REBELLION AND REFORM:
REFLECTIONS ON THE ORIGINS
OF THE UNIVERSITY SENATE

TRANSCRIPT OF A PANEL DISCUSSION MARKING
THE SENATE’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY

April 23, 2010

104 Jerome Greene Hall
Columbia University

(Important early documents of the University Senate available here.)

PANELISTS

MICHAEL I. SOVERN, CC ’53, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Faculty, 1968, which first proposed a university senate; President of the University, 1980-1993; Chancellor Kent Professor of Law.

NEAL H. HURWITZ,
CC ’66, M.Phil. ’77; member of the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee, which tried to mediate between the building occupiers and the administration in April 1968; co-leader of Students for a Restructured University, 1968-1969.

WM. THEODORE DE BARY,
CC ’41, first Chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, 1969-1971; John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University Emeritus; University Provost, 1971-1978.

HAROLD S. WECHSLER,
CC ’67, staff member, Project on Columbia Structure, research arm of the Executive Committee of the Faculty, 1968-69; member of the Senate Rules Committee; Senate staff, 1968-1973; co-director of NYU’s Ph.D. program in Education and Jewish Studies.

MARK E. WEISS,
M.A., GSAS, 1968; staff member, Project on Columbia Structure, 1968-69; student senator (GSAS/Humanities), 1969-70; poet and translator.

RONALD C. BRESLOW
, University Professor; senator, 1969-72, 1988-90, and currently; member of the first Senate Executive Committee.

Moderator: TOM MATHEWSON, Senate manager

 

TOM MATHEWSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the second half of our program today, a panel discussion of the origins of the University Senate. And I’m very, very excited to have this panel. This group are the real thing. They were really there, all of them involved either in the run-up to the Senate or in the work of the Senate itself, and I’m very eager to hear from them. Let me just say a couple of words first. We’ve sort of informally billed this as the 40th anniversary of the Senate, but we’re actually a little late. The inaugural Senate meeting was actually 41 years ago. It just has taken us a while to get in gear to do this. I rationalize it by saying it’s the end of the 40th full year of the Senate. The Senate started in late May of 1969, held one meeting, and then adjourned till the following fall.

So, and I just want to say one other thing. Forty is a round number and it sounds like a reunion, and a lot of people had a very pleasant visit together during lunch, and I hope will continue through the rest of the afternoon. But I do want to say that what I’m hoping to have is a kind of accurate, candid historical appraisal of those first couple of years of the Senate, and I want to encourage the panelists and also a bunch of very knowledgeable people in the audience to speak up and help to make this picture together of the very start of the Senate.

I’m not going to try to frame the big themes. The panelists can do that just fine. I don’t think they need me for that. But I do very quickly want to mention just a couple of themes or ideas that I’m hoping to learn more about, both from them and from you. I think the panelists will give you a very clear idea that what happened—by the way, our story starts on April 30, 1968, which was the day that Paul’s film ends on. Paul’s film pretty much ends with the bust, and that’s really when the story here begins, and it’s the story of a crisis in authority and legitimacy for Columbia’s governance structure and a sense by a great—a good—number of people that Columbia had to be rebuilt, restructured, and the process of how that happened.

Just a couple of things that a number of themes will be touched on, and there were issues of student need for better governance at Columbia, and also the need for faculty to have better governance, and they ran on kind of parallel, but different tracks. So there are two stories that interweave at different points, but I’m hoping to hear a lot about both of them today.

Just ticking off a couple of other ideas—one of the things that was discussed at great length is the place of the university, its relationship to its surrounding community and its society, and this had a great deal of discussion during the months between the bust and the launching of the Senate.

So I think I’ll just turn it over to the experts here. Our first speaker is Michael Sovern. I don’t think he needs much of an introduction from me, but I’ll give a very brief one. He’s the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law. He’ll tell you about what he was doing in ’68—or some of it. [Laughter] But he was the dean of the Law School from 1970 to ’79, provost from ’79 to ’80, president from ’80 to ’93, all that time—most of that time—serving in the Senate or presiding over it. Since 1993, he’s had a break from us, until now. Welcome back, Mr. Sovern. [Applause]

MICHAEL SOVERN: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, everyone. I always prefer “he needs no introduction” to “he deserves no introduction.” Tom mentioned anniversaries, and of course it was exactly 42 years ago today that the events began that led to the creation of the Senate. It was a wild week, at the end of which Columbia was seriously unsure of its future, unable to hold classes, the president could not give the Commencement address for the only time that I know of in the 20th century, and we were unsure as to whether school could resume in September.

One of the many remarkable things about that week was that everything was improvised. As those of you who saw Paul Cronin’s film this morning were reminded, the demonstrations, the building takings—improvisational; the ad hoc faculty group—improvisational; the administration’s response—all improvised; and to be faithful to the theme of the week, so was the creation of the Executive Committee of the Faculty.

