On June 6, 1969, — Springfield used a trimester system, so classes ended in June — students who occupied the Administration building were placed on strict probation and required to perform 300 hours of non-paid “work service.” Many students didn’t return to the College because of this punishment. A large amount of them worked summer jobs to help afford college, so it was impossible for those students to complete 300 unpaid hours and pay for school.
Later that June, Locklin approved an experimental Black Cultural Center for the upcoming fall semester and a modest room was set aside for this purpose. That ended a year of unprecedented turmoil, but Springfield hadn’t seen the worst of it.
The summer of ‘69 saw Apollo 11 carry three U.S. astronauts to the moon. In August, the Woodstock music festival produced a crowd of half a million people on a dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y. For three days young people coexisted without security, sharing food, shelter and drugs. At a time when the country was so divided this showed that there was still some sort of unity in the country.
The first trimester of the ‘69-’70 school year embodied that unity. There weren’t any protests on campus and with the Black Cultural Center in progress, it looked like the demands would be met after all. By the spring of 1970, however, there wasn’t any significant progress on the other demands and the black students began to wonder when their objectives would be met.
“We were competing in Springfield to have more black studies or black people in school teaching,” Jones said, “and the school wasn’t complicit in even approaching the subject. So in ‘69, the upperclassmen decided to take it (Massasoit Hall) over.”
On the night of March 9, 1970, a few black students began kicking residents out of their rooms, starting with the all-girls third floor.
Paar lived on the fourth floor of Massasoit, and he was having fun in an intense water fight with friends that night, not even realizing what was going on just a floor below.
“We were having fun and then our RA got a phone call that there was a bunch of black boys that were in with the women,” Paar remembered. “The guys basically said, ‘f---- you’ we’re not going anywhere and barricaded themselves in the girl’s room.”
The night went on and more black students flowed into the halls. By the next morning, the entire dorm was taken over by black students. When Paar came back from breakfast to see that the doors of Massasoit were chained and that he could not get into his dorm, rather than being worried, he saw it as a day off.
“I was never one to go to class anyway so we saw this as a two-day vacation,” Parr recalled with a smile. “I remember being around the back of Massasoit yelling up to my room, ‘Don’t touch the White Album!’”
Paar says he didn’t really take the situation all that seriously until unverified rumors began circulating about the students calling in non-Springfield College students with guns.
The group was approached by Locklin and Costello at 8:30 a.m. and asked to leave. The students refused. They were approached two more times that day, before being served a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts.
Jones was one of the students on the inside, but he never felt completely comfortable with what he was doing.
“It was this brotherhood that was really fake because I was in a building with people I didn’t really trust,” he remembered. “We had kids who could barely read and write. They were failing class anyway so what did they have to lose?”
The following day, students were warned that they would be served a contempt citation if they did not leave. None of them left and were each served a citation.
The black students issued a statement explaining their reasoning for taking over Massasoit. The students said that it was because they were disappointed in the handling of the demands made on Feb. 10, 1969, in addition to, a mixture of frustration and fear that overshadowed the everyday lives of black students.
As the days went on, students inside Massasoit Hall were fed by white students on campus, who would pass food through the first floor windows. The feeling inside the building began to change as time passed and people began to panic.
“It wasn’t very upbeat inside,” Jones said. “This one woman was crying because she was half white so she had conflict. She was actually at the window threatening to jump. I felt so bad for her, because it seemed like the world was so black and white at that time, and if you were in the middle, you weren’t accepted in either.”
On the third day, the Springfield Sheriff and his deputies arrived in a chartered bus to take the students into custody. A group of almost 700 students gathered outside of Massasoit to see the 49 black students load the bus. The students were taken to Superior Court and assessed a $50 bail. The bail was covered by outside sources.
At the trial on Mar. 19 all 49 black students were convicted of civil contempt. Forty-seven of the 49 were sentenced to jail time ranging from 20-30 days.
