To the Editor:
I wish to commend Barry Schrader on his recent excellent column: “NIU Image Gets Needed First Aid” As usual, he masterfully weaves historical material with a very keen analysis of the current situation.
Schrader rightly concludes that the signs are there that NIU’s welfare may well be on the upswing after a recent period of turmoil. This will not be the first period of turmoil over the decades which NIU has encountered and then grown stronger.
What particularly caught my eye in the column was a black and white photo of top administration from 50 years ago. The president and all 3 VP’s prior experience had been mainly as school superintendents. However, they quite skillfully oversaw an unprecedented rapid enrollment and building expansion. Fortunately for them, it wasn’t accompanied by the added stress of major societal changes that were soon to descend.
In 1967, when I joined NIU in a student affairs position, it was a sleepy campus. Most noteworthy today were incredibly sexist regulations. The most “spectacular” was a prohibition against women wearing slacks on-campus unless the Dean of Women officially proclaimed that the wind chill for that day was sufficiently brutal.
This low-keyed campus did not stay that way for long. Great turmoil ensued within less than two years, with major adjustments in administrative focus needed and declining town-gown relations. Coming virtually all at once were: 18-year-old citizenship, the sexual revolution, the women’s movement, the civil rights crusade, increased prevalence of marijuana use, gay liberation and the anti-war movement.
Perhaps most dramatic were the disturbances over the student protestors killed at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970. At NIU this resulted in teach-ins, huge marches, buildings occupied, broken store windows, a few cars set on fire and classes suspended for days (then finals essentially canceled.) Subsequent years brought enrollment drops, budget problems, large residence hall vacancies, (partially related to the trend for off-campus living), and two university presidents resigning under duress, in 1978 and 1986.
NIU’s recent problems have been broadcast much more widely and dramatically through the 24/7 news cycle. However, earlier decades too had serious struggles which were successfully overcome. By all working together history can and hopefully will repeat itself!