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Student Activism

The 1960s were a time of upheaval and rebellion worldwide, with much of the political activism localized on university campuses. Saskatchewan universities felt the impact of this era acutely, and students were active participants in many of the movements that emerged. The University of Saskatchewan had opened in 1909 in Saskatoon and expanded to include a Regina Campus in 1961; although both campuses experienced some upheaval during the 1960s, students at the Regina Campus became much more involved in the movements, and this activism came to define the culture of the young campus. The Saskatoon Campus remained relatively staid throughout the period.

The first major event to mobilize the university campuses in Saskatchewan was the attempt by Premier Ross Thatcher in November 1967 to assume control over the large university budget. On both campuses, the students, faculty members, and employees joined together in a battle against what was seen as a threat to the academic freedom of the university. The campaign was successful, and Thatcher backed away from his demands. This event caused the university community, especially in Regina, to mobilize and began an era of rebellion and resistance that would characterize the period.

Two other major events rocked the Regina Campus. The first was the so-called Carillon Crisis in 1968, and the second was the occupation of the offices of the Dean of Arts and Science in 1972. These two events pitted the students against the university administration over such issues as autonomous student government and student representation on administrative boards. The Saskatoon Campus only experienced one other major upheaval: the occupation of the Arts Building in 1971. This action was taken to protest the firing of a popular faculty member and to demand student representation on university committees. As with protest movements worldwide, the turmoil of the 1960s had faded on the University of Saskatchewan Campuses by the mid-1970s. The University of Regina was established in 1974, providing for two independent universities in the province. A new tradition began to be developed, and the activism of the 1960s was left behind.

Roberta Lexier

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Further Reading

Hayden, Michael. 1983. Seeking a Balance: The University of Saskatchewan, 1907–1982. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press; Lexier, Roberta. 2002. “Economic Control Versus Academic Freedom: Ross Thatcher and the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus,” Saskatchewan History 54 (2): 18–30; ——. 2003. “Student Activism at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus, 1961–1974.” Master’s thesis, University of Regina.
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