Occupation and Injunction
Despite the ambitions of representative and collaborative leadership of the Student Strike at Syracuse University, no Black students were elected to the Strike Committee nor were Black students deeply involved in key conversations surrounding planning for the Strike. Although support for the Black Panther Party and the release of Panther leader Bobby Seale was among the central demands of the Strike, many Black student leaders felt this demand had not received adequate support. In response, approximately 100 students staged a sit-in at the Administration Building (now the Tolley Humanities Building) beginning on the afternoon of Thursday, May 7. Supported by John L. Johnson, the director of the new African American Studies Program, these students delivered to Chancellor Corbally a non-negotiable demand for a $100,000 contribution to the Panther Defense Fund. When the University refused to recognize non-negotiable demands, the students continued their occupation.
During the 32-hour sit-in, students held active conversations about University governance and complicity with systems of oppression and militarization, shared meals, and debated Strike tactics. Chancellor Corbally and other members of University administration met with the students on several occasions, as did representatives from the Strike Committee of the May 4 Coalition. David Ifshin and other members of the Strike Committee attempted to persuade the students sitting-in to change their tactics in favor of joining the general Strike effort.
Word came on May 8 that the University had obtained an injunction to clear the students still sitting-in at the Administration Building and by midnight that evening the occupation ended, with participating students stating, “[t]his is not to be taken as a surrender…only a change in tactics.” Student conversations with University administration regarding the needs of Black students – including hiring more Black staff and faculty and providing increased funding for support services for Black and other marginalized students – did indeed continue past the end of the Strike.
Throughout the sit-in at the Administration Building, University leadership made and collected notes about the actions of participating students and faculty, particularly Black campus leaders. Chief Thomas Sardino of the Syracuse City Police Department was also frequently present during the occupation.
First page of an injunction obtained by the University in response to the occupation of the Administration Building, 7 May 1970. Larry Elin Collection on the 1970 Student Strike at Syracuse University, University Archives.
At the same time students were occupying the Administration Building, approximately 1,500 others were attending a scheduled mass rally in Hendricks Chapel where they heard from witnesses to the Kent State killings. Aware of the injunction obtained by the University against the sit-in, students leaving the mass rally headed to the Administration Building in a show of solidarity.
Following the end of the sit-in at the Administration Building, accounts of what had transpired during the occupation and the events leading to it varied. This account from an anonymous student published in the local alt-weekly Nickel Review is a response to the coverage published by the Daily Orange and other campus and Strike publications.