The Causes and the Protest of 1968

The Causes and the Protest of 1968
In the 1960s, the great decade of social change, the civil rights movement alongside student movements worked together to bring about a momentous change in society. In 1968, the New Left continued to take on thousands of members as it developed a more radical approach in its opposition to racism and the Vietnam War. Practically synonymous with the New Left, Student?s for a Democratic Society (sds) argued that militant tactics showed young people that actions could make a difference. sds stated: ?we can make a difference, we can hope to change the system, and also that life within the radical movement can be liberated, fulfilling, and meaningful.? Student unrest passed from ?protest to confrontation to resistance and to outright obstruction; even more startling, the university as a general institution, itself, was now regarded as the enemy, the target for disruption.?
On April 23, 1968, this American Student movement culminated at Columbia University. Students on Columbia?s Morningside Heights campus gathered to oppose an institution they viewed as racist, imperialistic, and authoritarian; the school represented the old order of society that still dominated American institutions. Students angry with Columbia?s connection to the Institute for Defense Analysis (ida), its aggressive, even racist expansion techniques, and the administration?s authoritarian rule, launched a demonstration in protest. What was initially a non-confrontational protest quickly escalated. Columbia students, angry and tired of being neglected by the administration, fought to be heard; students raided Hamilton Hall and refused to leave until their six demands were met. Ulitimately the sds led protest, initially centered around speeches at the center of campus, evolved into a hostile student takeover of five university buildings. These frustrated students lashed out against the establishment?and the nearest target was their own Columbia. However, Klaus Mehnert observed that the ?campus problems as such did not stand in the foreground of the conflict?The true enemy was society?the university simply being that segment of society with which the students happened to be confronted.? Although superficially centered around three specific issues, these demands were only symbolic of the far broader issues of racism, imperialism, and authoritarianism, presently ailing society. The revolution was ultimately a power struggle between the New Left and the old order; a battle between liberal students and Columbia?s archaic administration for a voice in society.

In April 1968, Columbia University?s appearance was like that of any other college around the nation. However, on April 23, over 1000 student protesters transformed the campus into a battleground. Yet what conditions were specific to Columbia to lead to one of the largest and longest student revolts in American history? In order to analyze a protest interwoven into so many demands by such various participants, the school of Columbia University must itself be analyzed. Understanding Columbia?s Administration, its faculty, its students, and its relationship to the surrounding community in 1968 is an integral aspect of understanding the atmosphere of the campus, and therefore essential to understanding the movement itself.

Columbia University in 1968 was a moderately large university with a total student body of about 17,500 students. Located in Morningside Heights, the University looked down into Harlem?one of the poorest ghettos in the United States. In 1968, although immersed in the high-density urban population of New York City, Columbia had little unity as a campus. Rather than Columbia?s campus, it was the city of New York that many students saw as their home and that gave them their social education. The City was their life: ?its dirt, congestion, motion and art force people to respond; its physical environment?generated a mental climate of liberality and social consciousness which ? permeated the campus.? The school?s physical location may have contributed to a more liberal student body, but contrary to what someone may expect, Columbia dragged far behind most American Universities in institutional change.

Numerous reasons other than the school?s size and location contributed to the April protest. It was Columbia?s lack of cohesion as a campus community, which isolated many faculty and students, and ultimately lead to the April protest. In many ways, blame for student, faculty, and community unrest can be placed on the administration. Columbia?s sturcture of authority was autocratic and controlling in relation to its students and faculty and regularly excluded them from important aspects of university policy. This, for the most part is due to the universities past presidents. In numerous ways Columbia University was blessed, however ?not in its line of presidents. That demanding position has gone to only tree men since the turn of the century?and each, in his own way, has bungled it.?

