A History of Protest

Recent protests in the African American studies department revisit old battles.

Students march down Broad Street in Fall 1990. | TTN FILE PHOTOS
Students march down Broad Street in Fall 1990. | TTN FILE PHOTOS

There’s nothing wrong with protests,” said the smiling Maxwell C. Stanford Jr., an adjunct African American studies professor at Temple. “That’s how this department got here.”

Stanford, 72, has been an activist and community organizer since he was 18 years old. During his 52-year-long career he was a friend to Malcolm X and co-founder of the Revolutionary Action Movement, a Black Nationalist student organization.

On Nov. 17, 1967, about 4,000 African American students marched on the School District of Philadelphia building to demand better facilities, African American history courses and the right to wear traditional African attire in school.

Witnesses quoted Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo as shouting “Get their black asses” when he ordered officers to suppress the protest. Despite Rizzo’s crackdowns on protesters, the movement grew stronger and more determined.

Eventually, this movement helped establish the African American studies department at Temple in 1971.

“Students from all the high schools and colleges, including Temple, walked out of class,” said Stanford’s friend Walter Palmer, a professor of urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania and curator of BlackBottom, a site which chronicles the history of gentrification in Philadelphia. Palmer helped organize the 1967 protest.

The history of student protests at Temple has much in common with many other colleges. The spirit of dissent among youth in the 1960s and early 1970s took hold of many Temple students and Philadelphia residents. There were civil rights and Vietnam War demonstrations at Temple, and students lamented the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, who had both spoken to crowds of students on Main Campus.

Still, Temple’s most unique protests have typically involved the university’s relationship with the surrounding community and faculty issues. Recent protests, like the sit-in by the organization Justice for Dr. Anthony Monteiro March 10 at the Board of Trustees’ meeting, have focused on community issues as well as the professor’s firing.

TTN FILE PHOTO
TTN FILE PHOTO

PAUL ANDERSON’S TUMULTUOUS PRESIDENCY (1967-73)

In his comprehensive account of Temple’s history titled “Temple University: 125 Years of Service to Philadelphia, the Nation, and the World,” retired Temple history professor James Hilty describes Paul Anderson’s presidency as “one of the most trying and difficult times in Temple’s history.”

In 1954 the trustees made a pledge to grow the campus to 210 acres, which was later funded by Temple’s influx of state money from becoming a state-related institution in 1965. During this period of campus growth leading up to and continuing through Anderson’s presidency, Temple built the Student Center as well as Ritter, Speakman and Annenberg halls, and private developers built retail units and apartments around campus. Nolen-Swinburne & Associates, the firm Temple hired to plan the expansion, wrote that the “squeeze of the slum area [was] becoming intolerable.”

This expansion, which led to the demolition of residencies claimed by eminent domain, was a central theme in student protests during Anderson’s administration. In Spring 1969, the Steering Committee for Black Students pushed for more community voices involved in Temple’s plans for expansion, as well as an Afro-Asian Institute and special admissions for Hispanic and African-American students. Many of the SCBS were involved in the march on the School District of Philadelphia in 1967.

Mounting pressure from SCBS, including multiple sit-ins, led to Anderson’s cooperation. The two parties met multiple times each week in April 1969 to discuss plans. The students wanted a deal done before finals week in mid-May, but the administration made no promises.

In May 1969, Anderson announced a moratorium on the site where a building was going up, delaying the construction of the nearly $11 million humanities building now known as Anderson Hall. He promised a charrette, a French term for an urban planning steering committee that considers all stakeholders.

The charrette, which first met in December 1969, “quickly descended into a bargaining session over land,” according to Urban Oasis, the blog of former Temple history professor LaDale Winling, now a history professor at Virginia Tech.

After three weeks, the charrette ended, and there was no formal agreement between Temple and the community until Gov. Raymond Shafer forced one. Temple would limit the height of buildings on the campus perimeter and keep 10 of the 22 disputed acres. Construction on Anderson Hall resumed.

A year later in September, Temple allowed the Black Panthers to hold its national conference on Main Campus. The administration reportedly allowed it since they were fearful of more protests or even violence should they decline, Hilty said.

Throughout his presidency, students criticized Anderson for a perceived lack of consideration of the student body. Meanwhile, state legislators told Anderson to crack down on radical dissenters, particularly after he allowed the Black Panthers conference.

