By Jeff Dodge and Nicole Archambeau
In Fall semester, Colorado State University celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “Beer-In” or “Drink-In,” which occurred on Oct. 18, 1968. In that politically volatile time, the ASCSU President Doug Phelps and other student protesters committed civil disobedience by drinking beer in the Student Center, at a time when alcohol was prohibited on campus policies.
Participants in that historic “Beer-in” saw themselves as part of a “Student Center Liberation,” said CSU Department of History Professor, Dr. Thomas Cauvin, who helped organize the anniversary event and teaches a course on the history of brewing in Colorado. Students physically occupied the Student Center 24/7 with teach-in activities centered on the right of students to have a voice in all matters concerning their education and use of their fees. This was about much more than beer and included the right for female students to have equal rights on campus to male students.
The Department of History, History Club and Associated Students of Colorado State University welcomed back to campus members of the group that led the 1968 protest.
Speakers at the program, which was also held at the Ramskeller, included alumni Robert Evans, Bear Gebhardt, Bruce Russell, Dean Schachterle, Lola West and John Gascoyne. Former history faculty member Henry Weisser also sat on the panel.
The panelists agreed that the protest was about more than just beer, it was about strengthening student rights on an array of issues. In response to a question from an audience member, Russell said he and his fellow organizers knew beer would attract a sizable crowd.
“To organize students, sometimes you had to pick the lowest common denominator,” he said. “We used beer as a symbol; we knew we’d get students. This was our student center, so we said, ‘Let’s have some more control over our own lives.’”
The members of the panel urged the crowd of students gathered for the anniversary to keep fighting for their rights on campus.
“Fifty years later, the ‘Beer-In’ is honored for sparking change on a conservative campus which now enthusiastically embraces Fort Collins’ exploding beer culture,” said Dr. Cauvin. “That historic ‘Beer-In’ wasn’t about the beer then, and it isn’t about the pitcher now. It isn’t about your right to drink, it’s about your right to think.”