William F. Kennaugh got a little more than he probably ever anticipated on the job, when his colleague at what was then called Delhi Tech left him in charge for a short time in the spring of 1970.
Kennaugh was the vice president of the college at the time when hundreds of students, apparently dissatisfied with many aspects of living on campus, decided to strike against what they called “injustices.” William Kunsela, college president, was in Egypt on a short term consulting assignment for the United Nations, but returned during the course of the strike.
It was the evening of Thursday, April 30, 1970, when about 900 Delhi Tech students moved three cars and two motorcycles into MacDonald Hall and occupied the building for a few days.
The students had issues with the college organization that handled such things as meals, housing, snack bars and the bookstore, among other things. They compiled a list of 11 “demands” for the college administration. When Kennaugh was contacted by The Oneonta Star that night, he said he had offered to meet with a group of students to discuss the building occupation and their grievances, but students didn’t immediately accept the offer.
“The students jammed the large dining hall, sitting on the floor, on tables and on chairs, until there was no room to walk,” the Star reported on Friday. “A band at one end played rock music between speeches by different informal leaders.”
All area police agencies reported that they had not been called to the campus for help or officially notified of the demonstration, but were aware of the situation if it got out of hand.
The Star reported on Saturday that students had “stormed Gerry Hall, a site they felt was the sole bastion preventing a total ‘open campus.’ There was no opposition.” Student strikers claimed the campus was now “totally open.”