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[Begin Tape 1]
[Russell E. Montgomery]: This is the first tape of a letter to the Commission on KSU Violence directed to John F. Ohles and Jeffery Zink, the Subcommittee on Faculty Attitudes and Activities with reference to violence. This letter is from Russell E. Montgomery, Assistant Director of Administrative Services, Kent State University.
“Gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to express my views on what caused the violence on our campus. I know that you have received many letters with many views on this subject. Because of this, I’ll try to keep this letter short and to the point. This letter will be in three parts, the first part being concern for what I have experienced in my few years here with Kent. The second part will be what I experienced on May 4th and the days leading up to May 4th. The third part will be what I think should be recommended for actions to be implemented in the future.
First of all, I’d like to give you a little background about myself. I began school at Kent State in September, 1964. I lived in Manchester Hall my Freshman year, lived off-campus my Sophomore year, my Junior year I lived in a fraternity house, and my Senior year I had private housing of my own. Based on this, I think I have a fairly good background of student life here at KSU. I think many of the causes of the violence have been bred in the harsh living conditions which students face at this university.
I know that when I lived in Manchester Hall, whereas we were provided with many nice facilities, the conduct there was a lot like animals in a zoo. No one encouraged an atmosphere in which somebody could study in that place. It was a good place to congregate and have fun, and because of this, it was not conducive to good study habits. The resident counselor very rarely ever showed up on the floors themselves to inspect rooms or to see how conduct was. I found very little supervision of many of the immature boys who came to Kent right out of high school. As a result, many of them flunked out of school the year I was in Manchester Hall. This is due partly because of lack of proper academic preparation, but mainly because of the opportunity to be free but not to have any guidance, and therefore, many went astray.
I spent my Sophomore year living off-campus in the Kent area. It was then that I realized what large cities call “slums,” the city of Kent calls “student housing.” I knew many people who lived in unapproved housing while they were underage and breaking University regulations. Of course the landlord would not turn them in because that would mean he’d be losing a boarder. These students managed to fool the University by listing their hometown address as their local address, not even reporting where they were living in the Kent area.
In one apartment that I lived in, I was concerned about the wiring. I asked the Kent City Fire Department to come out and inspect it, and instead of doing that, they made the University aware of a complaint being issued by a student. The Dean of Men wrote me a letter suggesting that I move out of that apartment and then someone would come out and inspect the place. This place is still housing students and now I see it is filled with the hippie type, and I can assume now that illegal drugs are being used there, much in the same manner as they were used there a few years ago.
The point that I’m trying to make is that whereas the University provides suitable housing on-campus, they do not provide suitable counseling and advisors to those living on-campus. The city did not provide suitable housing, and of course, the University did not have suitable counselors provided by–.
[The tape appears cut out briefly and then the recording resumes.]
Not much has been done in the past few years to encourage better housing for off-campus students. I think that now you might find a majority of your radical students living in off-campus housing. Many of the students will be underage, breaking University regulations. I believe that the University should take a fair look at not just their academic responsibility to the student, but also to the social responsibility to the student.
Concerning the events in May, let me bring you a chronological record of what I observed. I passed through downtown Kent, approximately at 1 o’clock in the morning on May 2nd. At that time, the bars were letting out. There were many police in the area, and there was some bottle and brick throwing. I passed through the downtown area and because of this I did not see much of the damage being done. During the day on Saturday, I was on campus. The campus was quiet, but it was very tense. I had the feeling that there would be another conflict that evening, and I was fairly certain that the ROTC building would be subject to attack and fire-bombing.
I was back on campus at 8:30 that evening, at which time I saw the ROTC building smoldering. Mr. [Dipshalad?], head of the motorpool, Mr. Robert Buckley, Director of Administrative Services, and myself, began to remove the motorpool cars away from the temporary buildings. This was at the time when the fire trucks were on the scene, the fire was well underway, and ammunition was exploding within the building. I stayed on the scene until after the firemen began putting down the ruins. Mr. Buckley and I took a state car and drove around the campus observing the student actions. In the Tri-Tower area, I recall seeing college-aged people wearing red headbands.
This is the end of tape one.
