Years of Crises: the 1960s

The typical Penn State student, asserted Undergraduate Student Government president Robert Katzenstein on 1966, "is passive, conscientious, law abiding, responsible, and [socially] ultraconservative. He is content to study, date, and perform the rituals of existence. . . . The term system has reduced his extracurricular activities and has increased his concentration on his books." Katzenstein's observation was equally applicable to any year of the late 1960s. Yet these years are best remembered as the era of student activism, a time when youth rebelled-sometimes violently-against established authority. The popular attention that this rebellion received often obscured the fact that at Penn State and most other institutions, a majority of students took no part in protest marches, sit-ins, flag burnings, building occupations, and other such activities favored by campus dissidents.

The importance of the student activist movement should not be measured by the relatively small number of participants. Although only a few students were outspoken in their opposition to established policies, they effectively changed the relationship between administrators and all students. As administrators and students themselves came to realize, the passive majority often embraced the goals, if not the methods, of the activist minority.


The beginning of the student activist era is usually dated from the unrest that occurred at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 1964. What began as an apparent drive by a small band of students to preserve an element of free speech burgeoned into a massive display of student displeasure with the general administrative policies of the university. Berkeley students began to raise questions about the relevance of the curriculum and their power in shaping it. They complained about their alienation from faculty and administrators and demanded that they, not the institution, set the rules that governed their lives outside the classroom. The issues aroused strong feelings. Violence threatened to erupt several times in the course of three months of unrest as buildings were occupied, strikes called, and police summoned.

The penn state campus in 1964 arial view

The campus in 1964

What was significant about the disorder was not which side was right but rather that the same issues were being raised at colleges and universities across the nation. In loco parentis, for example, had been a point of contention at Berkeley. It was the concept whereby the university exercised parental-like authority over the social lives of undergraduates, and it was to be the issue that sparked the first major confrontation between students and administrators at Penn State.

In this case the activists were representatives of the Undergraduate Student Government, the Association of Women Students, and the Town Independent Men. They submitted that the in loco parentis doctrine was outmoded: The time had come for the University to recognize that social customs and attitudes had changed dramatically over the previous twenty years. For two years, student leaders pressed the administration to allow women students to visit men living in off-campus apartments. Finally, early in 1966, the Administrative Committee on Student Affairs, headed by Vice President for Student Affairs Robert Bernreuter, agreed to study the matter and make recommendations for an updated visitation policy.

The committee presented a preliminary report in April. Although it had voted 11-1 to approve unrestricted visitation, Bernreuter considered the vote a tie, insisting that Dean of Men Frank Simes had good reasons for his lone dissent. The committee then recommended that women be permitted to visit men's apartments without chaperones, provided that at least three couples were present and the visits had been previously registered with a board of control composed of students from AWS and TIM. Members of this board were also to have the right to make unannounced inspections of apartments to make certain that no sexual misconduct or violations of drinking laws occurred. Students regarded the proposals as still too restrictive and were outraged by the 11-1 "tie." To show their dissatisfaction, over 2,000 undergraduates gathered at a USG-sponsored rally on the lawn of Old Main on April 30. It was the largest such assemblage the University had yet seen.

student protests 1966
(Left) Women students stage "Heel and Hose" demonstration in front of Old Main in March 1966 to protest the University's regulation prohibiting them from visiting men living in off-campus apartments. (Right) Vice President for Student Affairs Robert Bernreuter observes student speakers at the pro-visitation rally on Old Main lawn, April 1966.


The Bernreuter committee referred its report to the University Senate. The senate had fewer qualms about abandoning the doctrine of in loco parentis and in June approved a visitation plan having only one constraint. Women could visit men living off campus only after placing on file with the University, at the beginning of each academic year, written parental consent. By giving parents an opportunity, at least in theory, to participate in changing University social regulations, the new policy represented a skillful face-saving gesture for administrators.

Students did not let up their campaign to eliminate other restrictions on their social lives, and on some items they won without a struggle. Dress codes that demanded men wear jackets and ties and women skirts or dresses to evening meals were soon abolished. Women also gained an extension of weeknight curfew until 1:00 A.m., and then curfew was dropped altogether. But on the two biggest issues-allowing women to live off campus and letting men and women visit each other's residence hall rooms-the administration refused concessions.

Both of these issues drew the same kind of widespread support among students that apartment visitation had received earlier. By 1968, however, the drive to liberalize regulations governing social conduct became enmeshed with other activist campaigns that commanded the allegiance of a relatively small number of students whose objectives extended beyond the routine operation of the University. Student dissent at Penn State was about to enter a new phase. The movement had no agreed-upon leader or group of leaders. The very description of it as a "movement" implies a cohesiveness that never really existed. Student activists had a diverse and sometimes mutually exclusive series of objectives and were united only by a common dissatisfaction with the status quo.

This new union was exemplified in September 1968 by the largest protest demonstration the University had seen since the apartment visitation rally of 1966. Ostensibly, the protesters were objecting to a lack of student housing. Enrollment at University Park had increased by over a thousand students from the previous year, but the University had failed to give due consideration to housing them. It had announced in 1966 that no new residence halls would be built, although enrollment was expected to increase well into the 1970s. This was supposed to be the cue for private developers to construct more apartments and other dwellings for students, but planning and construction took time. Meanwhile, students came in ever larger numbers. As the fall term of 1968 got under way, more than eight hundred students were squeezed-almost literally-into recreation rooms, study lounges, and other temporary quarters in dormitories already filled to capacity. As many as four hundred were reported to be searching for places to live in town when classes began.

Hoping to force the University to do something to alleviate the housing shortage, a small group of students (some homeless and some not) pitched a few tents on the lawn of Old Main. But "Walkertown," as the little settlement was christened, came to symbolize more than just anger over housing problems. An open-air platform was erected on that part of the lawn nearest President Walker's second-story Old Main office. From this podium, at sporadic intervals over the next two weeks, leaders of an ad hoc Free Speech Movement spoke out against a long list of ills they felt were besetting the University and the nation.

Many of the speakers strongly objected to America's growing military involvement in Vietnam. That was an issue of concern to many Penn State students, although it had stirred few to active protest. A handful of students had burned their draft cards as early as 1965, and there had been occasional antiwar teach-ins and lectures, but there had been nothing comparable to the violent demonstrations against the war that had taken place at Berkeley, Columbia, and several other institutions.

emergency staging temporary houseing
"Emergency staging" (the University's term for temporary student housing) in the basement of Cross Hall.


Lack of vocal opposition did not mean that Penn State students endorsed the war policies of President Lyndon Johnson. In a straw poll sponsored by Time magazine in April 1968, undergraduates for the first time in the University's history showed a preference for candidates of the Democratic party. The two front runners, Eugene McCarthy (1,762 votes) and Robert F. Kennedy (1,371 votes), were both avowed opponents of the Johnson administration's prosecution of the war. With Kennedy's assassination in June, McCarthy's resounding defeat at the Democratic national convention in July, and steadily increasing draft calls, campus opposition to the war in Vietnam intensified. Selective Service officials eliminated deferments for graduate students and discussed the possibility of doing the same for undergraduates. By September, the student body was becoming more receptive to expressions of antiwar sentiment.

walkertown on college avenue
Walkertown, along "the Wall" on East College Avenue


In addition to condemning the Vietnam war, the Free Speech Movement attacked the draft, military recruitment on campus, and academic credit for ROTC. (The trustees had made ROTC voluntary in 1964.) Big business, private property, and capitalism in general were also criticized, and black students denounced what they perceived as the racist policies of the University.

