A Tense Atmosphere

Amid the arson and destruction of the Dean’s office, the fire in the ROTC building, and the vandalism of Lovett Hall, tensions were rising across campus. Nationwide, student protests were breaking out against U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia — in a few weeks, the now infamous Kent State shooting would spark a new wave of student-led strikes against the war.

However, according to the accounts of Dr. Allen Matusow and Dr. Ira Gruber, who were faculty members at the time of the crisis, Rice’s political climate was relatively very calm. On the whole, they claim that students were more interested in their grades than striking — the Masterson Crisis and the Abbie Hoffman incident were the primary aberrations from this trend. 

During this period in April 1970, there are many accounts of bomb threats and threatening phone calls placed to members of the administration from both far-left and far-right individuals who were angered by either the university’s possible allowance or rejection of Abbie Hoffman’s speaking engagement. Student Center Board chairwoman Jerlyn Mardis was quoted in the Houston Chronicle saying that the university received phone call threats from right-wing groups “threatening to tear the campus apart if Abbie Hoffman steps foot on campus.” Minutes from a Baker College government meeting note the rumors of bomb threats with a flippant joke: "Call asked that R. Beck try to get screens for windows to keep out mosquitos, flies, and flying bombs."

Space City! was also targeted, but nobody at either the publication or Rice was hurt. Although they never found a real bomb, these threats acted as rationale for the administration’s wariness towards the speaking engagement.

Click on the sidebar link "Ike's Irregulars" to learn more about a student-led security task force formed during this time.