Campus unrest collection, 1968-1975
Scope and Contents
This collection is comprised of materials covering the tumultuous events that occurred on the Hobart and William Smith campus from 1968-1975, predominantly those related to student opposition to the Vietnam War. The bulk of the materials are newspaper and magazine clippings. There is also a large collection of letters from alumni, alumnae, and local community members expressing their views on campus events.
Additional materials include a narrative account of the Tommy the Traveler incident written by John Lydenberg, the Rhodes Report on campus unrest, transcripts of two of the resulting trials, eyewitness accounts of the campus drug raid, and other memos, flyers, notes, and petitions.
Visual materials consist of several photographs of the Geneva resident protest of commencement, and two videos. Marc Weiss’s “The Revolutionary Was a Cop” features contemporaneous interviews with Hobart and William Smith students about Tommy and the events of 1970, and the panel discussion features several members of the class of 1970 reflecting during their 25th reunion.
- Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Student opposition to the Vietnam War sparked a period of campus unrest during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Several events at this time attracted negative media attention, brought criticism from parents and alumni, and resulted in several arrests, putting students, faculty, and the college itself on trial.
In November 1968, several students were indicted for washing an American flag on stage during a performance in Coxe Hall. The following year, students participated in a national moratorium to protest the Vietnam War. This inspired a second moratorium in 1970, which led to a series of academic overhauls in the college curriculum.
Anti-war sentiment on campus found a useful focal point in the presence of the Air Force R.O.T.C. in Sherrill Hall. Protests and petitions against the R.O.T.C. culminated the student occupation of its offices. Opposition to the program also existed among the faculty, for both political and curricular reasons. The Colleges decided to terminate the R.O.T.C. at Hobart in April 1970.
Concurrently Thomas Tongyai, known as Tommy the Traveler, arrived in Geneva and began associating with the anti-war elements on campus and in the surrounding region. He was known for advocating more violent forms of protest. In April 1970 he taught two students how to make the firebombs that they would use to immolate the R.O.T.C. office on May 1. These two students were arrested and faced charges of arson, eventually pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
In early June 1970, the Ontario County Sheriff’s office conducted a drug raid on the JPR dorm complex. The raid was led by Tommy, which exposed him to the students as an undercover agent working for the Sherriff’s office. Hundreds of angry students surrounded the police cars and demanded that the arrested students be released and that Tommy himself be arrested. Meanwhile, several dozen policemen with riot sticks lined up on St. Clair Street. The standoff lasted several hours as the police, student leaders, and college administrators negotiated in a Sherrill Hall dorm room. Eventually, the arrested students were released in return for the students allowing Tommy and the police to leave campus.
It was soon learned that Tommy had been working for the FBI, and was denounced as an agent provocateur by students and the media. Despite accusations of incitement the only crime Tommy was ever charged with was collecting unemployment benefits while working for the sheriff's office, which carried a one year probation sentence.
Multiple arrests and trials resulted from the drug raid and resulting standoff. Most notably, the Colleges themselves were indicted by a special grand jury for coercion. In the end, the Colleges were acquitted.
2.71 Linear Feet (5 boxes)
This collection is arranged into the following series:
- Newspaper and magazine clippings
- Reports, transcripts, other materials
The materials in this collection were gathered by the Archives and Special Collections staff from various archives files and other sources. The original collection consisted primarily of newspaper clippings.
In July 2018, several files of correspondence and other documents were removed from the vault and integrated into the collection. Among them was a file of newspaper clippings collected by Ernest Raab '67 while doing doctoral research on the indictment of HWS at Syracuse University. He donated them to the Colleges on August 3, 1971.
The photographs were donated to the Archives in 2004, but their provenance is unknown.
- Anti-war movements Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Hobart and William Smith Colleges -- Riot, June 1970
- Students -- Political activity Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Tongyai, Thomas (Tommy)
- United States. Army. Reserve Officers' Training Corps
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Campus unrest materials, 1968-1975: A Finding Aid
- Brandon Moblo, Katie LaMontaigne, Linda Clark Benedict
- November 16, 2018
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard