Radical UMass timeline

Welcome to the Radical UMass web site.  This site contains a listing of SOME of the radical movements and activities at UMass and the surrounding area from the 1960s to today.  In many cases there is a link to a paper written by a student in the spring 2011 Radical Movements course taught by Dan Clawson in the sociology department.

UMass has an impressive history of activism, but for the most part that history is hidden.  We hope you will learn about UMass’s activist heritage.  Even more so, we hope that you will make history by contributing to future activism.  It is radical movements, and activism, which challenges the established system and changes the world.

Please comment on the timeline, or on any of the papers, adding more information, analysis, reactions, or suggestions.  Anyone may comment; if you want to add significant additional material, say accounts of another movement, please email Dan Clawson, clawson.dan@gmail.com.

Comments, suggestions, and additions strongly encouraged.

1965    Curfews for women

Women students have strict curfews.  Entering first year students had to be in their dorms by 8:00 p.m. weeknights for the first six weeks.  Junior and senior women could stay out until 11:00 p.m. weeknights, and until 1:00 a.m. Saturday.  The Dean of Women announced a new “bed check” policy to be sure women were really in their dorms.  Women organized against the policy, with a petition signed by more than 75 percent of women students; to everyone’s surprise, the policy was (largely) abolished.  Connect to Kaela Kennedy’s paper.

Late 1960s, early 1970s         Contraception and abortion

Contraception was illegal for unmarried students, but the UMass health service nonetheless provided it.  Eight hundred students marched against the policy.  A UMass woman student died in an illegal botched abortion performed by her boyfriend.  Local activists drove women needing abortion to New York, after abortion became legal there.  Connect to Emily Smith’s paper.

1969-70           Afro-American Studies

Formation of Afro-American Studies Department; students occupy dorm, which then becomes New Africa House.  Connect to Bryant Craft’s paper.

May 1970       Vietnam war and Kent State

Nixon expanded the Vietnam war into Cambodia, which he had pledged not to do.  Students across the country revolted, calling a national student strike to begin May 3.  On May 4 at Kent State demonstrating students were shot dead, leading to even greater demonstrations in the rest of the country.  UMass students write to faculty asking to be excused from taking exams; eventually university passes a policy that all students receive grades of “pass” for the semester, given that no one is attending classes.  Connect to Matt O’Keefe’s paper.

May 1970       ROTC

As part of the Kent State related protests, students occupy the ROTC building and demand that ROTC courses no longer bear university credit.  Course credit for ROTC is abolished, only to be restored a year later.  Connect to Meaghan Morrissey’s paper.

April-May 1978

Women’s occupation of the Collegian, April 30 to May 12 in an effort to get more “women’s news” into the Collegian.  Need a paper about this.

1979                Nursing home strike

Amherst nursing home strike.  The owners of this University Drive nursing home assumed there would be no support when the minimum wage workers went out on strike.  Over 300 student and community supporters turned out to support the workers.  People blocked the doors, lay down in the driveway, and were hauled off by the police.  The strike lasted a week, generated a number of arrests, culminated in a large march, and ended in victory for the workers.  Someone needs to write an account of this; so far no paper available.

1985                South Africa divestment

South Africa divestment building occupation to protest the university’s failure to follow its own policy requiring it to divest from companies cooperating with the apartheid regime.  Thirty-two students arrested; campaign generated wide support and succeeded.  Connect to Lauren Yelinek’s paper.

1985-86           LGBTQ

Formation of the Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns.  Need a paper on this.

1986-87           CIA on trial

In protests against CIA recruiting on campus, 68 people are arrested.  Almost all those arrested were UMass students, but arrestees also included Amy Carter, daughter of the former president, and some old 1960s radical.  The protestors used a necessity defense, saying “yes, we were occupying the building, but we did it to prevent a greater harm,” that is, the CIA.  Testifying at the trial were Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg, and various ex-CIA agents.  The jury acquitted the protestors, in a case that received major national attention.  Connect to Andrew Gasdaska’s paper.

