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(A copyrighted publication of West Virginia Archives and History)

Volume 54 A Generation in Revolt: Student Dissent
and Political Repression at West Virginia University

By Jeffrey A. Drobney

Volume 54 (1995), pp. 105-122

"When dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy." -- Richard Nixon, May 4, 1970

On May 4, 1970, four students opposed to the war in Vietnam and the bombings of Cambodia were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard on the campus of Kent State University during an antiwar protest. The demonstrations at Kent State, as elsewhere, had been sparked by the move of American troops into Cambodia. Governor James Rhodes ordered the National Guard into Kent after students had ransacked the downtown business district and burned the campus Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) building. Four students were killed and eleven persons injured, three critically, before order was restored. When informed of the shootings, President Richard Nixon contended that "tragedy should convince educators and students that when dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy."1 For three days after the shootings, college campuses across the United States erupted into mass protests and upheaval of unprecedented breadth and intensity. Some 760 universities and colleges either closed completely or came close to doing so. Newspapers and television screens carried images of thousands of "militant" students confronting riot police and National Guardsmen who had been ordered to campuses by governors and federal officials certain a revolution was in the making. The students were protesting not only the shootings at Kent State but the refusal of President Nixon to end the war in Vietnam and admit to illegal bombings of Cambodia.2

From Berkeley to Ohio State to Maryland, the demonstrations engulfing American universities during the first weeks of May 1970 are unparalleled in American history. West Virginia University (WVU) was no different. Following the shootings at Kent State, WVU students took to the streets in protest. Although the events that occurred there were not as violent or as large as those on other college campuses, they are important as a microcosm of the larger demonstrations throughout the country. The demonstrations at WVU show the overzealousness of local, state, and federal officials in handling the protests. In addition, these demonstrations shed light on how public and university officials nationwide trampled on American civil and political rights.

On May 1, 1970, America awoke to the news that "U.S. forces bomb Cambodia" in an attempt to destroy what were labeled "large stocks of Vietnamese communist arms and ammunition."3 Washington refused to call the military strikes an "invasion," but many Americans knew better and reacted with anger. Nixon had promised an end to the war in Vietnam through Vietnaminization and the withdrawal of American troops. The national antiwar movement, which had been drained of vigor early in 1970, found a new rallying point in the president's announcement of American intervention in Cambodia. Antiwar groups called for "immediate massive protest" and announced plans for demonstrations across the country.4 College campuses, the focus of earlier mass demonstrations and protests against the war, once again became the focal point of antiwar activities.

Within hours of the bombing announcement, antiwar protests turned violent, with gunfire and firebombings hitting many college campuses. Local and state police throughout the country clashd with crowds in some areas where demonstrators used fists, rocks, bricks, and bats. In Maryland, Governor Marvin Mandel ordered three hundred National Guard troops to the University of Maryland's College Park campus after violence flared between state police and students. In New Jersey, about twenty-three hundred Princeton University students and faculty members voted to strike and "shut the university down." In California, a student strike at Stanford University developed into a rock-throwing melee when police used tear gas on campus to disperse the "peacefully" protesting students. Some of the largest demonstrations occurred at Ohio State University, where twelve hundred National Guardsmen and two hundred state police officers battled for four hours with militant students who tossed homemade bombs, tear gas bombs, bricks, and bottles. Guardsmen wearing gas masks and carrying clubs and rifles with fixed bayonets hurled tear gas canisters to break up the rally of some fifteen hundred students.5

Clearly, demonstrators, police, and National Guardsmen were at fault for the violence. Students could not be allowed to destroy college facilities in those instances when it occurred. However, most of these demonstrations began as non-violent protests that erupted into violence when police and National Guardsmen were ordered to college campuses to crush those "militant students" who dared protest against United States policy.6

Prior to 1970, students at West Virginia University showed little militancy. There were no mass protests, no burning of buildings, no attacks upon the president's office. Antiwar demonstrations had been almost non-existent or so small that they attracted little attention. Most students were from a conservative background, the sons and daughters of coal miners and factory workers, most of whom believed the old slogan "love it or leave it." Joseph Gluck, Dean of Students in 1970, believed that WVU students during this period were different from other students around the country. According to Gluck, "many of our students were first generation, out of the hills and hollows, and couldn't afford to get caught up in the demonstrations."7 Many WVU students had brothers or fathers in Vietnam. In fact, 711 West Virginians were killed in the war, 85 for every 100,000 males in the state, more per capita than any other state.8

Students at West Virginia had no established means for radical political dissent.9 The organization most known for its radicalism at the height of the student movement was the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The SDS chapter at WVU was never a viable organ for student protest. According to FBI documents it had no more than ten to fifteen active members and ceased to be operational after 1968.10 Despite the small number of antiwar protesters, the university administration was so concerned about their presence on campus that "undercover" students attended antiwar meetings and recorded the conversations of those present.11

Even during the height of the antiwar demonstrations in May 1970, the student protesters at WVU never utilized tactics associated with more militant student protests and relied only on their First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly. These antiwar demonstrators, in the words of the administration, amounted to no more than 150 people -- counterdemonstrators numbered between twenty-five hundred and three thousand.12 These facts do not support university President James Harlow and Governor Arch Moore's handling of the events surrounding May 5, 6, and 7.13