The rhetoric was familiar; these topics had been foremost among the dedicated activist minority for years. But because Walkertown also focused on problems of everyday life at the University, it captured the attention of large numbers of students. The protesters demanded that the University establish a nonprofit, student-operated bookstore offering as complete a range of goods and services as the downtown bookstores. They threatened a rent strike against apartment landlords who charged exorbitant rates for living quarters that were little better than slums. Demands were renewed for intervisitation in the residence halls and for the right of women to live off campus. And to make sure that students had a voice in making academic as well as social regulations, a call was made for student voting representation in the University Senate.

There was no air of confrontation at Walkertown, in spite of the militant tones of some of the oratory. In fact, a carnival atmosphere prevailed. As many as 500 people gathered on days of good weather during the two-week event. Rock bands performed, alcoholic beverages were consumed openly, and the scent of marijuana wafted through the crowd. University security forces showed extraordinary tolerance in their relations with the demonstrators.

The impetus for this protest had come from the Penn State chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. Chartered in the fall of 1966, the local chapter was, like its national parent, an umbrella organization for a variety of left-wing political causes and individuals. The forty or so SDS members had not attracted much notice from their fellow students until Walkertown, which brought them closer to issues that were of interest to the average student. This trend disturbed Eric Walker, who believed that SDS, both at Penn State and nationally, was attempting to use issues of widespread concern among students as a means of fomenting confrontation with established authority. The objective of SDS and other radical organizations was not, according to Walker's way of thinking, constructive reform but rather destruction of the existing order. Furthermore, Walker considered local SDS leaders to be mere puppets, taking their direction from hard-core ideologues in the national leadership. He did not make public any evidence to substantiate this view, yet he did not lack for company among college administrators who saw SDS in the same light. Parents of students, treated to television newscasts and newspaper accounts about campus noting, had difficulty comprehending it all and were similarly suspicious of SDS and its activities.

Douglass Association sit-in Old Main
Douglass Association sit-in in the lobby of Old Main.


The negative image of SDS did not prevent it from playing an influential role in the student movement at Penn State between 1968 and 1970. During those two years, it outgrew its earlier identification with antiwar activities to become the most vocal opponent of the policies of the Walker administration and the chief advocate of shifting more power and responsibility from the administration to the students. SDS nonetheless did not unify the student movement. After Walkertown, the various activist forces again went their separate ways. Undergraduate Student Government leaders (who had endorsed Walkertown) campaigned to get voting representation in the Senate and at least a nonvoting delegate on the Board of Trustees. In October, black students gathered in Beaver Stadium between halves of the football game with Boston College to protest racial imbalance at the University. Two weeks later, on the day of the home game with Army, SDS members staged an antiwar "Iie-in" in the driveway of President Walker's home. They were protesting the visit of Army Chief of Staff General William C. Westmoreland, who was paying a social call on the president prior to the game.

Discontent among blacks came to the fore again during winter term. On January 13, 1969, five representatives from the Douglass Association-the black students' organization-gave President Walker a list of thirteen demands aimed at making a stronger black presence felt on the campus. On the list were demands that a thousand blacks be admitted within a year, a special recruiter for black students be appointed, courses in black history and culture be added to the curriculum, and more black faculty members be hired. The Douglass Association also wanted a special collection in black literature to be established in the library and a new building to be named after Martin Luther King, the black civil rights leader slain in April 1968.

The Walker administration asserted that Penn State had never even received a thousand applications for admission from blacks in one year, let alone enrolled that many. (The number of black undergraduates at University Park during the 1960s probably never exceeded 200 in any term.) The black population of Pennsylvania was concentrated in the metropolitan areas, where a much smaller percentage of black high-school graduates than whites went on to college. Those who did often preferred to attend classes at nearby institutions for economic and social reasons. Whether they were from the country or the city, blacks historically were excluded from the engineering and scientific fields in which Penn State's academic reputation was strongest, and the preponderance of urban backgrounds meant that few were interested in agriculture, another Penn State strength. Moreover, given the frequently inferior quality of education available to black high-school students, many of those who did wish to come to Penn State were not able to meet the institution's academic criteria for admission. To admit less-than-qualified students only on the basis of skin color, contended the administration, would diminish the University's scholastic standards and would discriminate against other students who were not admitted but who showed greater academic accomplishment.

The University had taken a number of measures to solve the problems associated with racial imbalance well before the Douglass Association presented its demands. In 1962, the Senate passed a ruling that denied a charter to any student, social, or academic organization that practiced racial or religious discrimination in its membership selection. In the spring of 1968, a course in "The Negro and the American Experience" was introduced as a forerunner of a new black studies program. That summer a dozen black high-school graduates from the Harrisburg area were admitted even though they did not meet academic entrance standards. They were part of a pilot program to determine to what extent students having low grades but showing academic promise could benefit from the college experience. Recruitment of black faculty was also stepped up but with little success. Black teachers and researchers were scarce and were in demand by institutions nationwide.

Members of the Douglass Association were not impressed with these actions. On January 20, after President Walker responded to the thirteen demands by saying that the University was already doing all it could for blacks, about twenty association members staged a demonstration in his outer office.

Not long after this incident, the various threads of student activism began coming together again. On January 27, there appeared for sale in the Hetzel Union Building an underground newspaper, the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel, edited by a small group of University students. Cheaply printed and liberally sprinkled with obscenities, the Water Tunnel was not much different from similar periodicals that were being published at dozens of other campuses. It contained the standard invective against the Vietnam war and capitalist society, as well as brief articles on the perils and pleasures of drugs and sex. On the front page was a nude photograph of Beatle John Lennon and girlfriend Yoko Ono-the same photo that was on the cover of the duo's new record album. Several cities had banned sales of the album on obscenity grounds. Charles Lewis, who had succeeded Robert Bernreuter in 1966 as Vice President for Student Affairs, did likewise with the Water Tunnel. He based his action on Senate Rule W-11, which prohibited students (in this instance, the paper's editorial staff) from engaging in conduct detrimental to the good name and welfare of the University.

Administrators had stated numerous times, privately and publicly, that serious disturbances on other campuses resulted when a small band of radicals could take an issue of concern to the general student body and twist it into a clash with authority. Tolerant reaction by University officials to Walkertown helped to keep that demonstration peaceful and orderly. Lewis' ban on Water Tunnel, although effected only after much thought and consultation, was an open invitation to confrontation.

students occupying Old main
Sheriff Waite reads the injunction to students occupying Old main, February 1969.


The Water Tunnel was still on sale at various retail outlets in State College, and on February 18, borough police arrested six persons, including four of the paper's student staffers, on charges of providing obscene materials to minors. The arrests, like Lewis' initial ban, angered many students who ordinarily would not have given the Water Tunnel a second glance. They were particularly disturbed that the publication's managing editor had been taken into custody while attending a class. Five hundred students marched on Old Main to demand that Rule W-11 be withdrawn. They dismissed the administration's explanation that police had acted ill response to a local citizen's complaint and accused the University of complicity in the arrests.

The protest march occurred only several days after Jerry Rubin, head of the Youth International Party (Yippies), had visited Penn State at the invitation of SDS. Enshrouded in a cape fashioned from a Vietcong flag, Rubin spoke to an overflow crowd of two thousand students in the HUB Ballroom. He mentioned the "battle reports" that he had been receiving in recent days. At the University of Wisconsin, several buildings were occupied, and protesters had become so violent that the National Guard had been summoned. At the University of Pittsburgh, about thirty radical students had taken control of the school's computation center. "At Penn State, students have seized the administration building-when are we going to hear that?" Rubin shouted. Although he did not directly. incite such action, his implication was clear. "If I am setting something off," he told his audience, "you'll know what to do. You'll know what action to take."

