Tent City / Gym Annex Protest Chronology
Prepared for the Internet by Mikhail Slobodinski and Jennifer Schrager
NOTE: The information presented here is taken largely from chapters in "Kent State and May 4th" by Kent faculty members Dr. Thomas R. Hensley and Dr. Jerry M. Lewis (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1978). The chapters are the only known comprehensive scholarly accounts of the Tent City controversy.
A facility for Kent's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation was formally proposed in the document "Building Plans, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation." The proposal, formulated in conjunction with the School's Space Planning Council, was given to University Architect Gae Russo by the School.
Beginning in 1963 and continuing trough 1969, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Division of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics considered numerous sites for the proposed facility.
The proposed facility was first included in the University's capital improvements requests to the Ohio Board of Regents for the 1967-69 biennium.
The same request was made for the next four biennia: 1969-71, 1971-73, 1973-75 and 1975-77. All requests were tabled by the Board of Regents until 1975.
The Long Range Planning Committee recommended a site at the corner of Allerton and Summit streets for the proposed facility.
March 17, 1970
The University purchased land at the corner of Allerton and Summit streets.
April 16, 1970
The Health, Physical Education and Recreation Space Planning Committee recommended a different site for the facility, north of Memorial Gymnasium (this was the site specified in plans the School sent to the Ohio Board of Regents in early 1974).
May 4, 1970
Four students were killed and nine were wounded on the Kent campus.
March 4, 1974
Opposition to the proposed site north of Memorial Gym was expressed by Kent President Glenn Olds in a memo to Carl Erickson, dean of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
April 30, 1974
Erickson responded to Olds in a memo that detailed nine reasons supporting the location north of Memorial Gym: three existing walls could be incorporated into the proposed facility; using the space could conserve on costs for heating lines, utilities, locker rooms, shower space, etc.,; no addition parking spaces would be needed; students could attend classes on a one-hour basis as opposed to a three-hour basis necessary for allowing time to get to and from a facility on the outskirts of campus via the Campus Bus Service; with the campus now centered around the Student Center, an addition to Memorial Gym would enhance additional participation in student activities; the location would centralize the location of the faculty in all units for the first time; students participating in intramural programs had indicated a desire for a central location; a significant decline in student enrollment in basic physical education courses and student participation in intramural and recreational programs was foreseen, which would have and impact on state subsidy, student credit hours and productivity; a central location would enhance student advising and counseling as well as the recruitment of new students.
May 8, 1974
Olds replied to Erickson in a memo stating that on the basis of the explanations provided, he would be willing to "modify" his opposition to the site.
The proposed facility was approved for the 1975-77 biennium by the Board of Regents, which authorized $6 million for the project. The total allocation included $500,000 for the demolition of an old Physiology Laboratory and Wills Gymnasium (the women's gym which had already been condemned by state officials) and $500,000 for architects' and engineers' fees.
June 13, 1975
University Architect Gae Russo recommended in a memo to Vice President for Administration Walter Bruska that the new facility be in the form of an addition to the north end of Memorial Gymnasium.
June 27, 1975
Bruska informed Russo in a memo that the recommended site had been approved by the president and vice presidents of the University. The memo noted that the president and vice presidents wanted the facility to retain "as much of the playing fields and open vista north of Memorial Gym as possible."
July 3, 1975
Russo stressed in a memo to Bruska that "no more of the existing Memorial Gymnasium will be taken by the new Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building than is absolutely necessary ... however ... the area required is likely to be somewhat larger that that occupied by the existing building simply on the basis of square footage..."
The Richard Fleischman Architects firm of Cleveland was selected by a University committee to design the facility.
Preliminary plans, specifications and cost estimates were approved by the State Architects' office.
November 9, 1976
Members of the Student Caucus (the University's elected student government body), the May 4th Task Force and other interested students met to formulate a list of concerns about the proposed site. An article in the November 3, 1976, issue of the Daily Kent Stater student newspaper indicated the site could cover part of the site of the May 4, 1970, tragedy. An article in the November 4, 1976, issue had indicated that University trustees would be considering the facility at their November 11 meeting.
November 11, 1976
A meeting of the Kent State University Board of Trustees marked the first time all the trustees were involved in the development of the new facility. About 40 students attended. Scott Marburger, Student Caucus executive secretary, and Nancy Grimm, a Caucus representative, presented the first formal expression of concern about the site, a list of six student concerns: lack of adequate student input on all levels of the decision-making process; insufficient justification of the proposed facility; destruction of the natural beauty of the area; possible alteration of the May 4th site, raising legal and historical questions; need for complete and exhaustive consideration of alternative sites; and the intended source of operating and maintenance costs of the proposed facility.
