Seminar # 6
Tuesday, April 20, 1999
'68: A Near Thing
[an expanded and still evolving version of the 4/20 talk]
Robert A. McCaughey
Barnard College, Columbia University
here for the complete talk (58 min, 20
VIDEO (RealPlayer): Click here to view Part I (15 min, 104 Kbps)
VIDEO (RealPlayer): Click here to view Part I (15 min, 38 Kbps)
VIDEO (RealPlayer): Click here to view Part II (15 min, 104 Kbps)
VIDEO (RealPlayer): Click here to view Part II (15 min, 38 Kbps)
Choose 104 Kbps if you have a high speed Internet connection,
and 38 Kbps if you have a modem connection.
Parts III and IV forthcoming.
Part I Part II
In subject matter, title and
interpretive approach, this evening's talk is informed by three guiding assumptions --
that is, more than hunches and less than settled convictions.
Assumption #1 -- Events at Columbia in the spring of 1968 -- hereinafter Columbia '68 -- mattered. The national and international coverage attending these events both reflected and assured that they mattered well beyond Morningside Heights. Columbia '68 figures prominently in the subsequent history of the radical left as exemplified by the Weathermen and the Black Panther movements, but also in the rise of Neo-Conservatism. The external history of Columbia '68 is well worth the telling. But not here.
Columbia '68 also mattered/matters crucially in the internal history of Columbia University. More than a pivot or fulcrum, 1968 constituted an historical chokepoint, created in part by the University's own actions of the two decades, but made perilously narrower by developments that spring.
Schematic History of Columbia University
"1968 Choke Point"
Assumption #2 -- Columbia '68 was unprecedented. Its novelty is crucial to making sense of it. Everybody involved was doing what they did for the first time, without benefit of script or assigned parts. Consequently, everyone involved made mistakes, signed the wrong petition, sided with the wrong group, missed the crucial meeting, became exhausted or got sick at the worst time. This needs to be kept in mind when those of us looking back seek to make judgments. [On why Berkeley is not a precedent for CU: enough here to say its relevance was dismissed by eastern universities as "so, you know, California "]
Assumption #3 -- Columbia '68 must not be over-determined. Lots of interpretive space must be provided in any interpretive narrative account for contingency, chance, divine inspiration, ad hoccery, dumb luck. Very few events planned; still fewer plans worked out as the planners imagined they might/should. Everyone "riding the whirlwind."
What can be done with Columbia '68 this evening? What of the interpretive narrative that I am writing can be left out -- communicated elsewhere?
For all these, visit our University Seminar website -- http://beatl.barnard.columbia.edu/cuhist
I propose instead to propose a visualization of what happened here on campus 31 years ago this week. I further propose to do this by first laying some of my interpretive cards on the table by way of a contra-factual speculation. My concern here will be less providing sequential answers to "So then what happened?" than inviting musings on what didn't happen. And why didn't it? And what would have been needed for it to have happened? And how near a thing was it? And what is "it"?
The "it" I wish to speak about this evening is institutional survival. The talk's sub-title -- A NEAR THING -- is meant to suggest my stance -- my guiding assumption -- on this question. I ask you to grant the question of Columbia's survival the status of what William James called "a live question" -- one not at the time (and for some time thereafter) settled and of real consequence.
Part One: A Contra-Factual End Game Scenario for Columbia
Contra-factual speculation requires a factual baseline. Ours is the following irreducible fact: Columbia survived Columbia '68. The Strike Steering Committee's press release the morning of the police bust -- "At 2:30 AM, Tuesday, April 30th, Columbia University died." -- was wrong. David Truman's mantra in the days immediately after the bust -- "Columbia University will not die." -- was right. William Buckley's editorial in National Review -- "Farewell, Columbia" -- was premature. Now 31 years on, Columbia is not even in remission. Should it go belly up from now on, we can not blame Mark Rudd, Grayson Kirk or the University chaplains in 1968. Columbia is ours and those who come after us to lose.
Is all this a blinding flash of the obvious? A GWS (Goes Without Saying)?
Akin to oxygen is important for human existence; pretty girls get more dates; professors talk too much.
I think not. Columbia need not have survived 1968. Its dismemberment/dissolution is retrospectively quite imaginable. IT WAS A NEAR THING. Its not dying requires some explanation.
The most useful C/F speculations are built with the fewest alterations of known facts; when those alterations are plausible ( in the realm of "could have happened"); and when a significantly different outcome reasonably follows from these alterations. The principal change in factual record made in this C/F speculation is the amount of physical force/violence attending the events of Columbia '68, especially the Bust.