WVU's history of nonviolence and the relatively small size of the antiwar movement fail to justify the state police being called onto campus on May 7, armed with tear gas, pistols, and shotguns, to disperse a crowd that could have been handled by trained local police. It appears the vivid pictures of violent confrontations on university campuses across the country so alarmed President Harlow and Governor Moore that they interpreted the peaceful demonstrations at WVU as potentially violent protests designed by student radicals.14 Moreover, Governor Moore was uder considerable pressure from prominent citizens of the state who believed that WVU students needed to be held in check.15

The student demonstrations at WVU on May 5, 6, and 7 can be viewed from two different perspectives. To many, the demonstrations were the result of spontaneous student anger over the invasion of Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State. However, a small group of people, mainly university and state administrators, believed the demonstrations were the calculated efforts of radical student activists who were attempting to provoke a confrontation with police and university authorities, using Kent State as a pretext.16 The evidence supports no such plot. Many of the students who participated in the demonstrations were not committed to any radical viewpoint. One student was quoted as saying, "I don't know if this is the right thing to do but I'm concerned and this is a way to show it."17 According to the university's own news release, the majority of students and faculty who participated in the demonstrations were motivated by sincere and peaceful intentions.18

Demonstrations began on Tuesday, May 5, with an early morning vigil around four crosses erected on Oglebay Plaza, in the center of the downtown campus, in memory of the four students killed at Kent State. As many as seventy students were reported to have engaged in a spontaneous rally that was held at 12:30 p.m. on the plaza. The students marched to the campus ROTC offices housed in Woodburn Hall and then to the Administration building. In the early afternoon the march continued downtown to the courthouse and Selective Service offices. During the demonstration, students carried a mock casket through the streets of Morgantown to protest the events in Cambodia and at Kent State.19

Students questioned by a reporter emphasized that there was no particular group or organization directing the demonstrations, and Kent State seemed to be the overriding reason for their involvement. One student reportedly said, "we were all concerned about the killings at Kent State and started talking about what we could do about it. The demonstrations grew out of this concern in a spontaneous manner." By all reports, Tuesday's activities were peaceful, and by late afternoon the mood surrounding Grumbein's Island and Oglebay Plaza was closer to lethargic than violent.20

A larger demonstration occurred the next day, when approximately one thousand students occupied the center of campus, forcing traffic to be re-routed from both University and College avenues. The protestors took to the streets as an ultimatum to pressure President Harlow into making a public statement condemning the bombings in Cambodia.21 The afternoon began quietly enough as some one hundred students gathered for a rally on Oglebay Plaza with a mock coffin containing an effigy of President Harlow. The rhetoric was impassioned and often obscene, and several student speakers cited the Black Panthers as examples of the proper way to fight the power structure. Police and National Guardsmen were rather universally referred to as "pigs" and one student speaker said that the "gun is the only revolutionary tool today." William S. Haymond, chairman of the university's philosophy department, was one of the early speakers. Haymond declared his strong disapproval of intervention in Cambodia and said the shootings of four unarmed students at Kent State was "something that would make any decent human being sick." Haymond made the boldest statement of the afternoon rally when he shouted, "we've got to protect ourselves against repression." He continued by saying that student dissidents were"fair game" for the "bootlicking pigs." Haymond also announced that he was cancelling his finals and giving all his students A's as a demonstration against the administration. Despite such talk, students were not planning any violent action.22

Events soon moved from speechmaking to more active opposition when Mike Weber, a former WVU student who had been suspended for academic deficiencies and who served more or less as the master of ceremonies for the afternoon's activities, took the microphone. He asserted that President Harlow had refused to answer a written demand to condemn U.S. action in Cambodia and the Kent State shootings because it was signed only "the people" instead of bearing individual names. "Let's go sign it" was the response from the crowd of about 150 people.23

The crowd amassed outside the Administration building, chanting and shouting for Harlow. Several students tried to push through the doors but were blocked by university security guards. Security Chief Ken Johnson allowed three student representatives to enter the building but approximately twenty other students went in through back doors. The three official representatives were ushered into Harlow's office, where Harold Shamberger, the president's assistant, advised them that the president was at lunch and would return later in the day.24

Harlow repeatedly evaded the student demonstrators and refused to issue any statement because he believed his personal views would inevitably become those of the university in the public's mind.25 He argued that he could not answer the students' demands to denounce American involvement in Cambodia or the shootings at Kent State because "a college president cannot function by answering ultimatums." Also, Harlow felt that his presence before the crowd would antagonize those students who were on the fringe and increase the number of demonstrators.26 By meeting with the students, Harlow may have been able to prevent further demonstrations; his refusal inadvertently spurred on the demonstrators. An Associated Press reporter quoted several students as saying that they would have left the demonstration had Harlow met with them.27

