Please Reduce Racism at UConn: The December 3, 1987 Incident

The exhibit is available at Homer Babbidge Library Plaza Level, from April 2 until May 5, 2024.

An exhibit created by Edward Junhao Lim, the Business & Entrepreneurship Librarian of the UConn Library, and a member of the Association for Asian American Faculty and Staff (A3FS).

Target Practice was a comic strip published in the Daily Campus illustrated by Chris Sienko ’88 (SFA). This bigotry – depicting Asian teaching assistants as illiterate and stupid because of their accent or English language ability – reflected the sentiment in many American university campuses in the 1980s-1990s. This was published in the October 7, 1987, issue, p. 13.
The Target Practice comic strip on Asian teaching assistants sparked off a series of letters to the editor published in the October 12 & 14, 1987 issues of the Daily Campus. The Vice President of the UConn Korean Club defending Asian T.A.s, two letters suggesting that Asian T.A.s are poor in communicating in English, and even the comic artist (Sienko) defending and denying its racist intent.

December 3, 1987, was a significant marker for the Asian American movement at the University of Connecticut. Eight Asian American students boarded a bus at Belden Hall to attend an off-campus semi-formal dance at the Italian American Club in Tolland. Belden and Watson Hall sponsored the semi-formal.

The written statement to the UConn Department of Police about the bus incident by Feona Lee ’87 (CLAS, BUS) – one of the eight victims – dated December 12, 1987. She describes how the perpetrators – a group of white, drunken students, some of whom were chewing tobacco – spat on her and her friends and making racist remarks.

During the 45-minute bus ride, they were spat upon and subjected to racial slurs and physical intimidation from a group of UConn football players. Even at the dance hall, one of them continued harassing the group, including indecent exposure. The victims asked one of the Resident Advisors for help and permission to leave but were denied and asked to stay away from the troublemakers. The female victims hid in a closet until the threat of violence had seemed to pass.

This photograph published on the May 16, 1988 issue of the Hartford Advocate featured two of the eight victims of the December 3, 1987 bus incident: Marta Ho (left) and Ronald Cheung ’89 (CLAS, BUS) (center). Accompanying them is Maria Ho ’88 (CLAS) (right), sister of Marta. Both sisters played an important role in the founding of the UConn Asian American Association student group in January 1988, formed as a response to the bus incident.

The inability of both local law enforcement and university officials to address and remedy the situation led to eighteen months of struggle, protest, and examination. No one seemed willing to help at the beginning: the UConn affirmative action office could not interfere because it did not involve faculty and students; the UConn campus police claimed no responsibility since it happened off campus, and three other local police departments (Vernon, Stafford Springs, and Tolland) claimed to have no jurisdiction since the incident started on campus.

Paul Bock was the Professor Emeritus of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Connecticut. He pitched a tent on the Student Union lawn at Storrs campus and conducted a hunger strike to call attention to their demands. He obtained seven hundred signatures on a petition to bring about an investigation of the incident. He chose the window between the end of the summer session and the beginning of the fall session in August 1988 to avoid disrupting classes. This photograph by Rick Hartford was published in the Hartford Courant as an update a decade after the bus incident on May 17, 1998.

The perseverance of the victims eventually led to the identification and prosecution of only two from a group of attackers. One was suspended for one year. The other was barred from living on campus but continued to play for the UConn football team until his graduation.

This exhibit seeks to raise awareness about the incident on December 3, 1987, against Asian Americans at the UConn. This incident was a catalyst for change at UConn, leading to the establishment of the Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC), which provides resources to enhance the University’s diversity commitment through its recruitment and retention efforts, teaching, service, and outreach to the Asian American community on campus.

Through personal narratives and historical documents, the exhibition will explore this event’s origins and immediate consequences on the Asian, Asian American and broader campus communities. The day after the incident, Homer Babbidge Library was where Marta Ho told her sister Maria Ho what had happened. Maria insisted on reporting the incident to the police.

