In 1971, student Kent Walton started The Paper, an underground newspaper that documented West Georgia’s counterculture. It ran from February to May with student and faculty contributors before administration pressured it to close. Its successor, The New Paper, began publication in October 1971 and ran until February 1973. The papers addressed a wide range of issues, from drug use and resisting the Vietnam War draft to environmentalism and music. As editor, most of Walton’s writings attacked student apathy. While many students were interested in the new fashions of the counterculture (long hair and bellbottoms, for example), the politically active counterculture made up a very small minority — less than 100 students and faculty.
This section of the exhibit highlights issues central to these student newspapers. Scroll down to learn see clippings and images from the paper and to learn its stance on integration, women’s rights, gay liberation, the Vietnam War, and more.
“Tune in, drop out”:
The counterculture embraced experimentation with drug use in the 1960s and 1970s, which alarmed parents, school officials, and the government. At West Georgia, “we were all straight arrows in the beginning days that marijuana was around,” said one alum of the late 60s. “We didn’t consider ourselves, or anybody else sinister or character flawed because they smoked pot or drank beer, which too was illegal, as most of us at the time were under twenty-one.” However, older generations increasingly saw smoking marijuana as an un-American, anti-war activity, because it was associated with hippies and the Peace movement. “A pot bust was more an opportunity to join the cause of freedom. It was a whole lot more than a pot bust,” said the same alum.
The most important drug bust for West Georgia was that of the “Carrollton 22” on May 18, 1971, when police arrested twenty-two people (including seventeen college students) for drug possession, largely of marijuana. This was the state narcotics squad’s biggest raid to date, but the subsequent protest drew even more attention: over 300 students marched on the Carrollton City Jail the same day, drawing backlash from the community and attention from the Atlanta press. Kent Walton told the Atlanta Constitution that “the smoking of marijuana is so widespread that some students feel the accused were unjustly singled out” for looking like hippies. Almost overnight, the school became known as a hotbed of drug use. This bad press led directly to the college’s appointment of Ward Pafford later in 1971, but despite his hardline stance on student rebellion and work to repair relationships in the community, parents still wanted to avoid West Georgia and enrollment declined sharply for several years.
The Vietnam war:
The draft loomed over every young man during the Vietnam War, but the system was designed to give advantages to middle- and upper-class men. Most young men could delay conscription, for example, as long as they were attending college, but the Selective Service required schools to provide grades so they could channel high-ranking students into appropriate jobs. Less-successful students were subject to the draft. Students were constantly aware of the need to take enough classes and get good grades.
The U.S. military also helped veterans attend college after returning home, requesting catalogs from West Georgia and other schools. In 1966, West Georgia’s director of admissions reported no applications but “numerous inquiries” from veterans. The number of veteran students rose from that 0 to over 200 in 1969. By the 1970s, more than 400 veterans were enrolled in a student body that numbered only around 4,000. This influx of students brought a new, stark perspective on the war. “When our returning brothers from Vietnam started telling us the the truth about what was going on over there, the baby boomer generation turned on, dropped out, and tried to put a stop to the killing of our friends and the Vietnamese over a cause that has never been explained,” said one alum. An anti-war sentiment spread nationwide among college campuses, and though most students at West Georgia supported the military, protests against were the hallmark of the counterculture here.
“An Era of pride”:
Through civil rights, pacifist, and women’s movements were spreading in the 1960s, these groups frequently excluded LGBT people and issues in an effort to gain more respectability. In response, LGBT groups began forming their own activist organizations, especially in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York. At West Georgia, history professor Ara Dostourian worked with activists from the Great Speckled Bird magazine in Atlanta to form the Georgia Gay Liberation Front in 1970. He helped organize an informational panel in the Bonner Lecture Hall, and in 1972 became the faculty adviser for a new gay rights group on campus that eventually became Lambda.
The group, originally called Students for Gay Education and Awareness, focused on outreach and education among the student body, as well as social events for LGBT students. President Ward Pafford said, “there is no way we can forbid organization of the gays on this campus if the group fulfills established requirements applying to all official student activity groups,” but personally opposed the group and approved the use of “delaying tactics.” Officials “lost” the group’s paperwork and changed the application procedures at first, but eventually approved the organization.
In loco parentis:
In the mid-1960s, West Georgia and other schools still considered themselves to be acting in place of a parent (“in loco parentis”). The administration enforced rules designed to monitor students closely, especially women. In 1965, the college handbook specified that women had to wear a rain slicker to cover athletic gear unless on the field. Women had to sign in and out to leave campus, or to leave their dormitories after 6:00 pm. These kinds of regulations gradually eased over the next few years, until in 1968 when the handbook stated, “Campus dress is treated primarily as a matter of individual taste and style” for men and women. However, the school still treated women differently, mailing a permissions list to female students’ parents to specify what their daughters were allowed to do. The administration lifted most of these restrictions by the 1970s, although some curiosities remained: in 1971, “Any female student apprehended for encouraging a disturbance by calling out a window, or throwing paraphernalia out a window, or otherwise encouraging a disturbance” would be “subject to serious disciplinary action.”
The student papers were less concerned about these regulations, and more occupied with the public treatment of women in Carrollton. One particular flashpoint was the Miss West Georgia pageant of 1972. The Carrollton chapter of the Women’s Liberation Front, a feminist organization dedicated to supporting the women’s liberation movement, protested the event, and The New Paper issued several pieces criticizing the pageant as an objectification of women. In one case, the college circulated several memos stressing that they had no connection to the paper and would support prosecution of what they saw as libel against the pageant winner.
The papers consistently ran ads for safe abortions and news pieces on birth control access. Many parents supported strict regulations for their children. In 1970, one parent responded to relaxed curfew rules for women with an angry letter, calling it “the most revolting idea that I ever heard of.” January 22, 1973 marked the passing of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case, ruling that women in the United State’s had a legal right to abortions and that states could not pass laws restricting abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
“We must work for unity”:
West Georgia integrated comparatively early, when Lillian Williams enrolled in 1963 and eventual graduation in 1967 represented a peaceful integration of the college without outside intervention. Yet, black students represented only 10% of the student body in the 1970s, and some Carrollton restaurants refused to serve them. The papers published numerous calls for equality on campus, reports on black speakers at the school, and protests against police harassment and police violence in Carrollton. Black students formed the Black Student Alliance in 1970 to address concerns about representation on campus and to create a sense of community for students.
Speaking truth to power:
The papers criticized West Georgia’s administration and President Ward Pafford, beginning with his expensive invitation-only inauguration in 1971. Staff writers called for more transparency in the use of student fees, faculty salaries based on effectiveness, and permission for outside concerts. Local businesses also became targets for the papers, especially when their prices or policies were seen as unfair, or they were known to be polluting Carrollton.