After the march on the Administration building, the students took the mock coffin, which had been painted to resemble an American flag, and the effigy of President Harlow to the center of University Avenue and burned them. Shouting antiwar chants, the demonstrators moved toward the ROTC offices in Woodburn Hall. Upon entering the hall, the group, unorganized and without leaders, debated the best course of action and decided that destroying anything would be counterproductive to their "cause." Eventually a consensus was reached that blocking the street through the center of campus would be the most effective action, and the crowd surged forward to bottleneck the intersection.28 Once in the street, one student shouted, "we're staying in the streets because we're not satisfied with the bullshit we're getting from the university. The streets belong to the people." After the demonstrators had successfully turned back several cars, city police moved in to divert traffic away from the bottleneck.29

In the meantime a shouting match erupted between the demonstrators and hostile student onlookers, who had gathered in front of the Mountainlair, the student union. The hecklers, predominantly fraternity members and ROTC cadets, threw several water balloons and a few rolls of toilet paper at the demonstrators. While a violent confrontation seemed possible, nothing resulted except continued shouting and shoving. WVU student Don Ornick, speaking for the counterdemonstrators, said that about 95 percent of the campus was against the demonstration. "This is not a consensus of the campus," he said. "It is a bunch of left wing radicals who want cheap publicity." Only a small group of some one hundred students made up the "radical" element of antiwar activists. As the afternoon wore on, the number of demonstrators and onlookers was estimated at one thousand. Shortly after 5:00 p.m., the crowd thinned, and some of the demonstrators bgan picking up trash and sweeping the street. The demonstration ended peacefully about 7:30 p.m.30

Morgantown police were active throughout the afternoon, directing traffic and patrolling the area with university security. Monongalia County Sheriff Joseph Janco kept nine deputies on standby and Sergeant Robert L. Mozingo of the State Police in Morgantown said that his men were on standby and in constant contact with Charleston, presumably meaning Governor Arch Moore. Impressed with the students' moderate behavior, some local officials felt there was little possibility of violence. Mozingo commented during the afternoon that "so far the gathering has been classified as a lawful assemblage." University Relations Director Harry Ernst said, "the demonstration had in the main been orderly. No one has been hurt and only three small windows have been broken."31

Students gathered on Oglebay Plaza the next day, May 7, at about 1:15 p.m., following a peace rally staged by several community groups on the courthouse square, where students were urged to continue demonstrating against American involvement in Vietnam.32 Once assembled at the plaza, the students debated whether to seize the intersection again, march on the ROTC offices at Woodburn Hall, or march to the stadium and meet on the astroturf of which the students felt the administration was overly proud.33 After a prolonged debate, thirty to forty students marched to the basement of Woodburn Hall, where chaos prevailed. Two bulletin boards, a door sign, a door window, and some ROTC literature were destroyed.34 This petty destruction of property was the only violence associated with the demonstrations. Driven by no agenda, the students left the building and gathered on Woodburn Circle. Here they listened to several speeches about plans to end the war in Vietnam and were ultimately challenged by Scott Bills, a Phi Beta Kappa and WVU history major, to move to the Administration building and repeat demands that President Harlow issue a statement. Harlow again refused to meet with the students, believing his presence might touch off a more serious confrontation. A group of approximately one hundred demonstrators blocked traffic in front of the Administration building on University Avenue, similar to the demonstration the previous day.35

By this time, a large crowd of counterdemonstrators had gathered on the opposite side of University Avenue, and pushing and shouting developed between the two. After some verbal exchanges, the demonstrators moved to the Grumbein's Island intersection in the center of campus. After the demonstrators blocked the intersection, their antagonists surged into the street in front of the Mountainlair and it seemed a riot would ensue. The confrontation ended, however, with the arrival of a detachment of the West Virginia State Police called out by Governor Moore earlier in the afternoon.36

The state police arrived at 4:40 p.m. determined to clear the Grumbein's Island section of University Avenue. The detachment had not been requested by either President Harlow or Morgantown Police Chief Bennie Palmer. In fact, Harlow stated he was not informed that the state police were coming until they were on campus and denied they were called by the university, stating, "the University is state property and we have been in constant touch with the State Police, but blocking the streets breaks municipal laws not University rules."37 Governor Moore had determined that if the administration could not maintain law and order at "his university," he would use the state police to ensure that order was kept.38

Srgeant Mozingo gave the demonstrators ten minutes to clear the street. The demonstrators, determined to stay, covered their faces with handkerchiefs in preparation for the possible use of tear gas. A group of faculty and onlookers sought a peaceful end to the situation and negotiated for more time from the state police. During the approximately forty-five minutes the state police waited before taking action, several persons, including faculty and students, worked to arrive at some agreement to clear the street without force. The demonstrators agreed to move off the street to Woodburn Circle if Harlow talked with them. Harlow again refused to meet with the students, confirming to many his lack of leadership.39 The demonstrators refused to disperse and the final confrontation was set. Professor William Haymond tried to rally the demonstrators by telling them, "we will not leave the street until the pigs leave this campus," and that he wanted to "see 10 pigs dead to repay for the murders of the Kent State students."40