Archives Exhibition Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Black Student Sit-In at Wilbur Cross Library in 1974

Anthropology Protest, Nutmeg 1974

Please Respond Personally: Commemorating the 1974 Black Student Sit-In 

March 11th – July 19th, 2024, Schimmelpfeng Gallery, Monday – Friday, 9-4pm 

Dodd Center for Human Rights, University of Connecticut 

Exhibit Opening Event: March 28th, 3-5pm @ Archives & Special Collections, Dodd Center

Opening to the public Monday, March 11th, 2024, the UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections will mount a 50th Anniversary Exhibition commemorating the direct action taken by Black and Brown students on the Storrs campus to challenge structural racism in higher education by sitting in at the Wilbur Cross Library on April 22nd 1974.  This historic event of activism, where roughly 370 students occupied the library at varying times across 3 days, was the culminating event during a semester long campaign of student organizing to demand representation and resources for students of color at the University of Connecticut.  Through curated documents this exhibition will feature the perspectives of the student organizers, the Afro-American Cultural Center, the University and its administration to portray this campus-wide call to action which resonates to our present day.  This 50th anniversary is also an opportunity to highlight approaches to student activism and the centrality of the library as an institutional setting both for democracy and also one vulnerable to upholding systems of oppression. 

This exhibition draws from the experiences of alumni Rodney Bass (’75BA/’76MA) who read the demands during the sit-in and was co-chair of the Organization of African American Students (OAAS). The archives podcast d’Archive produced an interview with Rodney about Black student organizing in the mid-1970s on the Storrs campus which is revealing in understanding their approach to making demands upon the university for their representation in the student body.

Resources in the Archives about UConn Student Government

Various forms of student government date back to when the University of Connecticut was known as the Storrs Agricultural College, from 1881 to 1899. Since the inception of the first version of student government at Storrs its purpose has been to act as a representative of the student body and to advocate for various causes on behalf of its constituency. Some of these causes have included creating and funding other student organizations and petitioning the administration for civil rights reforms.

In the 1896 inaugural edition of the S.A.C. Lookout, the first student run student newspaper, two separate organizations, the “Students’ Organization” and “Council,” were cited as the structures of student government. The former acted as the executive wing and the latter as a senate, and lasted until the early 1920s.

The first big change in student government occurred in 1923 when the Council (by this time referred to as the “Students’ Council”) became the Student Senate. This body remained similar to its predecessor until 1933, when all student representative power was centralized in the Senate, forming the Associated Student Government (ASG). The Students’ Organization existed alongside the Senate until the reorganization of 1933, when both merged to become ASG. The structure of this new government included Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches, but these were not independent of each other, as the Elected Vice President of ASG automatically became the Chairman of the Student Senate.

A Women’s Student Council emerged at the end of the 1910s, and this body existed for over 60 years in various forms, either as the Women’s Student Government or Associated Women Students. Its end in the early 1970s coincided with the founding of the Women’s Center at UConn, along with the merging of the departments of women’s and men’s affairs.

ASG existed from its creation in 1933 until its dissolution in 1973, which took multiple years to take effect. One of the catalysts for ASG’s demise was its presidential election in 1972, where the student body, fed up with their representatives, elected “Bill X. Carlson” as a write-in option. The catch was that Carlson was a fictitious person. Thus, runner-up Dave Kaplan assumed the presidency but resigned within the year, as calls for a Constitutional Convention strengthened. By the next year, ASG was replaced by the Federation of Students and Service Organizations (FSSO), which had been selected from a list of options proposed by various students. Its structure included an eight-person Central Committee that held absolute jurisdiction, with Primary and Secondary committees under it.

The FSSO lasted a mere seven years, as a new Constitutional Convention was called at the end of the decade, leading to the inception of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). The transition from FSSO to USG was far smoother, as the FSSO was not fully dissolved as ASG was. The convention led to a transition from FSSO to USG that circumvented the total absence of student government that had occurred in the interim between ASG and the FSSO.

