NMU has long history of peaceful student protests

Earlier last week, Northern Michigan University was added to an ever-growing list of college campuses around the country that saw protests against the war in Gaza.

Whether you agree or disagree with these students’ stance, there is no denying that NMU has a long history of student-organized protest.

One of NMU’s first notable protest movements came in 1965 regarding the Vietnam War. In hindsight, many will now think of the American conflict in Vietnam as wildly unpopular but at the early stages opinion was still divided across the country and NMU was no different.

“At Northern, however, many students supported the war effort and were against the protesters. In part, this could be due to the nature of NMU–it was a small, largely rural school with many older students,” says an article on the NMU Archives.

The 1960s was also the time of the civil rights movement and this brought about possibly the most famous protest in NMU’s history, the sit-in in then-dean, Dr. Allen Niemi.

The protest came about largely due to an incident where an African-American student recieved a suspension for reportedly having a girl in his room despite the fact a white student had received a much less harsh penalty for the same infraction just weeks before.

The NMU archives also detailed this incident.

“The next day, December 17, the Black Student Union decided to ‘send a signal to the administration’ by going to a public area of Kaye Hall and holding a sit-in of more than one hundred people beginning at nine AM. When the building closed at five PM, “they concentrated in the offices of…the Dean of Students, Al Niemi, and they went into his office. He had an inner office and an outer office and a secretary’s office…and that’s where they sat and they refused to come out….” The administration decided to allow the students to remain in the office for the time being, although they also had Northern’s lawyers fly from Detroit to Marquette in the event that they should eventually have to get an injunction to remove the students from the office.”

While opinions differ greatly on the spirit of the current NMU student protest, it is another in a long line of NMU student’s exercising their first amendment rights.

For a more detailed timeline of the history of NMU student protests, visit archives.nmu.edu/studentprotests


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today