Approximately forty state police and a large detachment of Morgantown police, armed with pistols, three-foot riot batons, shotguns, and tear and pepper gas, made two sweeps up University Avenue, only to have the demonstrators reform after each pass.41 The troopers then resorted to tear and pepper gas to disperse the crowd, an apparent overreaction to the demonstration.42 Some two hundred unarmed demonstrators were surrounded by two thousand onlookers, the majority of whom were adamantly opposed to the demonstrators and screamed to the state police "to bash their heads in."43

The use of tear gas led to a negotiated truce, whereby the state police left the campus and the demonstrators cleared the street. As a show of good faith, the troopers boarded their bus, and as they left, the street began to clear. No arrests or injuries resulted from the conflict. The actual confrontation was surprisingly nonviolent, and later that evening President Harlow issued the following statement:

"Unpleasant events like today come and go in the lives of universities. We are fortunate that no one was injured and property damage was minimal. I believe that the cleavages among University groups revealed by the circumstances of the last few days are shallow enough and narrow enough that the University community will be able to heal them."44

Tempers cooled on the WVU campus after three tumultuous days of protest. On Friday, May 8, approximately two hundred students gathered at Woodburn Circle for a victory celebration and listened to rock music. In the wake of Thursday's protests, it was revealed that the property damage was minimal, fifty to one hundred dollars, and no injuries occurred.45

By all accounts the demonstrations at WVU were spontaneous and non-violent with little property damage. There was no clearly defined plan to create a confrontation with either the police or university officials and there was no identifiable "core" group of agitators or student leaders. However, immediately following the demonstrations, university administrators methodically attempted to rid WVU of its most "radical" students and professors. In doing so, the Harlow administration violated the law, the accused's constitutional rights of freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to a speedy trial.

The university administration attempted to bring state and federal criminal charges against six demonstrators, who were either current students or academically suspended from WVU. They had been identified by members of the ROTC staff on duty in Woodburn Hall on May 7, when demonstrators knocked down two bulletin boards and destroyed ROTC literature. Photographs of the event were compared withuniversity yearbook portraits by Dean Gluck and students in an effort to identify the demonstrators. The administration also removed Dr. William Haymond from his position as chair of the philosophy department, even though no criminal charges were filed and a review by his peers found none of his actions unprofessional.46

The six demonstrators came to be known as the Morgantown Six. Mike Weber of Brooklyn, New York, had been active in numerous campus antiwar demonstrations and was on academic suspension at the time of the May demonstrations. Daniel Bucca of Parkersburg was not enrolled at WVU during the demonstrations, although he had been in previous semesters. Scott Bills of New Martinsville, a history major, was only a few credits shy of graduation at the time of the demonstrations. Bills had been an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam and was instrumental in organizing several peace rallies on campus. Bills had also been a founding member of the Mountaineer Freedom Party. Steven Stepto of Ripley was an advanced ROTC student. Scott King of Northfork was an ex-officer of the Mountaineer Freedom Party and was scheduled to graduate the week after the demonstrations. Finally, Peter Cowan of Ridgeley was a freshman at the time of the demonstrations who said he was simply trailing along with the crowd. These six men were familiar with each other but were not close friends or even much more than casual acquaintances. Evidence suggests the administration's contention that these six men were the leaders of the demonstrations was inaccurate or at least an exaggeration of the facts.47

Although the administration made no public comment about the events for several weeks, administrators were at work behind the scenes . On May 18, only ten days after the demonstrations, President Harlow questioned WVU law school professor and university attorney Londo H. Brown on how to refuse readmission to a student without violating university policy or state or federal laws. Brown declared this would be very difficult to accomplish unless that student had been guilty of conduct which would justify his or her expulsion.48

With this in mind, Harlow set out to engineer the dismissal of the Morgantown Six from West Virginia University. Given that the university could not legitimately deny admission to students based on their conduct if no laws had been broken, the administration attempted to build a case based on 150 photographs taken by undercover police and federal officers and second-hand information. Positive identification of the six defendants was made from two photographs, although, as Dean Gluck pointed out in a report to President Harlow, there was no credible evidence to show which of the approximately forty people in the protesting group actually destroyed the two bulletin boards, the ROTC literature, and the door window.49

With no substantial evidence of infraction of university rules and regulations, Harlow instituted disciplinary proceedings against the Morgantown Six in an effort to eliminate them from the campus of WVU. He assigned Gluck the task of formulating a report on the student demonstrations. Gluck turned in his findings on May 29 and concluded that there were insufficient grounds to bring civil action against the six demonstrators. Harlow, ignoring Gluck's findings, proceeded to charge the six demonstrators with a violation of university rules and regulations.50

The Morgantown Six were unaware of the investigation until served with "Notice of Hearing" on June 3. Each of the six was charged with being a participant in and an accessory to the group which entered Woodburn Hall on the afternoon of May 7 and destroyed university property. The hearing was scheduled for June 24 at 9:30 a.m. in the Mountainlair.51

