Looking Back: The Immorality of OU
Back in 1969, The Oakland Post was known as The Oakland Observer. The Observer was well known for its opinionated content about both politics and Oakland University.
What kind of opinionated content? Well, the Oct. 7, 1969 issue of the Observer began a letter from the staff with the phrase “Listen here mother******.” The staff at the time was certainly not afraid to publish whatever they were thinking.
1969 also marked the year that The Observer had to move printing to Ohio because no Michigan-based publisher would print the content they were running. It also marked the year that Focus: Oakland, another student-run newspaper, opened its doors, thus dooming the Observer to a closure in December of 1969.
However, despite opinionated content and radical practices, The Observer was not afraid to point out problems across campus. The Nov. 22, 1968 issue of the Observer was known infamously as the “Special Obscenity Issue” and used a “certain four letter word” numerous times.
Chancellor Varner received a phone call from Michigan Senator L. Harvey Lodge, asking how he could allow this “behavior” to happen. He demanded that Varner send him 40 copies to give to the entire state Senate. Varner told them he did not have them and that he had no control over a student publication. He objected to the use of the four letter word, however.
Lee Elbinger was another key player in the discussions of immorality at OU. He stood before his class on Dec. 10, 1968 eating an apple.
He was also nude.
Once he finished his performance, he walked through the crowd of 50 people and handed out candy.
Elbinger was not unfamiliar with annoying university officials. He had been thrown out of school in his second semester for failing to conduct himself “in a manner acceptable to the university community.” He returned from his suspension and caused more issues. Hubert H. Humphrey came to speak on campus. Elbinger singlehandedly created the O.C.T.H.O.H.H, or the Oakland Committee to Gross Out Hubert Humphrey.
Their tactic was “using gas to fight gas.” In other words, the plan was to fart during Humphrey’s speech.
Following this incident, he was questioned by university administrators, the FBI and the Secret Service about his activities as the committee’s chairman. Of course, Humphrey was not too pleased with an already “immoral” student making headlines for stripping nude during his presentation.
“Frankly, the morals at the university are going to pot,” he told the Detroit Free Press.
The immoral actions? He accused the university of allowing “four letter words” in the classroom, saying there were students with illegitimate children and unmarried couples living together in Rochester. Oh my. He also said the Observer was “the worst college paper he had ever seen” and that he was “fed up with this crap”.
Later on, he accused Oakland of allowing students to live in caves on campus. He brought Channel 7 News out to see the caves, but the footage was never shown on TV.
Varner said that the Elbinger case must be handled with due process, and that his rights must be protected. He further challenged Humphrey to apologize to the university, saying “It is clear to all of us that Senator Huber has damaged Oakland University.”
The Detroit News began its story by saying “One nude doesn’t make an immoral university.” Still, over 600 of 800 voting students decided the content of the Observer was not fit to print by the end of 1969.
The Observer, Sail and the Oakland Post have not run a nude photo since 1969 (and we don’t plan on doing so any time soon).