The first of these three presidents was the most legendary. Nicholas Murray Butler held the job from 1902 to 1945, a span of time lasting nearly a decade longer than the record reign of Pope Pius IX. Butler?s legacy to the university, and his effect on the school in 1968, was a strong tradition of executive responsibility. Butler also began the tradition of investing Columbia?s endowment into real estate (which will be discussed below). Following the iron rule of Butler, Columbia?s Board of Trustees elected military commander and future president, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower?s reign accomplished very little; as Columbia?s president he was rarely on campus and proved to be an ineffective fund-raiser. Eisenhower?s election in 1952 ?as President of the United States would have been the best thing for Columbia had the University?s reins not fallen into the hands of Grayson Kirk.?

Grayson Kirk, a celebrated fund-raiser from the Midwest, was the prototype of a President for the Board of Trustees: a well-educated and distinguished fund-raiser. However, even with such predecessors, Kirk is most remembered as Columbia?s worst President. His mentality was always dictatorial; he believed that as long as the trustees were pleased, he was free to do what he wished. However, in pleasing the trustees, he overlooked the students. This manner of thinking was adopted by most of the administration, and could be seen on two different occasions. In an interview with Columbia?s Vice President Truman, he stated: ?The university is not, has not been and never pretended to be a democracy?It must be directed by a small group of men with the experience to handle its affairs.? Herbert Deane, the Vice-Dean of Graduate Faculties, further illustrated the point. Deane did not believe that faculty or students should have any influence on the school?s policy: ?A university is definitely not a democratic institution. When decisions begin to be made democratically around here, I will not be here any longer.? He further stated, ?whether students vote ?yes? or ?no? on an issue is like telling me they like strawberries.? At Columbia ?an archaic system has gone hand in hand with a series of insensitive administrations, and the fruits of this hapless union have been both disastrous and demoralizing to the University community.? The administration?s authoritarian practices in dealing with students, faculty, and the community were among the main contributors to the upheaval that gripped the campus in late spring of 1968.

During this year, Columbia?s administration continued to run the University as it had for decades, acknowledging almost no change students mentality. Students across the US were beginning to want a voice in the governments and institutions that directly affected them on a daily basis. Powerless to have their voices heard by the leaders of the nation on such issues as Vietnam, students throughout the country sought to influence their schools. However, the impersonality and authoritarian regime of the Columbia administration did little to satisfy the students? political interest; this led to further feelings of isolation and weakness among the students. In addition Columbia sought to mold its students into hard working adults, uninterested in the social aspects of the world. The school focused on training them for careers as lawyers and businessmen?jobs that supported the bureaucracies and institutions of the old order. The education of Columbia?s students lacked spirit: ?it [was] an education of mere bones: facts and intellectual theories.? The students in 1968, however, were more liberal than the students of the past, and some were repulsed by the idea of taking jobs that forced them to help perpetuate institutions, laws, and bureaucracies of the past. Established ?business firms and their professional advisors? faced difficulties in recruiting. Instead, students at columbia had a ?tremendous interest in social service work and the Peace Corps.? While students had recently been influenced by their parents and role models to follow the status quo, students in 1968 actively attempted to avoid the complacent middle-class lifestyle that Columbia was teaching them to achieve.

The unpleasant student life on campus can also be attributed to the faculty relationships with the administration. The inherited authoritarian rule of the administration displaced almost all power from the hands of the faculty into the hands of the deans and other administrators. As a result, the faculty at Columbia University grew into a complacent group, content to teach classes, while giving little guidance to students other than in their class lectures. Consequently, the faculty grew apathetic towards university problems; they were indifferent to the poor quality of student life and the administration?s objectionable policies. While there were some exceptions to the rule, most faculty were unconcerned with their students; they offered few office hours and put little spirit and excitement into their lectures. Uninspired, students often drifted ?in and out of the University as if it were a loading station, and faculty members who closet[ed] themselves with their research and latest book, have?left the security of the University precariously in the hands of its administrators.?

