The 1960s at WVU
In the late 1950s and 1960s, WVU converted farm land to buildings and roads and parking lots for the new Evansdale campus. The first two Towers of the Evansdale Residential Complex (shown under construction at right) opened in 1965 and the last two Towers in 1968 as “baby boomers,” the children of World War II veterans, entered college. Also in 1968, the Mountainlair student union was built on the downtown campus.
The student body became more diverse. The College of Agriculture and Forestry and the Cooperative Extension Program developed programs in East Africa that brought African students to WVU. The first African American athletes played on WVU teams.
The early 1960s were filled with “Mountaineer Pride” activities. All freshmen, both men and women were required to wear freshmen beanies during the 1961-62 school year. Students participated in events that included dressing in Mountaineer costumes. Male students wore jackets and ties to football games, while women wore skirts and dresses.
There were also many curriculum changes. WVU’s core curriculum went into effect in September 1964, the predecessor of today’s liberal studies program. The English department opened its Writing Lab in 1967. Faculty taught new courses on subjects such as “Negro History” and worked with students in the “Free University” that met from 1968 to 1974 to explore subjects that were not part of the formal curriculum. Notes for New Mountaineers: A Student Handbook, 1961-1962 suggested that, in class, students “Look alert, interested, and cheerful, as if you cared about what’s being said. Don’t slouch and don’t sleep; pay attention instead of reading a newspaper, writing a letter home, knitting, or doing your nails.”
We didn’t call it “service learning” then, but students and faculty tutored children in the coal-mining communities along Scotts Run, and President Paul Miller (1962-1966) encouraged WVU to improve the lives of West Virginians through the Center for Appalachian Studies and Development.
Students throughout the United States demonstrated against the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. In May 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four students during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio. In response, WVU students joined with students across the country and held a vigil to protest the deaths.
The quiet vigil quickly escalated into a full demonstration lasting three days. State police were called in to try to clear the students from the area. However, as soon as the gas disbursed, the students returned to the demonstration. In support of the students’ efforts, William Haymond, chair of Philosophy Department, announced that he was canceling finals for his classes and giving all students in his classes “A’s” for the semester. At the end of the term, Haymond was removed as chair of the philosophy department, but continued to teach as a tenured professor. Students who flunked out of school could be drafted into military service and sent to Vietnam.
Protest on the downtown campus—May 1970