“A nation that has lost the allegiance of part of its youth is a nation that has lost part of its future.”
— “The Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest”
Spring is the season of storms in the Shawnee Hills, a range of heavily wooded, unglaciated bedrock that crosses extreme southern Illinois in an arch from just north of Fountain Bluff on the Mississippi River to near Shawneetown on the Ohio River.
In early June, when the polar jet stream dips near the state of Illinois, weather moves swiftly from west to east, with hot, dry air from the southwest colliding with warm, moist air from the southeast and cooler air from the north. The heat and moisture rise while traversing a craggy landscape 500 to 900 feet higher than the surrounding prairie and river bottoms. This upward thrust creates instability in the atmosphere, which is why there is more rain and more thunderstorms here each year than elsewhere in Illinois.
The most violent tornado in the history of the United States passed this way on March 18, 1925, skirting the northern edge of the Shawnee Hills before destroying 40 percent of the town of Murphysboro in Jackson County, killing 248 people before roaring off to the northeast. If its path had veered east a mere eight miles to Carbondale, Illinois, the twister could have laid waste to the campus of a state teachers’ college and its roughly 1,700 students.
Forty-five years later, societal forces would not spare what had grown into Southern Illinois University, whose enrollment topped 20,000 students by the end of the 1960s. A different kind of turbulence then converged on Carbondale, one infused with youthful impatience over a war that would not end and a university system that would not change. The pressure built until it erupted in May 1970 following the shooting of anti-war protesters at Kent State University.
For seven days, students, police and National Guard troops skirmished on campus and in the community. SIU then closed for the remainder of the academic term, the only Illinois university shut down completely by Kent State protests. Student journalists who worked for the Daily Egyptian, the SIU newspaper, and the professional journalists who supervised their work or taught them in classes, were among those who had watched as storm clouds gathered over the Shawnee Hills.
Lenny Granato had two opportunities to sample the political mood on the SIU campus during the 1960s. He was a master’s degree student in 1963 and 1964. Following a stint as a correspondent for United Press International, he returned in 1968 to begin doctoral studies and to teach journalism classes. “The big student issue in 1963-64 was civil rights, with anti-war sentiment toward Vietnam just coming onto the radar screen, as I recall,” Granato said. “By 1968, antiwar sentiment had pushed civil rights into second place as an issue big among students.”
Ellen Matheson Ramp started at SIU in 1967. She remembered the student body of her freshman year as being more involved with the “social” aspect of college than social issues. “Most of the time, the students were kind of laid-back and partying,” said Ramp, who joined the staff of the Daily Egyptian in 1969. “People came to Southern from the region, and if they came from the Chicago area, the St. Louis area, it was because we had the reputation as a party school.”
Jerry Grotta relocated to Carbondale in 1967 from Pocatello, Idaho. Like Granato, he had moved to Southern Illinois to begin doctoral studies and to teach journalism. Grotta had been an instructor at Idaho State University where he said what passed for major controversy was “a sociology professor who wouldn’t wear socks.” By comparison, he found the SIU campus to have “a very, very electric atmosphere.”
Grotta said he was surprised at the level of engagement among SIU students. “Up until about this time, SIU was really considered more of a party school. It was a school for people who couldn’t make it at the University of Illinois. … The party was still going on, but even at parties, there was a lot of heavy discussion and debating about Vietnam, what was happening there.”
An evolving consciousness
Development of an oppositional culture on college campuses coincided with the explosive growth of higher education after World War II; by 1969, more than seven million students attended American universities and colleges, nearly six times the number of college students in the 1930s. In the spring of 1970, half of all Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one were enrolled in college.
The President’s Commission on Student Unrest was created by President Richard M. Nixon in June 1970 following demonstrations on hundreds of college campus after U.S. soldiers invaded Cambodia and the shooting of students at Kent State and Jackson State universities. The commission traced the beginnings of student dissent in the 1960s to the Free Speech Movement at the University of California Berkeley in 1964, which was a reaction to a decision of the UC-Berkeley administration to prohibit partisan political activity on campus.
