At 5:30 p.m. on May 6, 1970, an embattled Ohio State University President Novice G. Fawcett took the unprecedented step of closing down the university. Despite the presence of more than 1,500 armed highway patrol officers, Ohio National Guardsmen, deputy sheriffs, and Columbus city police, university and state officials feared they could not maintain order in the face of growing student protests. Students, faculty, and staff were ordered to leave; administrative offices, classrooms, and laboratories were closed. The campus was sealed off. Never in the first one hundred years of the university’s existence had such a drastic step been necessary.
Just a year earlier the campus seemed immune to such disruptions. President Nixon considered it safe enough to plan an address at commencement. Yet a year later the campus erupted into a spasm of violent protest exceeding even that of traditional hot spots like Berkeley and Wisconsin. How could conditions have changed so dramatically in just a few short months?
Using contemporary news stories, long overlooked archival materials, and first-person interviews, The Ohio State University in the Sixties explores how these tensions built up over years, why they converged when they did and how they forever changed the university.