DC in The 70’s

-Barb Sedlock

What was DC like in the 1970s?  It was the era of disco, toga parties, the first “Star Wars” movie, student protests, Watergate, the energy crisis, Black Power, Women’s Liberation, and farm workers’ boycotts.

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DC wasn’t immune from protests—one occurred on campus in April 1970.   It was triggered by the search of a dormitory room for suspected hashish, and led to the arrest of a student.  Students had a sit-in in Defiance Hall lobby to protest the legality of the room search, and that also became a platform for protests about other issues, including the treatment of Black students by the administration, and students wanting to be treated as adults.

Experimental courses were popular at colleges in the 60’s and 70’s.  DC offered Winter Term, a one-month intensive study course each January, where you only took that one class and nothing else.  Quite a few Winter Term courses involved travel off-campus.  Many students designed their own courses, such as commune life in Georgia, searching for Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest, or getting field experience in your major in schools, hospitals, etc.  Professors also designed courses:  History of Hot Air Balloons, Analysis of the Black Community, or Marine Invertebrates of Florida.    One of the most popular was a study trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas.  Click on this link to learn more about Winter Term in DC Memory:


Celebrities came to campus in the 1970’s: Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight spoke at the Purple and Gold banquet (1976), activist Ralph Nader spoke about pollution as a form of violence (1971), band leader Duke Ellington performed as part of a concert series (1972), and former astronaut John Glenn spoke as part of the Forum series (1971).   The James Gang band played on campus in 1971, when Joe Walsh was a member of that group, before he joined the Eagles and had a solo career.

See John Glenn on campus:  http://goo.gl/tXXMLW

Cover of P&G program with Bobby Knight:  http://goo.gl/4D7l4Q

Building changes happened on campus during the ‘70s:  The Art Center was added on to Dana Hall in 1971.  Trowbridge Hall, a dormitory built in 1905, was torn down in 1971.  And Sisson Hall, a dormitory built in 1910, burned in 1973 when a student prank went wrong.  Everyone got out safely, but the men lost all their possessions and had to be found temporary housing.  Sisson was damaged enough that it had to be torn down.

See Sisson Hall before the fire:  http://goo.gl/498TVx

Groundbreaking for the Art Center:  http://goo.gl/9xnMm6

In athletics, DC had active lacrosse and rugby clubs, and wrestling was a popular sport—the team was called the “Purple Gang.”   After Title IX was made law in 1972, women had equal access to athletic funding, and that’s when intercollegiate women’s sports began at DC and other campuses.  The men’s basketball team went to the NAIA playoffs in March of 1973, but lost in the second round.

The 1970s issues of the Defender have not yet been digitized, because they are oversized.  If you want to read more about Defiance in the 70s, stop in the library and ask for the archives, where you can see the print copies.  The 1970s yearbooks are among the others published between 1908 and 2007 that can be viewed on DC Memory:   http://goo.gl/xoY6CY

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