The time has come, the Walrus said…

Besides the long-running Daily Illini, the University Archives has numerous lesser-known student newspapers.  Since the early years of the University, students regularly published alternative newspapers and magazines. These short-lived newspapers documented student reactions to University issues as well as larger socio-political events.

Walrus Masthead, October 13, 1972

Alternative newspapers became popular in the 1960s and 70s as the country experienced great social and institutional unrest. Forty-six years ago this month, students dissatisfied with country’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict and the slow pace of institutional change founded the Walrus, an underground newspaper published until 1973. It features articles, cartoons, poetry, movie and book reviews, editorials, and advertisements about Vietnam, racism, the University, Champaign-Urbana, middle-class values, police, drugs, sex, pollution, the Armed Services, and government and political affairs. The newspaper took inspiration from “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” a narrative poem by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, for its distinctive title:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

By its own admission, the Walrus is biased. “We don’t like this war–we don’t like our buddies coming home in coffins, dying for shitty excuses. We don’t dig racism, our black brothers getting stomped in the streets. Poverty in the U.S., the most affluent society in the history of the world, rubs us the wrong way. We can’t stand a coercive, unequal draft that channels men both inside and outside of the military. Because of these things, WE ARE BIASED. People trying to correct these things, we groove to; people supporting this status quo drag us–we’re against them.” [1]

Walrus Front Page, October 15, 1968

The Walrus was first printed in the basement of the Red Herring, but quickly moved to 1310 West Main Street, close to the modern Hydrosystems Laboratory at the corner of Matthews and Main. Controversy erupted between the Walrus and the Print Co-op in 1972 after their refusal to print an issue that contained criticism of the Undergraduate Student Association’s system of collecting voluntary student contributions. The controversial issue was eventually printed by the Rantoul Press, though Walrus used the Andromeda Printing Company for further printing. [2]

The Chicago Democratic National Convention the summer of 1968 fueled the anti-establishment movement country-wide, but the Walrus also focused on local protests, including the abolishment of University dorm regulations, establishment of the Free University, and local voter registration of students. Cash-strapped college students even included this creative circumvention of parking meters in Champaign-Urbana:  “The parking meter police have come across a new problem–slugs.  Someone has learned that washers serve nicely in operating the city’s parking meters, and so the search is on for more washers.  But there is some risk involved–charges will be filed if caught.”[3]

Controversy persisted about its printing and distribution during its six year run.  Administration officials ordered students selling the Walrus in the Commons of the Union to stop, claiming it violated University regulations about solicitation of materials. In a Daily Illini letter to the editor, the Student Senate Executive Committee supported Union officials and the Administration with ingenuity:   “On a winsome afterday of Nov. 12, in the year of our Lord 1968, a scurrilous band of the Great unwashed descended with venom in the eye and Walrus in the hand to wreak irreparable damage and irreconcilable shame upon the Illini Student Union and the inhabitants of its illustrious Commons by committing the heinous act of conspiracy with the intent to sell, what else?  Alas, Walruses of course!  (As we all know, Walruses are very large and very, very powerful, therefore it seems clear that one should be more cautious when involved in the sale of one.)”[4]


[1] “The Resistance April 3,” Walrus (vol. 1, no. 4) p. 2, Record Series 41/66/869, University of Ilinois Archives.

[2] Jim Gehring, “‘Walrus’ revived, disputes begin,” Daily Ilini (February 3, 1972), p. 4.

[3] “Parking Meter Rip-Off,” Walrus (March-April, 1973), p. 6. Record Series 41/66/869, University of Illinois Archives.

[4] Student Senate Executive Committee, “Walrus,” Daily Illini (November 14, 1968), p. 9.

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