Among the many pre-bust occasions of violence:
|The real moment of
truth came Day VIII -- April 30th -- Early morning -- The BUST.
The Facts: 1000 police clear 800 occupiers and another 200 bystanders on steps from five University buildings; 500 spectators on campus; the transactions 2+ hours in the doing. 712 arrests/ 150 plus injuries/372 police brutality complaints. Police undermanned by its standards; some students did put up mild physical and insultingly rhetorical resistance. NY Times played it down, but "excessive violence" attended the clearing of the buildings as per Civilian Review Board. Assault on South Field spectators constituted a "police riot" according to those representing NYC on campus.
As Robert Liebert, a Columbia psychoanalyst who spoke with dozens of the participants, characterized the prevailing mood:
thing about this was that all of us were proving that we have balls --
the strikers, the jocks, the police, and the administration."
In Immediate Wake of Bust
Facts: Widespread revulsion with Administration for resorting to police, even among faculty and students who had supported doing so; "radicalization" of bystanders as SDSers predicted and The Bureau of Applied Social Research documented in its surveys of those on campus during the Bust. Condemnations and calls for resignation of Kirk/Truman/Trustees. Support for Strike led by SCC from several graduate student groups; Spectator's blank editorial/bordered-in-black; 450 law students censure Kirk for "brutal beatings" that occurred .
Faculty -- Two pivotal meetings
day of bust --
AHFG in morning -- 400 faculty in McMillan presented with resolutions condemning the Administration's actions and supporting a strike; AHFG Chair Alan Westin leaves chair at last moment rather than bring resolutions to vote; 150 faculty stay and vote for them
Joint Faculties Meeting in PM --
St. Paul's Chapel -- 550 faculty -- Pre-scheduled Pro-Administration resolution presented
by Richard Hofstadter but not voted upon. AHFG Resolution condemning Administration and
supporting student-led strike prtesented. 3rd resolution presented -- from Law
School -- that calls for creation of an Executive Committee of the Faculty to meet with
trustees and students and try to return campus to order. Approved 305 to 205 -- the first
step back from the brink
C/F Scenario: Additional violence begats stronger reaction against Administration -- effectively silences those who favored calling in police and oppose a strike.
AHFG Meeting passes resolutions condemning Administration and supporting strike;
Joint Faculties Meeting fails to secure majority for putting crisis-management responsibilities in the hands of heretofore largely absent senior faculty .
Effective on-campus authority passes to SCC and AHFG; Semester given over to soul searching and political organizing; Strike Education Committee keeps professional schools from returning to business-as-usual
Richard Hofstatder, as it was -- "I felt like Kerensky -- Events had passed me by."
The Rest of the Semester
C/Fs -- Kirk and Truman resign -- and almost immediately Trustees split into the vengeful and the hasty departures --
Facts -- Kirk stays on to
August; Truman to December; some semblance of a transition in administrative leadership
Trustees rise to the challenge -- few departures// Lawrence Wien left/Harold McGuire almost ; but some real leadership also provided (Alan Temple/Frank Hogan/Charles Luce ); More moderate than AACC or University Alumni -- who wanted expulsion of all demonstrating students; embark on thoroughgoing restructuring of themselves..
$200,000,000 capital campaign stalled by campus disturbances and critical press
Bills going unpaid from 5/68 to 9/69
1967 -- small deficit
1968 -- larger one
1969 -- larger still [Cordier not trying to balance books but keep University going]
Cleanup of campus; legal costs; income drops; tuition payments down; gifts way down;
1970-71 projected deficit -- $16.5 million (on $170 million budget)
Budget not in balance until 1978 -- a brutal decade financially
McGill -- "Nor was there any gentle way to edxtract Columbia from the near-catastrophe into which it had fallen in 1968. The fiscal measures necessary to pull the University back from the brink were brutal, and nearly every pressure group with a stake in Columbia's operations objected to them."
C/F Finances Scenario
Gov't holding up contract funding
Drop in grant-processing .
Capital campaign aborted --
Schools on their own to secure funding
Professional schools seek greater and greater autonomy -- from debt-ridden Grad Facs and trouble making College
Breakaway of other profit centers -- LDEO to Texas?
