“Open Forum” letters to the editor from the editorial page of The Technician, the student newspaper at North Carolina State College, February 28, 1947.
To the Editor:
I have just returned from witnessing one of the most unfair deals pulled in a long time. You no doubt know I am referring to the “called-off” basketball game between State and Carolina.
There was not a large crowd in the gym when everyone who didn’t have a seat was ordered to leave or State would forfeit the game. There were larger crowds at all previous games. If the Fire Chief had started with the first game and controlled the size of the crowd, I doubt if much would have been said or done. Why did he have to start with the most important, the last game of the year? Where has he been? When Chief Butts was cornered by Ray Reeves of WRAL in the lobby, he stuttered something about a city ordinance, that he could not state, saying that the “entries could not be blocked.” The fellows sitting on the floor at the foot of the bleachers were not blocking the doors by any means.
What does he call an “entry?”
The large number of firemen that were there were getting themselves in a good spot to see the game and that’s about all.
“Onions” to the Chief, the State boys have a just beef coming!
Yours very truly,
To the Editor:
Here it is—the five thousandth letter on the subject, “It wouldn’t have happened at the gymnasium Tuesday night if -----
The firemen and policemen were of course only doing their duty and cannot be blamed except for the sloppy job of guarding they did on the outside windows. Just as during the Duke game, all manner of kids from Raleigh were climbing through these windows in addition to the students that couldn’t get in at the front door.
The blame should rightfully be placed upon the college for not informing the student body beforehand that only 3,200 people could be accommodated, instead of the 5,000 people that were allowed in for the Duke game. It would have been understood then that the first 3,200 students entering would see the game and the rest wouldn’t. In addition the windows would have had to be guarded carefully so that a good part of Raleigh didn’t climb in through them while our own students weren’t allowed in to see the game.
This is the only fair way a game can be played here so that the fire regulations are still obeyed. “A permanent solution is to finish the Coliseum. Until that time however, a more efficient system will have to be devised if such unwholesome spectacles are to be avoided in the future.
Norman J. Oppenheim
To the Editor:
Before Fire Chief W.R. Butts has had the “gall” and time to justify his act of calling off the Carolina-State game on Tuesday night, I should like for you and your readers to bear with me—an eye-witness and non-prejudiced State College student—while the story of how a bad situation was poorly handled by Butts, is related to you.
You have not been the least bit naïve with our presentation of the rowdyism of a very, very few State College students, and I feel confident that you and your followers will take a firm stand on the side of W.R. Butts in this issue. Rather than insert the City Court trial of a State College student in the middle of a news item on court happenings, you seem always to prefer featuring the trial of the State College student with the headline “State College Student Charted With Disorderly Conduct,” and the irony of it all is that in one particular trial last week a Wake Forest student was a codefendant. For these reasons, we want to be reassured that W.R. Butts does not justify his act with tales of “a dangerous crowd” and literal crashing of the entrances—and so this letter.
Butts’ first “ultimatum” to the crowd (unless the announcer misquoted him) came at 7:30 p.m. in these blunt, tactless words: “Unless all improperly seated and standing spectators leave within the next 15 minutes, the game will be forfeited to Carolina.” For approximately five minutes, spectators pondered Butts’ harsh words, and then the cooperative spirit took care of the situation and the move apparently met with officialdom’s approval. I refer to the fact that all seated spectators moved closer together and every person present was seated. Butts then moved to a spot almost three feet inside the gym and authoritatively viewed the new seating arrangement, obviously approved (he sent to second “ultimatum” to the announcer), and then returned to the lobby. The large delegation of firemen present, 10 counted, assured themselves of witness thing the game by lining up abreast on the gym floor in front of the inner doors. The situation seemed well in hand and no doubt could have remained that way. But you see, Chief Butts, the “wheel” who had previously called off the game, didn’t want to risk the chance of having his 10 firemen miss the game, so he didn’t see fit to take the authority to post his “men” on the porch (where they belonged) and have them absolutely refuse any more admissions. As a result, when an official was admitted through the door some school-spirited students removed the pins from the door (did not crash through the door) and came in. Chief Butts labeled them “a dangerous crowd” and issued a final ultimatum: “No game.” He thereby released a situation he had utterly failed to cope with.
