By Brian Brennan
In October 1974, The Jambar reported that a campus “enemies list” had been compiled and maintained at the behest of Paul H. Cress, the director of security at Youngstown State University. Reminiscent of ex-President Nixon’s own (and infamous) enemies list, Cress’ version consisted of carefully-arranged file cards stored within a steel cabinet.
When queried, Cress initially downplayed any knowledge of the files, but his involvement in their compilation could not be denied — they were stored in his own office.
A Baptist minister by training, Cress gave up preaching and applied for the Pennsylvania State Police Academy. After graduation, he served with the Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies until becoming a patrolman with the Youngstown Police Department in 1940. Leaving YPD in 1965 with the rank of sergeant, Cress was hired by the Youngstown University to teach sociology.
In 1968, he was asked to create a campus security force, as mandated by law when YSU became a state institution. Cress took campus security seriously — perhaps a little too seriously. Without a doubt, he would have had a ball working for the former East German “Stasi,” or State Security Service.
Through information disclosed by an unidentified source, The Jambar informed readers that Cress’ index bore the names and addresses of YSU faculty members, students and other persons of interest. Included were participants in the 1969 Moratorium on the Vietnam War and other peace protests. Professors engaged in union activity also made the list.
Students involved in progressive causes were likewise targeted. Individuals who wrote “Letters to the Editor” received mention, as did one hapless undergraduate who merely complained about the quality of the food served in the cafeteria. Photographs of students taking part in various activities were filed, with each person meticulously identified and labeled. At least Cress did not tap phones or collect body odors in jars (like the “Stasi”).
The American Civil Liberties Union entered the fray and decried the administration’s prior ignorance of Cress’ activities. In the ensuing investigation, the university’s legal counsel determined that no law had been broken by YSU. In addition, much of the information collected by Cress was deemed “no longer pertinent.”
Soon thereafter, President John J. Coffelt announced that any person whose name made Cress’ list would be given a chance to examine his/her record prior to the destruction of the complete file on November 20, 1974. The ACLU opposed Coffelt’s plan and called for a sixty- to ninety-day examination window, with those profiled being given possession of their individual records.
The ACLU was ignored and to its consternation, the “enemies list” was destroyed. As for Paul Cress, no action was taken against him, but he remained controversial. Most notorious was his infamous 1978 reference to rape victims as “stupid” for not taking adequate precautions.
Petitions were signed calling for his removal. Cress retired soon thereafter — and Campus Security evolved into the professional and respected YSU Police that we know today. The Jambar coverage of the “enemies list” may be found in the “Digital Collections” on the Maag Library website, https://digital.maag.ysu.edu:8443/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1989/5150/jambar102274.pdf.