Medical School -- never any "logic" to the relationship -- had split once before
Breakup of the University
Part Two -- Visualizations of Events During Eight Days in April
Calendar of Events
History of Columbia University
"April 30, 1968 Choke Point"
Two Concepts/Variables -- AGENCY and LOYALTIES
The concept of "agency" -- "the state of acting or exerting power." As in the reponse to the query -- "Who's in charge?" "Who's got the juice?" in Elmore Leonard novels: "Who am I talking to?" Some participants have it; some don't. In dynamic situations, some acquiring it; others losing it. Some never have it; some retain it throughout. Some acquire it, only to lose it. How so during Columbia '68?
by Agency and Loyalties
DAY IV - VI
The Student Strike Committee -- Three student groups provided most of what organizational structure and leadership student radicalism had at Columbia in the spring of 1968. The Student Afro-American Society (SAS) had been founded in 1964 by members of the class of 1967 and 1968, the first Columbia College classes to contain recruited black students other than athletes. [A comparable organization was formed a year later at Barnard, with the more assertive name of Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters -- "BOSS."] Among the founders of SAS was Hilton Clark (CC'67), the son of Columbia-trained, CCNY-employed psychologist Kenneth B. Clark. For its first three years SAS kept a low profile, while most black students channeled their extra-curricular energies into building one of the black fraternities on campus, and the more politically active engaged in community-organizing efforts in Harlem
It was only in the spring of 1968, with the election of a new slate of more outspoken officers, among them juniors Cicero Wilson and Ray Brown, joined by SIA graduate student Bill Sales, that SAS decided to become a more forceful and issues-driven presence on campus. Opposing construction of the long-planned but just underway gymnasium in Morningside Park became their galvanizing issue. The combined membership of SAS and BOSS numbered about 100 undergraduates.
Columbia's chapter of Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] did not come into being until 1965, three years after the Port Huron Statement that marked its founding at the University of Michigan. Among its founders was Ted Kaptchuk (CC '68), who, as chair during its first two years on campus, focused its efforts on organizing and discussion. In 1967 SDS leaders still more narrowly concentrated its energies on exposing the links between the University and the defense industry, specifically the University's role in the Institute of Defense Analysis (IDA). It did not play a leading role in the student protests beginning in 1965 against the NROTC or in 1966 against military recruiting on campus. Meanwhile, others in SDS and Columbia student radicals more generally, frustrated by the lack of success of Kaptchuk's "praxis-axis" approach, declared themselves ready to advocate more militant acts of civil disobedience. These "action faction" radicals included Columbia junior Mark Rudd, who, upon returning from a three- week visit to Cuba in early 1968, challenged and defeated Kaptchuk in the spring elections of SDS officers. At the time of Rudd's election as Chairman, SDS at Columbia may have numbered 100 members. Its inner circle -- the "cadre" -- consisted of less than a dozen.
The third student organization to provide the spring protests with leadership and commitment was the Columbia Citizenship Council (CCC). Founded in 1964, supported with University funds and operating out of offices in Ferris Booth, the CCC focused on community-outreach programs, that evolved from student tutoring projects in Harlem and Spanish East Harlem to organizing rent strikes among Columbia's non-University tenants on Morningside Heights. Opposition to University expansion became its principal issue in the spring of 1968, by which time its earlier less confrontational leadership had been displaced by the more militant College juniors John Shils and Juan Gonzalez. Total membership was under 100; true believers, under ten..
There were other, still smaller pockets of radical student sentiment throughout the Columbia campus. Earl Hall, which housed the University Chaplain's office and those of the Episcopalian, Catholic and Jewish chaplains, and from which broadsides critical of University policies emanated under the byline of graduate student Paul Rockwell, was one; the Progressive-Labor Party, whose on-campus activities were led by Tony Papert (College '69), was another. Although all these groups identified with the civil rights movement, were anti-Vietnam and opposed University expansion, prior to the spring of 1968 they operated separately. What little membership overlap existed among these 250 or so radicals was with SDS and CCC members. None of the white student radicals on the SDS Steering Committee, for example, had ever met any of the black leaders of SAS until 24 hours before the occupation of Hamilton Hall on April 23rd. And not even the most millenarian in this circumstantial alliance expected that they would soon find themselves leading a weeklong, thousand-student protest that would control six academic buildings and shut down the University.