USG has continued as the student government of UConn since 1980. Currently it consists of Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, made up of the Senate, the President and the Advocacy Committees, and the Judiciary respectively.

Researchers interested in UConn’s more than a century of student government will find a plethora of resources on the subject in Archives & Special Collections. From 1944 onward, the Archives has the records kept by the ASG, FSSO, and USG. Student government resources generally include student publications, presidential files, photographic prints, and more. Among some of the Archives’ relevant collections are:

University of Connecticut, Undergraduate Student Government Records. This collection is split into four series: Associated Student Government (ASG) records from 1944-1973, Federation of Students and Service Organizations (FSSO) records from 1973-1981, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) records from 1980-2008, and the records of the Inter-area Residence Council from 1970-1982. While the USG records within the collection end at 2008, the Archives has Minutes and Agendas from 1985 up to the present day. The records include Constitutions, Committee Minutes, reports, Election data, correspondence, speech transcripts, documentation of Constitutional Conventions, and more. The finding aid to the collection can be found at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/721.

University of Connecticut Photograph Collection. This collection includes over 800,000 photographic prints, slides, negatives, and postcards. For content related to Student Government at UConn, look for sections of this collection relating to Student Activities. The finding aid to the collection can be found at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/958.

The Daily Campus and other student publications. Student publications have gone by several titles before its current iteration, including the Storrs Agricultural College Lookout, the Connecticut Agricultural College Lookout, the Connecticut Campus and Lookout, the Connecticut Campus, and the Connecticut Daily Campus. Throughout the years, the paper has reported on the affairs of student government at UConn, dating back to its very first issue in May 1896.

You can find issues of the Daily Campus and its predecessors, from the Storrs and the regional campuses, dating from 1896 to 1990, in the digital repository at http://hdl.handle.net/11134/islandora:campusnewspapers

Articles of particular interest include:

S.A.C. Lookout, December 1, 1898, “Student Government,” which outlines the function and structure of the Students’ Organization, as well as the Students’ Council: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860167952

Connecticut Campus, April 10, 1934, “Committee Formulates Plans For Election May 1,” Associated Student Government and Women’s Student Government Elections are both referred to: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860217304

Connecticut Daily Campus, September 14, 1976, “Finch outlines FSSO semester projects, goals,” where FSSO Chairman William Finch explained the objectives of the FSSO at the beginning of the semester: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860294245

Nutmeg, the student yearbook. Nutmeg originated in 1915 and includes photographs and descriptions of different student governments at UConn through the years. Issues from 1915 to 1999 are available in the digital repository beginning at: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:02653871

Of particular interest:

• 1934 Nutmeg’s entry on the reorganization of the Student Senate and the origins of the student government, at http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:02653871 (page 146) and a photograph of the 1933 Women’s Student Government on page 138.

• The 1973 issue has information about the dissolution of the Associated Student Government, at http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:859981755

• 1979 Nutmeg’s entry on the Federation of Students and Service Organizations, featuring a Connecticut Daily Campus article entitled “FSSO committee dumps clubs,” detailing the FSSO’s recall of over $30,000 from student organizations, at http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:859981740

University of Connecticut, President’s Office Records. This collection includes the records of all of UConn’s Presidents, starting with Solomon Mead in 1881 and currently ending with Susan Herbst, whose tenure in office ended in 2019. The collection is updated as records are periodically transferred by the President’s office for permanent retention in the Archives. While this is not a chiefly important source of information on UConn’s student government organizations, small mentions may be found in many of the Presidents’ documents.

This post was written by Sam Zelin, formerly a UConn undergraduate student in the Neag School of Education who was a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Resources in the Archives about the UConn Marching Band

Music and bands have been a tradition at the University of Connecticut for over a century.  Beginning with small musical organizations and military bands, there were many predecessors to what is now referred to as the UConn Marching Band. The origins of the current organization can be traced back to 1939, the same year that the Connecticut State College in Storrs became the University of Connecticut. In that year Jack Brocjek, at the time an assistant instructor of music at the school, became director of the school’s “College Band” and decided to make his band open to all students, which effectively merged his with the ROTC’s band.