Berkeley organizers adopted two tactics – strikes and sit-ins – that had been successful in the civil rights movement but had not been used previously on college campuses. The next year, instructors at the University of Michigan added the “teach-in” to the activists’ playbook as a way of increasing awareness of the Vietnam War through informal lectures and debates. Also in 1965, Students for a Democratic Society, another export of the University of Michigan, sponsored the first large, public anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.
Protest was a regular part of campus life at SIU beginning in the spring of 1965 when students who had organized as the Rational Action Movement (RAM) took aim at university regulations governing most aspects of student life. SIU President Delyte Morris met with 20 RAM members for four days in May 1965 following a rally on the lawn in front of Morris Library. He later asked the SIU Faculty Council to examine issues raised by student dissent. That led to what formally was called the Commission to Study the Role of the University in Society and the Role and Participation of Students in University Affairs. Chaired by Claude Coleman, a member of Morris’ staff, it is best known by the short-form name given the result of its deliberations — the Coleman Report — which was issued in spring 1967.
The Coleman group, which included faculty, administrators, undergraduate and graduate students, recommended that students have more input into policies governing student life and academics. It also advocated for a student press “free” from administration control. However, the report also expressed disdain for dissent that exceeded polite discourse: “The tantrum theory must not be employed to account for all students now attending colleges and universities, but it appears to explain from five to ten percent. … It seems certain that the colleges and universities will have a percentage of these spoiled brats to put up with for a couple of decades. At the same time that there is a universal clamor for higher education, these unhealthy problem children inflict their presence upon us. There are enough problems without them.”
Student government elections in 1967 saw the ascension of the RAM-influenced Action Party, whose candidates won a majority of seats in the Student Senate and the presidency of the student body. It ushered in a period of heightened student activism, which put pressure on the university administration to deal with demands for greater self-determination at a time that anti-war sentiment was building nationally.
In Carbondale, the anti-war campaign was led by the Southern Illinois Peace Committee, which was organized in the fall of 1967, just in time to send a contingent of SIU students to an anti-war rally in the nation’s capital, which became known as the March on the Pentagon. Anti-war events could draw a cross-section of the community in large numbers. By contrast, protests that weren’t about the war rarely attracted more than 50 people, according to Daily Egyptian news stories and the recollections of newspaper alumni.
Wayne Markham started at Daily Egyptian as a freshman doing paste-up work in the newspaper’s back-shop. By his senior year, he had been named student managing editor, the top position for an undergraduate. He saw the environment for protest at SIU as a product of both the times and the isolation of the campus in downstate Illinois – literally a hundred miles from the nearest big city. “I think students, not just at SIU but everywhere, were kind of challenging authority,” he said. “That comes with age and the nature of the beast as you get older. But I think it was magnified there because it had been such a closed environment for such a long time. It’s so far removed from big cities; it wasn’t easy for alternative perspectives to get in there.”
John Lopinot regularly attended rallies as a Daily Egyptian photographer. “I think the vast majority of students who were at these protests were curious, wanting to see what was going on,” he said. “There were just a handful of people leading all these things. It was the same people.”
Bob Carr, whose news “beat” at the Daily Egyptian was student activism, recalled that attending demonstrations did not require a large degree of individual commitment. “Sometimes it was almost a social event,” he said. “There were a lot of really arcane things that got protested, and you’d think, ‘Ah, Jeez, do I want to get involved in that? Naw, not my thing. Do I feel good about it? Yeah. Should I stick around for about 10 minutes? Yeah, I think I’ll do that.’ And then you’d move on, go to class, do something else.”
Reporter P.J. Heller noted that the nature of news coverage, then and now, amplified the significance of protest beyond the sheer number of people at any one event. “Looking back, it would be difficult to venture a guess as to how many people supported campus leaders. I think what made the news then – and still makes news today – were the people who were following those leaders, not the others who may have ignored much of what was going on.”
The “Summer of Love” didn’t last into the autumn of 1967, and neither did the Age of Aquarius herald the dawning of a new age of enlightenment. It was hardly a time when “peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.” The year 1968 taught some painful lessons to the college students of America.
