[ Document from Box 46, Folder 1695, Hahn Collection ]
Note: The following statement by President T. Marshall Hahn is the text of his press conference release on the morning of May 13, 1970 to the news media.
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The nation tumoil and tragedy of recent weeks deeply concern every citizen especially those of us in higher education. The times require the highest degree of sensitivity and understanding by all of us.
For more that a week, there has existed on this campus considerable student unrest and the university has made every effort to be responsive and at the same time to maintain its academic integrity. Not only have the University Council, the Cabinet of the Faculty Senate, and the faculty of each of the colleges expressed their confidence in the strength and flexibility of our structure of university governance and shared responsibility, but also the structure has demonstrated its ability to be used quickly, responsively, and responsibly.
The overwhelming majority of the students and faculty at this university are to be commended for the high level of responsibility and sensitivity they have displayed during the past week. Unfortunately, there is a small proportion of our university community, and some outsiders, who are determined to close the university. Any such action cannot be tolerated. All appropriate means will be employed to protect individual rights and freedoms by maintaining the regular functions of the university.
During the past few days, there have been a number of serious incidents, including damage to university property, a series of potentially dangerous fires, breaking and entering into a university building, and occupation of Cowgill Hill. All of these problems have been dealt with through regular university channels, and a number of disciplinary actions have been taken or are in process. Prior planning and prompt action by university personnel largely have been responsible for minimizing the damage from these incidents.
Handling these problems through regular university channels has provided a moderating influence. At the same time, this had frustrated and intensified the determination of a militant group determined to close down the university.
Last night, more than 100 students and outsiders seized Williams Hall, barrricaded the doors, spent the night in the building, caused significant damage within the building, and refused orders of a university official to vacate the premises. Components for the manufacture of fire bombs were found in the building.
While university precedures should be utilized as long as possible, anarchy must be dealt with in appropriate manner. Consequently, highly-trained units of State Police, skilled in non-violent restraining and control measures, were requested to remove the occupying students and other individuals so that normal university operations could be maintained. It is gratifying that this was possible without injury to any individual. In addition, alternate classroom locations have been provided until Williams Hall can be cleaned and utilized for classroom activity.
All students taken from the building were suspended from the university and arrested. They have also been notified that they may pick up their personal belongings on the campus and thereafter will be deemed trespassers. These are strong and regrettable steps, but there was no alternative in order to maintain public safety and to continue operations of the university.
State Police and other security personnel will be maintained on campus as long as necessary to protect the safety and individual freedom of every member of the university community. At the same time, I continue to be fully confident of the strength of the university and seek the continued support of all citizens.
Send questions or comments to Tamara Kennelly,
P.O. Box 90001
Blacksburg, VA 24062-9001
Voice: (540) 231-9214