History of Campus Demonstrations & Rallies

A guide detailing historical events on the campus of Eastern Michigan University related to student protest and demonstrations

How to Demonstrate Dissent

On September 18, 1968 Eastern Michigan University President Harold Sponberg issued a statement about the proper way to demonstrate dissent on campus. An excerpt from this statement reads: 

If a demonstration of dissent (or other group demonstration or activity) should involve interference with the rights of other members of the EMU community, violence or overt threats of violence to other persons, destruction or damage of property, or disruption of the University’s established academic or administrative procedure (for example unauthorized occupancy of offices, conference rooms,or reception rooms of University staff members, blocking access to such areas, unauthorized occupancy of University buildings beyond normal closing hours, and unauthorized breaking into and entering staff or student residences), such an incident is a threat to the freedom and openness and effectiveness of our University.

This statement was issued to ensure that demonstrations surrounding the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement remained peaceful and did not disrupt life on campus. His aim was not to end all demonstrations and protests on campus, but to make sure that campus remained a safe environment for everyone. 

House of Representatives

The Committee on Internal Security, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives, issued a report called the Anatomy of a Revolutionary Movement: "Students for A Democratic Society" on October 6, 1970. This report details the history of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the demonstrations that they were involved in. The purpose of this report was to decide whether or not the SDS was a threat to national security. An excerpt from the report states, "Among the domestic episodes in which SDS members were specifically reported to be involved during February 1968 [actually 1969] were an occupation of buildings in cooperation with a black nationalist student group at Eastern Michigan University." The aforementioned incident was when students at Eastern Michigan University occupied Pierce Hall and then protested outside of President Sponberg's house. 

Commission to Investigate the Disorders at EMU

After the incident at Kent State and the resulting demonstrations at Eastern Michigan University, President Sponberg formed a committee to investigate why these demonstrations occurred. The Report of the Commission to Investigate the Disorders at Eastern Michigan University in May 1970, attempts to explain why these demonstrations occurred and why they were so disruptive. The commission reports that prior unrest at Eastern Michigan University was the main reason for why the demonstrations after the incident at Kent State were so disruptive and destructive.  

Project Credit

The History of Campus Demonstrations guide was created by Aleesa Wright as part of her course work for HIST489L4.