|Protesting students initiated Columbia '68 at a little after noontime of April 23rd by threatening to demonstrate within Low Library, by marching to the gym site in Morningside Park, by staging a sit-in in Hamilton Hall, and therein by restraining Acting College Dean Henry Coleman. Each of these actions directly challenged the authority of the Administration, putting, as it were, the ball in its court. How the Administration responded spoke both to the exceedingly formalistic nature of the Administration's authority-- and to the overall diceyness of the situation.|
|The central administration of Columbia University in the spring of 1968 consisted of just three individuals with academic responsibilities, plus two vice presidents on the business side. It was led by Grayson Kirk, earlier a professor of international relations, provost and acting president, now in his eighteenth year as president. Simultaneously shy and stiff, Kirk worked well with his trustees, fellow corporate directors and members of the Council of Foreign Relations, less comfortably with faculty and students. Few faculty knew him personally; students, according to one, "didn't know him, but disliked him anyway." At age 64, Kirk had informed the trustees of his intention to resign sometime in 1969, after seeing through to completion the then underway $200,000,000 Capital Campaign.|
|David Truman, University Provost and Vice President, like Kirk a political scientist, was in two other ways very different. He was new to his jobs, having been unexpectedly named to them only the previous summer, when, as Dean of Columbia College, he considered leaving Columbia to accept the Stanford presidency. Truman's hasty appointments brought about the departure of three experienced administrators, Provost Jacques Barzun, Vice President Lawrence Chamberlain and Dean of Graduate Faculties Ralph Halford, while Columbia College was turned over to an acting dean, Henry Coleman. None of these changes had been at Kirk's initiative, and only reinforced the perception of him as a "lame duck" president and the many-hatted Truman as his all but anointed successor.|
Truman also differed from Kirk in having excellent relations with most of the faculty and an easy rapport with mid-1960s undergraduates. His five-year deanship of the College had been notably successful, not least in bringing to the meetings of the College faculty a sense of intellectual purpose lacking in those of the graduate faculties. His choice of the newly arrived sociologist Daniel Bell to be "a committee of one" to review the College's venerable "core curriculum" was an instance of his administrative imagination. A nationally regarded political scientist, Truman was a close friend of many of Columbia's other luminaries, but one who also made it a practice to help new faculty find their way within the not obviously hospitable University. Most faculty welcomed the prospect that the presidency was now his to lose.
The third and last principal, Dean of the Graduate Faculties George Fraenkel, assumed his administrative position seven months after Truman, in February 1968. A chemist known to Truman from his membership in the College faculty, Fraenkel had never met Kirk prior to his appointment. He was still arranging the shelves in his new office in Low Library when all hell broke loose.
The rest of the administration was, certainly by subsequent standards, similarly understaffed. The total security force, for example, consisted of twelve officers. Responsibility for community relations was divided between the Provost and the Office of Institutional Real Estate, located downtown. No one in Low Library had direct responsibility for student relations or minority affairs. The Office of Public Information was a two-man shop. The University's overall budget seems to have been determined to be in or out of balance at the end of a given fiscal year, rather than monitored on a regular basis.
Consequently, most dealings between the central administration and the individual deans of the nine professional schools and three undergraduate faculties, directors of the twenty programs and institutes, and chairs of the forty-four departments in the graduate faculties operated on a "squeaky hinge" principle. The result was that the financially self-sufficient deans, directors and department chairs had every incentive quietly to go their separate ways. This seems to have been as President Kirk wished it. If Nicholas Murray Butler's administrative style mixed local autonomy and autocratic behavior in equal measure, Kirk seems to have tried to make do with only the first. As a successor said of him:
[Kirk] did not have a combative
impulse in his body. He didn't
like to fight. As a consequence, whenever the normal struggling
that develops in the administration for leadership went on,
Grayson's response to that was, decentralize.
It was this Administration which, in the span of eight spring days in 1968, faced five unprecedented challenges:
The conventional wisdom in the immediate wake of 1968 was that the Columbia Administration had bungled them all. Even where worst-case scenarios had been avoided, such as students battling students, few gave credit to preventive actions by the Administration. This may be in retrospect unduly harsh. But battle-ready it was not.
As the direct representative of the Trustees on campus, President Grayson Kirk had ample authority to call in the police. Upon being apprized of Coleman's detention [Kirk was downtown presiding over an AAU meeting], his first reaction was to do just that. Both Provost Truman and Coleman advised against doing so, Coleman because of the chaotic situation in Hamilton (including the presence of non-University black activists), Truman because he thought the situation could be resolved by talking sense to the students. Kirk acceded to their in-the-field assessment, though was not persuaded that the protesting students were susceptible to talk.
The Administration did not call in the police on Tuesday afternoon; nor on Tuesday night when the Hamilton Hall protest turned into a community sleep-in; nor on Wednesday morning to clear Low Library of a handful of student occupiers who didn't take to the windows (among them Mark Rudd) at the sight of police entering the building to retrieve a Rembrandt painting from the President's office. Why not? Students of all ideological stripes concluded that the Administration was persisting in the strategy operative throughout the previous year, to "avoid confrontation at all costs." The effect of this inaction was to anger anti-protest students to the point where they talked openly of clearing the buildings themselves.
