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1970s: Turbulent times

February 11, 2010

On Feb. 11, 1870, Colorado Territorial Gov. Edward McCook signed the Colorado Morrill Act establishing the State Agricultural College in Fort Collins. Today, 140 years later, we honor the creation of the institution, now known as Colorado State University, with a Founders Day celebration.

On May 8, 1970, two arsonists set ablaze the oldest CSU building, Old Main.


The early 1970s was a period of heavy anti-military protest for the Colorado State University campus. Ten students along with five community members barricaded themselves inside the Agriculture Building protesting on-campus interviews of chemical companies for military contracts in 1970. Police were called to the building and safely removed the demonstrators though their presence had already been made.

Old Main burns down

Later that year, student activism continued with a demonstration in response to the United States invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four student protestors at Kent State University. On May 8, students held a war moratorium concert in the campus College Avenue Gymnasium. During the peaceful gathering two arsonists set ablaze the oldest CSU building, Old Main. The 92-year-old cornerstone of the campus was completely destroyed while severe damage occurred to the ROTC firing-range building.

Equal treatment

Activism for the equal treatment of minority students also rose during the 1970s. Shortly before President Morgan retired he was approached by a coalition of students representing the Mexican-American Committee for Equality and the Black Student Association. The groups hoped to increase funding toward minority recruitment at the university through state grants or student fee increases, yet both suggestions were rejected. It would take years before increased minority funding was seen at CSU.

Student activism continues

Student activism continued into the 1970s but took on a far more subdued approach. Stability returned to Colorado State by the mid-1970s, and the university community could devote greater attention to teaching, research, and outreach.

Written by Sarah Gianti, CSU Department of Public Relations Intern, Journalism and Technical Communications ‘10.

Contact: Jennifer Dimas
Phone: (970) 491-1543