After Rubin's visit-but before the Water Tunnel protest-SDS and the Douglass Association formed the Steering Committee to Reform the University (SCRU) and issued a series of what it characterized as nonnegotiable demands to President Walker. There was little that was new on the list. The University Senate was to withdraw Rule W-11, the thirteen demands of the Douglass Association were to be implemented at once, women were to be given the right to live off campus, credit was to be dropped from ROTC, military recruiting and research were to be halted, a student-run bookstore was to be established, and the inhabitants of individual residence halls were to determine their own visitation policies. Members of SCRU gave the University until Monday, February 24, to respond to these demands.

President Walker chose not to reply. What was the point, he asked, since the demands were nonnegotiable? The protesters had left no room for discussion.

Having gotten no response from the administration, about four hundred students (mostly SDS, Douglass Association, and assorted SCRU members and sympathizers) marched into Old Main on the afternoon of February 24 and asked to see Dr. Walker. The president was ill Harrisburg that day. He and other college and university heads were meeting with Governor Raymond P. Shafer to discuss ways of handling campus disorder.

However, Walker and other members of the administration had anticipated that the protesters might occupy Old Main or some other University building. Taking over a building had become a routine tactic with student dissidents on many campuses, and no clairvoyance was needed to see that it could happen at Penn State. The University had already given public notice that it would not permit the occupation of any building past its normal closing time and would not tolerate the destruction of property or the interruption of normal business. A court order would be obtained if necessary to enforce this policy. Violators would be prosecuted.

This hard-line approach was not adopted on all campuses. Administrators at the University of Pittsburgh tolerated the occupation of the computer center and gave amnesty to the students who took part in it. That solution was not popular with the general public. Members of the General Assembly also voiced their dissatisfaction with what they regarded as Pitt Chancellor Wesley Posvar's timid handling of student radicals. Consequently, President Walker had to take into account public and political opinion as well as his own instincts as he strove to deal with student unrest.

When the SCRU delegation and their cohorts refused to leave Old Main after the usual 5:15 closing time, University officials began the process of obtaining a court injunction to make their continued presence in the building unlawful. Undergraduate Student Government president James Worrier appealed to the protesters to leave before the injunction could be enforced and let USG negotiate the demands with the administration. He was ignored.

Centre County Sheriff Richard Waite arrived at 7:00 P.M., to read the injunction. By that time, there had gathered outside Old Main a crowd of about 1,500 students, most of whom were hostile to the demonstrators inside and threatened them with physical harm if they did not soon come out. Those inside now feared for their personal safety. James Womer addressed the crowd outside, pleading with it to let SCRU members and their allies leave peacefully. His address met a reaction not much different from that accorded him earlier by the protesters within. This incident underscored the dilemma in which the Undergraduate Student Government found itself. If it opened a dialogue with administrators and tried to steer a moderate course, militant students-the ones who made most of the headlines-accused it of being Walker's lackey and would have nothing to do with it. It it took a more radical stance, it risked not being taken seriously by the administration.

Finally, several faculty members succeeded in calming the angry crowd surrounding Old Main and assuring those inside that they would be allowed safe passage from the building. The protesters left at about 10:00 P.m., and the occupation came to an anticlimactic end.

President Walker believed that the Steering Committee to Reform the University and its allies had gone beyond the legitimate expression of dissent. Addressing the University Senate in early March, he proclaimed, "Dissent is one of our most precious rights and is basic to the system we have developed for living together. But confusing dissent with disruption not only cheapens it, but threatens the system itself. . . . We cannot go on with further confrontations of this sort." While he offered no substantive proof, Walker said that the radicals among the student activists had deliberately used the Old Main occupation to test the firmness of the administration. Unless disciplinary action were taken against the instigators, he warned, even more unrest could be expected.

Normal disciplinary procedures would involve the vice president for student affairs, but Walker knew activists had no confidence in Charles Lewis and would regard any decision in which he had a part as a sham. In addition, many of the University trustees favored taking a firm stand against disorder and thought that the situation called for more than routine disciplinary action. The president therefore named a nine-member Special judiciary Board to hear the University's charges against students accused of causing the recent unrest and recommend appropriate action to the President. The panel consisted of three faculty members (named by the Senate), three administrators, a delegate from the Graduate Student Association, and two undergraduates.

Not everyone agreed that a special board was needed. The GSA characterized it as a violation of student rights and withdrew its representative. The Daily Collegian, which was sympathetic to all but the most extreme demands of student protesters, also criticized the board. According to the Collegian, the administration itself provoked the occupation of Old Main. "President Walker has no one to blame but himself," the paper stated in an editorial on February 25. "The administration did not attempt to avoid a confrontation. Rather, Walker tried to wish the University's problems away by ignoring them. He kept his finely tuned, appropriations-minded ear close to the legislative chambers in Harrisburg, but remained unresponsive to the students at University Park.

The University Senate also discussed the merits of the Special judiciary Board. "To take firm and decisive action against the radical change makers might prove disastrous," cautioned one senator, by provoking them to even more militant demonstrations. Another counseled moderation on both sides: "The times call for wisdom, the times call for patience and understanding, and for the moral courage to make thoughtful decisions on both issues and tactics even if they should be unpopular." Most faculty took the view that student unrest was mainly the administration's problem, and if the president decided a special board was needed, it was his prerogative to convene one. "They can get away with just about anything," muttered one faculty senator who thought student protesters were lucky to be facing only University disciplinary action. "If they were treated like adults, most of them would be in jail."

The findings of the Special judiciary Board were as anticlimactic as the occupation of Old Main itself. The University brought charges against only five students, including the current and past chairmen of the SDS chapter. After five days of hearing testimony from over fifty witnesses, the board in late April recommended that charges be dropped against one of the defendants and that the other four be placed on academic probation for varying lengths of time. President Walker accepted the board's decision.

That same month prosecution concluded in Centre County court against the five defendants in the Water Tunnel case. One, a store clerk (a nonstudent), was found guilty of distributing obscene material to minors. Two more had their cases dismissed, and the remaining pair were not further prosecuted after their cases ended with hung juries.

Undergraduate Student Government conducted a poll of student opinion in which about 6,200 of the 21,000 undergraduates at University Park responded to a series of questions about the demands posed by SCRU. The results of the poll were released in mid-April and showed that students definitely wanted more social freedom but preferred to chart a more moderate course on most other issues.

Of the respondents, 88 percent said that coeds of any age should have the right to live off campus, and 81 percent thought dormitory visitation rules should be made by the inhabitants thereof. Eighty percent wanted student representation in the University Senate, although only about one-half said student delegates should comprise one-third of that body. While 76 percent agreed that Penn State should take steps to end racial imbalance at University Park, only 25 percent approved of all the demands of the Douglass Association. On the subject of the military, 74 percent said recruitment should be permitted to continue on the campus, and 73 percent opposed eliminating credit for ROTC. Finally, 74 percent of responding students rejected the notion that SCRU's demands be nonnegotiable.

By the spring of 1969, the campus had settled back to its routine. Members of SDS staged protests against military recruiting, and there were several controversies involving SDS and Douglass Association students about raising and lowering the American flag on Old Main lawn, but no large-scale protests occurred. The general preoccupation with traditional academic and social activities carried over into the start of the 1969-70 school year as well.

black protesters
White students confront black protesters near Old main.


Given their evident concern with issues that had some tangible impact on their lives, students had cause for gratification in 1969-70. In December 1969, the University Senate approved changing its constitution to allow the admission of up to 36 student representatives and sent the matter on to the board of trustees, which had the final word on constitutional revisions. The trustees at that time were also informally discussing the possibility of adding as many as three ex officio student representatives to the board. The Senate also approved a policy that allowed the inhabitants of each dormitory to determine visitation rules. Voting on the new rules began in March 1970, and twenty-four-hour visitation by members of either sex in students' rooms was the easy winner in both men's and women's residence halls. (When visiting a women's dormitory, men still had to be accompanied by a female escort at all times.) Finally, the University consented to allow female students of any age to live off campus provided that they first spent at least a year in the residence halls. The new policy was to take effect in the fall of 1970, but some women were permitted to make the move earlier so that more space would be available in the dormitories for new students.