[End of Tape 1]
[Beginning of Tape 2]
[Russell E. Montgomery]: This is the beginning of tape two, the letter to the Commission on Violence from Russell E. Montgomery. [unintelligible 00:10:29-00:10:43] Later on in the evening, when I was around on campus, the National Guard was dispersing [unintelligible]. [Unintelligible] that were passed out, and since it was dark out it was difficult for them to orient themselves. Again, people wearing headbands were roaming around campus throughout the evening, and their groups were largely broken up by the presidents of National Guard troops who left the campus about 3 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, May 3rd. They returned to the campus by 9 o’clock, Sunday morning, May 3rd, and spent most of the day walking around the University. The students were milling freely with the National Guard. I observed live ammunition in clips pinned to the shirts and pinned to the belts of the National Guard. They had M1 weapons.
Sunday evening, a large crowd gathered on the front part of the campus about the time that the city curfew would go into effect. I stayed with Mr. Buckley most of that evening. We observed a large crowd of students gathered at the corner of East Main and Lincoln Streets. The National Guard had two helicopters flying overhead with searchlights. The highway patrol had one helicopter circling the campus. The various police units and the National Guard formed a skirmish line along Lincoln Street. I heard various chants about the war in Vietnam, chants against the police, and chants against National Guard. This group maintained a sit-down in the street for approximately two hours, at which time they were dispersed and moved south on Lincoln Street. Later, while driving through that area of Main Street, I noticed many pieces of concrete and rocks littering the street. This is material which was normally not found in this area. I stayed on campus until 3 a.m., Monday morning. There were groups, people still roaming the campus, the highway patrol helicopter, as well as the National Guard helicopter, were still patrolling the campus with searchlights.
Monday morning, I arrived on campus at about 7 a.m. and proceeded to my office in McGilvrey. By 11 o’clock in the morning, I was up in the Student Union and heard much talk about the noontime rally, which the students said they were going to hold whether or not the National Guard wanted them to. When the rally began forming on The Commons, I positioned myself down near the temporary buildings–I believe it was East Hall–behind the skirmish line of the National Guard. The Guard armed themselves with fixed bayonets and their M1 rifles. They put on their gas masks and held a skirmish line stretching from the temporary buildings over to the fence on the far side of The Commons.
I would estimate approximately three to four thousand people in the area, not only on the hill above The Commons, but on the balcony at Taylor Hall, the roof of Stopher, Johnson Halls, and over the Student Activity Center. There was also students between the heating plant and the Union and they were kept from closing in on the Guard by a snow fence and cars in position there. I recall seeing a member of the University Security Force being driven out to the middle of The Commons with a handheld megaphone, ordering the students to be dispersed, that it was an unlawful assembly. I believe that everyone in the area had plenty of warning to disperse. I realized that the M1s had fixed bayonets, that with the gas masks on I knew they would be using tear gas, and having seen the Guard on campus with live ammunition, I expected it to be in their weapon, too, loaded and ready.
The Guard proceeded to move across The Commons and disperse students up over the hill. There was much cheering, tossing of gas canisters back and forth between the Guard and the students, many obscenities were shouted, and in the front group of students, there appeared to be very many vicious young people. I observed the Guard moving up over the hill between Taylor Hall and the Johnson Hall dormitories. There was very much activity up there. The Guard was continually surrounded by students that did little to protect the rear. I heard what sounded to be one shot fired, and approximately five to eight seconds later, I heard two volleys of fire which came from the M1s. I was familiar with the sound of military weapons because of having just returned from active duty with the army. Immediately after having heard what appeared to be the first shot, people turned and looked up towards Johnson Hall, the Student Activity Center roof, and in that general area. I would estimate close to 50% of the crowd there and the National Guard, I can recall now the National Guard telling everyone to disperse quickly because of the possibility of sniper fire.
Many of the National Guard personnel had returned to The Commons area and were holding a skirmish line once again. After the Guard had regrouped, the students still stayed around in the area chanting and geering at the Guard. I heard many students yelling at the National Guard, “why don’t you shoot me? You shot at the others.” The Guard held their place and did not try to [unintelligible] these students out.
[End of Tape 2]
[Beginning of Tape 3]
[Russell E. Montgomery]: This is the third tape to the Commission on Violence.