While the creation of the band occurred at the end of the 1930s, the 1950s was really when it gained prestige and an increase in the number of participants.  Professor Allan Gillespie took the reins in 1956, and the band grew immensely during his 25-year tenure. It was under Gillespie’s leadership that the band embarked on three separate tours of Europe in the summers of 1970, 1974, and 1978.

Gillespie’s time as director was followed by the terms of David Maker and Gary Green in the 1980s. Current director David Mills took over in 1989 and led the band in such special performances as President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration parade, the 2003 opening of the 40,000 seat Rentschler Field in Hartford, and performing for over 100,000 fans at the University of Michigan in 2010.

Researchers interested in the UConn Marching band will find a plethora of information in Archives & Special Collections. In addition to the marching band’s official records, the UConn Archives has student publications, photographic prints, files belonging to past band personnel, administrative documents, and more. Among some of our archives’ relevant collections are:

University of Connecticut Marching Band Records.  This is the most comprehensive of all collections pertaining to the UConn Marching Band. It includes various forms of primary sources from the band, including pamphlets for performances, musical scores, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, and cassette tapes. The records date back to the early 1960s, corresponding closely with the first few years of Allan Gillespie’s tenure as band director. The finding aid to the collection can be found at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/1020

Maker Collection of the UConn Marching Band. Comprised of arrangements, arranged for the marching band by Dr. David Maker, who worked with the band for many years, dating from 1969 to 1983. The finding aid to the collection can be found at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/512

University of Connecticut Photograph Collection.  The collection holds hundreds of photographs of the UConn Marching Band. The band’s images are filed with the UConn Athletics items and are sometimes merged with the Pep Band’s photos. Another area to find early images of the marching band are those taken by Jerauld Manter, a professor at UConn from 1912 until 1953.  The finding aid to the UConn Photograph Collection photographic prints can be found at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/5. A finding aid to the Manter images is at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/946

Thousands of images from the University of Connecticut Photograph Collection can be found in the UConn Library digital repository, beginning athttp://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:MSS19880010. Using the search term “marching band” will bring up the images.

University of Connecticut, President’s Office Records [Glenn W. Ferguson].  Glenn Ferguson served as the President of UConn from 1973 to 1978. His records include information about plans for the marching band to travel on tour in Europe. The finding aid to the Ferguson records is at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/606

Daily Campus and other student publications. The origins of a music program at the university occurred concurrently with that of the student newspaper and are a great source to show the formation and evolution of the marching band program. The student newspaper originated with the Lookout in 1896 and transitioned to other titles, including The Connecticut Campus and Connecticut Daily Campus, to The Daily Campus of today. A full run of newspapers available in the UConn Archives can be found in the digital repository beginning at http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860408189

Articles of particular interest include:

  • Connecticut Campus, October 17, 1939, “Broucek Leads New Band Of 53 Pieces” which chronicles the joining of UConn’s football and R.O.T.C. bands
  • Connecticut Daily Campus, September 17, 1956, “Husky Marching Band Prepares for Successful Fall Season on the Field,” includes a call for new students to join the marching band. The article includes a portrait of Allan Gillespie in his first year as director.
  • Connecticut Daily Campus, April 6, 1977 with a biography of Allan Gillespie, who ran the marching band for decades.
  • Daily Campus, September 20, 1990, “UConn’s marching band cheer on the team,” makes mention of Gary Green, director of bands, and refers to the recent hiring of David Mills as an assistant.  Mills took over the job of director later that year and has been in the position ever since.

