The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Video: Ohio State President Michael V. Drake and 1968

President reflects on meeting former Black Student Union members, 50 years after the students participated in a protest.

Ohio State President Michael V. Drake was himself a college student in 1968, in his first year at Sacramento City College, less than two hours from the counterculture center of Berkeley.

Thousands of miles away, members of the Black Student Union at Ohio State were pressing for changes to discriminatory policies and practices — including housing discrimination among off-campus landlords. When one member was mistreated on a campus bus, the group requested a meeting with administrators. That April 26, 1968, meeting bubbled over into a large protest that led to the all-day shutdown of what is today Bricker Hall. Thirty-four students would be indicted on criminal charges connected with the protest, and eight of them would be expelled from the university.

On April 26, 2018, Drake welcomed some of those students to Bricker Hall. In our video, Drake reflects on the historic moment of 1968 and on the opportunity to thank the former students for paving the way for future generations.

Randy Walk / Andrew Ina / Matthew Stoessner

Openness to student views is second nature

Michael Drake was an undergraduate at Sacramento City College in 1968 and went on to Stanford University the next year.

As told to Kristen Schmidt

My friends and I were totally politically connected. Utterly. Completely focused on the events of the world and felt them and lived them. And everyone in my community was directly connected in some way or another to the civil rights movement, because those were issues we lived every day. My parents were members of the NAACP. It was normal, appropriate, responsible citizenship to be concerned about creating a pathway of fairness and equality for people.

In 1968 and in subsequent years when I was in college, I would go to one or another gathering of students for some particular purpose. It would have seemed unusual not to do. It would have been uncool to not be connected or concerned.

I happened to live near an active college campus, the University of California Berkeley, where those things were discussed on a routine basis. Those discussions were very active, and there were more in ’69, ’70 and ’71, when more of the political activity was about the Vietnam War. As a matter of routine, school was closed multiple times. These were things that we were just used to.

So the concept of college-aged students asking questions and challenging the direction of the establishment, it always seemed normal to me. I saw the play “Hamilton,” and that’s what “Hamilton” is about. They weren’t college students then, and they had names like Washington and Hamilton, but it was the same concept of a generation saying, “Are the circumstances in which we find ourselves appropriate? Is there not a better and more just way for us to move forward?” I’ve seen that happen around the world over generations. I learn a great deal from students who come in with different perspectives to share things with me. They contribute. They’re respectful. They’re thoughtful. They come with ideas of how we might work together on solutions. I appreciate it very much.