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Leestamper's Campers

Students, known as Lee Stamper's Campers, protest residence hall rules.
Special Collections & Archives, Southeast Missouri State University
Students, known as Lee Stamper's Campers, protest residence hall rules, c. 1977

Nineteen sixties-style “student power” protests finally arrived on the Southeast campus in September 1977, when activists set up a tent encampment on the terraces to draw attention to their discontent with student housing curfews and regulations handed down from the 1920s and 1950s.

Like many college students in the Vietnam era, Southeast co-eds resented school policies governing behavior, in particular rules restricting the hours and conditions under which members of the opposite sex could visit in dormitory rooms. In 1977, residence halls maintained strict “open house” hours when male and female students were allowed to be in the same room together. A sign-in sheet for registering such guests mandated that doors remained open, and all parties keep both feet on the floor.

Demanding that President Robert Leestamper relax these insulting rules, activists from the new Towers Complex circulated petitions, held a rally on the steps of Academic Hall, and proceeded to camp out in tents on the east terraces across from the Social Science Building (today’s Carnahan Hall) in a peaceful protest.

“You can’t legislate morals,” a student leader declared from the encampment. “We should be responsible for our own actions… We just can’t put up with this anymore.”

Dr. Leestamper did not remove the demonstrators but instead advised students that they had two choices: living on campus and accepting the school’s guidelines or moving off campus.

Joel P. Rhodes is a Professor in the History Department of Southeast Missouri State University. Raised in Kansas, he earned a B.S. in Education from the University of Kansas before earning his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.