Michigan State News

November 24, 1975

"MSU officials denounce protesters on trustee meeting demonstration"

by Sue Willoughby


From the reactions of administrators and trustees, the protesters at Fridayís board of trustees meeting probably did more harm than good by disrupting the meeting.

After repeated disruptions from the Coalition Against Cutbacks and Tuition Increases (CACTI) that included shouting and chants, President Wharton recommended the board automatically pass all items on the agenda and move to an executive session, which is closed to the public.

"We passed a blanket motion simply because we had to," Trustee Warren Huff, D-Plymouth, said. "The President did warn them (the protesters) this action would have to taken if they continued, but they didnít pay any attention."

Trustee Don Stevens, D-Bloomfield Hills, called the disruption "crude and outrageous," because it prevented a group of handicapped students from making a presentation on a proposed affirmative action program.

"These people were brushed aside by people with no concern with anything except with their right to shout," Stevens said. "They didnít even represent a majority of the people at the meeting."

"They did more to hurt the cause of getting more appropriations for MSU than anything done in the last five years. Anyone looking for an excuse not to give us more money has got one now," he said.

Eldon Nonnamaker, vice president for student affairs and services, was an MSU administrator during the student unrest of the 1960s, and has seen many protests here at MSU.

"Each one has its own kind of character to it," he said. "This one has been building up all week through publicity."

Nonnamaker said the omnibus motion passing all actions on the agenda is not unprecedented, but is unusual.

"Students coming in and yelling down the board has happened before, but usually when the President threatened to stop the meeting they stopped shouting," he said. "This time they didnít stop."

"The thing that troubles me most is that this kind of behavior at a board meeting is simply self-destructive," Nonnamaker said. "We are having enough trouble now budget-wise and getting appropriations through. This seemed like a few students hell-bent towards creating any kind of ruckus they could."

Trustee Aubrey Radcliffe, R-Lansing, was outraged because he was denied the right to make his feelings known at the public action session Friday morning.

"They took away my right to vote and make my feelings known at the public meeting," he said. "Everyoneís rights were denied because of the actions of a few people."

"I didnít get a chance to hear from the people that need to be heard from the most Ė the handicapped students. That upset me to no end."

The resolution on the affirmative action program for the handicapped was pushed back until the boardís January meeting, so that the students could be heard and the trustees could discuss the issue in public. It is expected the resolution will pass in January, however.

CACTI was given a chance to give their views at the public briefing session held Thursday night and spoke for nearly a half an hour, Trustee Blanche Martin, D-East Lansing said.

"We try to encourage students that want to air their opinions to go through the proper channels." he said. "But we canít allow them to disrupt our meetings."

The board could have taken a number of actions against the protesters, including having then arrested by one of the several plainclothes detectives present at the meeting. But they decided instead to close the meeting and prevent any further confrontations, President Wharton said Sunday.

"It was largely just a matter of judgment," he said. "This was a violation of both student and University regulations, but we had to use discretion and felt this action was preferable."

"The main thing was, the group disrupting the meeting had a chance to speak the night before. That makes their behavior even more difficult to understand."

Wharton also expressed his concern that the actions at Fridayís meeting could provoke a negative feeling from the public.

"In the past, student unrest has been met with negative reactions in the legislature, but I donít know how they will react," he said. "But I think the majority of students on campus realize that weíre doing everything we can."