The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Fifty years at CSUN remembered

Archive photographs show students and faculty doing the Bunny Hop, a social dance created in a San Fernando high school in 1953, at one of CSUN’s first social events in 1956.

Pictures dated from 1957 feature a streaming line of students, pouring into the bungalow-style Brown Administration Building, trying to register.

The campus officially opened on Sept. 24, 1956. There were about 1,500 students and 40 teachers. From the beginning, the new campus featured an ethnically mixed student body. While there is always room for further on-campus minority representation, throughout the years, minority groups have continued to grow.

In the fall of 1985, 2,400 of the 29,000 students were Mexican-American. More than 20 years later, enrollment grew by 3,200.

From 1991 through 2003, out of more than 4,200 diplomas disbursed annually, an average of around 447 went to Mexican-Americans.

In reference to the cost of education creating an obstacle for minorities, Central American Studies professor Douglas Carranza Mena said, “The system is not friendly to everyone.”

CSUN has the nation’s first Central American Studies program, Mena said. “We’ve still seen a tremendous growth.”

The trend is also apparent with African-American enrollment. In the fall of 1985, African-American enrollment was 1,377.

More than 20 years later the enrollment grew by 1,400 students.

African-American students earned an annual average of 213 diplomas out of a total of 4,200 between 1991 and 2003.

Pan-African Studies Chair Tom Spencer-Walters said the school should play a different role in attracting more African American students.

“We need more creative requirement policies,” Spencer-Walters said. He said some black students deal with financial hardships at home and cannot understand how and why they should go to college. “They’d just rather go to work and make money.”

Spencer-Walters thinks the recruitment process needs to instill a sense of belonging in the students and in their parents.

Asian student enrollment followed the trend. In the fall of 1985, Asian enrollment stood at 2,091, according to CSUN’s 2002/03 factbook.

Twenty years later, there were 11,000 white students and 2,891 Asian students enrolled. Asian students earned an average of 413 diplomas from 1991 through 2003.

Reflective of the Asian population, CSUN has a good representation, said Gina Masequesmay, associate professor and Interim Chair of the Asian-American Studies Department.

American Indians and Pacific Islanders reflect the smallest percentage of students enrolled, with 153 and 135, respectively, according to the 2006 CSU enrollment by ethnicity report.

These demographics were reflected in graduation rates as well. Spring of 1985 saw 65 percent of the degrees go to white students while the other three groups earned about 19 percent combined, according to the factbook.

This school year, women make up 60 percent of the student population. Graduation rates have also followed this trend since the mid-1980s, according to the 2002/03 factbook.

The campus has grown in population since its modest beginning by 33 percent.

As Ben Rude, the first Associated Student president, presented the first book to the library, Howard McDonald, the college’s first president, predicted the campus would have 10,000 students within the next 10 years – twice what projections had estimated.

By 1965 CSUN had enrolled 12,690 students, according to the 2005 Northridge profile. This year, after more than 50 years in existence, CSUN’s enrollment is calculated to be more than 33,000.

During the years, the campus has seen an array of politicians who visit looking for support. Robert Kennedy and Ronald Reagan both stopped by the campus on their campaign trails. President Lyndon B. Johnson also visited the campus, arriving by helicopter

The1960s shifted the general campus attitude. Social events soon took on a different meaning for the young school.

Students across the nation questioned issues and politics. Racial tensions escalated in 1968 with the takeover of the fifth floor administration building by the Black Student Union, which voiced demands for better representation. There were also anti-Vietnam War protests. Student protestors lowered and burned the flag of the administration building.

During these turbulent times, Reagan closed all state colleges and UC campuses for half a week.

Buildings, structures and the architecture on campus evolved in the last half of the 20th century. Rebuilding reportedly cost $393 million after the damage caused by the 1994 earthquake.

Archival records of campus memos and news articles quote locals saying the campus has a “rural charm.”

Not many realize the Devonshire Downs were racetracks, said Dennis Dillon, who has been running the CSUN Scene Shop for 30 years. The Downs are the present-day Medtronic on Devonshire, between Lindley and Zelzah. “Stables and barn houses were around campus for a while,” Dillon said.

Half a century ago, one might have overheard a student tell a friend, “I’ll see you by the C building.” In 1956, the campus opened with only a few buildings, which were named by the letters in the alphabet.

From 1959 to the mid-1960s, the campus almost saw a new building pop up every year, according to “Suddenly a Giant,” a university-produced history of CSUN.

These new buildings included the engineering building, a cafeteria where today’s Matador Bookstore is, and the Sierra Complex.

Through the years the campus swallowed the nearby lands, turning its original 165 acres into 365.

In 1947, the state granted the establishment of a new Los Angeles State College, which later became the parent school of San Fernando Valley State College. Established in 1958, it would later be named California State University Northridge in 1972.

“The school grew up and matured into a full service university,” Dillon said.

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