"This was indeed not typical of University
students. When they get serious, they are
pretty tractable and they direct themselves."

-Raymond Bice
University Historian


Mr. Bice served as President Shannon's personal assistant during the May Days period. He was interviewed March 25, 2000 by Anne-Marie Angelo in Charlottesville, VA.


A: Tell me what you recollect from May Days.

B: Well, as you know they were very troubled times and the students were upset, but they didn't know quite who to be upset at. It was interesting, the faculty had some meetings about this and there were a few faculty members who were very openly against the Vietnam War. But it wasn't only the Vietnam War, it got spread out into slavery and the Civil War and all kinds of things that the present administration couldn't do a thing about. Mr. Shannon was the President and he was very sympathetic with the students.

Well anyway, there were some fairly angry episodes which I'd rather not remember. And there was a feeling on the part of some of the student leaders that we ought to do something to kind of patch things up and bury the hatchet and so the first Crazy Day was organized.

I was assistant to Mr. Shannon and Mr. Shannon said, "Well, this sounds like something we need to cooperate with." The students had a very interesting attitude. Many of them wouldn't do some of these things that weren't polite, but they'd stand around and watch somebody else do it. The first Crazy Day was opposed. I can't remember which date it was, but I think it was 1970. And they had it in that green space in front of the library and Miller Hall. They wanted to have it in front of the Rotunda. But they had a certain amount of respect for that. The Rotunda hadn't been restored yet. That wasn't until 1976. But anyway, in order to reduce friction they had it over there.

The first thing they did was to put a swimming pool in front of the library steps, the main steps to the library. This was a plastic swimming pool like kids have, but it was a fairly big one. And they announced that they were going to throw the president in the pool. I advised Mr. Shannon not to go with that. Mr. Shannon said, well, he'd been a naval officer. A ship was blown up under him and he was in the water for 8 hours. He said, "I guess if I can stand that, I can stand being thrown in the swimming pool." Well, they were a little rougher than he anticipated and they picked him up and threw him in. Mr. Shannon was thrown in the pool. Now the pool was only about 6 inches deep. But he got wet. And he was very sweet tempered about it. Quite a few of us faculty members thought it would have been better if they had thrown the dean in or something like that, but the president of all things. Mr. Shannon was wonderfully tolerant.

Well, then they had events. Do you know who Mrs. Heatherington is?

A: No.

B: Well, Mrs. Heatherington is a world-famous child psychologist. She's retiring now and next Monday they're going to have a big conference here to honor her. But she's known the world over for her work.

A: And she's teaching here?

B: She had just come here from Wisconsin and I think the reason we were able to get her away from Wisconsin is that they were having more trouble out there. You know they blew up a building out in Wisconsin and we didn't have anything quite like that. We had disturbance.

The event was a tricycle race between Mrs. Heatherington and Mrs. Shannon. And Mrs. Shannon just passed away here, just very recently, a few weeks ago. But anyway, if you can imagine, these were little tricycles and women of normal size look awfully big on them. As I remember, Mrs. Heatherington won by a nose, just a little bit. The cheering and the pep aspects of it were really something.

One of Mrs. Heatherington's children, who as I remember was about 10 years old, came up through all this crowd and everything. He says, "Mama, this is the first time I've been proud of you." And she's a very famous professor. All these people were very good natured.

The next thing I remember about Crazy Days took place on the Lawn. The first year they had it over there and the second year. . . I think they did it three times. I think it was the second time. Where they got it I don't know, but they got some tubing, several city blocks of it. Tubing is about 4 foot in diameter. And they put it all over the Lawn, one great big piece. And you could enter one end of the tubing and stoop down and walk through there. After you'd been going about 100 feet or so, it got kind of chlostraphobic. But, they did it. There were signs saying, "Show your loyalty by going through this stuff."

None of these things had what I call solid support. But nobody wanted to miss the excitement. There were a number of other events. I can't recall any of them as being so startling as the ones I've told you about. I'm pretty sure they did it three times. The third time was down the hill from the library, when you're going to Memorial Gym, you know there's a walk across there. Well, it was down there. They had various kinds of races and so on. It wasn't what you call well-organized. This throwing the president in the pool was order. There was no way that was going to change.

A: How many students would you say participated?