But if it was to be talk before cops, who was to do the talking? Surely not the president. During Kirk's seventeen years as president, he had almost no contact with undergraduates of any ideological persuasion. Student leaders annually complained of his inaccessibility. This was not a recently acquired trait. As a visiting faculty member from the University of Wisconsin in 1940, assigned to the College, Kirk informed the chair of the Government Department that he would consider a permanent appointment at Columbia only if he would not again have to teach in the College.
|Provost David Truman made a more likely candidate, having served five years as a well-liked Dean of Columbia College, before assuming the position of University Provost (and presidential frontrunner) in July 1967. But he had no special relationship with or personal acquaintance with the black students directing operations in Hamilton -- nobody on campus did --|
|and his settled views about Mark Rudd had been made clear three weeks earlier on April 9th when Rudd (with help from the University Chaplain) highjacked the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service at which Truman was featured. Moreover, Truman was constrained by his conscious resolve have the Administration speak with a single voice, which could not be his without appearing disloyal to Kirk.|
That left in this woefully understaffed Administration the just appointed Dean of the Graduate Faculties, George Fraenkel. Although a member of the College Faculty, Fraenkel, a chemist, had never been in a position to have had much classroom contact with student radicals, whose academic programs favored the social sciences and humanities. His reported off-hand comment offered to Mark Rudd as their paths crossed in Low Library during the second day of the crisis, "anyway, you'll not be back next year," while likely having no impact on non-existent Administration-SDS negotiations, suggests a directness in his conversational style. Indeed, an assessment of the Administration's overall skills in crisis management they faced negotiations offered by a junior faculty member shortly after the bust seems no less accurate for being generationally self-serving: "for a bunch of political scientists, they had no sense of cultural politics."
Aside from one approach to the Hamilton occupants, using Harlem political figures as intermediaries, offering only modest disciplinary action in turn for their leaving the Hall, the Administration tried no direct negotiations with the occupying students. That meant looking to others to take on the job. But, here, too, their resources were not equal to the task. Administrations before Columbia '68 didn't have support staff whose job it was to keep contact with students; this would be one of the "lessons" of Columbia. The College deans in Hamilton were closer to the students but had little contact with administrators in Low Library. That left the Faculty.
The Rise and Fall of the Ad Hoc Faculty Group
Day IV - VI
As early as Wednesday morning, the second day of the crisis, Columbia College faculty with offices and classes in occupied Hamilton began congregating in Philosophy 301. They were soon joined by other faculty and graduate assistants seeking information and company. An emergency College Faculty meeting Wednesday afternoon did little to alleviate faculty concerns -- or feelings of helplessness. Resolutions passed did, however, express the view that "any differences have to be settled peacefully, and we trust that police action will not be used." A resolution backing the Administration was tabled.
By Thursday morning the faculty in Philosophy Hall had swelled to more than 100, all wanting and some demanding to know what was going on. Three of the faculty present -- Lionel Trilling, Eugene Galanter and Carl Hovde -- were asked by the gathering to look into the University's standing disciplinary procedures and their susceptibility to faculty and student participation. A few others decided to go uninvited to the Administration's noontime press conference, at which the cancellation of Friday classes was announced. By then, four buildings were in the hands of protesting students. Later that afternoon, Provost Truman came over to Philosophy 301 and delivered an impromptu but decidedly downbeat view of Administrative actions and current thinking, He may also have momentarily broken down. "It suddenly dawned on me, " one faculty member present recalled some weeks later, "that the people in Low Library were not in control."
Truman's departure from the room was immediately followed by calls to form an "Ad Hoc Faculty Group," through which the faculty might find a role in the ongoing crisis. A six-person steering committee was appointed, chaired by political scientist Alan Westin. The newly constituted (albeit extra-constitutional) faculty organization then adopted resolutions decrying the prospect of a police action on campus and declaring their intentions to physically "interpose" themselves between the protesting students and the Administration. There was also talk of faculty withholding their services -- "We will not teach" -- until the crisis was resolved. By these actions the faculty gathered in Philosophy Hall intended to become, as one AHFG member later characterized it, a "third force."
Later that same night, when "a miserable and stern and gray" Provost Truman returned to Philosophy 301 to inform the gathered faculty that the police had been authorized by the Administration to evacuate the occupied buildings (now five in number) and that they would be doing so imminently, he was hostilely received. Refusing to take the police action as a fait accompli, several faculty followed. Truman back to Low. An encounter between some of these faculty and police plainclothesmen, simultaneously trying to enter Low, resulted in the bloodying of a faculty member's head. With said casualty -- French instructor Richard Greenman -- presented as evidence of what would follow, the faculty persuaded Truman to urge Kirk to rescind the evacuation order. This the president reluctantly agreed to do, so as to "allow the faculty an opportunity to talk to the occupying students." In effect, the Administration handed the crisis over to the AHFG to resolve.