THE WACHMAN ERA (1973-82)

Vice President for Academic Affairs Marvin Wachman, the former president of the historically black Lincoln University, became Temple’s president in 1973 after Anderson’s retirement. One of Wachman’s first goals was to improve community relations.

“[Wachman] was able to soften the effects of the charrette’s failure,” said Hilty, a friend of Wachman’s and author of the foreword to Wachman’s memoir “The Education of a University President.”

In Wachman’s first year, Temple founded the Office of Community Relations and appointed Thomas Anderson Jr. as its head. Thomas Anderson Jr. served in the position until his retirement in 2004. In 1975, Temple began a daycare center for community children. It later closed in 1995.

“[Thomas Anderson Jr.] was a pretty decent guy,” Palmer said. “But it was tough. He had to be torn between two loyalties.”

Wachman set a precedent for infrequent building, and during his presidency sought to be open with students. During Wachman’s term, students who had protested Mitten Hall cafeteria’s prices and seating arrangements got what they wanted: food trucks on Main Campus.

“One of my favorite pictures of Marvin is the one with him standing in front of Leo’s food truck with the students,” Hilty said. “It shows a lot about the kind of president he was.”

There were far less large-scale protests under Wachman, and he was generally well-liked by community members.

“I miss Marvin Wachman,” Monteiro said to reporters after a March 10 meeting with the administration.

LIACOURAS: GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY (1982-2000)

Peter Liacouras’ presidency saw the implementation of the Good Neighbor Policy, a commitment to address the community’s concerns and be hospitable to it. Compared to Paul Anderson, Liacouras had much less community unrest to deal with, even after the construction of the Liacouras Center and more residence halls like 1300 Residence Hall and White Hall. However, it was under Liacouras that Main Campus was rocked by two large-scale faculty strikes backed by student support in 1986 and 1990.

In October 1986, unionized faculty picketed for higher wages, urging students not to cross the picket lines. For the most part, students did not come to class that month while the two sides negotiated a salary raise. On Oct. 27, the sides agreed to a 13 percent total pay increase. Temple had set Oct. 27 as the cutoff date before the semester would be canceled.

The 1990 faculty strike was the first university strike in Pennsylvania to be ended by court order. The striking faculty demanded higher pay again, but also protested against the new provision that faculty contribute $260 a year to health insurance. Hundreds of students withdrew during the strike. During the 1990 strike, students blocked North Broad Street with sit-downs on three separate days, and stormed Sullivan Hall to meet with Liacouras on Sept. 11.

The year was also marked by one of the largest student protests in Temple’s history. In late April, students from the now-defunct Phi Kappa Psi fraternity claimed that African-American students had smashed windows in the fraternity’s house. Members chased the alleged perpetrators to Johnson and Hardwick halls where a brawl ensued.

“There was plenty of provocation, and there is plenty of blame to spread around,” Liacouras said in 1990.

At the protest in May, about five hundred students and community members sat down and blocked traffic on Broad Street near Temple, protesting the university’s handling of the incident. The students claimed that the university was biased against the African-American students in its discipline of the incident.

THE 2000’s

From his involvement with the Democratic Socialists of America and its Temple chapter, Intellectual Heritage Director Joseph Schwartz has met his fair share of student activists.

Schwartz, who has taught at Temple since 1988, notes that Temple’s campus climate has been arguably less dissent-filled than others, due to Temple’s role as a commuter school and the fact that many students are employed.

“There are always activists on campus. What changes with time is each generation’s organizing abilities,” Schwartz said, adding “though I’d imagine lots of students are only concerned about getting a degree.”

“In the 1960s, I could call a meeting for an issue at midnight and have several hundred people show up for it,” Palmer said. “It’s not like that nowadays.”

Students in the 2000s have protested everything from the Iraq War to the labor conditions of the workers who make the Temple sweatshirts sold in the bookstore. During the Occupy Philadelphia movement in 2011, students took the subway to City Hall after class.

The growing rise of environmentalist sentiment has sparked recent protest as well: students have protested Temple’s involvement with PNC Bank since it invests in mountain top removal mining, an activity they deemed ethically questionable.

THE FUTURE

In his office next to Monteiro’s, Stanford, whose contract has also not been renewed, sees an ending to the conflict between the administration and the protesters if both sides “look for a win-win.”

“Any wise administration would not want to have antagonistic relationships with the surrounding community,” Stanford said. “This is a crossroads for Temple.”

Joe Brandt can be reached at joseph.brandt@temple.edu or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU.

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