Student Response to Proposed Zoning Changes

Post Author: dollinca

SGA meeting to discuss responses to proposed amendments. The Breeze, September 22, 1978. Page 3.

SGA meeting to discuss responses to proposed amendments. The Breeze, September 22, 1978. Page 3.

 The city council’s decision on September 12 gave students two weeks to garner support before the final vote on September 26. Almost immediately after the first meeting, student body president Darrell Pile along with Commuter Students Committee members Craig Williams and Jacob Lewis Saylor, each of which were present and active at the first meeting, discussed plans to rally support. Two major plans were discussed, one in preparation of the final vote, one a possible consequence of the passing of the ordinances..
The city council which heard the debate between Harrisonburg residents and James Madison students were elected into their respective offices with a total of 1,100 votes. Thus Craig Williams formulated the plan to promote a massive voter registration drive. According to The Breeze, there were 2,857 full time commuter students in September 1978. Thus, by registering 1,200 of them, or any Madison students, they could hold formidable power in the next city council elections. Williams even stated that if they were successful, Harrisonburg could eventually be under the control of five Madison students.(Yancey, Registration) Ads, posters, and mail-outs were the means in which the commuters tried to garner support. Furthermore, Saylor devoted his time to lobbying the council members. The goal was to gain as much support as possible and present themselves as a united student body against the proposed amendments. According to Jacob Lewis Saylor, the only thing that held the students back at tehe first meeting was the lack of political clout. By registering voters, the students would present a formidable political front. But Assistant Director of Housing and Commuter Students Linwood Rose made it clear his opinions on the matter stating the voter registration drive “will not have a great impact on solving the problems that seem to be an attitude problem between residents and students.” (Reed)

Example of an SGA sponsored advertisement in The Breeze. The Breeze, September 22, 1978. Page 28.

As a means to attempt to persuade Harrisonburg residents, Madison student leaders proposed an economic boycott of all Harrisonburg businesses except those deemed “friendly” to the cause of the commuter students. According to Craig Williams of the Commuter Student Committee, a boycott of the city was “a viable possibility.” He went on to state that the leaders had received support from commuters regarding this measure as well as two anonymous letters of support. The Breeze conducted an informal survey in Warren Student Union, asking students to estimate their monthly expenditures on restaraunts, gas, groceries, beverages, luxuries, fast food, and entertainment. Students responded with totals of  between fifty-four and 145 dollars. Thus it was estimated that a successful boycott could cost Harrisonburg merchants a total of $250,000 per month.(Yancey, Boycott)

To carry out the boycott, student leaders stated that they would encourage the student body to take their business outside of the city limits to such stores as K-Mart and Kroger in the county. Harrisonburg merchants as well as city council members had little faith that student leaders could formulate an organized boycott of the city.

Yancey, Dwayne, “Students Spend $870,000 each month in Community,” The Breeze. September 22,1978. Page 1.

Less than a week later, a survey conducted by the James Madison University administration concluded that students spent over $875,000 monthly in the community. Furthermore, students had over ten million dollars invested in in local savings accounts and over one million dollars in local checking accounts.(Yancey, Community Spending) The gravity of an organized boycott, in a short week, thus became greater, especially to the citizens of Harrisonburg. According to interviews conducted by student leaders, the community regarded this measure as a threat. Thus, due to pressure, the student leaders gave up on organizing a protest, against the wishes of many commuter students. Student Body President Darrell Pile stated in an interview with The Breeze “Students…have to continue with a theme of cooperation and not confrontation.”(Yancey, Zoning Fight)

In a Breeze interview, commuter student leader Jacob Saylor stated “civil disobedience…isn’t even a consideration in my mind. We the students of the seventies are nothing like the students of the sixties. We are willing to give the system a try.”(Yancey, Registration) Perhaps this was the downfall of the student movement to oppose zoning legislation. Although the meeting was a closed one, student leaders met on campus the night of the session to walk together to the hearing, and vowed to remain silent throughout its duration. The city council inevitably voted to pass all proposed ordinances. There were worries among community members of protests following the city council’s decision. The Daily News Record reported only one student incident on the night of September 26, 1978. 300 male students conducted a panty raid of women’s dorms due to mid semester “cabin fever.”(DNR) Saylor was correct in his statement. Students of the seventies were nothing like those of the sixties, for better or for worse.





Works Cited

“JMU Students Create Noise, but no Protest,” Daily News Record. September 27, 1978. page 19.

Reed, Gary, “Commuters Contiue Lobbying Registration,” The Breeze. September 22, 1978, page 2.

Yancey, Dwayne. “Commuters Plan Voter Registration,” The Breeze. September 15, 1978. Page 1-2.

Yancey, Dwayne, “Economic Boycott of City Considered in Zoning Fight,” The Breeze. September 19, 1978. Page 1.

Yancey, Dwayne, “Economic Boycott of City Ruled Out in Zoning Fight,” The Breeze. September 22, 1978. Page 1.

Yancey, Dwayne “Students Spend $875,000 Each Month in Community,” The Breeze. September 22, 1978. Page 1.