The ’70s: The last gasp of cool

By Natalie Sit

Like the rest of the world, the University of Calgary was caught up in a whirlwind of protests and social change. Legalized drinking reared its head on campus and created the immortal dilemma of drinking versus learning. The Students’ Union also had its share of problems. Tuition increased but unlike today, administration and faculty protested government underfunding alongside students. There were protests about Canada’s involvement in Vietnam and the FLQ crisis. It seemed like students actually cared about campus but apathy also made an occasional appearance. Yes, the ’70s were cool before the U of C and the rest of the world dropped into the quagmire known as the ’80s.

Feb. 4, 1970

Imagine an alcohol-free campus. Well, there was a small space of 10 feet by 6 feet near the co-op bookstore. Two options: more books or more booze. In the end the bookstore won because students seemed to care more about books. For now.

Sept. 23, 1970

Unlike recent SU executives, the 1970 edition was plagued with problems. The frosh week event was $11,500 over budget. SU Vice-President Activities resigned after he failed to deliver a special report. This forced the SU to can its entire budget. There were allegations council members were inviting extended family members to the festivities. And at the end of a marathon Students’ Legislative Council meeting, seven members resigned and all expenditures were frozen.

This issue came up again in early October when the Alberta Supreme Court served the SU with a suit. It required the SU update its books that were two and a half months behind. Interestingly enough, six of the seven plaintiffs were resigned SU members.

Oct. 2, 1970

Believe it or not, Speakers’ Corner was a hotbed of discussion and not just a home for Magic players and debatable debates. It was the October Crisis and the FLQ was making everyone a little jumpy. There was a scheduled debate on allowing cigars in the library however there was a tussle for the microphone. Students wanted debate on the FLQ instead. Eggs and paper rained down.

There were also protests on Stephen Avenue Mall complete with U of C students. Their signs slammed the War Measures Act and openly supported the FLQ, a direct violation of the act.

Nov. 24, 1970

Dinnies’ Den opened marking a brave new world in U of C boozing and academics. In its first day, it served over 1,000 students in four hours in a bar designed for 300 students. The beer special for the day? Three for a dollar.

Jan. 24, 1973

U of C students brought out their signs for a public rally against the war in Vietnam. People warned of Canada getting further involved by accepting a "peacekeeping" role in Indochina. The protesters marched down Stephen Avenue and stopped at the Canadian Forces recruiting office and the American consulate. There, a two-minute silence was observed. Demonstrators stared through glass doors into the eyes of a city cop.

Jan. 30, 1976

Twenty-five years ago, the same issues surrounding tuition were debated. Students met at a townhall where the SU presented their position on tuition. Shockingly enough, they were not in favour of a hike. They thought tuition served as a barrier to students from lower-income families and student loans should increase as tuition does. The SU also supported putting pressure on the Board of Governors to defer voting on the increase until they could convince the provincial government that an 11 per cent ceiling on post-secondary funding was ridiculous. The fashions changed but the issues and results are the same.

Nov. 9, 1976

So tuition went up, government funding down and post-secondary education became more and more restricted. So the SU and other Alberta student associations organized a National Student Day. But apathy was popular as ever and only 200 students attended a townhall while 40 to 50 made it to a forum on the value of a university education. Good to know U of C traditions were "strong" back then.

Jan. 13, 1978

There are legendary stories about Den carpeting. Tales tell how the shag was a health hazard, and plans to auction it off that were kyboshed when it was deemed unsafe. That renowned carpet was laid down in ’78. While most never saw it in its pristine state, it was a pure wool weave carpet made in England. It cut down on noise and reduced the wear and tear on the furniture. The university pleaded that students act "nice" to it.

Mar. 17, 1978

The apathy beast was temporarily stunned when 4,000 students from various Alberta post-secondary institutions marched on the provincial legislature in Edmonton. There was chanting, sign waving and general anger. The University of Alberta even shut down for the day so administration and faculty could join the protest. A quote from the original article describes it best: "When standing on the steps facing the crowd you could just feel the energy–it came up and hit you." Popular Premier Peter Lougheed had never faced such a hostile crowd and could barely make his speech. Advanced Education Minister Bert Hohol wouldn’t even come out the crowd was so frightening.

Nov. 2, 1979

Despite the fact the 1988 Winter Olympics were nine long years away, the U of C was salivating at the fact it would receive $23 million for new residence buildings that could house over 2,000 students. The money would also contribute to upgrade tunnels and facilities. This was a huge deal because of the student housing crunch that plagued the U of C for most of the ’70s.

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