Special Collections and Archives

Robert Treichler, Personal Narrative

Special Collections and Archives

Robert Treichler, Personal Narrative

Robert Treichler, Personal Narrative

Submitted via mail, May, 2000


May 4, 1970

Every aspect of Kent State's development was affected by the tragedy of May 4. While the long term impact of this event on the institution's enrollment and programs has frequently been a subject for speculation, the immediate effects on students and faculty were certainly devastating. The governor's closure of the campus and its occupation by National Guard troops posed situations incomprehensible to persons who had operated under the tenets of academic freedom. For psychology grad students especially, the consequences of being barred from the classes and research settings required for their programs might have been catastrophic. Although faculty and staff were allowed on campus after one week, all students were prohibited for the remainder of the term. Consequently, the department took rapid steps to maintain contact with its grad students. Even while trying to complete undergrad courses by correspondence (mailing out writing assignments and finals), some faculty members established what came to be called "the department in exile".

The Presbyterian church on Summit Street allowed psychology to use the second floor of an old house on its property as a temporary office. A phone line was installed, one departmental secretary was assigned to this office and student mail boxes were set up. Information about research projects and course completion was exchanged through the "annex". Faculty sometimes scheduled meetings there or held graduate classes in their homes, although on occasion this drew inquires from local police about "gatherings of large numbers of young people".

Fear of subversive activity by "outside agitators" pervaded the community. It was only through the dedication of a large number of administrators, faculty and staff that the institution continued to operate under the conditions imposed by the Rhodes closure and National Guard occupation of the campus. One specific departmental need was for care of its animal subjects. For a week after the event only two persons, one faculty member and one animal care worker, were allowed on campus to maintain the 1000 rats and 20 monkeys then housed in the Kent Hall facility.

With the beginning of Summer sessions, students were allowed to return and classes were resumed, but the full impact of the event, especially on public opinion, was yet to be realized. Psychology faculty became involved in many aspects of the process of recovery from the sudden and tragic fame that befell the institution. Some worked with students, others attempted to improve relations with the local community and some produced academic writings on the relevant issues. Whatever the reaction, there is no doubt that the name "Kent State" acquired a whole new historic meaning in just a few hours on that Spring afternoon.