In addition to alienating the faculty and student body, the President and the Board of Trustees throughout the years did a lot to damage Columbia?s relationship with the surrounding community of Harlem. The university?s manifest destiny expansion policies and the financial aspects of a large portion of its endowment often created tension between the predominately white institution and its black neighbors. Columbias goal of development and growth contributed to the university?s expansion policy, which included buying large amounts of real-estate throughout the city with its endowment. Columbia?s expansion techniques illustrated an uncaring indifference to the well-being and rights of the largely minority community surrounding the school. In the heart of the largest city in America, Columbia University?s need for growth and expansion was a difficult, yet essential, task. The pressing need for any institution of higher learning has always been growth, and Columbia was no different. It was obvious to anyone connected with Morningside Heights and Columbia that growth would undoubtedly create tension between the school and its neighbors. However, Columbia?s process of expansion, not the expansion itself, created numerous problems.

Ever since President Butler had begun the tradition of investing substantial portions of Columbia?s endowment in real estate, Columbia had alienated itself from the surrounding community. Columbia?s holdings in New York City during 1968 accounted for at least half of the university?s endowment. Although Columbia?s endowment had made it the second largest property owner in New York City, it had brought little return in badly needed money. Consequently, the university?s endowment had grown slowly in the preceeding decades. This led to tuition hikes, low faculty wages, and outdated buildings. These factors, may have also contributed to faculty and student discontent.

Tensions between the university and Harlem continued to rise as Columbia expelled many occupants from their buildings in an unethical manner. Columbia had systematically expelled almost 10,000 residents, most of whom had been poor blacks or Puerto Ricans, from the Heights in the decade leading up to 1968. While it is unclear whether the university?s motive was racially prejudice, the fact that Columbia had displaced so many minorities for the cause of university expansion illustrated the obvious racial divide that existed at Columbia and in society. Kirk?s argument for stripping the area of its blacks and Puerto Ricans was that ?these newcomers create an unsettled population,?they are mobile with no interest in the community.? Columbia?s blueprint for Morningside Heights called for the removal of ?all low cost units for ?unaffiliated persons.?? Columbia?s policies originated from Kirk?s close minded outlook towards the surrounding community; he treated them as guests of Columbia, an inferior element, which had no say in what happened to their homes or their lives.

Columbia?s expansion policies as well as the University?s harsh method of evicting tenants disturbed Harlem residents and students alike. There was almost no relocation program available to the former tenants; many were forced out on the streets. In many instances, when residents had legal rights according to their leases or other rent control agreements, the university would stop servicing the building, to make it uninhabitable. Frequently, ?Columbia?s tenants have been know to come home at night and find a plug inserted in their locks, preventing them from locking their own doors in the future.? In carring out its real estate plans, the university caused a tremendous backlash both in Harlem and among its own students, both groups accused the administration of racist tactics. They were undoubtedly right, because if the university had been able to fully take over Morningside Heights, it would have placed the institution on a pedestal?a hill of white affluence and superiority dominating over a destitute area of poverty and color.

It is in the setting of an authoritarian administration, that cared little about the concerns and ideas of its students, faculty, and neighbors, that one of the major issues concerning the Columbia protests of April and May must be brought to light. If there was one act conducted by Columbia that epitomized the University?s expansion techniques and its indifference to community feelings, it was the construction of the new gym in Morningside Park. Withot consulting community leaders of Harlem, Columbia, who had been in desperate need of a new gym for well over a decade, bargained with the city for the rights to build a new gym in the nearby public park of Morningside Heights. The agreement, made in 1958, came about well before the civil rights movement altered many people?s ideas of black power. In this agreement, Columbia gained the rights to lease 2.1 acres of scarce parkland for 99 years. In exchange, the university agreed to fund a 1.4 million-dollar gym for public use along with funding its maintenance.