1989                Fee increases

Massive student protests against tuition increases, a one week strike, formation of the Union of Undergraduate Students, and marches of more than a thousand people each day, with 4,000 participating in the culminating march to the town common.  Up to this date, a student could work a ten-hour a week job at minimum wage and pay their tuition and fees; since then the minimum wage has stayed the same, but tuition and fees have skyrocketed. Connect to Robert Brown’s paper.

1997                Student diversity

More than 150 people occupy Goodell Hall, demanding the administration do more to promote diversity, specifically, that the administration abide by the agreement that resulted from an earlier 1992 building occupation.  The protestors won most of their demands.  Connect to Lucius Couloute’s paper.

2003                Budget cuts and fee increases; Save UMass

State budget crisis leads to massive cuts in university budget, along with an incentive early retirement program that gets over 100 faculty to retire, under rules that prohibit their replacement.  In response 400 instructors take a day of class to talk about the issues, students generate 10,000 letters, an on-campus demonstration has 2,500 march to Whitmore, and over 1,000 people go to a big rally in Boston.  Someone needs to write about this.

2004-5?           KKK-9

Conservatives control student government.  When progressive candidate Eduardo Bustamante wins Student Government Association presidency, the SGA judiciary (imitating U.S. Supreme Court) declares the election invalid.  That night, conservatives celebrate their action, draw pictures of themselves as the Ku Klux Klan, and later post the pictures on the web.  Pictures not found until fall, when they lead to massive demonstrations against the KKK9 and the formation of Take Back UMass.  Most militant demonstration administrators can remember leads chancellor to impose a new picketing policy.  Someone needs to write about this.

2007                Student strike

Undergraduate students went on strike, entered a year of negotiating sessions with the chancellor, and won movement on most of their demands.  Connect to Alex Martines’s paper.

2007                Honor Iraq war?

UMass Trustees and administration decide to give an honorary degree to Andrew Card, George W. Bush’s chief of staff and head of the White House Iraq Group, charged with selling the Iraq war to the American people.  Students, faculty, and staff organize a protest, disrupting only the two minutes of graduation when Card received his degree.  Holding up signs saying “Honor Grads, Dis-Card” and making tons, of noise, that part of the honorary degree ceremony is completely drowned out. Paper needed on this event but watch the You Tube video which has generated over 100,000 hits; find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp4MYii7MqA

2008                Racial justice

Two drunken white youths, not students, hurl racial epithets at African American biology major Jason Vassell as he talked with friends in his ground floor dorm room.  The white youths break Jason’s window and invade the dorm’s lobby.  In a confrontation in the lobby, the two white youths break Jason’s nose and he stabs them in self-defense; as he retreats behind a locked door they call on him to come out and finish the fight.  The white youths have a history of similar incidents.  One of the two white youths is not charged with anything; the other is charged with a misdemeanor.  Jason is charged with felonies carrying a potential sentence of more than 20 years.  Massive community support is mobilized, and after a long time the charges are set aside.  Connect to Mairin Gulliver’s paper.  Connect to excerpts from Paris Amado’s paper.

PLEASE HELP:  Add accounts of more struggles, or more details about these.  Better yet, make history and create new chapters in the history of UMass radical movements.


Posted by Dan Clawson, clawson@soc.umass.edu, course instructor.  These papers are all from the spring 2011 section of Sociology 335, Radical Movements.  The course is offered in the spring of most years, although in 2013 the course will not be offered since I will have a Conti Faculty Fellowship and will not be teaching.  Write me with new materials.  Help to make this a public site where any and all can comment and/or add new material.





8 thoughts on “Radical UMass timeline

  1. I agree! The unionization of RAs (first RA union in the US) as well as the fight to keep PM and the RA contract wars are notable recent achievements.

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