Stadium. They began by reading the names of the 33,379 servicemen and women killed in Vietnam to date and then joined together on the field and started a sit-in, chanting and waving signs against the ROTC. Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe decided the review could not be accomplished in such circumstances and wanted to avoid violence from the agitated crowd. The protest was organized by KU Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Afterward, 33 of 71 identified protestors were suspended for one semester by KU in confidential hearings. The event left Wescoe visibly drained and worried about what lay ahead; his fears would not be unfounded.

 

Photograph of ROTC demonstration in front of Strong Hall, May 1969

The group of protestors rallies in front of Strong Hall before their disruption
of the ROTC Review, May 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1969: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of a ROTC demonstration, May 9, 1969

Protestors during the ROTC Review at Memorial Stadium, May 9, 1969.
ROTC members stand on the track in the background. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1969: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

October 15, 1969: National Vietnam Moratorium Day

More than 3,500 KU students, faculty, and locals paraded on Memorial Drive and Jayhawk Boulevard in protest of the Vietnam War. Later, about 150 people gathered in front of Strong Hall in a silent vigil held behind rows of white crosses. The day also included four KU professors making their case against the war inside Hoch Auditorium, attended by 3,000 students. Similar rallies and gatherings were happening all over the country, pressuring President Nixon to change policy in the Vietnam War.

Photograph of protestors lined up behind white crosses, October 15, 1969

Protestors lined up behind white crosses on the lawn of Strong Hall on
National Vietnam Moratorium Day, October 15, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1969: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click images to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of two men silently protesting on campus, October 15, 1969

Two men silently protesting on campus,
National Vietnam Moratorium Day, October 15, 1969.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1969:
Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

February 23, 1970: University Daily Kansan dumped into Potter Lake

In retaliation for the University printers’ decision to no longer print the Black Student Union’s (BSU) Harambee, the group gathered 6,000 copies of the UDK and tossed them into Potter Lake on campus. Harambee celebrated black culture and encouraged black solidarity. It ran information for a scholarship program established by BSU but also included Black Power Movement ideology, like the need for oppressed people to arm themselves to achieve freedom. The reaction from some white groups deemed the material obscene and inflammatory, leading to the printers’ decision to discontinue its service.

Photograph of men pulling copies of the University Daily Kansan out of Potter Pond, February 23, 1970

Photograph of men pulling copies of the University Daily Kansan out of Potter Pond, February 23, 1970

Black Student Union Protest, men pulling copies of the University Daily Kansan
out of Potter Pond, February 23, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

February 26, 1970: Black Student Union Protest

The BSU presented a list of demands calling for more black faculty members and students and the creation of a black studies program. The timetable for the demands was deemed unrealistic by Chancellor Chalmers, but an African Studies program would be created later in the year.

April 20, 1970: Arson Fire at Memorial Union

The culminating act in a day of mayhem and a week of civil disorder on the KU campus, a period often referred to as the “Days of Rage,” was the April 20, 1970, fire at the Kansas Union. Eventually deemed arson, the fire caused nearly a million dollars in damage and took place against the backdrop of a nation in turmoil over the Vietnam War and racial unrest in a college town considered a “hot bed” of political activism and protest.

Photograph of the Memorial Union fire, 1970

Memorial Union fire, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54/f 1970: Campus Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of the Memorial Union fire, exterior damage, 1970

Memorial Union fire, exterior damage, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54/f 1970: Campus Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Memorial Union fire, interior damage, 1970

Memorial Union fire, interior damage, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54/i 1970: Campus Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

May 5-8, 1970

The month of May witnessed the greatest display of campus dissent and disorder. As the end of the 1970 school year approached, KU protesters urged fellow students to go on strike. After the US invasion of Cambodia and four student deaths at Kent State, the campus was on high alert.

May 5: A coffin-bearing crowd of 500 marches against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State massacre.

May 6: ROTC Review was cancelled for the second straight year as a crowd of 1,000 rallies against the group on campus. About 200 re-grouped and damaged the Military Science Building on campus.

Photograph of the Military Science Building, damage from student protests, May 7, 1970

Military Science Building, damage from student protests, May 7, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

May 8: Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers held an Alternative Convocation attended by 12,000 and allowed students to choose between finishing the semester in classes or completing the semester early and taking part in some political activity of their choice. Antiwar activists were upset the University did not take an official stand against the war and close down. Conservative politicians, regents, and alumni thought the Chancellor caved in to student radicals.

Photograph of Day of Alternatives, Chancellor Chalmers with students, May 8, 1970

Chancellor Chalmers with students at Memorial Stadium for the
Alternative Convocation, May 8, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Day of Alternatives, Chancellor Chalmers addressing students, May 8, 1970

Day of Alternatives, Chancellor Chalmers addressing students at Memorial Stadium, May 8, 1970.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

JoJo Palko
University Archives Intern