USF History Vault: Milestones of the 1960s

USF has come a long way since its founding in 1855. Its history is made visible by the monumental buildings and decades of prestige. But no time in USF history may be as notable than that of the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. astounded the nation like a storm. Here are only a few highlights of that tumultuous decade.

In the late 1960s, USF was no safe haven in the wake of the Vietnam War. A group called the Radical Student Union emerged on campus as a resistance to the war, following the event in which 15 students publicly set their draft cards on fire.

In addition to that, ROTC training remained mandatory for all male students. It wasn’t until 1968 that involvement became optional. Still, the ROTC offices on campus were set on fire, but administration held that individuals outside of USF started the fires.

By 1969, Harney Plaza became a place in which students gathered weekly to voice their concerns on an open microphone about the Vietnam War and other issues.

By this time, the university had already integrated men and women into the undergraduate program (co-education became official in 1964). Minority populations were also beginning to flourish, as the Black Student Union came into establishment in 1968.

However, the major student movement on campus became the Student Western Addition Project (SWAP). Mobilizing about 250 members by 1968, it became the largest student organization on campus.

USF sociology professor Ralph Lane helped launch the project six years prior, as a way to serve underprivileged individuals in the Western Addition of San Francisco. The project provided educational programs to children, recreational activities for families, and support for senior citizens.

In 1969, Whites Against Racism (WAR) was founded as a spin-off to SWAP. Its aim was to bring to light the prevailing policies affecting the greater community. The organization’s endeavors included a small group of students who made a trip to the South to register African American voters.

Other students organized a 1969 boycott at a local Safeway to support Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers (UFW) movement in California, while another group traveled to central California to demonstrate for the cause.

While today students are required to take one theology course, curriculum in the 1960s mandated that students take 16 units of theology and 21 units of philosophy to graduate. By 1968 however, the university decreased the requirement to 12 units for both content areas.
M
ajor buildings were also constructed at this time, including law school Kendrick Hall in 1962; the Harney Science Center, University Center and Gilson Residence Hall in 1965; and the School of Nursing in 1969.

On April 19, 1968, less than five years after the nation mourned the death of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy visited USF as part of his California presidential campaign. In War Memorial Gym, he called upon the student audience to make a change for the nation’s poor and to bring an end to the Vietnam War. Only two months later, Robert Kennedy also fell victim to a bullet.

Although the 1960s were an unsettling time, the major changes that were brought about during this decade has made the institution what it is today.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain

News Editor: Ericka Montes

12 thoughts on “USF History Vault: Milestones of the 1960s

  1. I have an old picture of John Kennedy on the cover of the Foghorn. The headline says, “Dedicated to the Memory of President John F. Kennedy.” Do you have this in your archives?

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