Allowing a private institution the rights to construct a gym on public property, mainly for private use, was an unprecedented event many opposed. By conceding only a small portion of the gym in a gesture of charity to a black community that wanted no pity from the white university, the gym took on racial undertones. Regardless of whether the gym was beneficial to Harlem, public property was being used for private purposes and the black community, newly immersed in black power and self consciousness, had no share in the planning or decisions. The Chairman of the Citizen Council stated, the gym was ?a very visible symbol of something which is much more serious, which is the expansion program that is going on in Columbia.? Due to tensions already initiated by Columbia?s expansion program and their reputation for racist tactics, a growing percentage of blacks came to oppose the gym. One militant community member and black civil rights leader, H. Rap Brown, told the people of Harlem: ?If they build the first story blow it up. If they sneak back at night and build three stories burn it down. And if they get nine stories built, it?s yours. Take it over, and maybe we?ll let them in on the weekends.? Despite this, on February 19, 1968, ground was broken on the gym site without any public announcement.

It seemed that no one could check the power and actions of the ruling elite at Columbia. However with the arrival of the 1960s, the great decade of social change, both students and community groups exercised their power of protest against what they viewed as a racist and imperialistic institution. The battle in Morningside Heights for some was distant, if not impossible, but for others it was imminent. Those who believed the latter formed a group called the Students for a Democratic Society, or sds.

The sds, founded in 1962, was mainly based on the Port Huron Statement, written by Tom Hayden. Following 1962, the New Left gradually became synonymous with the sds, as it was the most significant organization of the movement. sds fought to spread the word of participatory democracy and the concept that the individual must take part in the decisions that affected his life. The Port Huron Statement stated, ?Men have unrealized potential for self-cultivation, self-direction, self-understanding and creativity. It is this potential that we regard as crucial and to which we appeal?? In addition to having appeal to those people who wished to be heard, the document also related to students. By stating that the university was the most likely and influential place to begin ?a New Left? and to ?start controversy across the land? provided that ?an alliance of students and faculty? could ?wrest control of the educational process from the administrative bureaucracy,? brought much appeal to students. Columbia?s chapter of sds came into being in 1965, founded by Ted Kaptchuk.

The sds at Columbia played a very small role in demonstrations on campus from 1965-66. This small group of people, whose membership never reached over 100, began by conducting weekly radical discussions mainly against the Vietnam War and Columbia?s activities in endorsing the war. However, only they played minimal roles in student demonstrations against on campus recruiting for the cia in1965-66. Following these several cia protest, the sds, played a major role in the demonstration against Marine recruiting in April of 1967. Unfortunately, this protest met resistance from more conservative students who opposed the demonstration. The threat of violence in the small crowded John Jay Hall was so immense it induced President Kirk to issue a statement of new school policy: ?Picketing or demonstrations may not be conducted within any University Building.?

It is impossible to discuss the revolutionary protest at Columbia, without discussing the university?s affiliation with Vietnam through the Institute for Defense Analysis (ida). The ida, a nonprofit organization that specialized in weapons and other related research for the Department of Defense, was a perfect issue for radical Columbia Students. Columbia students, opposed to Vietnam, but saw their university supporting it by conducting research, research that may have produced weapons that killed thousands of Vietnamese, were repulsed. Students and faculty who found ?the war morally reprehensible [found] their University?s links with that war effort equally reprehensible and maintain[ed] that affiliation with such organizations as ida violat[ed] the spirit and purpose of the University as an institution for the continuation of humane ideals.? In addition to being the main focus of campus dissent, the ida issue became the ?SDS? bread-and-butter issue?because it epitomized all the controversies involved in the Vietnam War.?

When Mark Rudd, a more radical member of sds, and his ?action faction,? assumed leadership of the organization in March of 1968, he sought to escalate the protest in order to force change. Rudd, who had just arrived back at Columbia from a three-week sabbatical to Cuba, believed in confrontational politics. Rudd believed that these politics put ?the enemy up against the wall and force[ed] him to define himself? and to ?make a choice. Radicalization of the individual means that he must commit himself to the struggle to change society as well as share the radical view of what is wrong?? His first move was to oppose the University?s affiliation with the Institute for Defense Analysis, while also protesting Kirk?s new rule against indoor demonstrations. On March 27th, Rudd led a 100-person demonstration inside of Low Library where they demanded the university end its ida affiliation. In a speech preceding the demonstration, Rudd mockingly stated, ?No demonstrating, if you want to yell and scream and bust up an office, that?s okay. But remember, now. No demonstrating.? Subsequently, six students (including Rudd), all sds leaders, were picked out of the crowd and disciplined. Of over one hundred students who participated in the indoor demonstration six were singled out and separately punished, while no disciplinary action was conducted against others who partook.