Nutmeg, the student yearbook.  The Nutmeg originated in 1915 and includes photographs of the marching bands through the years. You can find issues from 1915 to 1999 in the digital repository beginning at http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:02653871

Of particular interest:

  • 1940 Nutmeg’s entry on the newly formed university band
  • 1958 issue, which includes photos of Director Allan Gillespie and a formation that the band did that year
  • 1971 issue that mentions the first overseas trip to Europe

This post was written by Sam Zelin, formerly a UConn undergraduate student in the Neag School of Education who was a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 


The Short but Happy Life of Jonathan I, our First Mascot

In the Fall of 1934, after the famous “Ram-napping” incident where students from the Connecticut State College kidnapped the ram mascot of the Rhode Island State College (you can read the story here) prior to a football game between the two rivals, the CSC decided it was time to get its own mascot. Its one attempt at securing a mascot was in October 1906, when a fat white bulldog, who received the unfortunate name of “Piggie,” was hired for the job. Piggie didn’t last long because the students felt it would have been confused with Yale’s bulldog mascot, “Handsome Dan,” and no one liked the name Piggie.

By late November 1934 the student newspaper, the Connecticut Campus, announced that a 14 week old thoroughbred Eskimo dog “of high pedigree,” born on July 23 in Huntington, Connecticut, and donated by the college’s alumni, was chosen as the CSC mascot by an almost unanimous vote of the student body. The students were delighted by their new black and white Husky mascot. It was determined at that point that the athletic teams would be known as the Huskies.

It was purported that the dog’s great-grandfather was one of the team that pulled the sled of famous American explorer Robert Peary, who claimed to be the first to reach the North Pole, in April 1909.

Around Christmas 1934 the dog settled with the family of Music Professor Herbert A. France, who lived with his wife and four children in North Windham. In 1995 Professor France’s son, Herbert France, Jr., sent a reminiscence to the UConn Archives about life with the first mascot. Mr. France was six years old at the time they owned the dog, who was very much a family dog to the France children. Mr. France recalled a snowy day in January 1935 when he hitched the dog to his sled and tried to get the dog to “mush.” The dog apparently turned around, looked at the boy, jumped over him and the sled, and took off with the sled bouncing behind him, with little Herbert left face down in the snow.

Now that the college secured the dog they also had to give him a name. In January 1935 the Alumni decided they would hold a contest among the students to determine the name, which was to be announced by February 15.

Alas, even before the dog could be formally named his life was tragically cut short. On February 13, 1935, the poor dog dashed into the road in front of the France’s house and was struck by a car. Attempts were made at resuscitation but were futile. The dog died at the tender age of six months. He apparently had been to only a handful of basketball games in his short time of service as mascot.

The CSC students were stunned and saddened by their mascot’s sudden demise. Two days later, on February 15, at a small and somber funeral attended by CSC President Charles McCracken and the presidents of each student class, the dog was formally named Jonathan, in honor of Connecticut’s first governor, Jonathan Trumbull. George Potterton, President of the Student Senate, gave a short speech where he said that Jonathan “…was a symbol of the forward progress that we as students are bound to make. He was a symbol of the coming greatness of our athletic teams as well as those other activities in which we enter in order to make our college greater. Connecticut State’s Jonathans will go out to do battle on the court, field and gridiron, for Jonathan’s is a fighting tradition.”

The next Jonathan, number II, arrived at the college in the fall of 1935 and ably served as mascot until 1947, when he died of natural causes. Apparently three more Jonathans – III, VI and X — also met tragic ends as the victims of car accidents.

You can read more about Jonathan I, and the tradition of Jonathan as the Connecticut State College/University of Connecticut mascot, at these sources:

Articles in past issues of the UConn Advance, written by staff writer Mark Roy, at

The  November 27, 1934, issue of Connecticut Campus, announcing the new mascot: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860217763

The January 8, 1935, issue of Connecticut Campus with a photograph of the new mascot and information about the contest to name him: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860217885

The February 19, 1935, issue of Connecticut Campus showing his funeral:  http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860218128

An article in the Hartford Courant about Jonathan I’s funeral: https://search.proquest.com/hnphartfordcourant/docview/558540864/92E00D4B054C4361PQ/1?accountid=14518 

A photograph of the burial of Jonathan on February 15, 1935: http://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:199722353