Historical Documents – 1971 ‘Violent Fight Forces Dance, Rat to Close’

By Steven Goldstein
Oct. 12, 1971, Oberlin Review

[JPG of original article – 272K]

A swinging melee broke out during the otherwise successful Gay Lib dance in Wilder Hall last Saturday night. Incidents of fighting spread from the rec hall to the Rathskeller before the situation was calmed.

According to witnesses, the fight broke out when a high school student started hasseling [sic] a College sophomore who was dancing. Although the College man and his female partner moved away several times and tried to appease him, the town youth started swinging at the College student. The sophomore was knocked to the floor where he allegedly was kicked by another group of town students who had surrounded him.

A full-fledged ruckus blossomed as the College student was rescued. The town youths started swinging at everyone else—with their victims punching back, and a group of town girls began screaming, yelling, and hitting people in their area.

Into the Rat

After several minutes of fighting, half the crowd in the rec hall emptied into the basement hallway outside the Rat where another town student swung at a College senior who had been involved in the fighting inside. He was joined by other town students who backed the swinging senior into the Rat where he was reportedly holding off “20 to 25 town kids” who were pummeling him. The fracas was cooled by College students who started pushing them out the Rat door as well as one of the Rathskeller cooks who bravely led the charge in separating the crowd.

Then, according to Marty Dugan, manager of the Rat, College security arrived. The guards cleared all town youths out of the Wilder basement, closing the snack bar, and asking that the Rat be closed because “the possibility of the town kids coming back in from outside was very great.”

Meanwhile, the dance peacefully continued in the rec hall for the next half hour until security said that they were closing the building. They demanded that the lights be turned on and everyone leave despite cries from Gay Lib on the apparent lack of reason for their decision.

College officials met today to discuss student charges of alleged mishandling of the situation by College security. At press time, no comment was available from Security on the reports of charges.