At approximately 12:45 p.m., May 4th, I returned to the Administration Building and went directly to the switchboard office. As I arrived, Mrs. [Leonna Wright?], chief switchboard operator, informed me that all the phones were dead. I made a quick walk through the Administration Building and found some lines were working and some were not. I went directly to my office in McGilvrey Hall and called Mr. Bruce McCarty, installation foreman at Ohio Bell Telephone Company in Kent. I asked him if the phones were dead because of the possibility of lines being cut, or if emergency procedures had taken place from Ohio Bell. He was not aware of any situation that I mentioned, and he said he would check and get back to me. Approximately five minutes later, he said the National Guard had requested nonessential phone lines to be shut off. Throughout the afternoon, I worked with two Ohio Bell installers--Mr. Norm [Kiptal?] and Mr. Paul Smith. We tried to have service restored to certain lines which were of necessity. During the afternoon, the National Guard and the University Police reported lines not receiving continuous service. Between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m., the University telephone service was back on normal operation. A report of the condition of the phone service on May 4th has been forwarded from me to Mr. Buckley in care of the KSU Commission on Violence. This is a report of which the original was sent to Vice President Dunn, on July 22nd, 1970.
I remained on campus until about 10 p.m. that evening. During the remainder of the week, I spent between 14 and 16 hours a day on campus trying to assure the University that they would have emergency phone lines in the case of another disruption. For the next few weeks, about the only college-aged people still in the city of Kent were those wearing red headbands, black armbands, and wearing the hippie-type clothing. On Tuesday, May 5th, at the corner of Water and Main Street, I observed National Guard posted on one corner and hippie-type people passing out militant literature–something to the effect that now is the time to arm and have war in the streets, and this was a communist conspiracy signed by the Weathermen Faction.
Should your commission require further information about the happenings of May 1 through 4, I would be more than glad to make myself available to speak with anyone. I am sure that there have been many suggestions as to how to prevent violence on campus. I am a believer that the University is here for the learning of qualified students. It is not here as a place to demonstrate against society. It is not here as a sanctuary where laws may be broken but not punished for. I believe the University should make strong efforts in whatever way is necessary to have this University remain an area of higher education, not only at the academic level, but at the social level. The University should develop ways to encourage responsible social living on campus and off campus. The students should be provided guidance in order to develop good social habits while living with a group of people such as in the dormitories. The University should put strong pressure on the city of Kent to ensure that off-campus housing is brought up to higher physical standards. I realize that the University has a manpower shortage and is not able to inspect all the houses registered with the University. Perhaps the Administration may consider having student inspectors who’d have a greater feel for the needs of off-campus students and therefore may give greater insight into the Administration as to what is required for an academically and socially conducive environment.
The University should take a greater interest into the off-hour activities of their students. Much criticism has been given to the bars in the downtown area. I feel that the atmosphere of the bar has a great determination of what type of person will gather there. In some of the bars downtown the facilities are absolutely filthy, not only in the main part of the bar, but also in the restrooms. Yet, no one encourages these places to clean up. All the bar owners cannot be condemned, though, because many of them do provide clean facilities and good entertainment. The University will never stop the students from patronizing downtown businesses, but I feel that certain facilities such as our new ice arena will encourage students to stay on campus and give them something worthwhile at which to spend their spare time.
It is very hard to pinpoint what causes violence. The actions of May 4th have been building over the years. I will now, as a member of the University Administration–
[End of Tape 3]]
[Beginning of Tape 4]
[Russell E. Montgomery]: This is the fourth and final tape of the letter to the Commission on Violence from Russell E. Montgomery.
I feel that one of the main causes of violence is a lack of personal responsibility on the part of the persons attending the University. This can be seen in the destruction of University property, the destruction of city property, the carelessness in dress standards on campus, a lack of support of many activities of which the University Administration had planned for the sole purpose of the enjoyment and betterment of the student body. I wish to make myself available to any committee or any group which is designed to have contact with the students, not only the administration, but just through someone my age–I am 24 years old–I would enjoy it immensely. In my work right now, I have very little contact with students. I desire to spend my evening hours with various student groups, not only talking about their problems, but enjoying their activities with them, and conveying that feeling that the University Administration is extremely interested in the student body population. As I stated before, I do not feel that there is one single cause for violence, but many. Not all this can be put down on paper. In order to keep the report short, I would not desire to put all my thoughts on paper, but I would make myself available to enter into free discussion with any member of your commission, should they desire it. Thank you once again for allowing me the opportunity to express my views. I hope today I’ve helped your commission, and I hope that the University will benefit by my efforts. Respectfully, Russell E. Montgomery, Assistant Director of Administrative Services.
This is the end of my tape.
[End of Tape 4]
Recorded statement of Assistant Director of Administrative Services Russell E. Montgomery conducted by the CKSUV.
Kent State University
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Montgomery, Russell E.
Digitization was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
|Subcollection||Commission on KSU Violence records|
Commissions, Hearings, Tribunals
Reactions, Responses. Administrators
|May 4 Provenance||
May 4 Collection