Looking forward to Gonzaga University’s quasquicentennial celebration (125th anniversary) in 2012, @Gonzaga continues its monthly series counting back to its founding year, 1887. This series began in September when we looked back six years to the 2004-05 academic year, and each month looks back another six years. In this issue, we travel back in time to view highlights of the 1968-69 academic year.
By Stephanie Plowman
Special Collections Librarian
SPOKANE, Wash. – The 1968-69 academic year saw major changes in Gonzaga University’s governance, student life, and academics. For the first time in school history, three lay members were appointed to the Board of Trustees to serve with five Jesuits. Over the years the number of Trustees has steadily increased as the number of Jesuits decreased. Of the 31 current Trustees, seven are Jesuits.
During fall of 1968, there was increased student concern over perceived changes to Gonzaga, such as the change allowing for lay Trustees, the proposal to remove from the bylaws the words “Catholic,” “Christian,” and “Jesuit,” and a desire for parietal hours in the residence halls. On Jan. 9, 1969 more than 1,500 students staged a peaceful campus revolt in the Student Union Building. A boycott of all classes ensued the next day by faculty and students who gathered in the Cog in assigned groups for discussion. In the afternoon, they all met in the Kennedy Pavilion (now Martin Centre). The students approved, by a huge majority, a resolution backing University President Father John P. Leary, S.J., and the reforms he was trying to make. Gonzaga’s revolt drew national attention for it peacefulness in contrast to other universities’ violent protests.
In December 1968, Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees endorsed a parietal hours experiment. For the first time in the school’s history, members of the opposite sex were permitted to enter students’ rooms during certain hours. This change was met with mixed feelings from students, Gonzaga personnel, and parents. Eventually, the experiment passed and parietal hours became the norm.
Another dramatic change to student life came about through the dress code. Starting in the fall of 1968, women students were permitted to wear pants on campus to classes, meals, and social events. Previously, women were allowed to wear pants only in the evening and on weekends.
During this same academic year, the University Senate, a consultative body of students, faculty, and academic deans, developed changes to the core curriculum so students would be freer to take more courses of individual interests. Philosophy had been reduced from 18 to 12 hours; theology from 12 to 6; English from 12 to 9; foreign languages from 14 to 12; history and social science stayed the same at 12; speech stayed at 2; and mathematics remained the same at 6 hours.