British Columbia

Jerry Rubin, skinny-dipping and faculty club 'liberation': UBC's lesser-known history

It’s been nearly one hundred years since the University of British Columbia was founded and a lot has happened on campus during the past century.

UBC archivist released new book about a century of student life at UBC

UBC archivist Sheldon Goldfarb covers a century of campus history in his new book. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

It's been almost 100 years since the University of British Columbia was founded and a lot has happened on the campus where students once "liberated" the faculty club, skinny-dipped in the campus pool and thronged to hear radicals speak.

Sheldon Goldfarb has been an archivist at UBC for 23 of those years.

He just released a new book covering student history at the university, from sit-ins and protests to engineering pranks and the establishment of the first pub on campus which officially opened in Point Grey in 1925.   

"My research, which was based on reading every single issue of the student paper at UBC, revealed that starting in 1965, things just exploded," he told CBC host of On The Coast Stephen Quinn.

The sixties was the era that leapt out the most to him while researching and writing The Hundred Year Trek: A history of student life at UBC, Goldfarb said.

'Urged students to liberate something'

"Protests, demonstrations, also sex, drugs, rock and roll — it was the sixties and the sixties came to UBC like a lot of places," he said.

Goldfarb recalled one particularly noteworthy student protest in 1968, led by Jerry Rubin, an American student radical with a pet pig running as presidential candidate.

Rubin — who preached "distrust of anyone over 30" — gathered thousands of other students with him.

"He urged students to go liberate something," Goldfarb said.

"Students liberated the faculty club — meaning, first of all, they liberated the liquor cabinets and the swimming pool and went skinny dipping and even called a band in overnight."

Quieter after 60s

Campus quieted down in later decades partly, Goldfarb said, as a result of the 1960s movements.  

"The sixties changed things so that there are now students on the board of governors, the senate, university committees and the university consults the students," he said.

Later protests, like 1997 APEC clash and the 2014 protest about fee hikes, are the exception rather than the rule nowadays, Goldfarb said

"A lot more is done by quiet negotiations and diplomacy these days," Goldfarb said.  

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from On The Coast.