Rice experiences minimal unrest in the 1960s (anti-ROTC and anti-CIA sit-ins in 1969), but in April 1970 protests erupt in "fireworks." In early April troublemakers set fire to the office of Dean of Students Frederick Wierum. The next week dissident students occupy Allen Center (with permission from the University) to protest actions of the Trustees.
Conflict starts in late March when students ask Dean Wierum for permission to host Chicago Seven radical Abbie Hoffman and his attorney Leonard Weinglass on April 12. At first Wierum refuses the request, but student and faculty uproar leads the student Senate to announce its sponsorship of the Hoffman-Weinglass visit "to guarantee freedom of speech on the campus." Despite several bomb threats, Wierum and the administration approve the Senate action, specifying the event to be closed to the general public. Within 4 hours, trustee Chairman Malcolm Lovett overturns the dean's ruling and closes the campus to outsiders, making Hoffman's visit impossible. Students and faculty are outraged by trustee "interference," but the Senate withdraws its invitation. Students occupy Allen Center on Saturday, and a group of outsiders storm the building Sunday night. Rice students, faculty and security personnel repel the intruders, and the Rice protesters exit Allen Center after a 33-hour sit in. Monday morning Abbie Hoffman speaks to about 50 Rice students for 5 minutes in front of Willy's statue.