It was a year that the truth about the war in Vietnam became clear on the television sets of America. The myth of impending victory exploded as reports beamed into living rooms in February of a Tet offensive launched by an enemy of surprising resilience and commitment. April brought the death of another illusion – that the country was ready to move past the racial enmity that had poisoned so much of its history. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain, killed by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tenn. Major cities burned everywhere except Indianapolis, where Robert F. Kennedy reminded a largely African-American crowd on an inner city street corner that he, too, had lost a family member to a white man with a gun.
By August, a shot from a .22-caliber revolver had denied the nation another Kennedy as president. Robert Kennedy was assassinated as he closed in on the nomination of his party for president in the 1968 election. Delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago wept as they sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in his honor, while disillusioned young people, angry that their heroes and their dreams had been snatched from them, fought cops in the streets surrounding the convention center.
All of it made the academic year a stressful one for college administrators. A folder of news clippings collected that year by the office of SIU President Delyte Morris tells the story in headline chunks: “Student Power – New Force on Campus,” Nov. 10, 1967, St. Louis Globe Democrat; “U of I Expels 7 for sit-in Protest of Dow Recruiting,” Nov. 23, 1967, Chicago’s American; “Colleges Attack New Draft Rules,” Jan. 31, 1968 New York Times; and “Student Unrest Rocks Illinois Colleges,” May 22, 1968, Southern Illinoisan. The Daily Egyptian’s contributions to the file included an article headlined “Militant Unionism in U.S. Colleges Predicted for ’68,” from an interview with new SIU student body president Ray Lenzi, who thought it would be a good idea for students to organize themselves like a labor union.
A chronology of student disorders at SIU in spring 1968, also part of the President’s Office archives, begins with April 4 – the day the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. There was no trouble on campus following the civil rights leader’s death; fires and vandalism were confined to the northeast section of Carbondale. Trouble was on the way, however.
The primary focus of student activists that month was an April 26 demonstration billed as “anti-war, anti-draft and anti-racial oppression.” As Carbondale’s radical factions mobilized, the Daily Egyptian carried Associated Press stories about student unrest and strikes at other colleges, including Columbia University in New York and Southeast Missouri College in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Reports about Columbia students occupying campus buildings prompted discussion among Carbondale’s radicals of adopting similar tactics. Instead, simultaneous protests on May 2 took a more traditional approach. At the University Center, where military recruiters could meet with students, protesters surrounded the recruiting tables and linked arms in a human chain, refusing to let anyone pass. The group included SIU students, faculty and nonstudents. After 90 minutes, security officials told the group to leave or face arrest. Although no one was taken into custody, 11 SIU students were put on academic probation for participating in the protest.
Meanwhile, another group of protesters staged a sit-in at President Morris’ office, where a dozen or so students showed up wearing paper bags on their heads. Written on the bags were the students’ identification numbers, representing what the demonstrators considered the university’s impersonal, bureaucratic attitude toward students.
As protest intensified, so did the rhetoric. On May 6, a suggestion to occupy or burn down the president’s house was made at a meeting of anti-war and student empowerment groups. Within hours, a bomb exploded in the Agriculture Building on campus.
The blast was heard by a Security Office patrol at 3:55 a.m. on May 7. An explosive device had been denotated in the wall between an elevator shaft and the doorway to the building’s auditorium. The explosion blew out classroom doors along a 200-foot-corridor and shattered windows. Security police reported that natural gas jets had been turned on in a nearby laboratory, but the gas had not ignited. Investigators found bits of wire, black adhesive tape, alarm clock parts and a battery in the hallway. The FBI laboratory in Washington, D.C., analyzed the items and concluded that a homemade timing device had been used to detonate an explosive charge.
No suspects were identified or arrested in connection with the bombing. No one had been injured by the blast. However, the incident elicited a warning from Morris: “Freedom to protest by lawful means must and will be protected by all the authority available to the university. However, when actions of individuals or minority groups interfere with the legitimate rights of others and are directed at the disruption of the normal processes of the university life, they must and will be resisted.”
The administration took one other immediate action; it withdrew an invitation for black power advocate Stokely Carmichael to speak on campus at the end of the month. Canceling the speaking engagement also provoked an immediate reaction. A protest by about 200 African-American students outside Morris’s campus home the evening of May 8 became an occupation after a few students broke into the president’s office. SIU Security officers arrested those inside the building, and nightsticks were employed to encourage the rest of the protesters to go away. Contacted afterward by reporters, Morris said this about the protesters: “Some are in jail. Some are in the hospital. All are expelled.”
