Though it’s not uncommon to see students rallying on the Diag or in front of the Fleming Administration Building, it’s rare to see large-scale protests during speeches given by the University’s president.
But in 1968, that is precisely what happened.
During his State of the University address, then-President Robben W. Fleming was interrupted by student protestors as he spoke to 800 invited faculty members and their families as well as 150 uninvited students, according to an Oct. 1, 1968 article in The Michigan Daily.
The protestors, some of whom were part of “The Jesse James Gang”, a faction of Students for a Democratic Society, came in and out of Rackham Hall in small groups. About five minutes before the speech ended, the group entered the hall together, according to the article.
The students interrupted Fleming, calling for more research and action on the conflict occurring in Thailand at the time.
During his speech, Fleming called for more student participation across campus as well as a stop to the “violence, coercion and threats,” according to the article.
He also spoke about funding challenges facing the University as a result in an increase in the number of students on campus. According to the article, Fleming said the University was competing for state funding at the time.
“This year, for the first time in the history of the University we were not able to admit all the Michigan students who meet our standards of admission,” Fleming said during the speech.
He added that he remained committed to finding a solution to the funding problem.
“Presidents like myself come and go, but the University must remain,” Fleming said during the speech.