Funding for higher education, opposition to the Vietnam War, racial and social equality, gender and sexuality, and the environment are a few of the causes that have sparked students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to rally for change. A new exhibit at the UNLV University Libraries celebrates the history of student activism at the university, from its early days as the University of Nevada, Southern Division and Nevada Southern University to the present.
“Through activism, students play an important role in enacting academic and social change on college and university campuses across our nation,” said Patricia Iannuzzi, dean of the UNLV University Libraries. “College students engage in higher level thinking, challenge social conventions, and give voice to underrepresented minority groups through their activism. As we continue to witness new student-led movements emerge on college campuses across our nation, this exhibit offers an opportunity to learn about the rich and complex history of student activism in Las Vegas.”
Please I’d Like to Grow, located on the first floor of Lied Library, highlights student activism at UNLV from its founding up until the present day. The exhibit’s title was taken from a photo printed in the 1968 edition of the UNLV student yearbook, Epilogue, of a college student holding a sign that reads “Please I’d Like to Grow.”
“The exhibit title is intended to evoke the idea that the growth of the university has mirrored that of individual student activists,” said Heidi Johnson, social sciences librarian at UNLV and curator of the exhibit. “As students address issues of immediate concern and look inward to discover themselves, they also look outward to the causes of others and more local, national, and global concerns. UNLV has grown from a small, fledgling commuter campus where budget issues were the primary concern and minority groups were tiny, to a premiere research university with a very diverse student body.”
Rebel Yell articles and other items, including posters, T-shirts, fliers, and historical documents, provide evidence of student-led social and political activism around issues such as education, racism and civil rights, war, gender and sexuality, immigration, and the environment. The voices of students and administrators alike, with their unique perspectives on activism at UNLV, are also highlighted throughout the exhibit.
“Documents from the University Archives offer examples of students working with administrators to change curricula and programming to meet the needs of a diverse student body,” said Michelle Light, director of Special Collections at UNLV University Libraries. “The exhibit contains powerful examples that showcase how student activism has helped initiate conversations on campus that led to change within the university.”
The exhibit contains images of “Tumbleweed Tech,” a nickname students gave to a mock campus constructed out of shipping crates and plywood to protest against inadequate state funding of the university, as well as yearbooks and student newspapers that illustrate opposition to national events, such as the Vietnam War. Quotes from individual students highlight how their activism impacted their lives and careers beyond their time at UNLV.
The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will be on display on the first floor of Lied Library through December. For more information about the University Archives and Special Collections at UNLV University Libraries, visit the website.