Fifty Years Ago, April – May 1970

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by Rob O'Boyle

50 years ago was a time of student activism and protest in the United States. Earth Day was celebrated for the first time on April 22, 1970. The Earth day program at OCC began at 10:00 a.m. with talks headed by Conservation Club President Robert Shute. The auditorium at Midtown Plaza was the site of an “earth funeral” with the walls of the room covered with posters created by Syracuse city school children. Professor Nancy McCarty (History and Political Science) organized her students in a “Dirty Picture Contest” to document the worst evidences of local pollution. College students were impacted by the implementation of the draft, the Vietnam conflict, and civil unrest around the country. The military draft was resumed in December 1969. That spring two faculty members, Professor Dorothy Harth (Modern Languages) and Rev. John Wagner (Counseling), stood beside the dry fountain at Midtown’s entrance to read each week’s list of names of United States soldiers killed in Vietnam. Two weeks after Earth Day there was a prolonged protest at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio that included the burning of the ROTC building. This protest was in response to the United States invasion of Cambodia. On May 4, 1970 Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State. 4 students lost their lives and an additional 9 students were injured. Hundreds of universities, colleges and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike nationally. On May 5 over 100 students from Onondaga Community College joined 4000 Syracuse University students in a march from their respective campuses to downtown Syracuse. There was some violence on the Syracuse University campus and classes were cancelled. The campus at OCC remained open. Students at OCC voted to have a two day suspension of classes. The administration indicated that the law required the College to hold regular scheduled classes. Classes were held and some students boycotted. Later in the fall of 1970 students took to the downtown streets again to protest when the grand jury failed to bring any indictments against the members of the Ohio National Guard while bringing some indictments against 24 students and one faculty member.

Photograph 1: On October 24, 1970 student protesters marched in Downtown Syracuse in reaction to the Kent State Shootings. These shootings occured between students and the National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970.

Photograph 2: Students in Syracuse marched in protest when the courts indicted the student protesters, but did not indict the National Guardsmen.