While the administration was planning its case against the six demonstrators, it was also disciplining Professor William Haymond. President Harlow was under considerable pressure both from the public and Goernor Arch Moore to remove Haymond from the philosophy department because of the statements he made concerning the police presence on campus. On May 20, Haymond met with Harold Gibbard, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and was informed of the administration's displeasure over his "inflammatory statements." In a follow-up letter to President Harlow, Gibbard's review of Haymond was glowing. Gibbard stated that Haymond's "scholarly competence is established" and "he is apparently well liked by his colleagues." Gibbard also indicated that under Haymond's direction, the philosophy department had been "revamped" and the "department has good stability." Gibbard went on to say that were it not for Haymond's actions in the May demonstrations, "the desirability of his continuing as chairman would not be questioned." Gibbard recommended to President Harlow that Haymond be removed as chair of the department not because any laws or regulations were violated but because he "showed poor professional judgement and poor social judgement." On May 22, Haymond was removed as chair and his salary was reduced by the five hundred dollar stipend accompanying the position. Harlow said the action was taken as a result of Haymond's "display of emotional incompatibility with administrative assignment," as illustrated by his actions in the May demonstrations.52

In response to a letter concerning Haymond, Harlow wrote, "we have looked into the matter quite thoroughly, and we have not been able to uncover any action taken by Professor Haymond which violates University regulations."53 In a confidential response to Governor Moore's request for a report on the situation, Harlow stated that "his [Haymond's] actions and statements, though unquestionably injudicious, did not warrant formal charges of professional incompetence and were not of sufficient scope to justify charges of unprofessional behavior." Harlow concluded, "all of these [Haymond's actions during the May demonstrations] fall within his civil rights and do not bear upon his professional competence as a philosopher." Nevertheless, under pressure from the public and the governor to remove the "dissident trouble-makers," Harlow reprimanded Haymond.54

The case against the Morgantown Six became public on June 8, when the university, hoping to gain public support, detailed the actions taken against Haymond and the charges pending against the six demonstrators in a news release. Holding to the tradition of confidentiality, however, the names of Dr. Haymond and the Morgantown Six were not released.55

In response to the vague and inflammatory charges against them and facing possible reprimand, suspension, expulsion, and civil action, the six demonstrators hired Wheeling attorney Herb Rogers to defend them. Since Rogers was not hired until June 16, and with the Committee on Student Discipline scheduled for June 24, he immediately filed a motion of continuance to build a defense.56 President Harlow postponed the hearing for one week at the request of the defendants and rescheduled it for June 30. On June 28, Harlow again rescheduled it for August 19. However, on June 30, he issued a public statement announcing that the hearings would be postponed "indefinitely" and that he was turning over all files on the May demonstrations to the prosecuting attorney for Monongalia County and to the U.S. District Attorney in Wheeling to determine if the Morgantown Six had violated state or federal law.57 It appears that Harlow's purpose in publicly announcing the referral of the case to the prosecuting attorneys was to intimidate the plantiffs in an effort to deter them from pursuing their right to a hearing.

Both prosecutors immediately announced that they had already investigated the matter and the evidence did not warrant prosecution of the Morgantown Six. In a letter to Joseph Laurita, Prosecuting Attorney for Monongalia County, on July 2, it was clear that Harlow was searching for evidence to use against the Morgantown Six. Harlow stated that the university had evidence suggesting the defendants violated state law, and he believed the university "could act in all the cases to bar any of them from returning to the university." Laurita responded on July 17:

"I have carefully investigated and reviewed all the matters concerned and I am reiterating my July 6 discussion with you that after a thorough re-examination of the facts of the incident and the specific information that your office has provided it is quite apparent that there is no evidence sufficient to warrant a state criminal prosecution."58

U.S. Attorney Paul Camilletti's response to Harlow's letter of July 2 was similar.

"Federal officers, including myself, were present in Morgantown during the time of the student disorder in May of this year. Our investigation followed immediately and indicated no violation of federal statutes which would merit criminal prosecution. There was some slight damage to ROTC equipment, but none in the sense that would lend itself to meaningful prosecution with deterrent value."59

Even when it became clear to Harlow that there was insufficient evidence to convict the Morgantown Six of violating any state or federal statutes or university regulations, he was still determined to keep the defendants out of school. Harlow and Dean Gluck, under pressure from the president, refused to permit the defendants either to re-enroll or be accepted into graduate school, even though they met all requirements. Harlow believed that by not readmitting the students he was providing the university with a convenient way of avoiding any further embarrassment over the entire situation. He realized that by the fall term of 1971, all six of the defendants would either have graduated or would not be registered and that the uproar caused by the incident would then die down.60

As early as June 1970, special procedures were established to deny Dan Bucca, Scott Bills, Peter Cowan, and Stephen Stepto readmission to WVU. Mike Weber was not eligible for re-admission under normal university guidelines because he had been suspended for academic deficiencies on December 20, 1969, and Scott King had graduated and joined the Peace Corps in Africa. Gluck directed WVU Registrar Stanley Harris not to allow any of the Morgantown Six to register for the 1970 fall semester until they were cleared by his office. Gluck realized that since the Discipline Committee meeting had been postponed indefinitely, the students in question would not be cleared until well into the fall semester or even beyond.61

