Haverford v. Swat in the 1960s: Socialists and Spies

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Haverford in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a different world. The Vietnam War was raging, anti-establishment feelings were strong, and drugs were as common. In part one of this two-part installment, read all about the radical politics that defined the school (and its relationship with Swarthmore) some 40 years ago.

Spies on Campus and Break-in at FBI Media Headquarters

During the Vietnam War, Haverford was secretly under watch by the FBI. At the branch headquarters in Media, PA, the government was keeping tabs on the school and students involved in anti-war activities. Anti-war protesters discovered the office, broke in, and stole a number of documents. After this, the office was shut down.

Meanwhile, the then-Haverford News Editor David Espo ’71 (now a special correspondent for the Associated Press), received a phone call from someone anonymously offering to deliver the documents. Espo reported the news in the paper, and one Haverford spy for the FBI was caught.

According to Dean of Students Greg Kannerstein, the spy was a well liked athletic trainer and navy man named Dick Morsch. He’d been informing the government of students’ anti-war activities, thinking it was his “patriotic duty.” Espo added, “He was an extremely decent guy.” He admitted right away to being an informant and was very upset that he had disappointed the community. Of course, said Espo, Morsch did not really get anyone in trouble: virtually everyone was against the war, and the people hanging around Morsch (the athletes) were not the most politically seditious. Kannerstein said that Morsch was reprimanded, but there was no punishment.

Kannerstein spoke of rumors about an informant in the Dining Center as well. This was never confirmed, but the students made sure to keep clear of the suspected staff member. The most serious case of spying was a telephone operator at Swarthmore, who was listening in on students’ conversations and reporting information on suspected left-wing agitators to the government. These spies were not asked to leave, but people avoided them, and they ended up fairly isolated.

Honor Council Held Hostage by Swat Socialists

At one point, Honor Council was having its regular meeting when the Swarthmore Socialist Workers Party blockaded the room. Haagen recalled, “They said it was incumbent upon us as bourgeois-something-or-other to make a contribution to their organization. We said, ‘Go away.’ They said, ‘You don’t understand. This is part of our revolution.’ Then they shut the door and barricaded us in our meeting room.”

Honor Council finished the meeting while the Swatties waited impatiently outside, shouting about the coming of the revolution. When the meeting was over and the Honor Council members still could not get out, they climbed out the windows and down the drainpipe.

Did the socialists ever get the money? “Of course not,” laughed Haagen. “I don’t even know that they were an organization recognized by Swarthmore. There were some significant radicals around there.”


  1. Why did Haverford reprimand someone working for the FBI? What, exactly, did he do that was against college rules or policy?

  2. The United States of Haverford must have been considered to be the legitimate governing body, and therefore revealing important secrets of athletes was treason. Dick Morsch was lucky not to be prosecuted under Haverford law.

    Lucky that the Honors Council at Swarthmore did not back down to the socialists. I did not realize that "significant radicals" actually operated at the level of demanding money from the Honors Council. How gutsy was that! Good thing they never did that at Haverford! They could have been reprimanded, or something!

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