The 1971 Westcott Talk-In

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, FSU was fraught with student protest, and Westcott was the primary site for demonstrations and sit-ins. FSU earned its moniker “Berkley of the South” during this time as students became more concerned with equal rights for women and minorities, free speech, and the anti-war movement. While some of the protests were accompanied by increased police presence and arrests (most famously The Night of Bayonets in 1968), some protests were peaceful. One such event was a “talk-in” organized by black students at FSU.

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“200 Blacks confront Marshall,” The Florida Flambeau, April 26, 1971

On April 23, 1971, a group of nearly 200 black students descended on President Stanley Marshall’s office, demanding a moment of his time. Fed up with discrimination on campus and disillusionment about FSU possibly being merged with FAMU, the students approached President Marshall at his office at Westcott to ask him to use his administrative powers to intervene in two situations on campus. The first demand was for President Marshall to re-appoint Gayle Andrews, FSU’s first black cheerleader, to the cheerleading squad. The second request was for President Marshall to grant amnesty to Enoch Saunders and Skip Young, two black students accused of assaulting a white student.

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Prior to the talk-in, students from FSU’s black community staged a protest outside of Westcott on April 20th, 1971. “FSU Blacks Stage Protest,” The Florida Flambeau, April 21, 1971.

Gayle Andrews previously participated on the FSU cheerleading squad for two years before she wasn’t elected onto the following year’s team. Claiming discrimination by the squad, the Black Student Union officially demanded on Gayle Andrews’ behalf that she be placed back on the squad. In an interview for the Florida Flambeau, Andrews stated “[when] they overlooked me, they overlooked all blacks at school.” Neither the squad nor President Marshall would reinstate Andrews, but two other black cheerleaders, Shirley Preston and Jim Wilson, were chosen to join the next year’s squad at tryouts.

In 1971, FSU students Enoch Saunders and Skip Young were accused of assaulting a white student. Both men cited self-defense and felt they were unjustly arrested. Speaking about his arrest experience at a rally at Moore Auditorium, Saunders stated “We are the victims of selective law enforcement,” and that he “was told by [his] arresting police officers that they were going to kill [him].” Young, a basketball player who would eventually go on to lead the FAMU Lady Rattlers to their first state championship in 2004, also spoke about his experience at the rally. “My actions were provoked by the slurs of the white cheerleader whom I attacked, and I feel the charges brought against me are false.” President Marshall, not having the authority to grant amnesty in legal matters, declined to do anything about Enoch Saunders and Skip Young’s charges.

Even though not much was accomplished by the talk-in at Westcott, student leaders applauded administration for handling it without the intervention of police force. After the talk-in at Westcott, relations between the student body and began to improve.

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

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