A Decade of Dissent: Student Protests at the University of Michigan in the 1960s
In the 1960s, students sought more control over campus life. Perhaps nowhere is this best illustrated than in their call for a student-run university bookstore. Many campuses across the country instituted these bookstores, but the University of Michigan was resistant. On January 21, 1966, Vice-President of Student Affairs Richard Cutler recommended to the University Regents to deny the request of some 3,000 students for a university-sponsored bookstore. He claimed that such a bookstore was economically unfeasible.
Outraged at Cutler's proposal and the Regents' refusal to seek student input, students protested outside the Administration Building. Bookstore committee members pointed to the success of Professor Shure's Student Book Service to argue that such a bookstore could be economically viable (Michigan Daily, January 21, 1966).
Students protest in support of a student-run
bookstore. From, Vice-President for Development and
Communication Records, Box 23.
As the years went on and little was accomplished, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) decided to take action. In September of 1969, they disrupted a Regents meeting and demanded that the Regents approve the bookstore. After much negotiation, the Regents finally agreed to fund a bookstore, but not to allow student control. Student groups across campus found this decision unacceptable, so SDS organized a take-over of the LSA building. Fleming decided to file a restraining order against the students but could not gain access to the building. Frustrated, he called in the police who arrested 107 students.
The students were furious about the police intervention. They refused to back down on this issue and subsequently gained victory when the Regents agreed to establish a student-run bookstore. Their only stipulation was that they not be held financially responsible if the bookstore turned out to be a failure.1
1. Peckham, Howard H. The Making of the University of Michigan, 1817-1992. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994.