Changes were also made in racial policies. Besides being chastised by the Douglass Association (which changed its name to the Black Student Union in 1969), the University had also come under fire from K. Leroy Irvis, the black Democratic majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In March 1969, President Walker announced that Penn State would seek, with Irvis' support, a special $1 million appropriation from the General Assembly to underwrite room and board and educational expenses of five hundred economically disadvantaged black high-school graduates to be enrolled in the fall. In a related action, Walker appointed a black recruiter, whose task it was to visit secondary schools, especially ill urban areas, and encourage students with academic potential to apply for admission to the University. The president also allocated some of the responsibility for raising black enrollment to the colleges. Each college was to establish a program designed to recruit economically disadvantaged minority students and counsel them during their studies. Two hundred spaces were reserved for students admitted under these special college programs.

In sum, during 1969-70 many of the goals that student activists had established for themselves in earlier years were attained. Yet during that same year Penn State saw the worst outbreak of student disorder it had yet experienced.

Student dissatisfaction with American military policy in Vietnam was widespread. Although presidents and political parties had changed-Richard Nixon was in the White House now-the war dragged on. Leaders of the national antiwar movement proclaimed Wednesday, April 15, 1970, to be a Vietnam moratorium day, a day for peaceful protest against continuation of American involvement in Southeast Asia.

A similar moratorium had been held the previous October 15. On that day more than four thousand candle-carrying students, faculty, and townspeople joined in an orderly march through the campus and the borough to the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel. The water tunnel, along with the entire Ordnance Research Laboratory, was mainly a symbolic objective. No work was conducted there that had a direct bearing on the Vietnam War, but this was an era when academia's ties to defense work were seriously questioned, and the ORL was still heavily engaged in naval weapons research. The procession to the water tunnel and the protest there were orderly. The demonstration was primarily aimed at the Vietnam War, however, and not at the University administration. (Indeed, at least one University trustee participated in the peace march.)

Events of the April 15 moratorium were different from the very start. First, fewer than five hundred persons, mostly students, turned out for the noon rally oil Old Main lawn and the subsequent march to the water tunnel. After protesting there, about 150 of the demonstrators returned to Old Main. Led by members of SDS and the Black Student Union and shouting such slogans as "Power to the people!" they entered the building and presented the administration with another list of nonnegotiable demands. These included open enrollment for anyone seeking higher education; an end to all University connections with the military; official support for Bobble Seale, Black Panther Party chairman under indictment for murder; and a halt to the University's alleged suppression and intimidation of its students.

Unable to persuade the dissidents to leave, University authorities sought another court injunction. That strategy had worked the previous year largely because it had shifted the confrontation from one against the University to one against the civil government. This time, when a deputy sheriff arrived about 4:00 P.M. to read the injunction, the demonstrators became hostile and began kicking in doors and causing other property damage.

Antiwar demonstrators marching to Ordnance Research Laboratory.
Antiwar demonstrators on the march from Old Main to the Ordnance Research Laboratory.


Administrators faced a difficult decision. To allow the protesters to remain in Old Main would be to allow them to retain control of the situation, an alternative that would not be well received in Harrisburg, or by the trustees, or by most parents. More important, it could invite even more serious disturbances in the future by showing that the University did not really mean what it said about not tolerating interference with its normal functions. On the other hand, the use of force to eject the protesters could lead to physical violence and could further polarize the campus. To President Walker, preserving the integrity of the University was uppermost; the protesters had to be removed.

After consulting with Governor Shafer, he called on the state police to see that the injunction was upheld. Ironically, Shafer had been a voice of moderation in Harrisburg, where legislators talked of giving prison sentences to student demonstrators, withholding their scholarships, and otherwise dealing harshly with them. Shafer had visited University Park after the 1969 occupation of Old Main, talked informally with students, and expressed genuine sympathy for many of the grievances. He nonetheless shared President Walker's view that the University must defend itself against those who would, in the name of whatever cause, attempt to destroy it, and that SCRU presented such a threat.

The incursion of police on other campuses had sometimes touched off further unrest. To minimize Provocation, Walker asked that the state troopers come without firearms and riot gear, such as face masks and tear gas. This proved to be a mistake, for a large number of students showed that they were well prepared for a violent confrontation.

About 7:30 P.M., five buses pulled up to the rear of Old Main, and approximately seventy-five state policemen disembarked and entered the building. Some protesters fled; the others were led to the buses by the police. By that time, a large crowd of students had gathered around the buses, disabling two of them and blocking the exit of the others. The crowd's anger stemmed not so much from sympathy with the demands of the demonstrators as from outrage that police had been summoned to the campus. The police and the students in their custody then headed toward several more buses parked along Pollock Road near the HUB, all the while being pelted by stones, bricks, glass, and a host of other objects tossed from the jeering mob. In the darkness and confusion, all but about thirty of the protesters managed to break free of their captors.

Reaching the three buses on Pollock Road did not bring safety to the troopers. Some students, in what was now a near riot, continued their barrage of rocks, while others erected makeshift barriers of lumber, street signs, and other materials to impede the escape of the buses. Each barricade had to be removed by the unshielded police as the buses inched their way down Pollock Road. Before the vehicles finally broke free and left the campus, eighteen policemen were injured, eight seriously enough to be hospitalized. Property damage totaled several thousand dollars to the buses and Old Main. Twenty-four students and five nonstudent protesters were arrested. No students reported injuries.

Since the possibility of further violence existed, the University requested that a large contingent of state troopers be kept on twenty-four-hour alert at Beaver Stadium. On April 16, the Undergraduate Student Government called for a boycott of classes until the police were removed and amnesty granted to the twenty-four arrested students. That evening USG officers, other student leaders, and representatives from the University Senate met with President Walker. Walker promised the police would be sent away and the court injunction lifted as soon as practically possible. Dropping charges against the protesters, however, was out of the question.

The compromise satisfied the USG, which postponed plans for the boycott. Another group of students, ashamed of the conduct of the persons who participated in the occupation of Old Main and harassed the state police, began circulating a petition that asked President Walker to expel any students convicted of fomenting campus disorder and to revoke the charter of Students for a Democratic Society. Eventually several thousand signatures were collected on the petition, which also expressed apologies to the police and thanked them "for their restraint and a job well done" on April 15.

Governor Shafer meets with students
Governor Shafer meets with students at University Park soon after the disruptions of February 1969.


Most members of the faculty, too, were supportive of the actions of the administration, although a few publicly accused Eric Walker of inciting the violence by calling in the police. Whether or not the troopers were needed on April 15, most faculty were clearly uncomfortable with their continued presence on the campus, even in such remote outposts as Beaver Stadium. The executive board of the AAUP chapter asked the administration never again to bring "external forces" onto University property without first consulting representatives from the faculty and student body.

Campus radicals, meanwhile, continued to agitate for a general student strike. On the evening of April 20, about a hundred persons descended on the president's house to heave rocks through the windows and cause other property damage. The crowd dispersed before any arrests could be made. Later that night, several small fires were set in University buildings and security forces received anonymously telephoned bomb threats.

The next day about fifty students-many of them SDS members-entered Old Main, declaring it to be "strike headquarters" for the proposed boycott of classes. The injunction of April 15 was still in effect, and the state police were immediately summoned. The protesters fled before the arrival of the police, who were again met with hurled objects and obscenities from a hostile crowd. Six students were arrested for disturbing the peace. That night more fires were started and bomb threats called in. To guard against serious damage and injuries, faculty volunteers began patrolling many University buildings each night.

