Students revolted Oct. 31, 1892

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

In addition to being the night when ghosts and goblins walk the Earth, Halloween is the anniversary of a night that shook the SDSU campus.

“[Students] ran the skull-and-crossbones up the flag pole and shot off the cannon and started a bonfire,” V.J. Smith, director of the Alumni Association, said.

On Halloween night 1892, the SDSU student revolt began.

The South Dakota Board of Regents, in association with then SDSU President Lewis McClouth, promoted several friends of the regents to positions at SDSU. To make room for the new instructors, six instructors were fired.

The instructors were all popular with students and the students were outraged. In response, they raised the flag, shot the cannon and started the bonfire.

All of the students scattered before McClouth could catch them. After that, no one talked about the incident for some time.

After Christmas break, the students saw the teachers had been fired permanently and that another had been added to their ranks.

The students called a meeting of the whole student body and sent a letter to the Argus Leader full of angry accusations against the Board of Regents.

The seven students who signed the letter were kicked out. In response, most of the student body walked out of school. The governor and regents said that if the students were not back within three days, they would be kicked out permanently.

More than half of the student body did not return.

“It took 16 years before there was another graduating class the size of the one that would have graduated in 1893,” Smith said.

The events prompted an investiagion that eventually proved the students were right to protest the teacher firings.