MCLA Student Protests

While not as extensive as other colleges in the region, North Adams State College did experience some of the student activism of the 1960s and 1970s on campus.

Throughout the ’60s and ’70s at MCLA, fewer protests took place than one might expect from a liberal arts school. For those that did occur, the academic quad served as the hot spot for all of them. Between 1965 and 1975, students mobilized only three times on two topics: the Vietnam War and the rising tuition cost, both of which were heavily protested in the quad.

On December 1, 1969, the first fully documented protest in MCLA’s history took place. About one hundred students gathered in the academic quad to protest the Vietnam War and advocate for peace. They gathered wearing black armbands signifying peace, as was typical for protestors of this era. Proceedings went smoothly, but reports in the Beacon noted that the organizer of this protest, Paul Smith ’70, expressed his disappointment in the small freshman presence, saying that they were the “future of the college.”

Despite Smith’s discontent, three years later on April 21, 1972, another anti-war protest occurred with over double the participation of the last. More than 200 people arrived once again at the academic quad, boycotting class to protest the growing intensity of the war in Vietnam. In addition to protesting, students also vocalized their support for the funding of an orphanage outside of Saigon.

Coincidentally, after another three years had elapsed, on September 17, 1975, another protest took place in the quad, but this time students protested the escalating cost of tuition, which went up $100 per semester that year. This was the last documented protest to take place at MCLA in the 1970s. Despite the social upheaval around the nation during this decade, the Beacon records few incidents of protests at MCLA during these years.