The controversy began on February 22, 1969, when head football coach Dee Andros told Fred Milton, a linebacker on the team, he needed to comply with the team’s no facial hair policy and shave his “Van Dyke” mustache and beard. Andros threatened Milton that if he did not comply within 48 hours, he would be expelled from the team, which also meant that his athletic scholarship would be revoked. Milton refused because it was the team’s off season, while Andros felt that as coach he should have authority over his players year-round. (2) It was then that the BSU took on the cause to support Milton.
Over the course of the next three weeks, the BSU organized a sit-in and a class boycott, led a walk-out, and created an underground newspaper. The peaceful protesting began on February 25th when the BSU staged a sit-in and took control of a centennial lecture to make their statement. In the next few days OSU President James H. Jensen attempted a reconciliation, but on March 1st the BSU issued a statement declaring they would stand firm in their cause of ensuring the rights of the African American students. On March 4th, with support from hundreds of students and numerous faculty and staff, the class boycotts began. On March 5th, forty seven BSU students walked through the campus main gate and out of campus. (3) In opposition to the BSU’s cause, several thousand students gathered in support of Andros and when the BSU felt that the Daily Barometer began to favor the Administration’s perspective, the students created their own newspaper, The Scab Sheet, to give voice to their concerns and perspectives. (4)
Unfortunately, as a result of the controversy, several African American students, including Milton, transferred to other universities. However, the BSU’s actions were not in vain; within the next few years OSU established the Educational Opportunities Program specifically designed to support students of color, and three cultural centers were established for minority groups on campus to build their own communities and educate the broader OSU community about their cultural heritages and histories. (5) The BSU students’ actions symbolized the determination of students of color in their pursuit of equality and justice, and decades later OSU students are still benefiting from the changes initiated because of their actions.
Photos and Sources Cited
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- Oregon Daily Emerald Cartoon
- Fred Milton
- BSU Walk-Out, March 5th, 1969