Lindsey Loeper ’04, American Studies, is an archivist at UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.
One event that has embedded itself into UMBC campus lore is the Bitch-In; at times described as a social protest, a public forum, or a student debate, the Bitch-In has come to symbolize the power of an active and vocal student body standing up and encouraging dialogue about campus problems. Many of us who arrived at UMBC decades later assumed that this protest was targeted at the campus administration. But in fact any topic was welcome, and the campus administration supported the event.
The three-hour Bitch-In was one aspect of UMBC’s participation in Time Out Day (October 29, 1968), a national event organized by the National Student Association (NSA). Student Annette Stadd, who organized the campus chapter of NSA, intended the day as a time for proactive discussion and productive civic work by students, faculty and staff. Earlier that fall, newly elected SGA President Darryl Hagy, inspired by UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement and the national Civil Rights Movement, had called for increased student engagement that moved beyond protest to active involvement in problem-solving. Hagy had formed the College Council on Human Relations, a committee focused on service-learning and community involvement. As this committee gained publicity and support, Stadd and other activists wanted to push harder on issues they felt were being ignored by The Retriever, their peers, and the rest of the UMBC community, including race and gender politics, cooperative living, and student involvement in campus governance. The UMBC administration considered requiring the cancellation of classes, as other campuses had done for Time Out Day, but instead professors were given the option of cancelling their classes to support the event.
“In retrospect we refer to it as the “Bitch In,” slang now sanctified by us all.”
“Students and some faculty members took to the mike to purge their souls and minds of their inner struggles.”
“The prevailing consensus at UMBC is that this experience was a “tension reliever;” those present had an opportunity to express their individual viewpoints, but no concrete social action came from the carious arguments presented.”
Many were disappointed with the end result of the Bitch-In, believing that it became a platform for complaints instead of a springboard for activity and involvement. SGA aggravated this concern early in 1969 when it advertised a “Get to Know Your SGA Week” event as a second Bitch-In, “to which everyone is invited to come and yell at the government.” But the original spirit of the 1968 Bitch-In, which survives on campus to this day, was not about yelling at people with power. It was about recognizing that every member of the campus community had power, and that we could do the hard work of tackling and resolving problems together.
Contact the author, Lindsey Loeper, at (410) 455-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.