United Front

January – March, 1969


“The United Front stands committed to justice in its fullest sense. We will never compromise the interests of any oppressed peoples, realizing that the interests of any one group cannot be isolated and dealt with separately from the interests of all oppressed people. Disunity and factionalism serve the interests of the powerful and betray the interests of the oppressed…We are all in it together.”

February 2nd, 1969
The United Front


Following the North Hall Takeover on October 14th, 1969, the UCSB administration had yet to move forward with honoring any of the BSU’s demands. Three months passed before students rose, yet again, to push for necessary change on campus.

[United Front Forms at UCSB, The United Front, Box 28]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records. UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

On January 10th, members of the Black Student Union, United Mexican-American Students, and Students for a Democratic Society came together to form a “United Front” in the fight against administration. The BSU fought against racially charged police harassment on campus and the delayed development of an Ethnic Studies Program; UMAS submitted demands to the university for two years with no results; SDS sought to coalesce white radical efforts with minority issues. Each organization combined their grievances with the university to create the United Front, a joint student movement fighting for concrete administrative action.

The United Front demands built upon the original 8 North Hall Takeover and 5 UMAS demands and added 4 new ones reflecting recent issues on campus.

[Demands of the United Front, The United Front, Box 28]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records. UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

After presenting their demands to the administration, the administration requested to meet in private to discuss the status of their demands, but the United Front wanted an open discussion with all students. They held a public meeting in Campbell Hall, inviting the Chancellor to address these issues openly with the students.

(Jan. 1969, El Gaucho)

In a packed auditorium, student speakers brought to light repeated instances of administrative delay, saying, “…the administration tells us there are no FTE’s [full-time equivalency] in the ethnic studies major…they have the money to build a new football stadium…we have been lied to again”; “…our demands are not new…they have been presented over and over again…this university does not respond to our people”; “Our demands have been sent from one commission to another…nothing has been done…we want a commitment”. The Chancellor responded, saying, “I came to this meeting with a quite different impression of how it was going to be conducted. I thought I was going to make a few comments and answer questions. Fifty minutes have now gone…”. He then reiterated his position in support of minority students and said, “…we are moving as rapidly as we can in this direction, but we cannot move as fast as some of us would like to…We can’t set up programs and make proposals that do not have our hearts and our souls in them”. He remained for an hour of the hour-and-half discussion, leaving students disappointed with his comments. Full dialogue of United Front Conference Link

Following this event, the United Front agreed to engage in private conversation with administration to move forward with their demands.

(Feb. 1969, El Gaucho)

. The Assistant Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and Chancellor along with United Front representatives and several faculty members began meeting on January 27th. After several days of consistent communication, the talks were postponed due to the arrest of several key BSU members on February 3rd, including James Johnson (Rashidi).

(FEb. 1969, El Gaucho)

Students held a rally in response to the BSU arrests, stating they were “…part of a large-scale police ‘conspiracy’ and based on ‘trumped-up charges’”.

(FEB. 1969, El Gaucho)

Following the arrests, the United Front released an undated document regarding the progress of discussion with the administration.

[Statement to the people and the chancellor, The United Front, Box 28]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records. UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

On February 17th, around 1,000 students held a 3-day demonstration in the UCen involving classroom sit-ins, rallies, and marches.

[February 17th Demonstration account, The United Front, Box 28]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records. UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

On the same day, the Chancellor responded in agreement to continuing discussions with students.

[Statement from ucsb chancellor vernon I cheadle, The United Front, Box 28]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records. UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

On February 26th, the United Front released several statements regarding their transition to the New Free University and continued fighting for minority rights on campus.

[United front statement, The United Front, c. 1969-1974, Box 4]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Student Organizations collection. UArch 101. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

On March 3rd, the United Front released a replication of their previous demands, writing “Why have these demands not been met?” across the top.

[“Why have these demands not been met”, The United Front, c. 1969-1974, Box 4]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Student Organizations collection. UArch 101. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

The official Proposal for Black Studies at UCSB was submitted on April 1969, six months after the original demands posed by BSU in October 1969.


