1989 Hannah Administration Building Occupation

19 09 2014

Michigan State University prided itself for what President John Hannah called an “assault on inequality”. Though, by 1989, racial equality on college campuses was the goal, it was not in fact a reality. Fueled by tensions rising across the nation, and sparked by anonymous phone calls of racial slurs and threats, as well as racism from the police and in the classroom and newspaper, MSU found itself with a student body formed to make significant progress for racial equality. In May of 1989, a group of 200 Michigan State minority students staged a sit-in on the first floor of the Hannah Administration building. For eight days, the students blocked the doorway and crowded the hallway, costing the university a good deal of money as many financial matters were handled in the Administration building.

The events that led up to the sit-in indeed called for action. In February 1989, ASMSU was charged with discrimination during the selection process of its leaders. That same month, the State News published a personal opinion piece by a student who claimed white supremacy was on the rise due to the increase of racial discrimination claims. In April, a MSU Professor wrote in his State News column that minority student enrollment in his courses were low because his material was “too tough” for them (State News). The Black Student Alliance spokesperson and a sit-in leader, Darius Peyton, claimed that the administration had not done nearly enough in response to the obvious racial tensions and discrimination that had built up on campus.

The black students on campus formed a set of demands to be met by Michigan State’s administration, and staged the sit-in to see those demands dealt with immediately, as they had seen previous promises drawn out for too long. Some of the demands included “regular forums on racism” and awareness events, an increase in “black faculty, staff and administrators by specific dates”, reevaluation of current anti-discrimination procedures, more courses in black studies and scholarship for black students, and the observance of MLK day (to include the excuse of students from class).

Female student styles hair of another student during the 1989 Hannah Building occupation

Female student styles hair of another student during the 1989 Hannah Building occupation

The sit-in lasted for eight days, when it concluded after a very extensive negotiation period between the student representatives and President DiBiaggio. The President agreed to meet all thirty-six of the formal demands of the students, which ended the sit-in.

Not all Michigan State students agreed on the necessity or the success of the sit-in. A majority student group called No Equality Through Inequality (NETI) fought against those who partook in the sit-in. Their group called for the protestors to evacuate the administration building. Even more notable was their request to have a majority student representative present when the minority policy was to be created.

The fight did not end there. Following the sit-in, different discussions, newspaper responses, and follow-up protest occurred. At the end of May, a panel of students that participated in the sit-in led a discussion, along with a question and answer period, which addressed the event. Most of the crowd was black, but a few white students were present. One white student questioned the intentions of the protestors. The response summed up the need for such a protest; minority students simply needed to demand to be treated the same as majority students and that they wanted nothing more than what majority students already had (State News, “Students learn from sit-in”). Though the administration agreed to the demands and many demands had been met, in September of 1989, the student body once again felt that the slow pace was unacceptable and together 400 black students protested with a walk down Shaw Lane. Their persistence encouraged other minority groups to also confront the administration on accounts they had witnessed of discrimination. Though the MSU spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press in October 1989 that she was frustrated with the disapproval, the administration would continue to work with the students to ensure results. The feeling overall left students proud of the accomplishments of the sit-in and felt that their commitment would show results for themselves as well as future MSU students.

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Sources – (The State News 05-09/1989, The Detroit Free Press 05-10/1989)

Written by Laura Williams

New exhibit “Life at Michigan State University…” at the MSU Main Library

17 09 2014

Archives_LibraryExhibit_Fall2014 (2)The MSU Archives is pleased to announce that we have a new exhibit at the MSU Main Library. It will be available now through November 30, 2014 in the First Floor Lobby.

Since its inception 159 years ago on the banks of the Red Cedar River, Michigan State has undergone dramatic changes. This exhibit illustrates aspects of campus and student life 50, 100, and 150 years ago.

Take a journey through life at Michigan State University from the early years of the 1860s, through the College’s growing pains in the 1910s, and into MSU’s expansion into a world-class university in the 1960s.

The exhibit features images, handbooks, artifacts, and other materials from our collections.  It also includes artifacts recovered by MSU Campus Archaeology during various excavations, including their 2005 excavation of Saint’s Rest, MSU’s first dormitory.

Exhibit space was provided by MSU Special Collections.  Theresa Moore, graphic artist at MSU Libraries, did a fantastic job creating the graphics and the layout for us.  Many thanks to all who assisted in the creation and installation of this exhibit.

