On May 8th, 1972, New Paltz students went from dorm to dorm at the state university, pulling fire alarms, their reaction quick and spontaneous. Few students had television sets, but word spread quickly about President Nixon’s broadcast announcing he had ordered the mining of North Vietnam ports.
Just hours after Nixon’s address, around midnight, the college’s assistant director of housing placed a frantic call to campus security.
As fire alarms continued going off throughout the early morning hours, a sympathetic professor allowed students to access the administration building, where they got to work. After placing furniture in stairwells to block the building’s upper levels, protesters locked the outer doors, then smeared epoxy cement in keyholes to prevent anyone from entering. With the uprising spreading rapidly across campus — and the nation — students broke into the college print shop and removed mimeograph machines and typewriters. By the time State Police arrived later that morning, the pilfered equipment had already produced an “Information Bulletin” and a flyer titled “Where Will Escalation Stop?”
New Paltz residents were not alone. President Nixon’s decision to further escalate the war in Indochina triggered a wave of indignation across the state and around the country. Hundreds
of Columbia University students marched down Broadway, snarling traffic, while at Cornell, approximately 100 demonstrators occupied the engineering library for several days. Both The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education agreed that the demonstrations were the most disruptive in years.