In July, the university exonerated Scott King, who had received his bachelor's degree in May and over whom the university no longer had any control. The university further recommended the re-admission of Peter Cowan as a sophomore on a one-year probationary status. Scott Bills and Stephen Stepto were permitted to attend the second session of summer school, since both would secure enough credits to graduate, thereby providing administration officials with a way to avoid an increasingly embarrassing situation.62

By August, it became evident that not only were Bills and Stepto going to graduate at the end of the summer, but both men might apply to graduate school at the university. Gluck, under pressure from Harlow, recommended that neither Bills nor Stepto be accepted to graduate school, even though both were qualified for admission. In a letter to John Brisbane, Director of Admissions, Gluck wrote, "I submit to you and the Admissions people that on the basis of past conduct they are either unwilling or unable to abide by the rules and regulations of the Board of Regents and of the University. It is my recommendation that Bills and Stepto not be admitted if they apply." Gluck referred to the students' past conduct as reason to deny admission, although neither had ever been found guilty of violating university regulations or state or federal law. The decision of the administration was intentionally designed to eliminate the men from WVU.63

By late summer of 1970, no hearing before the Discipline Committee had taken place. On application, both Bills and Stepto were denied admission to graduate school, Bills in philosophy and Stepto in agriculture. In keeping with their rights as students, both men appealed the decision to Dr. Harry Heflin, Acting President of the University, since President Harlow was out of town. Heflin refused to take any action and denied there was anything unusual about the admission procedures. He wrote ingenuously that "your application seems to have been progressing normally through University channels. As of this date I do not have any information that would indicate it should not proceed in this way."64

Neither Bills nor Stepto accepted the university's decision, claiming they had never appeared before the Discipline Committee and that no evidence had been presented to show they were "either unwilling or unable to follow University rules and regulations."65 The only opportunity for redress was to take the case to civil court.

Along with Mike Weber and Daniel Bucca, Bills and Stepto, all represented by Herb Rogers, took their case to the United States District Court in Charleston. The four defendants brought suit against James Harlow, Joseph Gluck, Reginald Kraus (chairman of the Committee for Student Discipline), Prince Woodard (Chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents), and Earl T. Andrews (President of the West Virginia Board of Regents), and sought an injunction to block the university from denying them admission to graduate school.66

A hearing was held on September 30 before Judge Sydney L. Christie in Huntington. Judge Christie ruled that Bills and Stepto were entitled to an appeals hearing at the university to discuss the reasons for denying their graduate school applications. Mike Weber, on academic suspension, and Daniel Bucca, who had withdrawn in good standing on February 4, were dropped from the suit, since they had not applied for readmission to WVU. The appeals of Stepto and Bills were heard by the five-member Graduate School Admission Appeals Committee, a permanent standing committee of three faculty and two graduate students, on October 6. Attorney Herb Rogers represented both Bills and Stepto during the hearing and Assistant Attorneys General Cletus Hanley and Joseph Hodgson represented the university.67

The university defended its position on the basis of a series of letters between Joseph Gluck and the defendants, which commented on Bills and Stepto's alleged participation in the Student Activist League, a campus antiwar coalition. Both Bills and Stepto had been members of the league, which was not a recognized student organization.68 Gluck testified that the league had attempted to use university facilities for their meetings, and he indicated that both Bills and Stepto were involved in the unsanctioned activities. However, in a letter written to Bills on April 15, 1970, Gluck admitted he did not know if either of the two men were responsible for planning the meetings, but he reminded them that it was a violation of university regulations to use university propertywithout prior approval.69 Under questioning, Gluck conceded that these unapproved meetings, which were not proven to be associated with either Bills or Stepto, had been the basis for his statements when he refused to admit the two men because "of past conduct."70

During the hearing, Rogers stormed from the chambers. "I was totally disgusted. I just refused to sit there and listen to that drivel," he said. Following the ten-hour closed hearing, the committee submitted the following report to President Harlow: "The University does not have sufficient evidence to justify the decision to deny admission of the two students to graduate school. Accordingly, the committee recommends that the decision of the director of admissions be reversed." Both Scott Bills and Stephen Stepto were re-admitted to WVU and returned in the spring of 1971 as graduate students. Mike Weber was re-admitted to WVU in the spring of 1972 on a one-year probationary status.71

The decision of the appeals committee for all practical purposes ended a summer-long sequel to the May campus disorders in which the administrations of WVU and universities around the country sought to punish students and faculty for exercising basic rights of assembly and expression. It is apparent that the Harlow administration attempted to harass and prosecute the Morgantown Six on the basis of second-hand information. The university was unable to produce any credible evidence which showed these students had destroyed any university or ROTC property. In the words of a top administrator, "I was told to catch somebody." Thus, the six students positively identified as being in the basement of Woodburn Hall, because of their past participation in campus demonstrations, were selected as examples to show the student body at WVU what would happen if the administration was challenged.72

The events at WVU during May 1970 were not the result of a group of "student radicals" deliberately provoking a confrontation, as suggested by the University administration. Neither can they been seen as a continuation of previous student protests, since antiwar activism had been relatively limited when compared to other large universities. Rather, the demonstrations were the spontaneous actions of citizens opposed to their country's invasion of Cambodia and the shooting of four college students by the Ohio National Guard.73 The actions of James Harlow were irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. The continued harassment, denial of constitutional rights, the attempted prosecution of the Morgantown Six without sufficient evidence, and the decisions on admissions based on "personal evaluations" indicate that the administration was out of touch with the students.74 Ironically, the actions of the Harlow administration demonstrate many of the arbitrary and intolerant practices of much of the academic establishment against which the students protested during the late 1960s and early 1970s.