The board of trustees considered the situation so grave that they met in emergency session in Pittsburgh on April 23. They decided that an investigation of the recent disorder should be made and instigators punished. The investigative panel was to consist of three persons having no connection with Penn State and thus presumably capable of rendering impartial Judgment. The three were Robert E. Woodside, a former justice of the Pennsylvania Superior Court; Genevieve Blatt, an attorney and formerly the Commonwealth's Secretary of Internal Affairs; and William T. Coleman, Jr., a prominent black Philadelphia attorney (and future cabinet member in the Ford administration). Blatt, a Democrat, and Coleman, a Republican, belonged to the liberal wings of their respective parties, and Woodside was generally considered free from partisan leanings.

Penn State was not alone in experiencing unrest in the spring of 1970. As the Nixon administration carried the war into Laos and Cambodia, campus protests became intense. At Kent State University in Ohio, dissension reached such a level that the governor sent in the National Guard to maintain order. On May 4, four students were killed during a clash with the guardsmen.

The Kent State tragedy had a sobering effect on the Penn State community. President Walker canceled classes on Wednesday, May 6, in memory of the slain students. Four thousand students and faculty marched peacefully that day through campus and borough to protest the Kent State killings. Spring Week, a carnival-like festivity that had been held each May since the late 1940s, was canceled by overwhelming consent of students and administrators.

In balloting hastily arranged by the Undergraduate Student Government on May 11 and 12, 18,000 University Park students voted by a 3-to-1 margin to substitute discussion groups and workshops in place of regular classes for the remainder of the term. The proposal's supporters (including many faculty members) believed informal dialogue would allow more time to examine pressing national and University issues and would restore calm to the campus. A few days later, the University Senate in effect agreed with this point of view when it passed legislation permitting instructors to award course grades based on students' work through the seventh week of the term, and to give pass-fall rather than letter grades. Each college then scheduled a series of workshops and seminars on "relevant" topics. (The quest for relevancy sometimes produced curious results, as in the case of the College of Engineering sponsoring workshops on the world population explosion.) Students were expected to register for these discussions just as they had for classes and attend them with equal regularity. But for practical purposes, the term dissolved. An air of disorganization pervaded the campus for the final three weeks of the spring term.

The prevailing mood was not auspicious for the Woodside Commission. As with the Special judiciary Board the previous year, some students and faculty questioned the legality of the panel and whether its findings would not contribute further to the adversary relationship between students and administrators. A total of thirty-nine students had been charged by the University in connection with the disturbances between April 15 and April 23. Most claimed that they were being denied due process of law and, along with their legal representatives, boycotted the hearings. The panel proceeded as best it could and concluded its hearings in mid-May. A few weeks later, Woodside and Blatt sent a majority report to President Walker. They recommended the expulsion of seven students, suspension of five others up for up to two years, disciplinary probation for nineteen, and dismissal of charges against eight. In a minority report, Coleman asked that charges be dropped against seventeen students and that no harsher penalty be imposed on the remaining twenty-two than suspension for one term. President Walker accepted the majority report.

Seventeen defendants filed in federal district court to have their status as students in good standing restored. The suit was dismissed in September 1970. The judge ruled that the University had the legal authority to form the Woodside panel, its work did not deprive the accused students of their constitutional rights, and sufficient evidence had been presented to support the recommendations of the majority report.

Student unrest at Penn State reached flood tide in the spring of 1970 and thereafter began to recede. The conservative tendencies of the student body and the resolute handling of disorder by the Walker administration spared Penn State much of the violence and bitterness that accompanied student activism at other large institutions in the Northeast and Midwest. It seems likely that Penn State's geographic isolation also helped to insulate it from the worst of the nationwide campus turmoil. Most of the branch campuses, too, were isolated, and their administrators and students were perhaps even more conservative than those at the main campus. Indeed, there was a feeling at some of the branches that the gravest threat to academic tranquility came from "radicals" at University Park.

There was little that was unique about the ideals and strategies of student activists at the University or about their status as a small minority of the student body. Chapters of Students for a Democratic Society and counterparts to the Douglass Association could be found at most other large campuses. Free speech movements and underground newspapers flourished at colleges and universities from coast to coast. Building takeovers, protest marches, and flag burnings were almost routine. The in loco parentis doctrine and institutional authority over students' lives outside the classroom were steadily diminishing, and nearly everywhere the student body was being granted (often after some struggle) greater representation in the decision-making processes. What happened at Penn State, then, was representative of a nationwide trend of events.



Student unrest reached its climax as the University was bringing to a close the greatest period of physical and academic growth in its history. Millions of children born in the post-World War 11 baby boom were entering late adolescence, and the social and economic pressures on them to attend college were intense. The bachelor's degree was beginning to have the same meaning for these young men and women that the high-school diploma had for their fathers and mothers. In 1952, Penn State had awarded its 50,000th degree; twelve years later it conferred its 100,000th degree. By the early 1970s, it would have over 150,000 graduates.

The total undergraduate population rose from 19,300 to 34,900 (full-time and part-time) between 1964-65 and 1969-70. The number of undergraduates at University Park grew during those years from 16,200 to 22,500. About ninety percent of these students were Pennsylvania residents, a proportion little changed from earlier decades, and they came from all parts of the Commonwealth. A survey by the Office of Student Affairs revealed that of the 6,800 first-term students enrolled in the fall of 1968, 52 percent came from cities and suburbs, 44 percent hailed from small towns and rural non-farm areas, and 4 percent resided on farms.

1967 commencement at Beaver Stadium
Newly minted Ph.D.'s at 1967 commencement in Beaver Stadium.


These figures had not fluctuated noticeably since Student Affairs began its annual surveys in 1964. Nor were there significant changes in the statistics relating to the socioeconomic background of students, as Penn State continued to draw mainly from the middle class and blue-collar families. In 1968-69, for example, 39 percent of freshmen characterized their father's occupation as laborer (skilled, semiskilled, or unskilled), 23 percent as manager or small businessman, and 14 percent as professional (physician, lawyer, engineer, and the like). Mean annual family income was $8,600. Nearly three-quarters of the freshman class said their father's formal education had terminated with a high-school diploma, while only 14 percent had fathers who held a college degree.

On the basis of undergraduate enrollment, Penn State was among the fifteen largest institutions of higher education in the nation throughout the 1960s. It ranked lower in the number of graduate students enrolled, however. The University was bound by the legal obligations of the land-grant act to serve the broad interests of the Commonwealth and was not free to concentrate its resources on graduate education in the same way as, say, the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, whose reputation for graduate work long outshone that of Penn State, students seeking advanced degrees comprised over 40 percent of the enrollment, versus 12 to 14 percent at Penn State. But the explosion in the undergraduate and associate degree populations masked the real growth at the graduate level at Penn State. The number of graduate students more than doubled during the 1960s, standing at about 5,200 by the decade's end.

A larger proportion of both undergraduate and graduate students were selecting curriculums other than engineering, agriculture, and the applied sciences, which traditionally had been the University's most popular offerings. Students of the 1960s manifested a greater interest in more humanistic studies at land-grant schools nationwide and caused an expansion in the liberal arts on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. Enrollment in the College of Liberal Arts increased from 2,500 to over 7,000 during the course of the decade. (Engineering, the University's second largest college, posted an undergraduate enrollment of about 3,800 in 1969-70, up only 600 students in ten years.) Much of the popularity of the liberal arts at Penn State during the 1920s and 1930s had resulted from the addition of studies that had an obvious practicality-journalism for instance, or commerce and finance. That was not the case in the 1960s, when baccalaureate curriculums in such fields as linguistics, comparative literature, and American studies were introduced. Interdisciplinary studies of non-Western civilizations were also begun, with specializations available in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Black Africa, and other geographic regions. By 1969, the College of Liberal Arts' instructional budget topped $7 million, more than three times its size ten years earlier.

