Last Wednesday night, 16 former Associated Students Inc. presidents from every decade since the ‘60s gathered to discuss how they could reconnect with Cal State Long Beach and share memories from their time as students.
The group met with new and familiar faces, catching up with each other over drinks of water and beer before heading inside the home of Ken Miller, who was ASI president during 1969 and 1970.
Each former president introduced his or herself by sharing their name, current occupation, reason for revisiting the campus and one memorable event from their time as ASI President.
“Bill Morehouse, ASB President,” William Morehouse said. “Now I see [that it’s called] ASI, that’s kind of weird.”
“There was a parking lot [in the pyramid’s place], it was dirt,” Morehouse said.
He remembers The Nugget Pub and Grill having a nightclub on the weekends and musicians such as Jimmy Buffet and Merle Haggard playing on campus.
“I’m sure a lot of students will love me because I’m the one that brought beer on campus,” Morehouse said. “It took three years to get beer at The Nugget.”
His time as ASI President led him to Sacramento, where he had the chance to watch lobbyists and congressional committees at work. Sometimes he spoke in front of them, terrified while doing so.
“Usually when you go up to speak on something, it’s something you believe in. So it wasn’t that hard for me,” Morehouse said. “Would I stutter and say the wrong word? Yes. But what I learned from that is that you just keep on talking and they don’t even realize you made a mistake. I’m just glad I didn’t drop the f-bomb.”
Each of these individuals often found themselves contending with effects of the political climate during their tenures.
“When I ran as president, I would say that I was more on the moderate side. On the conservative to moderate side,” Ken Miller said.
The U.S. invasion of Cambodia, the Kent State shootings of 1970 and the People’s Park Protest in Berkeley that saw police fatally shoot student James Rector occurred during Miller’s presidency.
“As I became more intellectually aware of what the social pressures were and of what the social justice issues were, I tended to go way more progressive over time.”
Because of his reputation as a politically moderate student body president, Miller was invited to speak with then-Governor Ronald Reagan on multiple occasions.
“The campuses were going crazy. There was lots of demonstrations and mild violence and so forth, and so [Reagan] says ‘what can we do?’,” Miller said.
Miller suggested Reagan should “cut down the rhetoric” and listen to the students, only to be told by the governor that the students were not his constituents, since the voting age at the time was 21.
“I was really disappointed, really disappointed,” Miller said.
Miller would not however, use the same word to describe his experience as ASI president. At the height of student protests during the era, a group of students chose to station themselves in front of the University Bookstore overnight to resist a campus closure. He was told that the Long Beach Police Department was ready to arrest them because they believed the students had weapons, but Miller did not believe this because he knew them. So he stayed with the protestors to make sure everyone was safe.
“What could have been a very ugly and nasty incident was averted,” Miller said. “I just remember thinking the next day as I walked out on a peaceful morning… sometimes you make good decisions in life, and that just turned out to be one of those great learning points for me.”
Chris Chavez, ASI president from 2009 to 2010, enjoyed reconnecting with friends from his time at CSULB as well as some of the people from before his time, whose pictures he would see inside of his former office.
“To kind of put some of the names to the faces and see how a lot of them have gone on to do very good things… it was pretty inspirational, especially for somebody who is just coming back and trying to reconnect myself down here,” Chavez said
Not every ASI president attended that evening, but they may have a chance to do so in the future.
“Let’s not make this the last time we do this [meeting], let’s make this the first of a number of things that we do,” Miller said.
Miller and the rest of the group left the night enthusiastic about meeting again next year.