While the students who were active in the March 27th demonstration clearly violated school policy against indoor demonstrations, it was the way in which the rule was implemented that resulted in campus dissent. President Kirk, who had consulted no student organizations on the matter, issued the rule. In fact, the rule was implemented in disregard of the unanimous recommendation of his Committee on Student Life (which included Vice-president Truman). In addition, the administrations erratic enforcement of this rule was subject to widespread objections. On two previous instances, the indoor rule on demonstrations had been broken and no action had been taken to discipline any of the participants. Furthermore, the schools selective punishments to the leaders of sds further illustrated the rule?s erratic enforcement.

The most controversial aspect of Kirk?s rule and its enforcement was the fact that the leaders were given no public hearing to plead their case. The absence of due process not only illustrated Columbia?s ancient administrative system, which invested supreme judicial powers into the hands of the President, but also its authoritarian rule. The absence of a student-faculty board to deal with discipline signaled Columbia?s efforts to quiet the protest and use discipline as a form of political repression. The administration was using the rule against indoor demonstrations and its disciplinary actions as an autocratic attempt to suppress any type of political actions on campus. President Kirk was saying, in effect, that he cared little what students thought or felt as long as it did not disturbed the administrative operations.

Students and community leader?s futile attempts to change Columbia University met with great resistance from the University?s administration. Prior to the indoor protest of March 27, Warren Goodell, vice president for administration of Columbia, stated:

I guarantee you that we?re going to respond to force with force. I?ve been at Columbia all my life, and I won?t stand by and let them destroy the University. Next thing you know they?ll be taking over the buildings?And let me tell you this?this April, the weeks after this coming spring vacation, will be the most crucial month in Columbia?s entire history. This University may well be on the verge of being torn apart.

However, this resistance only angered students to take more radical action and hasten along Mr. Goodell?s prediction. Students who had previously only wanted to hasten change by bringing issues to light, now demanded change.

On April 22, 1968, the eve of the revolution, sds leader Mark Rudd wrote an open letter to Grayson Kirk. Eluding to future action by Columbia students, he wrote:

You are quite right in feeling that the situation is ?potentially dangerous.? For if we win, we will take control of your world, corporation, your University and attempt to mold a world in which we and other people can live as human beings?We the young people, whom you so rightly fear, say that the society is sick and you and your capitalism are the sickness?We call for justice, freedom, and socialism? ?Up against the wall, motherfucker, this is a stick-up.?"

The following day, on Tuesday, April 23, over five hundred students gathered at the sundial in the center of the campus to protest the University. The demonstration, organized by the sds, attracted an unusually large number of people from all sides of the political spectrum. Innocent bystanders listened to the speeches, while counter-demonstrators leered. More importantly, for one of the first times, black students arrived to help contribute to the protest. The Students Afro-American Society (sas) had historically kept an extremely low profile on campus, their initial goals were to build a black fraternity. However, with the election of more radical and outspoken officers, Cicero Wilson, Ray Brown, and Bill Sales, the sas decided at the last minute to join in the protest.

The protest at the Sundial attempted to radicalize students in an effort to both defy the university and present their demands to President Kirk. The student demonstrators planned to march into Low Library, in defiance of the indoor demonstration rule, and to present their demands. After sds and sas speeches the students realized that the administration had ruined their strategy by locking Low Library. The organized demonstration, now without direction, no longer had a plan. In effect, chaotic student mobs decided to attack the gym site. However, after a scuffle with police, the mob was able to regroup and returned back to the sundial, only one hour after the demonstration had begun. Desperately fighting for a listening ear of an administrator, but finding that even a massive protest would go unheeded by authority, Rudd realized more radical action had to occur. Back at the sundial he spoke: ?I think there?s really only one thing we have to do?We?ll start by holding a hostage. We?re going to hold whoever we can in return for them letting go of the six people under discipline, letting go of ida and letting go of the fucking gym.? The protesters hurried to Hamilton Hall and the office of undergraduate dean Henry Coleman, where he was taken hostage. The students once again made their demands, but this time they decided to back them up: the protesters pledged not to leave the building until the demands were met. The building was taken over; the siege was on.