One of the most outstanding testaments to the new-found popularity of the nontechnical curriculums was the formation in 1966 of the College of Human Development. Three years before, President Walker had appointed a committee to examine how the University should be allocating its resources by 1980. Among the recommendations made by the committee was one urging that greater emphasis be given to education in fields relating to social services. The federal government, through its "war on poverty" and "Great Society" programs, was launching a massive assault against crime, unemployment, physical and mental handicaps, and other social ills. It was time for educators, too, to mobilize their forces. Furthermore, the amount of leisure time available to most Americans was increasing, creating problems as pressing as those associated with trying to earn a living or raise a family. The committee suggested that a new college be formed to coordinate existing and new programs under the broad classification of human services and welfare.

The core of the new College of Human Development was the old College of Home Economics, to which were gradually added more social-service curriculums. Some of the new fields of study, such as nursing (begun in the College of Health and Physical Education ill 1964) and law enforcement and corrections, were already available at many universities. Others, health planning and administration, for example were innovative at any institution. Under its first dean, Donald H. Ford, the college was organized into four divisions that mirrored the diversity of its responsibilities. Biological health, community development, individual and family studies, and man-environment relations each contained two or more baccalaureate curriculums in more specialized fields, as well as opportunities for graduate work. By 1969-70, undergraduate enrollment in the College of Human Development was 1,670, making it the fifth largest of the University's ten colleges.

over crowded lecture class
Large lecture classes such as this one in the Forum Building became increasingly common as the University struggled to accommodate students born in the post-war baby boom.


Increased diversity also marked the curricular offerings of the other colleges. In 1966, the College of Mineral Industries changed its name to the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences in keeping with its steady advance beyond a preoccupation with mining and metallurgy. It granted more degrees in meteorology than any other institution in the country. Its Department of Geography was consistently rated in external evaluations as one of the finest anywhere. Taking similar action, the College of Health and Physical Education in 1969 became the College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The change was a response to the growing popularity and quality of its curriculums in recreation and parks. Astronomy, computer science, medical technology, business statistics, and agricultural mechanization were a few of the baccalaureate curriculums introduced in the other colleges. At the graduate level, degree programs were organized in fields as diverse as Slavic languages and literature (M.A.), art history (Ph.D.), and nuclear engineering (Ph.D.).

Teacher with television in classroom
Teaching a course in American studies with the aid of television, 1968.


The middle and late 1960s were years of national economic prosperity. Students did not feel compelled to take utilitarian courses of study in order to get good jobs. Graduates in nearly all fields, technical and nontechnical, encountered less difficulty than ever before in obtaining satisfactory employment upon graduation. Nearly a thousand business firms and government agencies annually were recruiting graduates through the University's placement service by 1968. Among the large corporations that employed more alumni of Penn State than any other institution were IBM, RCA, Bethlehem Steel, Armstrong Cork, and Rohm and Haas. Penn State graduates ranked second in number at Alcoa, DuPont, PPG Industries, Sylvania, and Westinghouse. The University was also among the half-dozen or so colleges and universities most favored by recruiters from Dow Chemical, Ford Motor, Mobil 011, Scott Paper, US Steel, and the national "Big Eight" accounting firms.

meteorology students and livestock exposition
(Left) Meteorology students of 1966 were still largely in the pre-computer era of weather forecasting. (Right) begun in 1917, the Little International Livestock Exposition by the 1960s was one of the largest student-sponsored shows in the Northeast.


The enormous amount of new construction under way at University Park and many of the Commonwealth Campuses was the most obvious sign of the boom in higher education. At the University Park Campus alone, $35 million worth of new academic and administrative buildings were erected between 1964 and 1970. The General State Authority provided most of the construction funds, with federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health contributing additional sums. Some of the more noteworthy structures included new buildings for the physical sciences (Davey Laboratory), earth sciences (Deike), life sciences (Althouse Laboratory), animal industries (Henning), instructional services (Mitchell), the graduate school (Kern), psychology (Moore), and a fine arts complex. Additions to Pattee Library, the Recreation Building, Burrowes Building, Mary Beaver White Building, and many other classroom and laboratory structures were undertaken as well. Room in the central campus was soon at a premium, so a natatorium (McCoy) and a business and records building (Shields) were constructed farther out, near Wagner Building and the East Halls dormitories. Still further to the northeast, a new complex of cattle and sheep barns and other agricultural facilities was built.

students studying and working outdoors
wrecking ball makes short work of old Armory
The wrecking ball makes short work of the old Armory, 1964.

The new construction inevitably obliterated some campus landmarks, and not everyone agreed that old buildings should make way for new ones. The most controversial razing was that of the Armory. While no physical education classes had been held in the Armory since the 1930s, and the ROTC cadre had vacated it in 1959, many people believed that the structure's architectural qualities warranted its retention and renovation. When the University announced that the Armory would be demolished in January 1964 to make way for a new wing of Willard Building, students and faculty campaigned in vain to save the old edifice. Replacing it was a three-story brick box whose inelegance was made doubly noticeable by the proximity of such stylish structures as Schwab Auditorium and Old Main.

The new wing of Willard Building contained classrooms that were to be used primarily for undergraduate instruction. And while undergraduate studies by necessity remained preeminent, the University could not afford to overlook either of the other two elements of its tripartite mission, research and public service.

As student interest in the humanities and social sciences increased, research in those fields grew steadily in quantity and quality. The feeling that teaching responsibilities left no time for research was fast fading, and research accomplishments became ail important consideration ill faculty promotion and tenure decisions ill most departments. Much of the financial assistance for nontechnical research came from the University's own resources, especially its Central Fund for Research. The federal government was also an important financial benefactor, through such agencies as the national endowments for the arts and humanities.

willard building and the mall
The mall and the newer portion of Willard Building (where the Armory formerly stood).


In response to proposals from within the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Arts and Architecture, the board of trustees in January 1966 approved the establishment of the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies. Including in its membership some of the University's most able scholars in the arts and humanities, the institute acted as a liaison in soliciting support for research and artistic projects from governmental, corporate, and other types of large external donors. It provided the logistical assistance faculty needed to write books or plays, prepare educational programs, and create works of art. The institute also sponsored distinguished visitors to the campus and otherwise made research in the liberal and fine arts more visible.

buildings of different ages and telescope
(Left) The Old, the New, and the In-Between in 1965; Oak Cottage, Life Sciences (Mueller Laboratory), and the cryogenics lab of Pond Laboratory. (Right) Located on the roof of Davey Laboratory, this six-inch reflecting telescope—purchased with NASA funds and used for viewing solar activity—was typical of the kind of scientific hardware the University was able to acquire in the 1960s through grants from government agencies.


Research in the nontechnical colleges continued to be hampered by inadequate library facilities. In its development plan for the libraries, the Walker administration gave highest priority to meeting the needs of undergraduates. Much of the space in the new west wing of Pattee Library, completed in 1966, was designed to house materials most often used in undergraduate instruction. Two years later, Pollock Undergraduate Library was opened for use mainly by students residing in the residence halls on the east side of the campus. Nevertheless, some progress was made in increasing the library's value to research scholars. Special collections and serial holdings were strengthened, and more staff and services added. The library added its one millionth volume in 1967, and two years later construction began on the first phase of a five-story east wing for Pattee.