Although some of these concerns were expressed by trustees, they voted unanimously to approve the building progress report so that final plans could be completed.
November 12, 1976
Kent President Glenn Olds announced his resignation.
May 3, 1977
At about 10:30 p.m., about 1,400 persons participated in the annual candlelight march around campus, which was followed by the traditional all-night, silent vigil in commemoration of the events of May 4, 1970.
May 4, 1977
On the seventh anniversary of the May 4, 1970, tragedy, the May 4th Student Committee sponsored a workshop in the Student Center Governance Chambers on stopping the proposed gym.
The day's events, traditionally held on the Commons, were moved to Memorial Gym due to inclement weather. An audience of about 3,000 heard comedian and activist Dick Gregory, lawyer William Kunstler and Vietnam veteran and author Ron Kovic, all of whom exhorted the audience to protest the construction of a gym annex.
About 1,500 of the audience marched in protest following the program in the Gym. Learning that the trustees were meeting in Rockwell Hall - to consider names of the final candidates for University president and to approve the awarding of the low bid for construction of the gym annex - about 250 protester continued on to Rockwell, where they occupied a portion of the second floor and demanded to speak with University officials. President Olds and Trustee George Janik spoke with the group about the reason for the gym site, but the group refused to leave until about 1 a.m.. During that time, the May 4th Coalition was created. A list of its demands, including a ban on construction or alteration of the site of the May 4, 1970, shootings, was formulated. Janik agreed to discuss the list with Coalition members on May 6.
May 5, 1977
The first formal meeting of the May 4th Coalition was held in the evening at the Kiva, during which Ron Kovic gave a speech that inspired some of the audience to march around campus. Eventually, about 2,000 persons gathered in the Student Center plaza and listened to speeches until about 1 a.m.
May 6, 1977
Trustee George Janik met with nine Coalition members and agreed to present their demands at the next trustees meeting on May 12. He agreed to permit Coalition representatives to speak before the trustees.
May 12, 1977
About 1,500 persons gathered on the Commons and marched to the Student Center plaza in support of the Coalition's demands. The trustees meeting was broadcast to a standing-room-only crowd at the Kiva.
During the meeting, President Olds and the trustees addressed each Coalition demands. They agreed with four demands (maintaining full University status for the Center for Peaceful Change, no reprisals for the Rockwell sit-in, no punishment for anyone who missed classes on May 4 and reopening negotiations with the United Faculty Professional Association); sent two demands to committees for further review (naming buildings for the four students killed in 1970 and canceling regular University activities every May 4); and rejected two demands (official acknowledgment by the University administration that the events of May 4, 1970, were an injustice and never building on or altering the site of the shootings).
About 300 dissatisfied Coalition members walked out of the meeting and eventually gathered on the football practice field north of Memorial Gym, part of the proposed gym annex. Soon after, tents were pitched on the tree-filled area known as Blanket Hill. Approximately 60 people camped there the evening of May 12, 1977.
As "Tent City" was beginning, Kent trustees voted 8-1 to approve awarding the low bid for construction of the gym annex.
June 4, 1977
A rally was held by the Coalition and attended by about 550 persons, including Dick Gregory and William Kunstler, who offered to provide legal defense for anyone arrested in future protests.
June 9, 1977
At the June meeting of Kent's Board of Trustees, trustees Joyce Quirk and David Dix announced their public opposition to building the gym annex on the site of the May 4, 1970, tragedy. Quirk introduced a resolution that the trustees reconsider the site, with Dix seconding the motion. Trustee Robert Blakemore moved to table the motion until the Tent City protest had ended.
At this June 9 meeting, Dr. Brage Golding, then president of San Diego State University, was elected Kent's president.
June 23, 1977
The Coalition issued a position paper about the significance of maintaining the May 4, 1970, site permanently.
June 24, 1977
Contracts for construction of a Memorial Gym annex became final.
July 6, 1977
About 100 Coalition supporters marched to Rockwell Hall, where they were met by President Olds. For nearly 40 minutes, the protesters and Olds engaged in a loud and emotional exchange. After being shouted down several times, Olds went back inside.
July 7, 1977
Trustee Joyce Quirk, who in the weeks since Tent City began had brought the gym controversy to the attention of the White House via staff member Midge Constanza, proposed that both sides request non-binding federal mediation (the requests were never made).
July 8, 1977
President Olds made an informal, midnight visit to Tent City to inform Coalition members that a court order to vacate the area was imminent.