1. New York Times, 5 May 1970. It should be noted that the number of students participating in the antiwar demonstration on 4 May has been estimated at between eleven and fifteen hundred, although the crowd swelled to over twenty-five hundred, including curious townspeople, high school students, professors, non-demonstrating university students, and reporters. Two of the students killed, Sandy Scheuer and Bill Schroeder, were not active participants in the demonstration.

2. Allen J. Matusow, The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 342-43; Kim McQuaid, The Anxious Years: America in the Vietnam-Watergate Era (New York: HarperCollins, 1989), 157; James Michener, Kent State: What Happened and Why (New York: Fawcett Press, 1971), 7; and William Chafe, The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), 408.

3. Morgantown Dominion News, 2 May 1970.

4. New York Times, 2 May 1970.

5. Ibid. and Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2 May 1970.

6. All of the above mentioned demonstrations were escribed in the various news accounts as beginning peacefully and escalating into violent confrontations when police or National Guardsmen attempted to break them up.

7. Interview with the author, Dean Joseph Gluck, 22 September 1992. Dean Gluck has served WVU for fifty years.

8. John Hennen, Caught up in Time: Oral History Narratives of Appalachian Vietnam Veterans (Huntington: Aegina Press, 1988), 11.

9. Gluck interview and interview with the author, Harold Shamberger, assistant to President James Harlow, 29 September 1992.

10. FBI file on Scott Bills, Scott Bills Papers, West Virginia and Regional History Collection, Morgantown, WV, hereafter referred to as Bills Papers, WVRHC. Scott Bills was involved in campus antiwar activites and later identified as one of the Morgantown Six. Dr. Bills is currently a professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He is the editor of a book on the Kent State incident, Kent State, May 4: Echoes Through a Decade, and the journal Peace & Change.

11. Gluck interview and Shamberger interview. Prior to the May demonstrations, university officials had been developing plans to "isolate dissidents on campus" by enlisting the aid of "stabilizing elements on campus" to "expose clearly the small numbers of those who are actually seeking to create trouble." William D. Ward, Professor of Military Science, to Harold Shamberger, 8 April 1970, Incident Week of 8 May 1970 File, President's Archives, WVRHC, hereafter referred to as Incident Week File.

12. Harry Ernst, Director University Relations, to Mr. Corbin Gwaltney, 22 June 1970, Incident Week File.

13. Shamberger interview and Gluck interview.

14. Gluck interview and Shamberger interview. For a further understanding of the violence occurring on college campuses during the 1960s and 1970s, see Judith C. and Stewart E. Albert, The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984) and Morris Dickstein, Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977).

15. Gluck interview and Shamberger interview.

16. Joseph Gluck to James Harlow, 29 May 1970, Report on Student Demonstrations, Incident Week File.

17. Morgantown Dominion News, 9 May 1970.

18. News release from WVU, 8 June 1970, Incident Week File.

19. Morgantown Dominion News, 6 May 1970; Daily Athenaeum, 6 May 1970; telephone interview with the author, Scott Bills, 11 March 1992.

20. Morgantown Dominion News, 6 May 1970. Grumbein's Island was a large cement traffic island located in the center of the downtown campus, across from the student union (the Mountainlair) and Oglebay Plaza.

21. Ibid. and Daily Athenaeum, 7 May 1970. This information was verified by John Maxwell, Jack Hammersmith, and Scott Bills, all of whom either participated in the demonstrations or stood on the sidelines.

22. Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970 and Daily Athenaeum, 7 May 1970. This information was also verified through an interview conducted by Mike Workman with William Haymond, 3 March 1985, and Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992.

23. Daily Athenaeum, 7 May 1970 and Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970.

24. Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970; Gluck to Harlow, Report on Student Demonstrations, Incident Week File; and Shamberger interview.

25. Daily Athenaeum, 7 May 1970 and Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970.

26. Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970 and Gluck interview.

27. Telephone interview with the author, Scott Bills, 22 September 1992. Bills believes that many students were only looking for a response from university officials concerning Cambodia and Kent State. Had Harlow recognized the students, Bills feels that many of them would have returned to their dormitories and apartments. Charleston Gazette, 8 May 1970.

28. Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992.

29. Daily Athenaeum, 7 May 1970.

30. Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970; Bills telephone interview, 22 September 1992.

31. Morgantown Dominion News, 7 May 1970.

32. The community groups included Morgantown Citizens Concerned About Vietnam, WVU campus ministers, and The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Daily Athenaeum, 7 May 1970.

33. Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992.

34. Gluck to Harlow, Official Report on Demonstration Damage, 11 May 1970, Incident Week File.

35. Morgantown Dominion News, 8 May 1970; Daily Athenaeum, 8 May 1970; Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992; and interview with the author, John Maxwell, 13 March 1992.

