23. Digging Out in the 1970s

Alma Mater/Spring 2014
April 23, 2014

23. Digging Out in the 1970s

Measuring Outcomes /Who Won? Who Lost?
The building takeovers initiated by a minority of undergraduates to protest certain aspects of life at Columbia:

1. Strained relations with neighboring community and its leaders à The gym in MSP
Gym project abandoned – some alumni $$ demanded back – and given back??

2. Columbia’s complicity in Vietnam War à membership in IDA  -> NROTC
CU out of IDA as an “external organization” —
CU out of NROTC because of its staffing with officers

3. Threatened disciplinary actions against protesters
Nobody suspended/expelled for involvement in the building occupations
“Low Six” not arrested; no second offense
The 511 that were arrested – criminal charges dropped by the Trustees – “amnesty” without the word…
Disciplinary procedures invested in tripartite panel – no longer the President/deans…

4. Black students’ demands for curricular acknowledgement (courses/faculty); role in recruiting —
All acceded to

5. Opposition to the University’s standing authorities – President Kirk/Provost Truman
Kirk out  in August; Truman not made acting president à Andrew Cordier, SIA dean…

6. Faculty discontent with their not being at the center of the University’s decision-making
Ad Hoc Faculty Group – attempting a palace rebellion/a putsch??
Discrediting the constituted authorities; seizing the mike (as per Rudd with ML King service)

Immediate post-bust (Tuesday AM) shift in center of authority – “Who’s in charge here?”

Two meetings of joint faculties called by AHFC – Alan Westin, political science
11:00 – McMillen Theatre — Faculty to support the strike??  Some opposition – Fritz Stern/Michael Sovern – adjourned without a vote

3:00 – St. Paul’s Chapel —
Some for strike; some opposed
Law school proposal: [Maurice Rosenberg/Kenneth Jones/Michael Sovern]
1. Short “moratorium” – not supporting “strike”

2. Support tripartite disciplinary framework of AHFG trio

3. Create an Executive Committee of the Faculty – membership “such as”:
— 4 AHFGroupers known to be sympathetic to students (Westin)
— 4 faculty known to be supportive of some disciplinary response:
— Lionel Trilling
— Michael Sovern – give the committee a lawyer (also a second person not from GSAS/CC)

The Short Reign of the Faculty Executive Committee

For next 11 months, the University decision-making emanates from this committee (with the Trustees’ acquiescence and over the heads of Low Library) – its centrist component (Ginsburg/Sovern/later DeBary)
Slowly expanded its representativeness – originally all guys, all professors, mostly from  from arts and sciences à more elected professional school representation (plus BC and TC); untenured/a woman…

Press trustees to drop charges against arrested students;

Secures an outside fact-finding/ investigative commission (Archibald Cox) to assess the strike and
assign responsibility à Crisis at Columbia  (9/26/1968)

Removes NROTC from campus;

Selects Kirk’s replacement and denies Truman the presidency (leaves for Mt. Holyoke presidency)
Why Cordier? – experience as a diplomat; age; ready to defer to Executive Committee
Why not Truman? – Too close to CC/GAS; emotional stability??

Comes up with its own replacement – A University Senate (April 1969 – by faculty and student referendum)

Learn working with faculty only way to keep the place together; some prefer new way to the “growing mushrooms”  approach of previous presidents.

Student Shakeup

SDS/Strike leaders as rock stars – not into nitty-gritty campus politics
Take battle into streets – rent strike violence
Some seek a national stage – Weatherman phase for Mark Rudd à Paul Berman (CC1969)
Black Panthers
Ted Gold blown up March 6, 1970
David Gilbert (CC 1966) à 1975 murder of a Brink’s guard during robbery…
On campus students – Students for a Restructured University – given access to Executive Committee…
Majority Coalition folks welcomed as well…
Black students get heard and responded to…

Radicals still capable of disrupting campus – but fewer faculty or students any longer see them as having anything to offer other than endless chaos….

If any consolation, over the next two years similar – and in some cases, fatal — campus disruptions occurred elsewhere:

Harvard – 1969 – occupation of University Hall/Strike meeting in Memorial Stadium
Cornell – Black students occupying and arming a campus building
Yale – Black Panther trial in 1970
Kent State
Jackson State
U Wisconsin – bombing of science lab where Army research underway

But arguably it was at Columbia where the damage was the greatest and recovery  the most problematic, not least because many of its problems antedating the student disruptions.

Access the Damage/Fall Out

Financial consequences – Capital Campaign aborted half-way to its goal; alumni fundraising becomes virtually impossible; foundations/corps unwilling to support institution on life-support. A decade long period of annual deficits and paying off accumulated debt and deferring maintenance.

1b. Need for administration to squeeze every penny out of the income sides of the University, while eliminating  everything that could not pass the new three-question stress test:

1. Are you a net generator of revenue?
2. Is what you do essential to the operations of the rest of the university?
3. Are you among the best doing what you do?

Linguistics,  geography, mathematical statistics ;
School of Library Science
Columbia University Quarterly

Near casualties:
An independent Barnard

2. Drop in applications/ enrollments – taking in less selective classes than in 1960s (esp. in engineering); public reputation as a school full of radical students, weak-kneed administrators and faculty not to be trusted to organize a two-car funeral….

3. Faculty departures accelerate – only mitigated by general collapse of academic labor market;
having to let go of even the most promising assistant professors
Daniel Bell/Peter Gay/Wm. Leuchtenburg/….
Eric Foner to CUNY
Jonathan Cole to Barnard

Factors in Survival

1.  Some faculty ready to invest/commit to University’s survival in administrative roles:
Theodore Wm de Bary à provost (1971-78)
George Fraenkel à dean of the graduate faculties (1969-1981)

2. Some effective professional school deans brought in:
Peter Likins – SEAS (1976-80)

Cordier good crisis manager in his 20 months at the top – but spending $$ like there was no tomorrow …

1th president William J. McGill – 1970-80
New Yorker who knew Columbia – and was known by Columbians…
Defector from CU in early  1960s à California
Back with an earned reputation as a tough guy on campus – ready/eager to engage the enemies….
Disruptive students; non-cooperating faculty/wasteful programs/freeloaders….

Disruptions early on à blamed on Nixon policies… not intimidated by students/neighbors??

Longer struggle – Putting University’s finances in order;
Everything on the table —
Traditional autonomy of self-sufficient schools and programs (Law/Business/P&S…/Lamont-Doherty)
Traditional willingness to let schools/departments have major voice in faculty tenuring
Redundancy in offerings of schools questioned and reduced sharply – forced cooperation not
part of the old way of doing things
Traditional willingness to subsidize money-losing operations – SEAS/GSAS
Traditional arrangements with Barnard and its “below-market” access to University services

Challenge to figure out who was a revenue-generator and who a loss-leader?  Different/Separate books

Old way – Schools collected their revenues – If some left after paying bills, some sent to Low Library, which Low used to pay for general operations

McGill-imposed way – All revenues to Low Library: Schools then given a dollar number that would be their budget for the year;  anything above that they had to have as school endowment or raise in form of gifts or generate in form of research grants

Medical School and Business School objected by forced into line; Lamont-Doherty objected and its chief – Maurice Ewing decamped for Texas
Engineering School undertook to generate more revenue; to become a donor; to be applauded for helping the team….
GSAS shrinking for half-dozen years….College expected to allow its generous alums to give to the University/not just the College

And what about dear Barnard?


Stay tuned.


Last updated: April 23, 2014




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