It is a testimony to the volatility of the situation --and to the Administration's predicament -- that three days into the crisis a loosely organized and wholly extra-constitutional group of faculty, drawn primarily from the middle and junior ranks of only one of the University's nineteen faculties, found itself at the center of the action. What did the AHFG bring to the situation at hand to give it such extraordinary (albeit short lived) agency?
It brought three things, all in short supply. First, it did constitute a collective faculty voice in a situation where none otherwise could be heard, interviewed by the press, or invoked by the Administration. Aside from monthly meetings of the Columbia College Faculty, which included only about a quarter of the 600 faculty in Arts and Sciences and a handful of faculty from various professional schools, the Columbia faculty had no collective existence. The annual, separate gatherings of the graduate faculties of Political Science, Philosophy and Pure Science were pro-forma and ill attended. Indeed, the emergency meeting of combined Columbia faculties held on Sunday afternoon, the sixth day of the occupations, was only the second such gathering since World War II. Rules of membership and a mailing list had to be cobbled together for the occasion.
The extreme decentralization (atomization?) that characterized the Columbia faculty in 1968 had undoubtedly served some purposes well, allowing, for example, the professional faculties of Law, Businees, Journalism, Architecture and the Library School to operate without reference to the three graduate faculties, much less to the undergraduate faculties of Columbia College, the Engineering School or General Studies. The Medical Sciences faculties constituted yet another world, at modest physical remove but an almost wholly separate collective identity.
Within Arts and Sciences, these arrangements placed significant power in the hands of certain senior members of departments and directors of institutes, particularly those who had the ear of the Administration or the favor of the foundations. But however workable during calm times, a faculty structure made up of such "baronies" was almost totally dysfunctional in a time of crisis. Had the AHFG not been brought into existence, some other equally "extra-constitutional" rump group would almost certainly eventually have had to be invented.
Second, the argument of AHFGers that the occupiers were "our students" was true enough, and gave early credence to their claims that they -- and only they -- could persuade the students to come out of the buildings, while holding at bay the students opposed to the occupation. Indeed, some AHFGers later claimed to have kept the conservative students -- the Majority Coalition -- from attempting to clear the buildings, though credit here seems more properly vested in Jack Rohan, the basketball coach, Seymour Melman and such unabashedly conservative and anti-AHFG Columbia College Faculty as Lowell Harriss and Warner Schilling. Indeed, one member of the steering committee, after appearing before a gathering of exercised anti-demonstrator students, many of whom were athletes and fraternity brothers, acknowledged: "This is a Columbia College I didn't know of."
Third, and finally, there was something noble, physically courageous and professionally risky about the AHFG's idea of "interposing" faculty between their unruly students and a hamhanded Administration until both could be made to reason and compromise. When some students understood the AHFG declaration to include faculty resigning their positions if the Administration did not accede to the students' demands, at least one AHFG member felt bound to correct the record. "I told you we were willing to put our jobs on the line," Allan Silver acknowledged to some Avery occupiers with whom he had met earlier. "Well, that's not quite true."
Even short of making this ultimate gesture, the AHFG had, three days into the crisis, seized the moral high ground, such as it was. And as long as their negotiators kept talking to the student occupiers and the Strike Committee, there seemed to be at least a possibility that the crisis could be resolved short of calling in the police, an action which some members of the AHFG predicted would prompt a violent response from Harlem. As one AHFGer who lived in the neighborhood predicted, "Morningside will become Nairobi." Thus the AHFG became identified with both the hopes (and fears) of avoiding a police action, sentiments undoubtedly shared by a majority of the Columbia community and many of the students in the buildings, if no longer by the Administration and likely never by the Student Strike leadership.
The downfall (loss of agency) of the AHFG was as rapid as its ascent -- and equally multifactored. First and foremost, the AHFG fell because it failed to talk students out of the buildings. (Kirk and Truman later suggested that some AHFG mediators actually urged the students to stay put.) To be sure, Fayerweather's occupiers wavered on at least two occasions when a majority vote withdrew amnesty as a condition to evacuate, but an infusion of hardliners from Low and Mathematics saw those votes reversed and Fayerweather brought back in line. Students in the other buildings went unmoved by two days of faculty efforts at mediation. The coup de grace to these efforts came from Mark Rudd, who, invited by the AHFG Steering Committee to address the gathering in Philosophy 301 on Saturday evening, dismissed all efforts at mediation short of faculty support for total and explicit amnesty as "bullshit."