36. Morgantown Dominion News, 8 May 1970.

37. Telephone interview with the author, Bennie Palmer, 29 September 1992; Morgantown Dominion News, 9 May 1970.

38. Gluck interview and Morgantown Dominion News, 6 May 1970. This conclusion is based on numerous reports in the Incident Week File written by James Harlow to Governor Moore, in which Harlow detailed actions being taken against the students after the 7 May incident.

39. Morgantown Dominion News, 8 May 1970; Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992; and Maxwell interview.

40. Morgantown Dominion News, 8 May 1970 and Maxwell interview. Dr. Haymond publicly apologized for his remarks and admitted that his statements were intemperate, imprudent, and unwise. His apology appeared in the 21 May 1970 issue of the Morgantown Dominion News.

41. News release from WVU, 8 June 1970, Incident Week File; and Morgantown Dominion News, 8 May 1970. The weapons that the state police carried are clearly evident in the pictures taken of the demonstrations.

42. Gluck interview and Shamberger interview. Both men agree that the use of the state police was an overreaction on the part of Governor Moore.

43. Gluck interview; Shamberger interview; Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992; and Maxwell interview.

44. News release from WVU, 7 May 1970, Incident Week File.

45. Gluck to Harlow, Report on Demonstration Damage, Incident Week File.

46. Gluck to Harlow, Report on Student Demonstrations; James G. Harlow to William Haymond, 22 May 1970; and James G. Harlow to Governor Arch Moore, 7 July 1970, Incident Week File.

47. The Mountaineer Freedom Party was organized in 1969 by Scott Bills and Brad Pyles. The idea to organize this campus political party was obtained from a Students for a Democratic Society pamphlet. Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992.

48. Londo H. Brown to James Harlow, 18 May 1970, Incident Week File.

49. Gluck to Harlow, Report on Student Demonstrations, Incident Week File.

50. Gluck interview and Gluck to Harlow, Incident Week File.

51. The Notice of Hearing paper sent to the students can be seen in the Bills Papers.

52. Letters criticizing Haymond and calling for his resignation flooded Harlow's office. See Incident Week File. Harold A. Gibbard to James Harlow, 20 May 1970 and Harlow to Haymond, Incident Week File.

53. James G. Harlow to L. H. Harris, 12 June 1970, Incident Week File.

54. Harlow to Moore, 7 July 1970 and Don P. Mudock to James Harlow, 8 May 1970, Incident Week File.

55. News release from WVU, 8 June 1970, Incident Week File.

56. Motion for Continuance, 24 June 1970, Incident Week File.

57. News release from WVU, 30 June 1970, Incident Week File and Bills, Stepto, Bucca, Weber v. Harlow, Gluck, Krause, Woodard, Andrews, 70-22-F (Northern District Court of West Virginia, 1970.)

58. James Harlow to Joseph Laurita, 2 July 1970 and Laurita to Harlow, 17 July 1970, Incident Week File.

59. Paul C. Camilletti to James Harlow, 8 July 1970, Incident Week File.

60. Shamberger interview. Shamberger stated that Harlow was attempting to let things "cool down."

61. Memorandum, 13 June 1970 and Joseph Gluck to Stanley R. Harris, 9 July 1970, Incident Week File; Gluck interview.

62. Joseph Gluck to Thomas Scott King, 22 July 1970,Incident Week File; WVU Alumni News (Fall 1970): 1; and Gluck interview.

63. Gluck interview and Joseph Gluck to John Brisbane, 13 August 1970, Incident Week File.

64. Scott Bills to Harry Heflin, 18 August 1970, Incident Week File, and Harry Heflin to Stephen Stepto and Scott Bills, August 19, 1970, Bills Papers.

65. Gluck to Brisbane; Bills to Heflin, 18 August 1970; and Stephen Stepto to Hary Heflin, 18 August 1970, Incident Week File.

66. Morgantown Post, 2 October 1970 and Charleston Gazette, 7 October 1970.

67. Charleston Gazette, 7 October 1970.

68. Bills telephone interview, 22 September 1970. The Student Activist League was a socialist organization designed to make people aware of the social and political issues of the day.

69. Charleston Gazette, 7 October 1970.

70. Gluck to Brisbane, Incident Week File.

71. Charleston Gazette, 7 October 1970; and Graduate School Admission Appeals Committee to President James Harlow, 6 October 1970, Bills Papers; WVU Alumni News (Winter 1971): 1; and Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992.

72. Gluck interview. Gluck stated that President Harlow wanted to show the public that he could maintain control of the university.

73. Bills telephone interview, 11 March 1992; Morgantown Dominion News, 6 May 1970.

74. Virgil Peterson, a WVU English professor, recalled a discussion with President Harlow following the May 7 incident in which Harlow admitted he had lost touch with the students. Harlow stated, "the radicals have stopped coming to my office. . . . I've been working with them for three years and last fall [1969] they stopped coming." See "WVU Anti-War Protest Recalled," Morgantown Dominion Post, 6 May 1990.

Volume 54Volume 54

West Virginia History Journal

West Virginia History Center