I’ll take just a couple of moments to tell you its bizarre origins. We’re talking now about the morning of April 30 after the police had swept the campus. I was lunching with a friend and colleague, Ken Jones, at the West End. We had all received communications from President Kirk calling us to a meeting of the tenured faculty in St. Paul’s Chapel at four o’clock that afternoon. And just over lunch, chatting as colleagues will, we agreed that the administration would not know what to do with that meeting. And so just in play, intellectual play, we decided what they should do. And the elements, as they seemed to us, were fairly clear. There’d been calls for a strike. We didn’t think that was a good idea, so something was needed to be done to pre-empt that, and that was to call for a day of reflection. So to close the university for the following day.

We thought that the administration could not possibly generate the confidence needed to repair the damage, and so what was needed was a strong faculty committee that enjoyed the confidence of both faculty and administration.

And third, we thought that fair disciplinary hearings had to be set up to deal with the students who had been arrested or otherwise implicated in the week’s activities.

We didn’t really know what to do with this. You see before you a president emeritus, a man of many years of administration, but not then. Then I was a happy law professor. I doubt that either President Kirk or Provost Truman would have recognized me if we ran into each other on campus. So the thought of trotting up to Low Library and saying, “Here, fellows, this looks like a good idea,” was not open to us. But the Law School is a cuddly community, and so we went and called on our dean, Bill Warren. And Bill loved the idea. We had even, Kenny and I, blocked out the membership of that committee. It almost self-selected.

There were four distinguished colleagues from various parts of the University who had spoken on behalf of the University, and they were Eli Ginzberg, Ernest Nagel, let’s see, Polykarp Kusch and Bill Leuchtenberg, all widely respected scholars. Then the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee: we figured, pick four from them. So four from column A, four from column B. And we picked Alan Westin, Daniel Bell, Alexander Dahlin, and Walter Metzger. So we had eight, and then we topped it off with Lionel Trilling.

And so we suggested to Warren that this might be a good idea. He said, “Wonderful!” Only he said, “But, Mike, you should be on that committee, too.” I think he did that because I was teaching labor law in those days and had occasionally gone out into the world and dealt with conflict. And so we had ten names, and Bill Warren and I divvied up the assignments. I was to go find the Ad Hoc Faculty group, which was in some disarray, and he was to go see Dave Truman and get them to agree.

The Ad Hoc Faculty group was thrilled; Dave Truman said, “Absolutely not.” And so we all went to the meeting at four o’clock in St. Paul’s Chapel, and I’ll spare you the extraordinary confusion and disarray in the Chapel that eventuated in the adoption of that resolution. And so there we were, the ten of us. One of the amusing things about that resolution was that the membership was—part of the resolution said the committee would be composed “of such people as the following.” I don’t know why we chose that locution, but those who didn’t like the idea could properly point out that the resolution didn’t actually call for the appointment of these guys, just “such people.” Anyway, we were there, we were chosen. The resolution was adopted by voice vote. Since I had some responsibility for it, I’d say by acclamation, but nobody could tell what was going on in that madhouse, except that it did clearly carry.

We went to work at once. We met with students that evening; we met with faculty at different times. It was most important that we meet with the trustees. Hardly any of us had ever met any trustees, but Eli Ginzberg did know some, and he arranged a meeting. And it was all of both groups, that is to say, the whole committee and whole board of trustees met late one night into the morning. They seemed to be reassured that we were responsible citizens, and we persuaded them that if the University was to come back together that criminal charges against the students had to be dropped, remitting them to University discipline.

And that was a part of our strategic sense. We believed that we needed to function on two levels: short term, some restoration of amity and collegiality; and longer term, to repair the shortcomings in the University’s governance structure. And the short term began with the dropping of the criminal charges. The trustees did agree to that. Bill Warren, the dean of the Law School, appeared before the court to urge the dropping; and Frank Hogan, a trustee and the district attorney, did ultimately agree that they be dropped.

It also seemed important to clarify what had happened, and out of that grew our appointment of the Cox Commission, a group of distinguished scholars headed by Archie Cox, that rendered a quite powerful report later that summer. We also worked with the Joint Committee on Discipline to be sure we had a set of rules with which the university could open in the fall, disciplinary rules that would assure people that anybody offending the rules would be treated fairly. And actually the entire tenured faculty met on September 12th that year to approve those rules so that they would be in effect on opening day, which in those days was late September.

The governance reform was obviously a more sustained effort. We believed that opening up the process of governance might well lead to wiser decisions, and it obviously could enhance esprit and commitment by giving faculty and others a sense of participation and a real right to participate.

So being scholars, in order to bring that about, we launched a substantial research effort. And the man who led it was Frank Grad, who’s sitting right here. Frank mobilized a task force of faculty and students, and proceeded to learn how decisions were actually made at Columbia. Which seems like an obvious inquiry that might readily be answered quickly, but as we came to learn, and as many of you know yourselves, this is a Byzantine place, and it was important to understand how it did operate if we were going to make recommendations about how it should operate. Frank also, with his group, looked into what other universities were doing and conceived of possible options that no one had chosen.

And Frank would report to the Executive Committee on a regular basis. He and I would chat just about daily. Over the summer and much of the ensuing academic year, Frank and his group would dig and report; the committee would reflect, consult broadly, and ask new questions. By late winter we were ready with our proposal for a university senate.