In a letter to parents of SIU students dated May 15, 1968, Morris urged them to tell their children to focus on education and to use “the regular channels of communication” to make concerns known to university administrators. He wrote: “Our entire system of democratic government is one based on law and the concept of due process under law. Hence, I feel there is no alternative but to deal directly, firmly and immediately with individuals or groups who would destroy freedom for all by demanding, by force, special privileges for themselves.”
Morris’ handling of the 1968 protests won him a commendation from the SIU board of trustees and selection as “Man of the Year” by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. Media organizations from outside of Southern Illinois took note of the no-nonsense educator, who in two decades had turned a small state teaching college into the 20th largest university system in the country, with an enrollment of 21,576 students at Carbondale in the fall of 1968.
Morris’ remarks about student dissent revealed two beliefs that influenced his approach to protest: One, most students did not follow the activists’ agenda; and two, radical campus elements were being manipulated by professional agitators bent on wrecking the nation’s university system. “The similarity between demands made here and by organizations laying down the blueprints for the disruption of universities is not a coincidence,” Morris told the Christian Science Monitor in 1968. “There are organizers being sent to us, and they are using nationally and internationally sponsored methods.”
Further evidence of Morris’s belief in a “leftist conspiracy” is revealed in correspondence between the SIU president and Willis Moore, chairman of the SIU Faculty Council. Following an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about expulsions resulting from the May 1968 demonstration, Moore wrote to Morris about a statement attributed to Moore in the article. He wrote: “The sentence about a conspiracy was given to the reporter approximately as follows: ‘President Morris’s reactions to these student demonstrations is based on two assumptions: that there is an international conspiracy of leftist groups to take over the colleges and universities of the country and that the best way to handle situations generated by these groups is to immediately meet violence head-on with force.’
Moore also addressed the subject of conspiracy in a March 1968 letter to Morris about the student power movement: “It is clear to me that the widespread campus movement toward student power in major areas of the total academic situation is not a communist led plot. There probably are some individual communists in it; but, for the most part, these individuals are just riding on the band wagon of a concern that would be there if there were no communists in the land.”
Daily Egyptian photographer Ralph Kylloe said nonstudents were involved in local protest activities, but he never had the impression that their sole purpose for being in Carbondale was to agitate. “There was maybe a half dozen people who were not part of the university campus, who were not students, who were definitely down there. But they weren’t saying a bunch of things that were lies. They were not lying about this stuff.”
Reporter Bob Carr said students welcomed information and perspectives from outside the immediate university community. “What you would see on occasion is somebody who was obviously from out of town coming in with a line about Mao or trying to persuade people about this or that. They were pretty quickly identified as being from another place, but there was great interest in what they were saying. … As far as linking up with a huge international conspiracy that was going to take down all the universities, kids never had an issue with the university itself, only as an expression of the larger military-industrial complex.”
Follow the leader
Support for any specific activist agenda may not have been widespread at SIU, but there is evidence that many SIU students shared the activists’ desire for at least some change of university practices and policies. SIU professors David Everson and Roy Miller surveyed students during the winter quarter of 1969 about their attitudes toward university authority and their support for various protest activities. The findings were published in April 1970.
Nearly two-thirds of students responding to the survey favored either “some” or “many” changes to the structure of the university, while only 2 percent expressed a desire for “revolution.” In general, students felt that courses should be more relevant and that students should have more input into what they were taught and by whom. A majority of students agreed that the university should not regulate women’s dormitory hours or control where students live.
The study also identified a high degree of alienation among students, who expressed distrust of both student government and the administration. “As individuals, they do not feel that they have much to say about what student government does, what the administration does or what the faculty teaches,” the researchers concluded. “Sizeable numbers of students believe that the student government, the administration and the faculty don’t care what they think.”