B: I think that a thousand students showed up. You see, it was big publicity. You know where the Cavalier Daily files are in the library? Well, you can find the issues. And the students were urged by their leaders to be present.

And of course, earlier we had a very unpleasant situation happen involving a thousand students also. This was at night. The students antagonized the townspeople. They had signs up saying, "Honk for Peace" and some of the townspeople didn't want to honk for peace. Then, you know the intersection of Route 29 and 250 which is down there across from Mary Munford Hall, down in that area. Well, you've got two major highways there. Some students decided to sit down in that intersection and block the traffic. Well, that was off-Grounds and it was a violation of state law. So, the police got into this. Not the University police, but the downtown police. And they went and got the Mayflower Moving Van which is a great big truck. They went down there and made a sweep and they swept something like 65 of them into that truck and started off on their way downtown to book them.

Well, between the time they were swept into the van and getting downtown, the lawyers got scratching their heads. They decided this wouldn't be a good idea because all these people would have records. So they didn't book them. In addition to students, there were a lot of other people who got swept in, including the Catholic priest of St. Thomas Aquinas. And one of the directors of the Physical Plant was included and he was very unhappy about it.

This left a very bad taste. It was right at the end of the school year and the students couldn't study for their exams and all kinds of unpleasant stuff. So the Crazy Days were supposed to ease that up, you see. Well, in a way I suppose they did. But anyway, it wasn't typical behavior of UVA students. Students, when it comes to getting serious, they are usually pretty tractable and they direct themselves. This was a small group of radicals. And the worst of it was, they weren't all ours. The other major universities all closed and their radicals came down here to help our radicals. They were not respectful. They did things like walk on some of these ladies' boxwood bushes and those kinds. And in Charlottesville, you don't do that. Have you noticed? There is a line there. But these people didn't respect that.

There was a lawyer, a nationally known lawyer, who came here and got up on that porch at Carr's Hill. He asked the students to burn Carr's Hill down, where the president's wife and 5 children lived inside. This did it. The UVA students wouldn't have any more of that. But of course it got a lot of publicity and I still don't know why he wasn't in violation. But nobody wanted to start any court actions.

Well, anyway, in my remembering these things, I don't like to remember any of those things. Those were ugly days and it was a very difficult situation. I give Mr. Shannon much credit for not letting it boil over. He was very good with this.

There were some real student leaders back there who brought things back on track. They weren't the ones making all the noise. So now, do you want to ask me some questions?

A: One of the things that I'm focusing on in my project is kind of how . . . well we're studying the 1960s this semester in our class. I'm looking at student activism and those sorts of things and I'm curious how the Lawn especially, because it was a place known for freedom of expression, and Jefferson had intended it for that. I'm curious how it maintained that.

B: Well, it is interesting that with all the hullabaloo, and all the buildings being blown up, and people being killed in other places, that when you get on the Lawn, there's a certain respect, even for people who don't go with that. Now some ugly things did happen on the Lawn. At one graduation, the radical students formed a line across the Lawn and they were going to block the procession. The grand marshal was Mr. Runk, the vice-president for student affairs. Believe me, he had what you'd call authority. He told them that the procession was going to go through anyway. So they stood there, and there was Mr. Runk holding the mace. But when the mace got too close, they parted and the procession went through.

But the more interesting thing to me is, while the Rotunda was being restored, it was kind of vulnerable and of course couldn't be locked up very well. They anticipated that there might be a lot of trouble, with people painting things and so on. It just didn't happen, except there were some students from another university and we know who they were. They came up and painted something on the steps. We had to sandblast the steps and take a little marble off. You can't do that too often, you know. But that's all.

There was a big to-do about free expression on the Lawn. Mr. Canaveri was a very wise man. He said yes, he agreed that they had a right to free expression. They could have it on the South End of the Lawn, which is the opposite end from the Rotunda. But they would not have it in front of the Rotunda. Well you know, they bought that. So, you know about the shanties?

A: No.

B: Oh dear. Well I hate to bring it up, but the radical students put shanties on the Lawn. They were terrible looking things. The first one or two were up in the forbidden territory, before Mr. Canaveri made his ruling. But the rest of them were down on the South end of the Lawn where of course you could plainly see them. The students who organized all this were not too organized.

