Taking Autonomy

The late 1960s were a time when aspiration was impatient with the development at then-Nevada Southern. Chancellor Donald Moyer desired a football group. Faculty wanted raises. The library simply wanted books. And the students? They desired the state to loosen the handbag strings to make it all take place. They wanted the Board of Regents, which was dominated by northern representatives, to take notice of the south.

In January 1967, a group of trainees, including student body President Jack Abell, gatheringed and, spurred on by the spirit of anti-Vietnam protests, formed Trainees Assisting to Assist and Maintain Higher Education, much better called SHAME.

They arranged a student teach-in, sent telegrams to the Legislature, and campaigned to have actually regents eliminated, but their genuine stand was set for Feb. 2, 1967.

On a winter season night that dipped below 40, Abell and a crew of seven other SHAME members reached the top of Archie C. Grant Hall, scaled a scaffold, and hung Gov. Paul Laxalt– whose “hold-the-line” spending plan would seriously curb costs on the young university– in effigy. And then they set the effigy on fire.

“I was a little bit more knowledgeable at political activity, but everyone was nervous,” Abell stated. “We had one campus cops, a terrific guy, and he was extremely making it possible for that night. He was just there to make sure there was no damage to the property. The constable [Ralph Lamb] wasn’t delighted with a lot people for a long period of time after that since we burnt him, but he was chuckling about it in personal. He was enabling in a responsible method.”

PITY wasn’t done shaming leaders for shortchanging the campus. Outlining in the Red Barn Saloon, about a lots SHAME members hatched a strategy to get Reno’s attention. They dispatched a team to take the original Fremont Cannon from in front of the ROTC building on UNR’s campus.

Regrettably for the thieves/freedom fighters, the Reno authorities popped the caper right as they were loading the weapons into the back of a moving van. Therefore the origin of the Fremont Cannon that our respective football teams compete for today.

“I wasn’t on the team that went up to get it, but I ended up being accountable for helping get them launched from the Reno prison overnight,” Abell stated. “I just loved it. It drove [Reno] nuts.”

As for Laxalt? He took it hard at the time. And aimed to take James Bilbray, without a doubt the youngest regent on the board and a previous Nevada Southern trainee, to task over the event. What can I do? the governor asked Bilbray, who would go on to the U.S. Legislature.

“There’s no way the trainees down there are going to feel more friendly to you unless more money comes south,” he remembers telling the guv, “because we have trainees that remain in their 3rd year that haven’t been able to take freshman English … We need structures. We need instructors. We require money.”

Laxalt could just respond, “Yeah, but that really, really bothers me.”

By late February, SHAME disbanded as trainee federal government embraced much of its platform. Thanks to the vocal trainee body and a reapportionment of the Legislature as the population of Las Vegas neared Reno’s, more cash began to stream southward. The advocacy had stimulated Southern Nevada lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to take up the fight.

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