A month later on Apr. 6, 1970, there was a hearing for the students in the Administration Building who were arrested and found guilty for the takeover of Massasoit Hall. A group of 16 mostly white students interrupted these hearings at 12:30 p.m. in protest and ended at 3:30 p.m. when police arrived. All students were arrested plus two others outside when police moved to clear the driveway. They were charged with trespassing and breach of the peace.
Two days later, students set up tents in front of the Administration building around 11 p.m. and spent the night in sleeping bags. The students were protesting disciplinary action against the 49 black students and the arrest of the 18 students who occupied the administration building on April 6.
There was a large poster outside of the tent signed by 70 students that read, “We believe that no college disciplinary action should be taken against the recent occupiers of the Ad building and of Massasoit Hall. Until such time as all disciplinary proceedings are dropped, we the undersigned will protest this injustice by fasting.”
Only six of the original 78 students who began fasting remained when they ended the strike after 115 hours. The students took down their tents and left an epitaph in their place with a quote from Robert Kennedy: “If you make peaceful revolution impossible you make violent revolution inevitable.”
In May of 1970, the administrative staff at the College organized what they called a “Collegium.” The group consisted of 32 Springfield College students, faculty, administrators, trustees, and alumni. The goal of this group was to reevaluate the College’s purposes, goals, and actions.
The Collegium released a statement recommending that the President invite the 19 black students back separately to return in September or December, depending on his judgement. They also recommended that the 19 black students and a representative group of the Springfield College community participate in a workshop to improve black-white relationships on campus.
The establishment of the Collegium, marked the end of arguably the most turbulent years in Springfield College history.
Fifty years since the day 30 students stormed into Locklin’s office, the campus — and America as a whole — hasn’t fixed the problems evident in those original demands. Paar doesn’t think that the campus has grown since then and thinks things may have been done better during his time as a student.
“I think it (Springfield College) pays really good lip service to what it's supposed to do, but actually doing it, not so much,” Paar said. “The idea of humanics is really done from this person to that person. I don't think you can have such a thing as institutional humanics.”
He continued, “I think there was a lot more urgency 47 years ago to get something done and get connection to the community and connect with people like you (people of color). Now it seems to be kind of pawned off to this club will do that and that club will do that.”
Jeannie Marsh, a graduate of the class of ‘73, echoed Paar's feelings.
“Springfield College isn't terribly diverse and never has been terribly diverse,” said Marsh. “In some classes, you walk into there's a sea of white faces. Even if you walk down the street to schools like AIC or Western New England you see more diversity.”
And in 2016, 47 years after those 30 black students presented President Locklin with their list of demands, senior Elijah Ryan walked through campus with a sign that read ‘Springfield College doesn’t care about black people.’ Along with the sign were his list of objectives, which were eerily similar to those of the students in ‘69.
They included a call for the hiring of black and Latino faculty and athletic coaches, enrollment of black and Latino students, and to increase curriculum and course work that integrated black and Latino history.
One excerpt from Ryan’s call for action reads, “The majority of people of color have been conditioned to put our heads down and survive a four-year sentence. Unlike most of our white counterparts, Springfield College is not ‘the time of our lives.’ For many of us who endured the Springfield College experience long enough to graduate, we did so with much suffering. For us ‘proud alumni’ the suffering is over, and the end is here. There’s no strings still attaching us to SC and now we are free. Free to never return to a place that doesn’t care about us.”
The problem of diversity and inclusion at college campuses across America has been around forever and will probably continue to be around forever. While Marsh, Paar, and Ryan’s comments may be true, Springfield College has taken some initiative to try and make the campus a more welcoming and inclusive environment. In 2015 the campus hired Calvin Hill, a black male, as the Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement. The College has a class in African American literature, there are black representatives on the board of trustees and any sophomore can run for the student trustee position. Next year, for the first time ever Springfield has made the SAT/ACT test optional for applicants, as a way to increase applicants from low income and urban communities.