The 1970s at Penn State started with campus unrest and a new University president and ended with a Beaver Stadium expansion that boosted capacity to 76,639. In the middle were the gas lines of the first energy crisis, disco dancing at Mr. C’s and chinos with Dock Siders.
Last month, AlumnInsider looked back at Penn State during the 1960s, largely through the lens of the student-written newspaper, The Daily Collegian. The following are some of the quirkiest, most controversial or otherwise interesting stories—on campus and beyond—of the 1970s. The stories were culled from the pages of The Collegian and the book, The Collegian Chronicles: A History of Penn State From the Pages of The Daily Collegian, 1887–2006, published by the Collegian Alumni Interest Group in 2006 and available for purchase on The Collegian Store.
In response to the Kent State shootings on May 4 that killed four students there, Penn State President Eric Walker cancelled classes on May 6 in memory of the slain students. A week later, University Park students vote overwhelmingly to replace the last three weeks of classes with discussion groups and workshops focused on the issues of the day. The University’s Faculty Senate agrees to let professors award pass-fail grades based on students’ work through the seventh week of the term. A couple months later, John Oswald becomes Penn State’s 13th president. Early on he is tagged as “Jack the Rapper” for his frequent, informal chats with students at the HUB and in residence halls.
Protestors called for a class boycott on Feb. 10 in protest of the United States’ invasion of Laos. No doubt in response to the women’s lib movement, men were invited to run for Homecoming Queen and two did. They lost.
The majorette unit joins the all-male Penn State Blue Band. The next year, five women would join the Blue Band’s playing and marching ranks. On Nov. 8, President Richard Nixon was elected to a second term in a landslide victory over George McGovern.
Joe Paterno first accepts and a day later declines the New England Patriot’s offer of $1.2 million to serve as head coach and general manager. The Arab Oil Embargo causes gasoline prices to rise from an average of 38 cents per gallon to 55 cents and shortages result in rationing and long lines at gas stations nationwide.
Inflation ends the 10-cent Cokes at the HUB. On August 8, students on campus gathered in front of television sets to watch President Richard Nixon announce his resignation, effective the next day.
A gay resident assistant claims discrimination and threatens to sue when told he won’t be rehired in the fall. The case is settled when he accepts a job as a staff aide in North Halls. The Vietnam War ends with the fall of Saigon on April 30.
“Earth Shoes,” wide at the toe and with the heel lower than the front, are big on campus, as are no-name jeans and T-shirts. Mr. C’s opens in downtown State College, providing disco dancing devotees a place to practice “The Hustle” and other popular dances.
The Collegian touches off a controversy after it publishes a memorable photo of a bare-chested woman pulling off her wet T-shirt to win $50 in a contest at a local bar. Three thousand studious students stage a sit-in, refusing to leave Pattee Library at 10:00 p.m., its new, earlier closing time dictated by budget cuts. Penn State responds by restoring the midnight closing time.
Students don buttons reading, “Don’t Shoot—I’m a Student” to protest the University’s decision to arm its police officers with handguns. During the winter, spring and summer, a uniquely engineered expansion adds added than 16,000 seats to Beaver Stadium, bringing the capacity to 76,639. The stadium was cut into sections, raised eight feet by hydraulic jacks and precast concrete seating forms inserted within the inner circle of the stadium, where a running track previously had been located.
The Shah flees Iran in January. In November, students and Islamic militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 53 Americans hostage in a standoff that would last for more than a year. The minimum wage increases to $2.90 per hour and Sera-Tec Biologicals pays $15 a week for plasma donations. Students recovering from mono earn even more for their plasma.
More ’70s Stories?
Share your memories of what was newsworthy at Penn State in the disco era by writing to us at email@example.com. Remember to include your full name, graduation year and current home (town/state). We might include your letter in a future issue of AlumnInsider. The series continues next month with a look at the 1980s at Penn State.
The Daily Collegian and recent back issues are available at http://www.collegian.psu.edu/.
Older issues of the Collegian and its predecessors (1887–1987) are available online at the Historical Digital Collegian Archive, maintained by Penn State University Libraries.