The shanties persisted quite a little while. At other universities, they got to be a terrible problem and they lasted a long time. At UVA, they didn't. They weren't up there very long. In looking at the Cavalier Daily, you'll find references of the shanties. But never much of any support for any for any of this. If there had been, it might have been quite difficult.

One of these protests, they had a sit-in in the President's office. About 25 students came and sat with their feet straight out on the floor so you could hardly walk around in there. Mr. Shannon just went on with business as usual. The secretaries stepped over these feet sticking out there. When it got to be 5 o'clock, one of the secretaries said, "Well, at 5 o'clock, we lock the files, you'll have to leave." And they got up and left. I think they were pretty bored by that point.

Another time, the Board of Visitors met at Pavilion 8 in those days. They were protesting a board meeting. But they were so poorly organized that they thought it was meeting in Pavilion 10. So they gathered in front of Pavilion 10. The Board paid no attention.

And do you know that in 1969, the radical students put a bug in the Boardroom, a recorder. The Board meetings in those days were not supposed to be open. It was taped up there with masking tape and that didn't hold very well. So during the Board meeting, these things started to fall off and fell down on the leg of one of the lady Board members. There were 2 lady Board members then. There was great concern about this; we didn't know who did it. But at the end of the school year, the library has a special day that you can turn in books without paying a fine. I think they still have this. Anyway, a box came in and it had the tapes that were made with the bug. Whoever did it I guess had some conscience about it.

None of those things were much fun. There was a tension about it. At UVA, the students and the faculty have always been real fond of each other and they should be. Many of these ideas were transferred from other universities. At most of the rest of them, they came out rather badly. People got hurt and that sort of thing. The state legislatures got really upset about this. At Wisconsin, the state legislature was going to pass a rule that they weren't going to take any out-of-state students. They moderated it to having a quota. We never have had that, and we don't look with favor on anything that would restrict any of our good students.

A: What do you feel like this did for student leadership? Do you feel like it strengthened it?

B: Well, you can call it leadership if you like, but it was in questionable directions. The present leaders are really better leaders because they are seeking to do things that are constructive for the students and things they thing that students will support. I think the student government situation is just wonderful because the courts are making it very difficult but our students go ahead and do it anyway. In the end, usually when it goes to court, the students gets supported. But it is much more difficult than it used to be. And of course the students debate these things. The Jefferson Society has a long history of doing these things. The Honor Committees have kept this sort of thing alive. If it hadn't been for all this discussion, I'm sure it would have fallen under. They would have assumed that they somehow didn't comply with laws. The students wouldn't buy that. It was really remarkable.

A: How would you describe, I guess I've read several things, I've looked through the yearbooks and it seemed like, especially in the spring of 1970, there would over a thousand students, and it seems like no one knew exactly why they were gathering. Would you agree?

B: It's hard to put yourself back in those times. But you see, there was a draft. The students would be drafted if they didn't have good grades. And here is a professor who gets a not-so-good term paper, and if he does what he is supposed to do, that's to give it an 'F,' the student might be drafted and might not come back. This puts the professor in a terrible spot. The students of course weren't motivated to study because they didn't know if they were going to be here at the end of the semester or not. It was a terrible feeling. All this is imposed upon us from the outside. If it had been some university officer that did it this way, they could have corrected it. But they couldn't do anything about it. And this went on and on. This was a long-time thing.

And then integration was coming in at that time. And the two got kind of confused. It was just a difficult period. There was a kind of hippie movement. You can't imagine. I was able to observe this because I was here. Until 1960, the students, who were mostly men, wore coat and tie all the time. Even at football games. They were proud of being gentlemen. About the time we went co-ed, this began to fall apart. I don't think the causation is there, I think this began to fall apart before the coeducation came in. But it interested me how the students went about it. The first things that went were the socks. Some of the professors were so upset because some of the students just didn't wear socks. You could hardly notice that they didn't wear socks, but they didn't wear socks.

And of course the haircuts. When I was first here, there were a dozen barber seats down on the Corner. Now there aren't any. There wasn't a University regulation about this, but there were some University professors who took on about this. Mr. Runk was one of them. He would get up in front of his class and say, "You may be excused until you come back with socks." The students would do it, too. Can you imagine?

reflections