It was a feeling shared by some reporters at the Daily Egyptian. “It was a little frustrating because you didn’t really know if these protests and the things that were happening were really going to do any good,” Rich Davis said. “I certainly was not in favor of the war, and I did watch that (SIU) board of trustees in action. I did think they were kind of out of touch. They had this white, elderly banker image. At the same time, I was a little distrustful of some of the student leadership or the people leading the protests. I didn’t know those people really well, and I got the feeling sometimes that they were really getting into being the ‘leaders’ of these protests.”
The ideological leanings of students on the Daily Egyptian staff in May 1970 were similar to what Everson and Miller found among the SIU student body. Of thirteen student journalists interviewed, all but four (69 percent) said they either held “moderate” or “liberal” views in May 1970. Two (15 percent) said they considered themselves “radical,” and two others identified with the “conservative” end of the spectrum. Everson and Miller’s survey of student attitudes reported that 66 percent of respondents identified themselves as moderate or liberal, 7 percent chose radial and 16 percent said they were conservatives. All but one of the newspaper alumni said they were opposed in some degree to the Vietnam War, but their opposition stopped short of involvement in demonstrations.
“I didn’t have time to pick sides or raise my fist in protest while I was shooting pictures. I just felt this was really an important time,” said Daily Egyptian photographer John Lopinot. “The job I was doing was very important, and I wanted to be at everything. I wanted to take pictures of whatever was happening in front of me. I wanted to be part of it that way – documenting it.”
Fellow photographer Ralph Kylloe felt the same way. “I would involve myself in campus discussions, but on the other hand, when there’s a parade walking down the street, you can’t be in the parade. There’s no two ways about it. You have to stand off on the sidelines and make the photographs.”
Staying on the sidelines would be difficult for Daily Egyptian staff members during 1969 and 1970, years of fire, dissent and broken glass in Carbondale.
NEXT: Old Main is burning
Endnotes: Chapter 2
 “The Report of the Commission on Campus Unrest,” reprinted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 1970. This edition carried the entire report of the President’s Commission on Student Unrest, which was created by President Richard Nixon on 13 June 1970. It is sometimes referenced as the Scranton Commission for its chairman, William W. Scranton, a former governor of Pennsylvania.
 Wayne T. Frankie, “Guide to the Geology of the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, Shawnee National Forest, Saline, Gallatin, Pope and Hardin Counties, Illinois,” Illinois State Geological Survey, accessed via internet 10 June 2019, library.isgs.illinois.edu/Pubs/pdfs/ftgb/ftgb2009B-gardenofthegods.pdf
 Dr. Jim Angel, “Climate of Illinois Narrative,” State Climatology Office of Illinois, accessed via internet 13 May 2019, www.isws.illinois.edu/statecli/General/Illinois-climate-narrative.htm. The difference in elevation is enough to increase annual precipitation in the southwest part of the state by about 10 to 15 percent. The region also experiences about 80 thunderstorms annually, compared to 60 storms annually in the far northeastern corner of Illinois.
 See R. A. Maddox, M. S. Gilmore, C. A. Doswell III, R. H. Johns, C. A. Crisp, D. W. Burgess, J. A. Hart 1-27/.and S. F. Piltz, 2013, “Meteorological Analyses of the Tri-State Tornado Event of March 1925, Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology, 8(1) for estimate of structures damaged in Murphysboro. Fatality estimate from Encyclopedia Britannica, electronic edition, http://www.brittanica.com.
 Enrollment figure estimated from Obelisk, Centennial edition, Southern Illinois University, Mimi Sandifer, editor, p. 26.
 Len Granato, interview by author, by email, between 24 August 2002, and 28 January 2003.
 Ellen Matheson Ramp, interview by author, by telephone, 20 May 2004.
 Jerry Grotta, interview by author, by telephone, 28 February 2003.
 Report of the Commission, 4.
 Wini Breines, “Of This Generation: The New Left and the Student Movement,” in Long Time Gone, Sixties America Then and Now, ed. Alexander Bloom, (New York: Oxford University Press).
 Richard Nixon announced the U.S. invasion of Cambodia on April 30. National Guard troops fired on anti-war protesters at Kent State on May 4, killing four people and wounded nine. Following the Kent State shootings, Carbondale experienced seven days of civil unrest between May 6 and May 12. On May 14, police in Jackson, Miss., responding to a disturbance at Jackson State University, fired into a women’s dormitory, killing two people and wounding 12. By that time, the Carbondale campus had suspended classes for the remainder of the year.
