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Archives & Special Collections: Student Protests in the Nineteenth Century


We may think of student protests as a product of the 1960s and 1970s, but Union's history shows that nineteenth-century college students often criticized or tried to change their campus.  Union students used satire to criticize college policies in small student-published magazines, and they even created dramatic political demonstrations.  For example, in 1869, some of the students of Union, upset with the lack of progress on Memorial Hall (now known as the Nott Memorial), held a mock "Burial of the Trustees." Two years after the trustees were "buried," they were "resurrected" by the students because action had been taken to finish Memorial Hall.  Interestingly, the building was still not complete until early the 20th century.  In the 1890s, students led protests against a proposal to move Union College from Schenectady to Albany.  A research paper on student protests could shed light both on campus politics and on the culture of student life at Union during the 19th century.

Primary Sources

Material Location

Concordiensis November 6, 1895 and January 29, 1896

 UM C74 (Special Collections)
Laws of Union College 1795-1877 (Scrapbook)   [q] UA L42 1795-1877 (Special Collections)
Laws of Union College (Collections of Pamphlets)       UA L42 1795 (Special Collections)
"Minutes of the Board of Trustees of Union College" January 28, 1896 [vault] UB1 v.6 (Special Collections)
Pearson, Jonathan. "Pearson Diaries" (transcript).  UT P361d 2004 v.1-2 (Special Collections)
Photographs of the Burial of the Trustees and the Resurrection of the Trustees Located in picture files under "Resurrection of the Trustees"(Special Collections)
Crucible (1841) - student publication, published by the deliberative club at Union College [q] UM c88 no1 (Special Collections)
Dunciad (1835) - student publication [vault] UM D912[f] or [vault] UM S93s (Special Collections)
Frying Pan for Poor Sinners (1839-1840) - student publication UM F91 (Special Collections)
Insinuator (1840) - student publication UM 159 1840 (Special Collections)
Spy-Glass (1840) - student publication UM S77 1840 Jul c.2 (Special Collections)
Union Ram (1864) - student publication [vault] UM U36 Fall 1964 (Special Collections)
Jonathan Pearson to Edward T Potter (May 25, 1859) Union College Letter File (Special Collections)
Jonathan Pearson to Edward T Potter (June 6, 1859) Union College Letter File (Special Collections)
Jonathan Pearson to John C. Brown (November 23, 1877) Union College Letter File (Special Collections)
Jonathan Pearson to John C. Brown (December 19, 1877) Union College Letter File (Special Collections)
Thatcher, John B. to Raymond, Andrew V.V. February 11, 1896, Feb 19, 1896 Union College Letter File (Special Collections)



Secondary Sources

The American College in the Nineteenth Century. Ed. Roger Griger. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2000.

Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. 

Fox, Dixon Ryan. Union College: An Unfinished History. Schenectady: Graduate Council, Union College 1945.

Foy, A. Laurence. "Union College after Eliphalet Nott, 1866-1909." B. A. thesis, Union College, 1969. 

Novak, Steven J. The Rights of Youth: American Colleges and Student Revolt, 1798-1815Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1977.