In all colleges of the University, the research climate had never been so favorable as in the 1960s. The Walker administration accentuated research as no earlier administration had, and Penn State-and universities everywhere-benefited from a seemingly endless supply of federal funds. In an average year, the federal government provided approximately 60 percent of Perin State's research budget. Among the most important contributors were the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The second largest source of research monies was the University's own general fund. It accounted for about 25 percent of annual expenditures and was especially helpful to the nontechnical fields, where external sponsors were scarce. State funds and nongovernment contracts and grants (mostly from industry and private foundations) constituted the remaining portion of the research budget. That budget more than tripled in ten years, climbing to almost $36 million by 1969-70, or about 5 percent of the total outlay for organized research that year among land-grant and state universities.

examples of government sponsored research
Government-sponsored research at Penn State took many forms and involved a surprising array of disciplines, as this sampling demonstrates: (top left) an experimental post-stressed concrete bridge under construction at the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute under the sponsorship of the state Department of Transportation; (top right) the archaelogical excavation of a 6,000-year-old Indian campsite at Sheep Rock, located near Raystown Dam in Huntington County; (bottom left) a portion of the agricultural research complex, including experimental orchards and beef and sheep barns; (bottom right) a model of the submarine U.S.S. Albacore that was used in hull performance research at the Ordnance Research Laboratory.


Research took a multitude of forms. It could be a history professor who, in addition to fulfilling his teaching obligations, was preparing a biography of a major figure from America's past. Or it could be a group of biochemists, physiologists, and medical doctors in the Human Performance Research Laboratory studying the effects of partial starvation and dehydration on the body's ability to perform physical activity. Research could be directed to the resolution of practical problems, as exemplified by a team of petroleum engineers and geologists trying to discover an efficient means of extracting the crude oil that was locked in the porous rock of Pennsylvania's oil fields. Or it could be aimed at unraveling the fundamental mysteries of the universe, which was what physicists in the Spectroscopy Laboratory were attempting as they used the world's largest spectroscope to identify the atmospheric composition of Mars and Jupiter. Researchers had at their disposal tools that ranged from simple pencil and paper to a nuclear reactor, the world's largest circulating water tunnel, a radio telescope, and other marvels of sophisticated technology.

Much of the research conducted at the University had a direct bearing on the welfare of the Commonwealth and its citizens. At the Center for Air Environment Studies, chemists, meteorologists, engineers, and other specialists studied the causes and effects of air pollution as well as the technical, social, and economic impacts of pollution control programs. Communities could call upon the center to analyze local pollution problems and suggest appropriate remedies. Researchers affiliated with another interdisciplinary unit, the Institute for Research on Human Resources, examined problems associated with unemployment in Appalachia to determine the best ways of training or retraining people to meet changing manpower needs. Much of their early work centered on the economically depressed steel and coal region of southwestern Pennsylvania. They assisted that region's community leaders in setting up adult education, employment referral, on-the-job training for youth, and other services designed to reverse the declining economy. At the Agricultural Experiment Station, plant pathologists developed protein concentrates and fats that when added to mushroom composts increased the yield for the state's mushroom industry by 50 percent. Benefits accruing to Pennsylvania from these and numerous other research projects exceeded the Commonwealth's investment-about 5 percent of the University's research budget-many times over every year.

If serving the citizens of Pennsylvania was only one of many goals of Penn State researchers, it was the principal objective of the staff of the continuing education and agricultural and home economic extension divisions. General Extension had been reorganized in 1959 and renamed Continuing Education. It no longer had responsibility for administering the Commonwealth Campuses, but otherwise its activities remained the same.

By the 1960s, education had come to be recognized as a lifetime process. Over 100,000 persons were taking advantage of the University's Continuing Education programs by the end of the decade, twice the number of 1960. Evening classes for college credit were held at more than a hundred locations throughout the state; they were designed to serve teachers who needed more course work for permanent certification, full-time employees who wished to update their skills without interfering with their Jobs, housewives seeking cultural enrichment, and other types of nontraditional students. Learning by mail was also popular. In 1969-70, nearly 20,000 individuals were enrolled for credit in correspondence courses. Instruction leading to certificates, licenses, and diplomas rather than credit also attracted an increasing number of students. These courses lasted from several weeks to several years, and topics ranged from architectural drafting to real estate to personnel management.

researchers with electron microscope
(Left) A professor and a graduate student in engineering mechanics using an electron microscope to study properties of metals; (right) a microbiologist engages in bacterial research.


Continuing Education reached the greatest number of people through its informal programs-conferences, workshops, seminars, and similar kinds of meetings. As in the past, these were often sponsored by businesses, professional organizations, government agencies, and other groups wishing to utilize Penn State's human and technical resources. At the University Park campus alone, more than 35,000 persons were attending 400-plus conferences annually by the late 1960s. Community service programs were also part of Continuing Education's informal activities. One of the best known was the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program. PENNTAP was founded in 1966 on the assumption that much information resulting from scientific and technical research that could be of value to Pennsylvania's small businesses and industries was poorly disseminated and slow in reaching its potential users. A kind of informational clearinghouse, PENNTAP matched inquiries from businesses and even state and local governments with the most up-to-date sources that could provide the appropriate data.

Perhaps the most important development in continuing education and community service was the University's acquisition of a television station. After the demise of WPSC in 1932, Penn State was without a broadcasting outlet until 1954, when it obtained a license to operate another radio station, WDFM. The new station was meant to give students experience in electronic broadcasting, not to serve as the voice of the University or to help fulfill its broader educational objectives. Using equipment donated by Altoona businessman William F. Gable (who had given up radio in favor of commercial television), students handled most of WDFM's programming and operations. The station was also technically unsuitable for extensive educational use because it transmitted on an FM frequency; in the hilly terrain of central Pennsylvania, such a signal could reach only a few miles beyond State College.

human development researcher and child
Human Development: working to improve a child's perception.

As commercial television evolved after World War II, there was much talk about setting aside certain channels for the exclusive use of nonprofit educational stations. Milton Eisenhower had headed a national study group in the early 1950s that concerned itself with that question. A few years later, the continuing education and agricultural extension divisions began producing a few programs for distribution to commercial stations. The Walker administration then decided that the University should have a station of its own and in 1961 applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a license. The FCC's policy was to assign limited-range UHF channels (above 13) to educational stations. Penn State wanted a VHF outlet (channel 3), and so its application was not immediately approved. In 1963, the Commission reversed itself and reserved a few VHF channels throughout the country for educational purposes. It then favorably reconsidered the University's request, and station WPSX went oil the air in April 1965.

To avoid interference with other stations on the same frequency, the transmitter was located near Clearfield, forty miles north of State College. From there, its signal reached 22 counties ill central and northern Pennsylvania and a potential audience of 900,000. The total cost of establishing WPSX was $1.1 million, about $700,000 of which came from the federal and state governments. The station was programmed and operated by the Division of Continuing Education, and its daytime schedule consisted mostly of instructional programs for elementary and secondary school students and in-service training for teachers. In the evenings it broadcast programs of a cultural and informational nature. Credit courses for the public were also offered.



Penn State's remarkable growth in the 1960s could not have occurred without generous financial support from the Commonwealth, through legislative appropriations and grants from the General State Authority. The University did not get all the money it claimed it needed, but never before had it received such large allocations over so long a period of time.

An upturn in Pennsylvania's economy helped to make this increased assistance possible. William W. Scranton succeeded David Lawrence as governor in 1963 and, like his predecessor, gave foremost attention to economic development. Aided by a surge of prosperity nationwide, Scranton's programs were successful. Pennsylvania's mines, mills, and factories operated at production levels not seen since World War II. Unemployment dropped from 7.5 percent in 1962 to 2.8 percent (compared to a national average of 3.8 percent) in 1966. A liberal Republican, Scranton spent more than any of his predecessors ($5.2 billion in four years); but thanks to a booming economy, taxes went up only slightly.

