This week’s From the Archives brings you stories from the front page of 1970!
From The Chadron Record – February 9th, 1970
‘Hair’ Case To Court Monday
Students, Administrators Await Judge’s Decision
It all comes to a “head” Monday in Federal District Court in Lincoln, when judge Robert Van Pelt makes a decision on the constitutionality of the dress code at Chadron State College. A favorable vote on the dress code would strengthen CSC officials’ beliefs in the need for a dress code. A thumbs-down vote would put an end to the regulations concerning length of hair, mustache, and sideburns.
The uproar began rather quietly during enrollment for the second semester at Chadron State College during the week of Jan. 19 – 23. At that time, several students were turned away by college officials, in line with the tightened dress code regulations which specified hair could not touch the collar, sideburns could not go below the earlobe, and mustaches could not droop past the upper lip.
The ruling had the effect of turning away about 50 students, most of which made a hasty trip to the barber’s chair to comply. But there were some holdouts who decided to test the issue, bringing in the America Civil Liberties Union Chapter in those favoring a relaxing or abolishing of the dress code were Robert Riechenberg, Jr., a Chadron student, Donn Hume, a junior transfer student from Sidney, and John Streep, a sophomore from Cherry Hill, N.J.
The group picked up two Lincoln attorneys, including Dr. Wallace Rudolph, a professor at the University of Nebraska School of Law, who represented the student demands in court.
The student demands in Lincoln were represented by Rechenberg and Robert Fosbinder of Ogallala. Reichenberg’s name appeared on the petition submitted to Judge Robert Van Pelt. Both Reichenberg and Fosbinder are political science majors at the school.
The College was represented by Laurice Margheim, Chadron attorney.
When the opening test was completed, Judge Can Pelt had delayed an actual decision in the matter, and refused to issue a temporary restraining order to the college on the dress code. He did order the school to allow three, Rechenberg, Hume and Streep, to be allowed to attend classes, pending the outcome of his decision. The three were not allowed to enroll, however.
Monday, that decision will come.
The battle lines are drawn along the charges of “violation of constitutional rights,” with the students claiming the right to grown hair, either on the head or face, is a matter of personal preference.
The college position, much quitter, simply states students will be neat and well groomed “at all times.” The specific mention of sideburns, mustache and hair, and their lingth(sic), was a later addition, but was in line with the dress code which has been around for some time.
The issue drew much vocal comment, both “pro” and “con,” around the coffee tables of Chadron restaurants, and in the Student Union at CSC, but no official measure of the feelings of the student body had ever been polled. To give college officials an idea how deeply the feelings on campus went, the CSC Student Senate recommended the Campus Affairs Committee take a survey of both the students and the faculty. That poll was taken early last week, and was perhaps the first true indication of what percentage of the student body stood in which corner.
The dress code, in its present form, was unacceptable to the largest percentage of the students, while the faculty and school officials leaned toward the opposite side of the fence, with the majority wanting no change.
In the vote of the students, only 23.8 per cent said they wanted no change in the dress code. A dress code with “some modifications” was favored by 29.1 per cent, but the largest number of students, 47.1 per cent favored no dress code at all.
In the vote of college officials and faculty, an overwhelming number (63 per cent) favored no change in the present dress code restrictions. Less than one – third (27 per cent) favored a dress code with “some modifications,” and an even one – tenth (ten per cent) favored no dress code at all.
Cards to take part in the survey were also passed out to a group of high school administrators and guidance counselors who were meeting on the campus at the time. Of that group, overwhelming support was given to the present dress code stand made by the college.
The stories picked up by the news services in the area carried a long way, and led to the CSC campus being the object of a television news story, narrated by NBC-TV’s John Chancellor, on the Huntley – Brinkley Evening news round – up. The crew arrived by plane Wednesday after conferring by telephone with college President Dr. Edwin C. Nelson, and the story was filed Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
Chancellor interviewed Riechenberg and several other students, and held an interview with Dr. Nelson in his office.
The story was shown on the Huntley – Brinkley news show on NBC-TV Friday night, but the only interview which appeared in the film clip was Chancellor’s talk with Reichenberg. The story lasted for about two minutes, and was the last item on the program before Brinkley signed off from Washington, D.C.
Asked if eh though the court test of the dress code had made the second semester enrollment figure higher, Dr. Nelson said, “No, I don’t.
“I don’t think this issue would have had much effect on enrollment either way, particularly because the issue happened at the time of enrollment. Had it occurred 2 to 3 months earlier, it might have affected it one way or the other,” he added.
“I feel the enrollment indicates the students enrolled here the first semester returned, and weren’t very unhappy with the way things were going.
Certainly we’re pleased with the large increase second semester, and I think the enrollment indicates the students are quite happy on this campus.”
The enrollment for the second semester swelled to a final figure of 2,201 students, which amounted to an increase of 16.6 per cent over second semester last year.
Dr. Nelson said he had received “dozens” of telephone calls and letters supporting the college’s stand on the dress code since the issue first became wide-spread. “Most of the telephone calls were local, and all of them were in support of the stand we made, with the exception of on which was on the other side.”
Dr. Nelson said the letters, numbering “about 50 or 60,” came from all parts of the state with some outside Nebraska also responding. “We had a lot of letters from Fairbury and North Platte, to mention a few. We even had one former student here write us from Tucson, Ariz.,” he added.
Dr. Nelson said the letters included only two which felt the court case was “a minor issue,” or were “not entirely in agreement with the college stand.”
The court case, in Dr. Nelson’s opinion, is concerned only with the issue of the length of hair, sideburns, and mustaches, and does not involve the entire “dress code.” This means that should the court rule the case pending before it now unconstitutional, the college would still be able to post regulations for attire worn on the campus. “I think this is what it boils down to.”
Vic Leonard Resigns Post At State Park
Vic Leonard, Chadron State Park Superintendent since 1961, has resigned effective March 1.
Prior to his assignment here he was superintendent at Victoria Springs State park near Anselmo. He has 12 years of service with the State Game and Parks Commission.
“It was a difficult decision to make,” Leonard told The World Herald. “I enjoy park work and the guests who use the facility.
“I have been trying to decide on what was best for my family and we have finally made the decision to enter into a partnership in the ranching and farming business here in Chadron.”
Leonard and his wife have a daughter who is married and living here, and a son attending college here.
Jack Strain, chief of the parks division, said a replacement for Leonard has not been selected as yet.
Achievement Keys To Two Chadron Boys
Jess Wild of Chadron Middle School and Dean Kaiser of Chadron High were awarded Achievement Keys in the Nebraska Regional Scholastic Art Awards competition at the banquet Thursday evening in the 10th floor auditorium of Brandeis downtown Omaha store. Guests included parents, art teachers and school principals, as well as key – winning students.
A total of one – hundred and twenty – five achievement keys were awarded in this years competition. Winners were selected from close to 3,000 entries. Blue Ribbon finalists from the key – winning art pieces will be forwarded to New York to be judged in the National High School Art Exhibition.