University Archives presents a new audio collection in PDXScholar
Portland State, like many colleges and universities in the United States, grappled with issues of political protest and freedom of expression at the start of the 1970s, and Portland State student media played a major part in creating public forums for campus voices. One outlet was the “Campus Rap-In,” a radio broadcast aired weekly on KGW 620-AM.
On Sunday nights at ten during the 1969-70 academic year, PSU students hosted the Rap-In, the university’s self-described “contribution to better broadcasting and controversial conversation.” Each half-hour program offered a mix of commentary on collegiate, city, and national news combined with interviews, comic sketches, and editorials in a blend of “seriousness and satire.” Originally recorded on reel-to-reel tape, the programs are now digitally transferred and available for online listening.
“Turn on, tune in, but don’t drop out!”
The programs are an unusual and entertaining way to get a sense of what was going on at PSU in academics, arts, sports, and popular culture in 1970. The Rap-In’s hosts talk with a founding faculty member of PSU’s newly established Black Studies program, the organizers of the first Earth Day teach-in, and leaders of student political and arts organizations. A comprehensive sports report covered PSU and regional college athletics, and spoken-word pieces and artist interviews spotlighted campus creativity. Listeners also heard student viewpoints on new developments in downtown Portland that are well-known today, such as the transit mall, the Marquam Bridge, and Pioneer Courthouse Square.
The Rap-In also frequently targeted Portland State and Portland with critique and humor. Students mourned the loss of “Old Portland” architecture like the Oriental Theater on Grand Avenue and skewered “Uncle Andy” (pictured above), a statue that towered over a burger joint at Broadway and College Street, with a “Bad Taste Award.” Impromptu interviews and satirical news items on the rituals of registration, parking, and applying for on-campus housing reflect how much has changed—and how much has stayed the same—on Portland’s commuter campus.
On the serious side, the Vietnam War and related issues were recurring topics. Military recruiting, campus demonstrations, and federal shipments of nerve gas through Oregon were the subjects of interviews and editorials on both sides of the issues. As the academic year progressed, anti-war protest gathered momentum, peaking in May 1970 with a campus-wide strike that ended in violence on the Park Blocks. Perhaps coincidentally, the Rap-In, which increasingly declared an anti-war position, did not return to the airwaves after the strike.
Audio streams of the Rap-In programs are publicly accessible on PDXScholar. Check them out for a unique listen to Portland State voices at the turn of the decade!