By: Frances Woo

North Hall Takeover

October 14th, 1968


“Today Black University students, like the Black freedom movement of which they are a leading part, take change within the community as the point of departure for their social and political involvement.”


On October 14th, 1968, members of the Black Student Union organized to give voice to campus injustice.  They demanded that UCSB take action to support the Black students on campus and implement a Black Studies Department educating students and faculty alike about the complexities of the Black experience.  Sixteen members pioneered the movement, barricading themselves in the North Hall computer center around 6:30am:

(Bettinger, Oct. 1968, El Gaucho)

 

They were tired of being ignored and took to North Hall to force the Chancellor to accept this list of demands:

  • “The establishment of a commission designed to investigate problems resulting from personal or individual racism
  • The development of a college of Black Studies
  • Reaffirmation of President Hitch’s directive calling for increased hiring of minority persons
  • The hiring of a black female counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)
  • The appointment of black coaches ‘whenever this becomes possible’
  • Non-condonement of any harassment by any students, whatever color
  • The development of a community relations staff ‘to be actively prosecuted’
  • Asking for the firing of Athletic Director Jack Curtice and Arthur Gallon, head of the Physical Activities department” (Bettinger, 1968).

According to Bettinger, there was a tentative mood shift throughout the protest, beginning with a small crowd of students throwing food at the Black students barricading the hall, to around 1,000 people supporting these students by bringing them food and maintaining a mellow crowd.  

Andrea Estrada’s article reflecting on the North Hall Takeover 50 Years Later says, “UC Santa Barbara undergraduate Booker Banks played a key role in the occupation, using a microphone to mesmerize, inform and entertain the large number of white students who surrounded the building”.

Sanya Kamidi and Sofia Mejias-Pascoe, Assistant News Editors for the Daily Nexus, report that, “students planned the ‘high-risk operation’ two weeks in advance.  BSU members located all the exits in the building, prepared for attempted infiltration from police and threats of violence. They also determined how they would communicate and negotiate with key players on the outside” in their article titled, 50 Years, 12 Student and the Takeover That Changed Everything.

During the protest, there were several instances of opposition, from individual outcries to one student physically attempting to end the demonstration:

(Henry, Oct. 1968, El Gaucho)

 

The Black students inside deterred him using a fire extinguisher, and as Dooley was being treated for a slashed hand, he said, “‘Their gripes are petty…there’s no real racism on this campus, nothing overt anyway’”.

Later that day, Chancellor Vernon I. Cheadle accepted 7 out of 8 recommendations, not agreeing to the demand to fire the “Athletic Director Jack Curtis and Arthur Gallon, head of the Physical Activities department”.

Almost a year after negotiations, the Proposal For a Black Studies Program at UCSB was finally created, outlining the administrative and academic set-up of the department.  The introduction states, “Black Studies, thus, represent the conceptualization and programming of the Black community’s aspirations as they affect the university…in short, Black students are seeking to realize a genuine freedom of expression within the university and society-at-large”. 

[Proposal For a Black Studies Program at UCSB, Proposal for Black & Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Black Studies Records, UArch 14, Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

In the Spring of 1968, one year before the North Hall Takeover, the Afro-American Student Union proposed a similar UC-wide document titled Proposal For Establishing a Black Studies Program to the University of California.  

[Proposal For Establishing a Black Studies Program, Original Formation of Black Studies,, 1968-1971, University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Black Studies Records, UArch 14, Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

In it, they stipulate the same goals and issues that the BSU expressed during the North Hall Takeover.  This document, published months before the Takeover, may have possibly served as inspiration and influenced the BSU’s  demand for change at UCSB.

When the administration ignored their griefs, Black students turned towards each other to fight against the injustice they experienced on campus.  BSU members faced a myriad of obstacles, including threats of suspension, a violent student, and an unsure, tense crowd, to make their voices heard.  The North Hall Takeover stands as a powerful example of student action, and opened the door for establishing future Ethnic and Gender Studies departments at UCSB.


By: Frances Woo