Normal Hours Resume Monday, August 25

22 08 2014

The MSU Archives will resume normal hours starting Monday, August 25, 2014.

Reading Room hours:

Mondays and Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Wednesdays: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Thursdays and Fridays: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding during this summer’s construction project.




Films and their Quirky Descriptions

9 07 2014

Have you ever seen a label to something that made you want to know more?  While working with 16mm films until you can view the film to see the content you often have to rely on the descriptions on the films’ canisters to provide an initial summary of information. Currently the film canister description is the only known information about a film because the films have not been digitized. The information can be as simple as “MSU VS. UCLA” or “ON CAMPUS 1961-1962”; though there is some film canister description that is fascinating out of context. Below are three curious examples found so far in the film collections.

The first film is titled “DEER PEOPLE OF ATHENS”, which at first glance sounds like a B horror movie. As much as it would be fascinating for the film to be a quirky B horror movie,  a quick Google search leads one to assume that the film is most likely associated with Athens, Michigan. One cannot be sure of the film’s actual contents until it is actually viewed, but any preliminary information is critical.

Film canister text

Interesting label found on a film canister

Some film canisters also contain additional information about a film. This is usually information about how a film is fragile or if the film is part of a series of other films.  Sometimes though, films contain information that doesn’t really correspond with the film in the can. An example of this is “MSU VS INDIANA 31 OCT 81 11 ON 11 – KEEPA YOU HANDS OFF !!!!!!!!” or “MSU VS NOTRE DAME 3 OCT 81 11 ON 11 ORIGINAL KEEPA YOU HANDS OFF OR DIE”.  The films are both in much better condition than other materials in the film collections but whoever originally wrote the label information was adamant that people do not handle the film for some unknown reason. Safe to say, the intern did not die handling the films so far, though if there are any curses on the materials, it remains to be seen.


This is the first in a series of blogs about the film collections at the MSU Archives.  An intern was hired to work on the film collections with funds from the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund.

One Degree of Robert De Niro…

22 05 2014

We are always discovering interesting new connections at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections! In late April, we found a link to a celebrity not previously associated with MSU: Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro.

An associate from Megan Fox Kelly Art Advisory in New York City, advisor to the Estate of the actor’s father Robert De Niro, Sr., called to inquire about his teaching career at MSU. Megan Fox Kelly was hoping for information that would help them develop a more in-depth chronology of the elder De Niro’s distinguished career as a visual artist.

De Niro, Sr. staff bio file revealed that he had taught painting and drawing as a visiting artist in spring 1974. In addition to a biographical form noting Bobby De Niro as his closest family relationship, the file included a detailed curriculum vitae that proved useful to Megan Fox Kelly.

For information on Robert De Niro, Sr.’s, work, see the Estate’s website at http://robertdenirosr.com/Front_Page.html.

MSU Archives Open By Appointment Only

20 05 2014

Thursday, May 22 through August 2014, the University Archives will be open by appointment only.  This is due to construction occurring in Conrad Hall during the summer.  Currently, we require 24 hours’ notice in order to retrieve materials. This may change, depending on accessibility of our collections.

We may need to have periodic closings throughout the summer.  If you plan to visit the MSU Archives to do research please let us know ahead of time so we can try to accommodate. 

As soon as we have more information, we will update this blog and our website.

We apologize for any inconvenience the construction may cause.  Please contact us with any questions, comments, or concerns.  Our contact information can be found here: http://archives.msu.edu/about/contact.php?about_contact.

Conrad Hall Construction Update

14 05 2014

As previously mentioned on this blog, the HVAC system in Conrad Hall will be upgraded this summer.  The MSU Archives will be moving our collections from Conrad Hall in order to accommodate this construction.  This will greatly impact our ability to provide access to our collections.  Tentatively, we plan to remain open, however, we may need to have periodic closings or hours by appointment only.  If you plan to visit the MSU Archives this summer to do research please let us know ahead of time so we can try to accommodate.  We will need at least 24 hours notice to retrieve materials starting Monday, May 19, 2014.

As soon as we have more information, we will update this blog and our website.

We apologize for any inconvenience the construction may cause.  Please contact us with any questions, comments, or concerns.  Our contact information can be found here: http://archives.msu.edu/about/contact.php?about_contact.


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