July 10, 1977
After trustees George Janik and Michael Johnston returned from a meeting with state officials to discuss the appropriation of additional state funds for changing the annex site (they were told a change order could not be issued because the contractor with the second-lowest bid could have brought suit), the Board of Trustees authorized President Olds to initiate legal action to prevent the protesters from occupying Blanket Hill and/or obstructing or interfering with construction of the gym annex.
July 11, 1977
The motion was filed by University attorneys with Portage County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Kainrad, who later that day issued a temporary restraining order directing the removal of the protesters and their facilities. Kainrad also directed the University to refrain from any construction until after he had heard arguments from both sides at a hearing the following day to decide whether a permanent injunction would be issued.
On the evening of July 11, about 250 Coalition members met at the Student Center, voting to defy the court order and leave only after being arrested.
July 12, 1977
In the morning, an order to disperse was read and unarmed University police officers arrested 193 persons.
July 15, 1977
Dr. Michael Schwartz's term as interim president of Kent State University began.
July 19 and 20, 1977
Meetings in Washington, D.C., took place among Coalition members Alan and Chic Canfora, Dean Kahler, Jim Fry, Greg Rambo, John Rowe, Lynn Stoval, the Rev. John Adams and lawyer David Engdahl, Kent officials George Janik, Michael Johnston, Michael Schwartz and Ted Curtis, area Congressman John Seiberling and representatives of Ohio senators John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum and the Department of Interior. The meeting had been arranged by White House staff member Midge Constanza. As a result of the meeting, a request was made to the Department of Interior to begin a study as to whether the May 4, 1970, site qualified as a national historic landmark.
July 20 and 21, 1977
A 24-hour faculty/community "watch" was held to express the view that the site should be changed. Abut 75 faculty members and about 125 others read statements to that effect.
On July 21, President Schwartz sent a memo to all academic deans asking them to share a summary explanation of the decision to continue with the proposed annex with all faculty members. Schwartz wrote, "... any alternatives are so potentially expensive that with declining enrollment we would be fiscally irresponsible to initiate and change."
July 22, 1977
The United Faculty Professional Association decided to enter the court case on the side of the Coalition. In a memo to faculty members, UFPA president Dr. Edward Bixenstine said the decision was made not as a moral judgment about the site, but out of fear that the large number of people against the site could incite violence and result in a drop in enrollment.
A rally attended by about 500 was held by the Coalition. After a march around campus, 13 members, symbolizing the four dead and 9 injured students, entered the roped off construction site. About 150 other protesters also entered the site. No arrests were made.
July 25, 1977
Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus announced that a study would be made to determine whether the May 4, 1970, site was a national historic landmark.
That same day, Judge Kainrad granted permanent injunction status against the Coalition and removed the temporary restraining order against construction.
July 26, 1977
University trustees held an emergency meeting at a regional campus to consider the developments of the preceding days. Following a two-hour executive session, Trustee Chairman George Janik announced that the board had voted to proceed with construction.
Earlier on July 26, Portage County Sheriff Allen McKitrick filed arrest warrants for 27 protesters who had reoccupied the construction site on July 22. Roadblocks were set up to arrest Coalition members as they returned from the trustees meeting. Three persons were arrested that evening and more than a dozen others turned themselves in the following morning. Bail was set at $2,000.
July 28 and 29, 1977
Protestors scaled a chain-link fence and reoccupied the construction site. Sixty-nine of the protestors were arrested.
On the morning of July 19, 1977, construction equipment arrived to prepare the ground north of Memorial Gymnasium for construction.
Later on July 29, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Lambros ordered that construction be stopped as a result of a legal brief filed at 4:48 p.m. by Coalition lawyer Tony Walsh. The brief had been dictated by William Kunstler to Coalition member Chic Canfora.
August 1, 1977
Judge Lambros ordered both sides to attempt an out-of-court settlement. University and Coalition representatives engaged in discussions for a week. The University indicated it would consider rotating the facility up to 300 feet away form Blanket Hill and the football practice field under specific conditions, including approval by the trustees, suspension of all legal action by the Coalition, approval by the contractor and the provision of an additional $1.7 million. No compromise was reached.
August 2, 1977
United Faculty Professional Association lawyer Staughton Lynd filed an appeal asking the State Court of Appeals to overrule Kainrad's decision. The appeal was rejected on August 26.
August 9, 1977
Judge Lambros issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order dismissing the Coalition's motion on all grounds except the "claim of deprivation of the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The temporary retraining order remained pending consideration of the right to petition issue.
