Looking Back: A history of The Oakland Post
1959 was a huge year across the world. Fidel Castro became the Prime Minister in Cuba. “Bonanza” premiered on NBC as the first weekly television show to air completely in color. Mattel launched its iconic Barbie doll. The U.S. Grammy awards were held for the first time.
And in 1959, Oakland University, then called MSU-O, welcomed its first class of students.
Students could visit Matilda Wilson in Meadow Brook Mansion for tea on the weekends. There were 550 students in the charter class. This year, there’s over 20,000.
It wasn’t until Nov. 13 of 1959, the third published issue of OU’s student newspaper, that the paper was given an office. In that same issue, the paper ran a story about a chickipede (a creature that was a chicken with a hundred legs to satisfy drumstick lovers everywhere).
Also in this issue, an irate student wrote in complaining about a lack of interesting content.
At the time, Professor Samuel Shapiro was the focal point of OU’s first spotlight in the media. Long before Kay Felder made headlines in the NBA, Shapiro made headlines over his partial support of Castro’s power in Cuba.
Shapiro spoke off-campus about Latin American relations, and eventually faced public criticism. Dan Potter from TV station WJIM claimed Shapiro was a communist supporter. Chancellor Varner received letters from concerned parents that year, 1961, about a communist on campus.
In 1962, the MSU Board of Trustees banned any communist from speaking on campus. The same year, Shapiro’s contract was up for renewal.
In 1963, his contract expired and he left campus. Associate Dean George Matthews was quoted saying he would have a better chance of staying “if he had not talked so much about Cuba and Latin-American affairs.”
In fall of 1963, an Oakland Observer editor ran a story about the unfairness of differing dorm hours for men and women. After this story, the editor wrote a story detailing the sex lives of OU students. He collected surveys about pre-marital sex on campus and wanted to report his findings.
The Observer was ordered not to run the story. Instead, they ran a story about how they were told not to run the sex survey story.
In retaliation, Chancellor Varner had all copies of this issue destroyed by the publisher. Three days later, the editor was removed from his position. He continued his degree at OU, but could no longer work for the paper.
The Associated Press and other national media began reporting on the story.
Varner created an ad hoc committee to oversee the paper and approve content before publishing. Citing censorship, three other editors quit The Observer.
In 1968, OU’s student paper was censored again, when the parent company of their printer called four pages “complete trash” and refused to print them.
On Dec. 13, 1968, The Observer ran a cover of a fully nude student. This once again brought The Observer into national media coverage.
In the fall of 1969, Focus: Oakland started on campus. A rival paper. While The Observer had a radical spin to many of its stories, Focus did not.
Between Oct. 8 and 11, 800 students gathered to vote on future funding of The Observer. A vote of 638 students decided The Observer would no longer receive funding after the fall semester.
The Oct. 10 issue of The Observer had more issues pulled from printing. The Observer moved to a publisher in Ohio, as many Detroit-based publishers refused to print their content.
On Dec. 12, 1969, The Observer announced plans to continue as an underground newspaper. This never happened. The Observer died. In February of 1970, Chancellor Varner left OU.
Until 1973, Focus: Oakland remained on campus. The last issue of Focus: Oakland recorded in The Oakland Post’s archives is from 1972.
In 1976, The Oakland Sail began. Our archives include issues from 1977 onward. In 1987, it was decided to change the name of The Oakland Sail to The Oakland Post.
The first issue of The Oakland Post ran Sept. 8, 1987. The editors ran a very brief, condensed version of The Post’s history, name change and expansion.
In 2007, The Oakland Post changed its format from the traditional newspaper layout to the square magazine-style layout still used today.
Despite possibly hundreds of issues missing from our archives here at The Post, we have countless issues now available for students, faculty and visitors to read. Starting Sept. 8, The Oakland Post will be open twice weekly for anyone interested in coming to read through our archives.
Thursdays we will be open from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., and Sundays we will be open from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Stop by to see us in Room 61 of the Oakland Center and visit us online at oaklandpostonline.com.