The Quest for a Black Culture House


The Sit-in at Henion Manor


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On November 3, 1969, sixteen black students held a sit-in at Henion Manor, an administrative building located just east of Loras College's campus (1).

At 1:15PM, the students entered Henion Manor and began escorting employees and faculty out of the building. One staff member was reportedly allowed to finish his work, which lasted about twenty minutes after the start of the sit-in (2).

A meeting in the President's office quickly followed news of the sit-in. Gerard Noonan, Registrar, and Rev. Stanley Hayek, Dean of Men, were sent to speak with the students. Thomas Jackson, spokesman for the BSU, informed them they would only speak with the President (1).

The police department was informed of the situation at about 2:30PM. They began gathering a force of 25-30 officers immediately, and notified the school soon after that they had 35 men lined up. The Administration stated that it would stand behind any police involvement (1).

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Photo by Jerry Streff, 1969

At 4:00PM, President Driscoll and Rev. Caybee met with the student demonstrators on the lawn in front of Henion Manor. Approximately 100 white students were waiting to observe the encounter. They negotiated for an hour, then made plans to gather with the previously appointed Culture House Investigative Committee at 6:30PM. The members appointed to the committee were Noonan, Hayek, Drake, Caybee, and Wynn.

At 5:30PM, the police force was called off due to "danger of moving in the dark, and the accidents that could occur." Dr. Thomas Auge, professor of history, wrote a personal journal entry that stated, "Fortunately, Bud Noonan is a sensible, Christian, unprejudiced person. Since he is in the administration his influence is all for the best. As a result, the police were not called in, although, so he told me, the members of regents [that] were on campus that day, advised it" (8). However, if a compromise was not agreed upon by the next morning, the police would be notified and move in at 10AM to evict the student demonstrators (1).

At 7:00PM, the Culture House Investigative Committee met with the students in the lounge of Henion Manor. Together, they passed several proposals and counter proposals back and forth to the President's office (1).

At 10:00, the following proposal was approved by President Driscoll, but the BSU disapproved.

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At 11:00PM, the following proposal was offered.

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After midnight, rumor spread that students residing in Beckman and Binz were planning to set off alarms at 3:00AM to "take action themselves" (1).

 At approximately 2:30AM, November 4, 1969, the students left Henion Manor (2).

 The college reported on the state of Henion Manor. They stated that there was "Much litter there, but no real damage…" The building was not damaged or looted, but the school did report that two roles of stamps were missing (1).

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On the morning of November 4, 1969, Thomas Jackson and President Driscoll spoke at a press conference called by the BSU. Jackson announced that the BSU was rejecting the proposal offered at 11:00PM the night before. The Lorian reported that the black students wanted to determine the details of the Cultural Center themselves, “...without the approval of the committee or the College President.” Jackson also stated that they needed assurance that the cultural center would not be in a temporary location, but established in a permanent facility. President Driscoll then reaffirmed his position as outlined in the 11PM proposal. All members of the BSU, including spokesman Thomas Jackson, left the room as Driscoll was speaking (3).

President Driscoll concluded the press conference, stating:

In our opinion, we have used every available means consonant with our resources and educational goals to fulfill the academic and other requirements of black students. Whatever may be our desire to further the education of black students, we cannot tolerate from any student—despite his color or background—the flagrant violation of serious college regulations, in serious matters. The decision to suspend these students has been made with deep regret, but with a realization that no other justifiable course of action was open (6&7). 

That afternoon, the Student Senate recommended to the College Board of Discipline "that no serious disciplinary action be taken against the participating students” (3).

The Board of Discipline met on October 6 and 7, 1969 to discuss and vote on consequences for the sit-in. Dr. Thomas Auge explained in his journal that one of the black students asked if he would testify on their behalf before the committee. Auge wrote, "I left this hearing virtually convinced that no strong penalties would be imposed" (8).

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Photo by Jerry Streff, 1969

However, The Board recommended that all sixteen students involved in the sit-in should be indefinitely suspended. They referred to the 1969-70 Loras College Student Handbook, which states:

Any student or group of students who disrupts or contributes to the disruption of the orderly operation of the college, or interferes with a duly authorized college program or activity, and thereby infringes upon the rights of others will be liable to suspension (5).

They considered the occupation of Henion Manor to be a "serious violation of the rights of individuals in the college community" (4). However, the Board on Discipline continued, "…in view of the extenuation facts and fundamental and far-reaching issues involved in this case, we recommend that clemency be considered by the President In implementing this judgment In order that the college might restructure a positive, clearly defined Black program" (5).

President Driscoll approved the indefinite suspensions of the students, but explained that the situation did not warrant a grant of clemency. After July of 1970 cases for readmission would be reviewed (6).

On Saturday, November 8, the following students were notified of their indefinite suspensions from Loras College and instructed to leave campus by 8PM that evening (6).
James Alston Thomas Jackson Homer McElroy Lament Schusse
Reggie Carter Larry Fox Joseph Patterson Dennis Stovall
Ocia Drake Jimmy Kilpatrick Eric Ramey Steve Watts
Bryan Gougis Othelle Knazze Gregory Sawyer Benny Williams

Auge reflected on hearing this news in his journal, stating,

Saturday [at] noon, while getting my mail, I met one of the black students. He showed me a letter suspending him indefinitely. I was terribly upset. Angry, perhaps, more than anything, uncertain as to staying at Loras since the blacks would have been forced out. Throughout Saturday numerous faculty called me, most of them upset, although not as much as I. What I couldn’t comprehend was how the discipline committee could have been so severe. I knew several were quite liberal on the race question. Furthermore, I felt that the defense made by myself, Bud Noonan, and the blacks were strong (8).