August 10, 1977
New Kent State University President Brage Golding arrived in Kent. During his visit he met with each trustee, various University administrators and with Coalition members Alan Canfora and Debbie Phipps.
August 12, 1977
President Brage Golding stated that he thought a last effort to change the gym site should be made. That day, Michael Schwartz and Vice President Richard Dunn traveled to Columbus to meet with state legislators, but the meeting did not result in any solution.
August 15, 1977
Fireman's Fund American Insurance Company canceled the vandalism insurance on the construction site.
August 17, 1977
Judge Lambros announced that he had found in favor of the University and construction on the gym could be continue. He rejected the claim that the University had violated the Coalition's right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Lambros gave the Coalition 24 hours to file an appeals brief with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
August 18, 1977
When Judge Lambros submitted his written opinion, an unexpected handwritten note at the end said that "the temporary restraining order dissolved herein is restored during the pending of any appeal taken from this order."
August 19, 1977
University trustees held a special session. After a two-hour executive session, they voted 6-1 to invite state legislators John Begala and Marcus Roberto to meet with them on August 24 to discuss a plan to convert the University's laboratory school into a new Health, Physical Education and Recreation facility.
August 20, 1977
A rally on the Commons featuring folk singer Joan Baez and speeches by several of the parents of the dead and wounded students attracted an audience of about 1,500. After the rally, about 600 persons marched to the Kent City police station to protest the previous evening's arrests of Coalition members following a celebration of Judge Lambros' temporary restraining order.
August 24, 1977
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the gym controversy. The ruling included a 10-day delay in construction to allow Coalition lawyers to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
August 26, 1977
By the time the trustees met again on August 26, strong opposition to the idea of converting the University School had been voiced by parents of children attending the School. Only three trustees attended the August 26 meeting.
September 3, 1977
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart refused to ban construction.
September 5, 1977
On Labor Day, a rally was attended by about 300 protestors, who later marched to President Golding's campus home. A minor confrontation ensued with two University police officers. No arrests were made.
September 6, 1977
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan granted the Coalition lawyers' request for a temporary stay on construction pending his hearing of arguments on the appeal.
September 8, 1977
Justice Brennan rejected the Coalition's arguments and removed the temporary ban on construction.
September 11, 1977
About 300 Coalition supporters held another rally. After about three hours, wire cutters were used to break the chain-link fence surrounding the construction site and about 125 protestors occupied the site. Police made no arrests, but did videotape the event.
September 12, 1977
Fall Quarter classes began.
September 13, 1977
The University's Student Caucus unanimously passed a resolution stating it could not support any violent or destructive actions to relocate the gym. The resolution also urged students to work actively to change the site through nonviolent means.
Also on September 13, growing rancor within the Coalition was manifested when 80 Coalition members met separately and formed a new group, the Blanket Hill Council. The split had developed as a result of the growing influence on the Coalition of Kent's Maoist-oriented Revolutionary Student Brigade group and Brigade members from other chapters who came to Kent to participate in the gym protest. RSB members advocated increasingly militant tactics - including violation of court orders and possible destruction of equipment and property - which were considered counterproductive by many Coalition members.
September 19, 1977
Construction on the Memorial Gymnasium annex began.
September 24, 1977
A Coalition rally drew a crowd of about 3,000 protestors, many of whom were from other campuses. The rally was followed by a campus march and a brief reoccupation of the construction site by about 1,000 protestors after portions of the fence surrounding the site were broken. A few arrests were made.
October 21, 1977
In anticipation of a national protest rally on the Kent campus scheduled for October 22, President Golding requested a temporary restraining order against the May 4 Coalition. The order, which was issued on October 21, forbade rallies, marches and demonstrations by a registered campus organization on the Kent campus unless all Student Life regulations and procedures were met, including acceptance by the group of all financial responsibility for clean-up of debris and repair of any property damage.
The order also stipulated that any rally, march or demonstration meeting the first stipulation had to be held between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the area south of Summit Street across the street from the Student Center Parking lot, bounded on the east by Campus Approach Road and bounded on the west by the Asphalt Service Drive.
Because the first condition had not been met, all protest rallies became illegal.
October 22, 1977
About 500 protestors met on campus for the rally. No serious confrontations occurred and a few arrests were made.
Prior to a hearing scheduled for November 10, the University decided not to seek an extension of the restraining order.
The final report of the Department of the Interior was filed. The Kent campus was not granted historic landmark status.
July 23, 1979
Employees in the School of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance began moving into the Memorial Gym Annex.