One perspective of Flunk Day 1966       Wilson Website Home

Flunk day belongs to the students. It is best experienced on a warm, sunny day that includes a trip to a river. It is a day when one need not be concerned about classes or tests, a day when a prank is acceptable, and a little social deviance is tolerated. I had hoped to call the perfect flunk day. It was a risk that might lead to a great party or something less, with unforseen consequences.

The right day would have that comfortable warmth like so many I had enjoyed in Virginia. It would start with popular music, a few pranks for entertainment, and something a little rebellious to bring people together. A little excitement and something different would provide the opportunity for everyone to have a great time and maybe have a story to tell of our college days many years later. All I needed to do was get the right day, set the tone with an exciting event, and a proclamation. Spontaneity and youthful energy would do the rest.

Knowing that Dan Guenther was generally receptive to pranks, I suggested to him several weeks earlier that the construction fence for the high rise that ran along west end of "B" Ave. might be appreciated more by the students if it were stretched across "B" Ave. on Flunk Day. I had even cut most of the wire attachments several weeks earlier. Unknown to me at the time, Greg Thomas had a plan to play music for the campus using the chimes amplifier system in Sinclair Steeple.

The warm sunny days seemed rare that spring. People native to the Midwest told me that I had already missed several suitable days. Surly at least one spring day in Iowa could be like those in Virginia. It wasn't to be and time was running out. A Wednesday appeared to be the best day of what I believed to be the last appropriate week.

Sure enough, shortly after I ran the Victory Bell, the fence appeared across the road, followed by police who set up barriers at either end of the block. That was a nice service, I thought. Maybe instead of the fence thing a phone call to the police requesting closer of "B" Ave would have been easier..., but not as much fun. Some students took the street closing a little further by removing some pavement bricks and placing additional construction material on the road. The Flunk Day proclamation stated that the "B" Ave would be the Student's Domain and made reference to the long passed promised closing date. More than 400 students participated in what the police called a "mild demonstration." Mike Mead, the new Council President had requested that students stay off of "B" Avenue on Flunk Day. Maybe his request had some effect, as about half the student population was not at "B" Ave during the "mild demonstration." It is also plausible that this group was getting ready for the rest of the day.

In perspective, an era of public and political demonstrations was gaining popularity, and at larger institutions, demonstrations were often about the Vietnam War or civil rights. There was some disagreement about the war at that time. There was no disagreement about "B" Avenue. No one liked the traffic and the risk it entailed going through the middle of campus. It was an easy event to start and fortunately illegal acts were limited to a few incidents such as one arrest for throwing fire works in front a police sergeant and for public intoxication later in the day.

Most students did not have classes that day and thought I had deprived them of one of their student benefits by calling Flunk Day on Wednesday. In a group of twenty students that had formed near me, I thought someone said they were going to hang the president in effigy. Apparently, effigy is not what most had in mind as I was tied with a rope and hoisted feet first up a tree. My contention that three additional hours in the classroom was incidental in the over all scheme of things appeared to have little effect on this group. I had heard from a reliable authority that, for short periods of time, it is much better to be hung upside down than right side up. As mobs go, this one was fairly reasonable in that I was lowered to the ground after a few minutes. The picture of me suspended upside down from a rope over a tree branch near Green Hall appeared on the front page of the Coe Cosmos with the caption "not a leg to stand on." The picture may also have appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The Coe Cosmos ran a front page headline in their 20 May 1966 edition "Riot on "B" Draws 20 Policemen." I thought Ted Miller, Cosmos Editor, ran the headline "tongue in cheek." At least the Wednesday Flunk Day gave him the symbol around which to write a succinct and accurate editorial in the same issue on the successes and failures of my leadership of Student Council.

In a few hours, everyone dispersed over the county side, finding the many traditional sites and enjoying the so-so spring day; doing the things students do on Flunk Day. I had time to contemplate the pros and cons of risk taking from a secluded river bank next to an old Iowa farm, thanks to a ride from my good friend Rolf Beckhusen.

John M. Wilson '66