Student coordination throughout the protest was conducted by the Steering Committee. This committee, representing five blacks and five whites, was formed in Hamilton shortly after its occupation. The Steering Committee laid the groundwork for the entire protest by adopting the six demands:

1. All discipline action now pending and probations already imposed upon six students be immediately terminated and general amnesty be granted to those students.

2. President Kirk?s ban on demonstrations inside University buildings be dropped.

3. Construction of the Columbia gymnasium in Moringside park cease at once.

4. All future disciplinary action taken against university students be resolved through an open hearing before students and faculty which adheres to the standards of due process.

5. Columbia University disaffiliate?from the Institute for Defense Analyses; and President Kirk and Trustee William A.M. Burden resign their positions on IDA?s Board of Trustees and Executive Board.

6. Columbia University use its good offices to obtain dismissal of charges now pending against those participating in demonstrations at the gym construction site in the park.

These demands were the basis for the protest and were used throughout the demonstration. Throughout the ordeal, they were constantly reaffirmed, and the Steering Committee committed itself to achieving all six.

Students occupying Hamilton Hall all agreed to the demands, but how to achieve them was a different matter. The building quickly divided into two separate factions: black and white. White students, less radical than the black, did not want to anger the conservative students by interfering with their classes, nor did they want to spill blood. However, throughout the late evening and night black community members had continuously visited the black protesters. Rumors of guns and weapons in the vicinity were spread quickly throughout the school as well as Hamilton. In addition, the black students wanted to barricade the building, and when they saw that the white students had no intention of endorsing this idea, they asked them to leave. Black delegates of the steering committee told the white delegates that ?we want to make our stand here. It would be better if you left and took your own building.?

At about 5:30 A.M., white students fled from Hamilton Hall, or Malcolm X University as it was now called. Not wanting the revolution to end, some of the white students sought to occupy another building. Shouting the ?battle cry of the Colombian rebellion, ?Up against the wall, motherfucker!? the whites battered down the door of Low Library with a bench.? Once barricaded into President Kirk?s office, the students organized themselves for a long sit-in. On Wednesday, a Strike Coordinating Committee (scc) was established. This committee became the governing body of the people in the buildings. Eventually the committee was composed of two representatives from each occupied building. However, Hamilton Hall never sent any delegates nor did they allow the scc to speak on their behalf. The scc adopted the original six demands and continued to support them. As the events of the protest continued to unfold, regardless of the vast amount of student opinions, students continued to base their actions on the demands. Support of the demands was the only requirement to join into the strike, and because of their widespread appeal, additional buildings were occupied and more and more students joined in the struggle.

After students refused to leave their classes in Avery Hall, architectural students took over the building. They eventually barricaded Avery Hall and joined in the common struggle. Other buildings followed. Fifty students, following the example of Avery Hall, invaded Fayerweather Hall early Thursday morning. Students occupying these buildings adhered to the original six demands, however, they were largely independent of sds. However, at 1 A.M. on Friday the final building taken over by the students, Mathematics Hall, was done so by a small group of sds students whom wanted to further expand the uprising to additional buildings. After the occupation of these buildings it became ?clear that this was not merely another student demonstration that could be resolved with a few suspensions. Columbia was headed for a crisis potentially more explosive than the one at Berkeley four years before.?