For some faculty heretofore sympathetic with the AHFG efforts, Rudd's intransigence marked the point where police action became both inevitable and appropriate. These disaffected AHFGers included other faculty who had become troubled by what they saw as their AHFG colleagues' increasingly willingness, in their effort to keep contact with the strikers, to align themselves with the strikers'demands, including, by another name, amnesty..
The AHFG steering committee, however, took Rudd's Saturday dismissal as evidence of the need to press the Administration still further for concessions. In so concluding , they upped the ante by assuming the role of arbitrator-without-appeal. As one member of the steering committee characterized their new intentions: "We will ourselves draft a just settlement." It was to that end that the AHFG steering committee spent Saturday night composing the "bitter pills" resolutions, which were intended once and for all to force an end to the crisis. Presented to a gathering of some AHFGers at 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, these resolutions were enthusiastically endorsed.
The terms were as follows: all
occupying students were to evacuate the buildings in exchange for the Administration's
accepting all strike demands except amnesty, but the Administration would agree to limit
disciplinary action to "collective punishment," where no one would be
disciplined more harshly than anyone else. "Amnesty by another name," was how
one supporter described this last provision. Said another of the resolutions as a whole:
"It was an anti-Administration position."
These resolutions were then presented to the Strike Committee and to the Administration with the stipulation that should the Administration reject them, the AHFG would align themselves with the students and resist any police action; should the occupying students reject these conditions, the AHFG would no longer interpose themselves between the occupying students and the police. No provision was made for both sides rejecting them.
The Administration's response to the Sunday AM resolutions of the AHFG, announced at 3:30 PM, was equivocal but not dismissive, citing difficulties with altering Charter provisions that vested disciplinary authority in the President. At 6:00 PM the Strike Committee flatly rejected them. The AHFG's moment on center stage was over, leaving ony the Strike Steering Committee and the New York Police to play out the final act.
New York's Finest
In demonstrating its agency by sustaining the occupation of the buildings into a second week and thereby requiring their forcible evacuation, the Strike Committee simultaneously conferred agency on the only other contending party with the force to do the evacuating -- the New York City Police.
The spring of 1968 had been tough on the New York police. Lots of overtime and crowd-control work. Where other cities had their black ghettoes aflame in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination, Harlem, thanks to efforts of black leaders, Mayor Lindsay and a massive police presence, had stayed calm. New York also had more than its share of anti-war demonstrations, all of which required police monitoring. If these were no enough, a Yuppie "celebration" organized by Abbie Hoffman for midnight in Grand Central Station, had gotten so out of hand as to prompt the outnumbered police to rush the crowds in ways anticipatory of the police-induced South Field stampede that rang down the events of Columbia '68. Barry Gottherer, special assistant to the mayor and one of his representatives on the Columbia campus throughout the crisis, characterized the Grand Central Station melee as "a police riot." Thus, there was a real question even among their civilian supervisors whether the Police could be trusted to carry out the forcible evacuation of Columbia students, should events come to that.
High on the tensions list of questions that needed clarifying was the point the operational responsibility for the campus was given over to the police, as against the elected officials (the Mayor) and the private citizens (here, the CU Administration and Trustees) who invoked their services. The decision to call the police on campus on Wednesday was the Administration's, following on a call from the mayor's office suggesting that their presence might be helpful. Once ensconced in Low Library, the police quickly informed Columbia administrators that they were not to be confused with the University's security force or Pinkertons hired for a special event.
The education commenced when the police informed President Kirk on Wednesday that the police would not agree to his request that they clear Low Library of its white occupying students, while leaving be the black students in Hamilton. They also insisted that any move by the police be planned well in advance, with at least ten hours notice, to provide those orchestrating the action time to draw up plans and amass the police needed. Among other requirements, they stipulated having a ratio of three arresting policemen to every occupying student. The precise timing of the action would also be theirs. And they were booked elsewhere during the weekend. Chief Sanford Garelik explained all of these requirements patiently enough, and in doing so won the admiration of Columbians with whom he dealt for his professionalism, but not without reinforcing the point as to whom was really in charge.
Senior administration officials who dealt with the police proved to be compliant learners. President Kirk realized early on in the crisis, and so informed his Trustees, that his calling the police "will in all probability destroy my usefulness hereafter as president." Still, having summoned the police on campus, both Kirk and Provost Truman accepted the idea that, as Truman told the Cox Commission, "the essence of the situation is that you hire the pilot and he flies the plane." The third senior member of the University Administration, newly appointed Dean of the Graduate Faculties, George Fraenkel, on the police command post in Low: " It was a place where I felt out of place., and sort of wondered what a political Commissar in the old days of Red Army felt like." When the police went into the buildings early Tuesday morning, they did so on their terms -- and those set by the occupying students.