 Report of the Commission, 4-5.
 President’s Office Collection, Box 453, Rational Action Movement, folder 1965-66, Special Collections, Morris Library.
 Southern Illinois University, The Recommendations of the Commission to Study the Role of the University in Society and the Role and Participation of Students in University Affairs, 18 April 1967. President’s Office Collection, Box 547, Coleman Report folder.
 Ibid, 1-2.
 H.B. Koplowitz, Carbondale After Dark (Carbondale: DOME Publications), 14.
 Geographically, Southern Illinois University is located 325 miles south of Chicago. The nearest urban area is Evansville, Ind., 100 miles to the east. East St. Louis, Ill., is the closest urban area in Illinois, 103 miles northwest of Carbondale.
 Wayne Markham, interview by author, by telephone, 29 March 2004.
 John Lopinot, interview by author, tape recording, Carbondale, Illinois, September 18, 2003.
 P.J. Heller, interview by author, via email, September 10, 2002 to December 9, 2002.
 Newspaper clipping file, President’s Office Collection, Box 451, Student Protest folder.
 “Militant Unionism in U.S. Colleges Predicted for ’68,” 22 August 1967, Daily Egyptian.
 Memo to James Brown, n.a., 2 December 1968, President’s Office Collection, Box 569, Student Dissent folder, Morris Library. A preface to what is labeled “Chronology of Student Disorders” reports that the list of events was compiled from news stories appearing in the Daily Egyptian.
 Ibid, 3.
 Ibid, 4.
 Thomas Leffler to Delyte Morris, memo on recruitment disturbance of 2 May 1968, 21 May 1968, President’s Office Collection, Box 450.
 Koplowitz, Carbondale, 16.
 Memo to James Brown.
 Written statement, n.a., n.d, President’s Office Collection, Box 450, Student Dissent 1968 folder.
 Statement of policy, Southern Illinois University, n.a., 8 1968 May President’s Office Collection.
 John Epperheimer, “Trouble Outbreak was Anticipated,” Daily Egyptian, 10 May 1968. Subsequent news reports about the May 8 disturbance contain conflicting information on the number of students facing disciplinary or legal action, with numbers alternating between seven and eight. The Post-Dispatch article of 9 January 1970, see note 56, reports eight students were expelled.
 Letter to parents, Delyte Morris, 15 May 1968, Box 453, Student Disturbances Response to Violence, President’s Office Collection.
 Minutes of Board of Trustees, 17 May 1968, annual report of 1967-68. Morris Library. The text of the commendation presented by board member Ivan A. Elliott read as follows: “I move commendation to Dr. Morris and the administration in the recent prompt, decisive action to control campus violence, which is considered a threat by a few to personal safety, to property and to the right of the mass of students to an education in an atmosphere conducive to learning.”
 Koplowitz, Carbondale, 17.
 George Leposky, “Education Explosion in Southern Illinois,” Chicago American, 25 November 1968.
 Lucia Mouat, “Mild Educator Molds Big Midwest Campuses,” Christian Science Monitor, 17 July 1968.
 Willis Moore to Delyte Morris, letter, 22 August 1968, Box 450, Recruitment Disturbance, President’s Office Collection.
 Willis Moore to Delyte Morris, letter, 4 March 1968, Box 450, Student Dissent 1968, President’s Office Collection.
 Ralph Kylloe, interview by author, by telephone, Sept. 30, 2002.
 Carr, interview.
 David H. Everson and Roy E. Miller, “SIU Student Attitudes Toward University Authority: A Profile,” April 1970, Public Affairs Research Bulletin of Southern Illinois University.
 Everson and Miller, “SIU Student Attitudes,” 2, Table 1.1.
 Ibid, 3.
 Ibid, 8, Table 1.4.
 Davis, interview.
 Political orientation of Daily Egyptian student staff drawn from pre-interview surveys conducted by author and supplemented by interviews.
 Everson and Miller, “SIU Student Attitudes,” 15, Table 1.7.
 Op cit.
 Lopinot, interview.
 Kylloe, interview.