Throughout the crisis there was constant debate about what should be done. The administration, the faculty, and the students debated among themselves about how to handle the situation. Although there was very little interaction between the Administration and students, the Faculty, through the Ad Hoc Faculty Group, served as mediators who strove to resolve the crisis peacefully. As early as Wednesday morning, faculty members began to gather in Philosophy room 301 to discuss the situation. After hearing a disconcerting press conference by vice-president Truman on April 25, faculty members realized that it was not enough to only give their opinion, action had to be taken. Professor Metzger stated, ?it is not enough to be talked to by the administration. We ought to do something as a faculty.? In effect, the Ad Hoc Faculty Group was formed. The group for most of the crisis acted as mediators, ?the premise shared by its founders was the belief that a strong segment of the faculty, acting informally and independently, could effect a settlement of the dispute.?

The ahfg often conversed with students in order to resolve the issue, however, they never succeed for two reasons. Firstly, they had little power. Students could not trust faculty guarantees because, due to Columbia?s structure, they had no authority. Faculty ?found themselves suggesting settlements which they had no power to guarantee. They were emissaries of a bastard body?the Ad Hoc Faculty Group?which had little more power than the authority to disband itself.? Secondly, the faculty never supported all of the student?s six demands, which the students believed essential. In the end the faculty did not support the students right to amnesty. By doing this, ?the faculty mediators ceased to be mediators and became instead the more or less unwitting accomplices of the administration?s plans to use physical force to crush the strike and then to jail and expel the strike?s leaders.?

The ahfg, no longer creditable mediators, now acted as barricades for student protection against police. On two separate occasions faculty formed barricades around ?liberated? buildings in an attempt to hold police back. On the first occasion, when police surged ?ahead. A scuffle followed. Some say that nightsticks flailed, drawn from under the coats of policemen.? Presented to as evidence of the violence to come, the police struggle with the faculty forced Kirk to reluctantly call off the attack.

However, in the early morning of Tuesday, April 30, police intervention was not called off. At 2:30 A.M., one thousand New York City policemen attacked the occupied buildings with unnecessary violence. In Hamilton Hall, however, the building of black occupation, enormous efforts at nonviolence had been made. Once this building had peacefully been taken, and the threat of a Harlem uprising subsided, police were let loose on the other four buildings. The action of clearing the buildings and the campus lasted three hours. Police fought through student and faculty barricades to get inside buildings. Students ?were thrown or dragged down stairways. Girls were pullout by the hair; their arms were twisted; they were punched in the face. Faculty members were kicked in the groin, tossed through hedges, punched in the eye. Noses and cheekbones were broken.? On three separate occasions police forced groups to secluded areas on the campus. Here, away from cameras and reporters beat students, faculty, and bystanders. In all, at least 148 were injured and 720 people were arrested.

Victims of police brutality were outraged at the University?s action. University violence against students and faculty was seen as ?an extension of its violence against black people in Columbia University owned buildings, against the community in seizure of park land, [and] against third world struggles in ida weapon systems.? In response to the administration?s actions, the University called for a general strike. For a month faculty and students struck, disrupting almost all University classes. On the night of April 21, and morning of April 22, police were again called to clear Hamilton Hall after some 200 students staged a second sit-in. The violence that occurred paralleled, if not exceeded, that of the previous police bust. Additional violence was expected in the fall of 1968, however, on August 23, ?the unyielding but exhausted Grayson Kirk resigned as president of the University, and his successor, acting president Andrew Cordier, immediately requested the city to drop?charges pending against students?The revolution had spent its force.?

Superficially at the beginning of the 1968-69 academic year at Columbia University, it appeared as though the students had won a great victory. Grayson Kirk had resigned from office, ida was no longer affiliated with Columbia, construction on the gym ended, and students had gained amnesty. The original six demands students had been fighting for since the beginning of the protest on Tuesday April 23, had been granted. However, many students began to ask themselves, ?what had we really won?? Students had been granted their demands, however, the demands themselves were only symbolic of real concerns affecting society. Even the ?strike leadership basically understood that these demands were symbolic. Indeed, it was always Strike Central?s real position that substantive change could only emerge as a consequence of revolution?that the demands were merely levers in a revolutionary struggle.? After protest had ended, Rudd himself acknowledged the demands irrelevance to the radical movement: ?there were no issues at Columbia, I made them all up.? Another day he stated, ?The issues were symbolic.? In addition, Bill Sales, in a speech at the Sundial before the sit-in, described how the student?s struggle was much bigger than the immediate issues at hand. He stated:

If you?re talking about revolution, if you?re talking about identifying with the Vietnamese struggle, you don?t need to go to Rockefeller Center, dig? There?s one oppressor?in the White House, in Low Library, in Albany, New York. You strike a blow at Low Library, you strike a blow for the freedom fighters in Angola, Mozambique, Portuguese Guinea, Zimbabwe, South Africa.

The demands were only symbols of the racist, imperialistic, and authoritarian tactics of a school operating within an oppressive society. Had they been immediately adopted by Columbia?s administration, they would not have had the slightest effect on any of the issues underlining the protest. The removal of Kirk and Burden from ida Board ?would not have affected to the slightest degree the continuation of defense department research, nor could it have had a real impact on defense research even at Columbia.? Similarly, the gym symbolized Columbia?s racist and oppressive exploitation of the surrounding black community. The construction of the gym itself would do little to alter Columbia?s expansion techniques. These demands, while seemingly meaningless, were actually microcosmic of the larger issues that surrounded the protest. The students had protested to illustrate to the world the ethical atrocities of the war in Vietnam and the racist policies that operated within American society.

Of the three biggest demands, the student?s quest for amnesty was the most controversial issue. Both students and the administration refused to budge on this demand. The demand for amnesty was both a rejection of the authority of the old order, Columbia?s administration, and a demand for due process. Although many of the students saw the issue of amnesty as nothing more profound than an insistence that they not be punished, most student leaders saw it as much more. They believed that to accept discipline from Columbia University was to acknowledge their authority. The scc stated:

Amnesty must be a precondition for negotiations. Our demand for amnesty implies a specific political point. Our actions are legitimate; it is the laws and the Administration?s policies, which the laws have been designed to protect, that are illegitimate.

In this light, the students illustrated their contempt, not only against Columbia, but also for the justice system of America, which supported the old establishments. Student Power and the demand for due process also underlined the amnesty demand. In their attempt to limit the powers of Columbia?s administration, students, in effect, fought against its authoritarian leadership.

The microcosmic demands at Columbia were only symbolic of a larger struggle?a struggle for power between the New Left and the old order. As a whole, the symbolic goals surrounding student demands were ultimately concerned with participatory democracy and radicalization of the student movement. The goals of nearly all New Left students was the desire to have a voice in their society, a society dominated by institutions that feared change, such as Columbia. Students at Columbia strove to radicalize their peers and achieve a voice in the system. Some students believed that Columbia was just a venue for which they could be heard. "Columbia didn?t really matter at all. The primary object of the movement was to use the dissatisfactions with Columbia as a way of radicalizing student opinion and sensitizing it to the fundamental forces at work in the larger society. In order to achieve these macrocosmic goals, students at Columbia wanted the revolution to spread to campuses across the nation. Mark Rudd sought to transform ?the entire student movement, through this particular student revolt, into a successful effort to bring down the system.? Tom Hayden, a founder of sds, who was actively involved in the Columbia protest, wrote that ?Columbia?s problem is the American problem in miniature?the inability to provide answers to widespread social needs.? Hayden called for all American students to join the Columbia protest to battle against society, ?Create two, three, many Columbias; ?expand the strike so that the US must either change or send its troops to occupy American campuses.? However, with the adoption of the student?s symbolic goals, the revolution at Columbia ended. Regardless, the student leader?s macrocosmic goals of battling against the establishment for participatory democracy throughout the US continued. Columbia?s example spread across American in 1968, ?some two hundred student demonstrations occurred around the country before the end of the spring semester.?

The Causes and the Protest of 1968 8.1 of 10 on the basis of 3655 Review.