Indiana University Archives Exhibits

1969 Fee Hike Protest part 1

In 1969 Indiana University was allotted only $6.2 million of the $8 million requested from the State of Indiana for the 1969-1970 academic year. In response, the IU Board of Trustees declared in late March that student fees for the following school year would increase 67%. Purdue University students faced similar increases, and were the first to react. In a series of mid-April protests thousands of Purdue students demanded that the increases be rescinded. Perhaps not taking student demands seriously, Indiana Governor Edgar Whitcomb stated that he believed the unrest was the work of “out-of-state agitators.” He did not elaborate as to just who those persons might be, but his comments further galvanized students at both Purdue and IU. On April 24 close to three thousand IU students gathered to hear Purdue representatives speak about opposing the cuts. On April 28 over eight thousand students gathered at the New Fieldhouse at IU to debate the increases with administrators. To help off-set the budget cuts, student leaders demanded cut-backs in other university services and a cessation to plans for constructing or renovating buildings on campus. At a rally outside Owen Hall on April 30, students voted for a general class boycott to take place May 1 and 2.

Over the following week close to ten thousand students boycotted classes, marched in demonstrations and participated in “teach-ins” in Dunn Meadow. At the center of the protests were four demands: The immediate rollback of the fee increase, student participation on the IU budget committee, graduated tuition introduced by 1970 and no tuition by 1972. The protests were by and large peaceful, but were marred by a fire in the graduate library, then located in Franklin Hall. While it was not immediately clear what had started the fire, many in the community and the administration cast a suspicious eye at the students who had been demonstrating. A non-student was ultimately suspected of starting the fire, but at the time the event threatened to undermine much support for the students’ cause. On Wednesday, May 7, thousands of students from IU, Purdue and other state colleges marched on the state house in Indianapolis, demanding to speak with the governor, but to no avail. That same day during the annual IU Founders Day ceremonies around five hundred honors students walked out, leaving behind flyers explaining student grievances. The following evening a large group of African-American students crashed a meeting between student leaders and administrators and demanded an open dialog about their concerns. The so-called “Ballantine Lock-in” became a flashpoint for both positive and negative sentiment about the student protests (See the page for that event for more details).

On Friday, May 9, students voted to end the official boycott, but insisted that their demands were still in place. Members of the IU Board of Trustees met with student leaders two days later, but students left dissatisfied with the results. Since only a handful of trustees were present they could not vote on any binding resolutions. Furthermore, chairman Frank McKinney, who was seen by students as most responsible for the fee increases, did not appear at the meeting. With the end of the school year students dispersed, and the largest protest in IU history was over. Fee increases stayed in effect, although administrators worked hard to ensure that adequate financial aid was available for students who needed it. While students did not get what they wanted, they had effectively shown the University that they should be engaged in key decisions that affected them, and had paved the way for later advances in student participation in adminstrative decision-making.