One of the chief beneficiaries of state spending was higher education. Penn State received a larger appropriation each year during the Scranton regime, exceeding $39 million in 1966-67. The state colleges and other state-aided institutions similarly benefited from the Commonwealth's munificence. In 1964 the General Assembly created the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority. Initially a guarantor of low-interest loans made by private banks directly to students, the PHEAA soon began administering its own extensive system of scholarships and loans, based on financial need. Another new agency was the State Board of Education, successor to the forty-year-old State Council of Education. The council had frequently been criticized for neglecting higher education at the very time the Commonwealth was becoming more heavily involved in that area. The new board was designed to correct that deficiency, while remaining Pennsylvania's chief policy-making and advisory panel on education. It had within it two seven-member councils, one for basic education and one for higher education, plus three at-large members. The governor appointed all twenty members for staggered six-year terms. One of the most pressing tasks facing the Council on Higher Education was the formulation of the long-awaited master plan.

The council was preparing this plan at the same time that Governor Scranton was giving his blessing to a significant change in the relationship between the state and three of its largest institutions of higher education. In 1964, President Milton E. Gladfelter and the trustees of Temple University requested that their school be given "state-related" status similar to that accorded Penn State. With an enrollment of 33,000 students, Temple was then the second largest private university in the nation. If the Commonwealth would assume 50 percent of Temple's operating costs, Gladfelter estimated that the institution could cut in half its annual tuition of nearly $1,000. He was not averse to giving the state substantial membership on the board of trustees in exchange for this increased aid.

Many friends of Penn State feared that more money for Temple would mean smaller appropriations for the land-grant institution. President Walker shared this feeling, but he did not oppose Temple's bid for state-related status. He understood the financial problems plaguing that university and appreciated the political repercussions that public opposition might bring. William Scranton looked favorably on Temple's request, believing that lower tuition was essential if the educational needs of southeastern Pennsylvania were to be met. The General Assembly also took this view, and Temple became a state-related university in July 1965.

In western Pennsylvania, meanwhile, two other schools were seeking a change in their status. Indiana State College, the first of the former teachers' colleges to grant liberal arts degrees and the first to offer graduate work, sought to be designated a state university. Becoming a university would not mean that tuition would be reduced. (Tuition was already relatively low at all the state colleges.) It would, however, mean wider recognition and more state money for the diversification that Indiana had long wanted. (In 1965, all fourteen areas of graduate study offered by Indiana were in professional education, and 90 percent of its undergraduates were still enrolled in professional education curriculums.)

Farther to the west, the University of Pittsburgh was asking to be named a state-related school like Temple. Pitt was facing the same kind of financial trouble as its eastern counterpart, and raising tuition was not a viable solution. Making Indiana a university, Pitt supporters declared, would be of little use to residents of the metropolitan Pittsburgh area, many of whom preferred to commute to classes from their homes in order to keep expenses down. Besides, Indiana could not hope to duplicate the diverse educational offerings of the University of Pittsburgh, no matter how grand its expansion plans might be.

Again, Penn State officials privately expressed concern over their institution's future if another state-related school and a full-fledged state university were created. Publicly, however, they raised no objection. Nor did Governor Scranton. In December 1965, the legislature designated Indiana a state university and renamed it (at the institution's curious suggestion) Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In April 1966, the lawmakers approved the University of Pittsburgh's request to become state-related.

While political factors weighed in their decision, members of the General Assembly were motivated mainly by a sincere desire to have Pennsylvania's institutions of higher education offer high-quality instruction at the lowest possible cost. Worried by rising tuition, the House of Representatives in February 1965 had authorized its subcommittee on higher education, chaired by Bucks County Democrat James Gallagher, to determine if Penn State, the state colleges, and fifteen other private but state-aided institutions were putting their appropriations to the best use. Gallagher's committee made the rounds of these schools in the spring, holding public hearings at University Park on May 21 and 22. The committee members were generally impressed with the way state funds were being spent at Penn State and the other schools. At virtually every hearing at every institution they were told (perhaps not unexpectedly) that the best remedy for high tuition was more state assistance. By making Pitt and Temple state-related, the General Assembly demonstrated that it concurred in this opinion.

As for Penn State, the legislature gave bipartisan support to the Scranton administration's suggestion that part of a record budget surplus of $103 million from fiscal 1965 be used to increase the University's appropriation for 1965-66. In return, Penn State would be expected to reduce tuition significantly. At $525 per academic year, it had the fifth-highest tuition rate among land-grant schools.

What happened next illustrated the perils of mixing education and politics. In the summer of 1965, the House and Senate passed separate appropriation bills for Penn State that included extra money for tuition reduction. President Walker estimated that tuition could be decreased as much as $40 per term. Before passing a compromise version of the bill, the General Assembly became embroiled in a fierce debate over legislative redistricting, which the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered in its landmark one-man, one-vote decision of 1964. (The rural areas of the Commonwealth were said to be too heavily represented in Harrisburg.) Legislative business ground to a halt, and state agencies operated on stopgap allocations. The lawmakers finally sent the Penn State appropriation to the governor in November, having forced the University to borrow funds for five months to continue operating. The institution was allotted $29.9 million, $5 million more than the previous year but only enough, after the delay, to allow a $25 per term tuition reduction.

Tardiness in receiving its 1965 appropriation was a portent of things to come for Penn State (along with Temple and Pitt) during the tenure of Raymond P. Shafer, Scranton's successor. Another liberal Republican, Shafer had been Scranton's lieutenant governor and wanted to continue the extensive social service, education, and highway construction programs initiated by the previous administration. These programs were turning out to be far more expensive than originally envisioned, however. To continue them would mean raising taxes substantially.

Where to find additional sources of revenue was always a topic guaranteed to stir controversy in the legislature. Complicating matters was the governor's unwillingness to compromise with legislative leaders, Republican and Democrat, on the kinds and scope of programs he wanted. This unyielding attitude created bitter feelings between the executive and legislative branches. In the General Assembly, many veteran power brokers, such as the Senate's M. Harvey Taylor, had retired or otherwise left the political scene. Their successors displayed less ability to marshal votes on key issues. Partisanship reigned supreme on both sides of the aisle. The times were not easy for Vice President for Public Affairs Ed Keller or his successor (in 1969), T. Reed Ferguson, or their assistants.

The troubled situation in Harrisburg affected the timing of the University's appropriations as much as the amounts. President Walker requested $49.9 million for 1967-68, for example, and Governor Shafer recommended $48.5 million. Bickering over the new taxes delayed passage of the new budget until December, when Penn State was given $47.6 million. In the interim, the institution had to borrow over $20 million and pay in interest money that would otherwise have been spent for educational purposes.

The worst crisis came in 1969-70. Pennsylvania remained economically prosperous, but state spending increased so much that in five years the Commonwealth had gone from a record budget surplus to the brink of bankruptcy. Shafer concluded Pennsylvania must have an income tax if it were to preserve its solvency. He found little enthusiasm among legislators of either party for his proposal and failed in a statewide campaign to arouse popular support for it. Budget discussions in the General Assembly ended in a stalemate, as lawmakers struggled desperately to avoid either reductions in state spending or increased taxation. The University began the new academic year with no idea of the size of its impending appropriation, or when it might be passed. Again it had to borrow huge sums of money. In the face of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression, the board of trustees voted to raise tuition to $200 per term. Not until March 1970 did the governor and legislators agree on the budget-one that included numerous tax increases but no income tax.

The $69.1 million that the University received was about what President Walker had asked for more than a year earlier. But no long-term solution to Pennsylvania's fiscal woes had been found. How Penn State would weather the next budgetary storm was anyone's guess.