I have not had the pleasure nor privilege of meeting this Raleigh personality and am therefore incapable of typing his temperament, however, if you will permit me, I could surmise that this display of authority was “his trill that comes but once in a lifetime.”
In all fairness, Chief Butts had an unwanted responsibility, but he bore it awkwardly and the State College Student Body is not willing to have his bungling reflect on their good name which remains so despite your repeatedly attempts to upbraid many for the act of a few. This time the “bungles” award very definitely goes to Fire Chief W.R. Butts.
Say, I’ll wager you a brand-new Spaulding basketball that those 10 firemen hated to miss the game as much as we did.
Through God’s help and experience may public servant Butts learn.
Wm. K. “Bill” Thornton
Editor Note: The above letter was written to the editors of the News and Observer. Since the local newspaper did not print the letter in its entirety, we thought that all the thoughts in the letter are worthy of reprinting in the Technician.
To the Editor:
The Happenings at State College tonight are now common knowledge. The blame for the incident will not be placed on various people and organizations. Let us see just where the blame does lie.
The students of State College? Admittedly, their conduct in tearing down the doors when refused admittance to the gym was not in keeping with that bearing expected of men of college age. Those students who brought dates and friends to the game are guilty of cheating their fellow students of the privilege of seeing the contest. They are cognizant of the fact that the gym can hold only part of the student body. Their selfishness cannot be condoned.
The students of the University at Chapel Hill? They also know that the gym here is too small to accommodate even the student body. Their action in coming over here and forcing their way in the gym, some by way of open windows, speaks more for their enthusiasm for their team than for their sense of sportsmanship.
The Raleigh Fire Chief? His actions were in keeping with the responsibilities of his positon. The tragedy at Purdue University only goes to show what can happen in a crowded gym. Whatever does happen is the responsibility of the Fire Chief.
Now, where does the real blame lie? I believe it lies with the college, the Greater University and the State. For a long time I, as a resident of this state, have been of the opinion that this state wants good higher education but that she is unwilling to pay for it. She expects the students to pay for the upkeep and improvements on the school. What is ironic is that the federal government is getting the bad end of the deal through the liberties of the GI Bill. To say “the federal government” is just the same as saying “the people of the United States.” In case the state doesn’t realize it, the people of North Carolina are members of that great body called the American People.
The policy of State College and the University has been to gouge (to use a Navy expression) the students and the government out of all the money they can. Students from this state that are under the GI Bill pay out-of-state fees and tuition. Where does this extra money go? It should go to recognizable improvements.
But here is the thing that puts the responsibility of the fiasco at the gym tonight right in the laps of the college officials. The college charges each veteran and each other student an athletic fee. When they receive this athletic fee they accept the responsibility of seating every person that pays the fee at all athletic functions. They know in advance that they cannot fulfill their obligations, yet this does not stop them from requiring the payment of fees from all students and accepting more fees than they can possibly take care of.
The college expects the students to pay for the new dormitories (the University was going to raise room rents last year to help pay for the new rooming facilities at Chapel Hill), the new indoor stadium, the chimes and door for the memorial tower and all other major improvements. The only way most of the better professors both here and at Carolina are kept with the institutions is by private endowment.
When is this state going to wake up to the fact that good higher education costs a lot of money? You can’t get something for nothing.
Don’t blame the students for their actions. They were fighting against being cheated. Let us get to the core of the evil and correct it.
Charles Howard Kahn
Editor’s Note: A copy of this letter was sent to the News and Observer. Writer Kahn has hit the proverbial nail on the head.