It's Also About Columbia
The second concept that I want to visualize this evening in connection with the events of Columbia '68 and the possibility of the University's demise is that of loyalty. It may help to introduce the concept with a story told of a colleague's mother-in-law, who, whatever the subject of conversation, would soon bring it to her point with the question: "What does all this mean for Israel?"
Three positions encompassing three different sets of loyalties emerged during Spring '68:
1. It's Not About Columbia
The essential argurment here is that during the 8-day crisis the position " It's Not About Columbia" was shared by two particpating parties -- the New York Police and the Strike Steering Committee. The position "It's not just about Columbia" was shared by the Ad Hoc Faculty Groups and most students. That left the position "It's about Columbia" was pretty much left to the Administration and the anti-protest students organized as "the Majority Coalition" to uphold. Thus, the only two parties with agency at the climax of the crisis -- the police and the strike leaders -- were the two parties least concerned with the impact of their confrontation on Columbia.
The indifference of the police likely requires no elaboration beyond pointing out that they were on campus to do a job -- clear buildings of trespassers. The fate of Columbia in the wake of their doing so simply was not their concern.
But what of the Strike Steering Committee? Its leadership was almost entirely outwardly oriented. The black students in Hamilton went out of their way to identify their cause with their Harlem black brothers, not their Columbia white classmates in the other buildings. As one of their leaders, Bill Sales, later put it, "I got my education in spite of Columbia."
The loyalties of the SDS leaders on the Strike Committee were even more transparent. It had been their strategy all spring to confront the Administration, to rattle it into showing its true colors as a willing accomplice in perpetuating all that was wrong with America. And what of Columbia in this revolutionary scenario? Not the Strike Committee's problem. Campus issues like the gym had never been SDS issues except insofar as they showed the University to be complicit in what was going on off campus, in the ghetto, in Vietnam. SDS wanted to make Columbia "a battlefield in a civil war.'
As one of the Strike Committee members recalled 30 years later, when Herbert Marcuse met with SDS leaders in the early spring of 1968 and urged them to "leave the universities alone," his Columbia SDS auditors dismissed him; "we were way beyond this." When Mark Rudd was asked by an AHFG member in the middle of the crisis whether there was anything about the University he deemed worth saving, he promised to get back to him. At the 1998 reunion of Columbia '68ers, Mark Naisson one stated flatly that "Worrying about the collapse of Columbia was the farthest thing from my mind." Such indifference was itself a source of power. As an occupying graduate student put it upon being reprimanded by a for creating a mess, "this isn't, for Christ's sake, the Winter Place, it's only crummy Fayerweather Hall." Mark Rudd's infamous letter to "Uncle Grayson" contained the promise: "We will destroy your world, your corporation, your University."
2. It's Not Just About Columbia
Robert Friedman - Editor-in-Chief of Columbia Spectator [1984 interview]:
had a whole lot of allegiance to Columbia.
My loyalty to Columbia was a loyalty to the newspaper,
which was quite strong and I still feel that today
I had a good educational experience."
[Post-bust emergence of a leftist-but-University-directed student group -- Students for a Restructured University/SRU -- provide a student base for addressing campus issues. Contrast with the post-bust outward thrust of SDS.]
Not here questioning their loyalty to their Columbia, but of loyalty to a concept of the larger University. Not over populated with those sharing Polyjarp Kusch's view of the appropriate role of faculty during the Crisis: "To support the office of the presidency without limit"
3. It's About Columbia
Was committed to keeping the
University going; actions were often unrealistic, out-of-touch, but consistently directed
at assuring institutional wellbeing
Kirk's 4/12 speech at UVa -- came out against Vietnam War -- destructive of American universities
But by the middle of the Crisis had lost/transferred its "agency" to the AHFG; By the 8th Day had to standby at twice remove while the NYPD took operational command of the campus at the most critical moment in the University's 214 year history .
Paid for their loyalty with their jobs
Post-Bust -- Senior Faculty elected to Executive Committee of the Faculty -- Right to Center; Almost fatally slow in getting organized?? Kirk's slowness in "getting his own faculty" Senior faculty holding back for the Agency Center to Clear?? ECFaculty -- Loyalties to Columbia //Toughmindedly Accumulated Agency
Another story for another day Columbia's road/narrow path back from the abyss Whereas my purposes this evening was to suggest how close Columbia came to going over