In 1968 many universities had faculty senates, though they often functioned like Columbia’s University Council, the predecessor institution which was widely perceived, and I think correctly so, as doing virtually nothing. The senate we proposed was quite different. To the best of our knowledge at the time, it was unique. It would include not just faculty, but students and representatives of all of the constituent groups on campus. To be sure, faculty would dominate, and some representation could fairly be called token. Columbia’s more than 100,000 alumni at the time, for example, received two seats. We thought a senate of 100 was small enough to be able to function and large enough to be able to give at least some representation to various groups.

We didn’t want a separate student government for the University as a whole. Though such bodies could play a useful role in particular schools, Columbia’s experience with a university student council had been unhappy, [with the council seen as] remote from students’ interests, dominated by people who might or might not reflect views more broadly held. We believe that student representation in a faculty-dominated body was also good educational policy. As we put it in our supporting statement, it forces them to make difficult choices instead of simply criticizing the hard choices made by others, and such participation also offers especially fruitful contact with their elders.

By the time we made our recommendations, most of the schools at the University had in fact added students to their deliberative bodies, and so this was hardly revolutionary. Adding staff and alumni was quite unusual. The Alumni Association urged us to give them more than the two seats, but we pointed out that no university had ever given alumni any. Students urged a one-man, one-vote policy. We were able to point out that if we did that, they’d be swamped by alumni, and it was never seriously considered.

In form the Senate had to be subordinate to the trustees, as were all parts of the University. But just as the trustees’ ultimate power over faculty appointments didn’t keep the faculty from exercising actual authority in that sphere, so the Senate’s de juris subordination to the trustees would not deny it real power.

The Senate was to be a policymaking body with power over all matters affecting more than one faculty or school or involving university-wide concerns. It could take up such matters as the ownership of patent rights, classified research, amendments to the rules of conduct, and much more. The Senate would also participate in the selection of trustees themselves, so that the way we wrote it was [that] six of Columbia’s 24 trustees must be mutually acceptable to the nominating committee of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Senate. There was to be a Senate role in the selection of the president and the provost.

We also provided for a Senate Budget Review Committee that was to review the annual budget of the University after its adoption to assure its general conformity with short-range and long-range priorities. The limitation on the grant of authority—[that] the budget was to be reviewed after its adoption—was as important to us as the grant of authority. We believed in broad participation in the University’s affairs, but we weren’t zealots. To have allowed participation in the actual making of a budget, we feared, would produce results that would be even less edifying than those of the United States Congress. [Laughter]

The trustees were not in full accord. There was a lot of give and take, back and forth. After innumerable meetings, conferences, we submitted our proposal to referenda of faculty and students in March 1969. It was endorsed by affirmative votes of more than 80 percent by each group. The trustees were not pleased that we had gone to referenda before we had concluded our negotiations with them, but there wasn’t a great deal left to be worked out at that point, and we did work it out.

And so in June, early June of 1969, the trustees approved our recommendations, and we set in motion the University Senate. And since I had had enough that year, I didn’t stand for election to the Senate, and so it’s time for me to hand off to others who will tell you what happened next. [Applause]

MATHEWSON: Thank you, Mr. Sovern. And what I’d like to do is to have two or three speakers give their presentations, and then have an extended period of discussion. So if you can hold your comments and questions for a little longer, I think that might be the way to have the best combination of fair turns for all speakers and ample discussion and questions. I’d like to go next to Neal Hurwitz, who played several roles during this period. He was a participant in the deliberations of the Ad Hoc Faculty Group, and he was also one of the early members of Students for a Restructured University, SRU, and he was one of the organization’s leaders. And I’d like to bring him up right now. Neal has a Columbia College degree from ’66, M.Phil. ’77, and I’d like to bring him on. Neal Hurwitz. [Applause]

NEAL HURWITZ: I think it was very interesting to listen to Mike Sovern’s report because—How many of you were involved in that process in this room? Raise your hands high. Walter Metzger. Water Metzger here was one of the leaders of the Ad Hoc Faculty negotiating committee. Who else has a hand up?

MARK WEISS: Here.

HURWITZ: Mark Weiss, Ted de Bary, who else? Steve [Silberblatt].

ANOTHER VOICE: Look to your left.

HURWITZ: Okay. Okay. And Ron Breslow. Okay. At the time I don’t think I knew much about what Mike is now describing in detail. My own participation in this was: on April 23rd somebody told me that there was a demonstration on campus. I went to the campus and didn’t leave the campus until the 30th. I slept in Philosophy Hall. And because of Walter Metzger and Manny Wallerstein and some others on Ad Hoc Faculty who were absolutely brilliant and my heroes as my teachers in the College, I stuck around for one of the most amazing experiences you could ever have.

I joined the SRU research staff in the summer, and John Thoms here is one of the founders of SRU, coming out of the Strike Committee. Lucille Roussin. Who else is here from SRU? And of course my buddy. Now Steve Silverblatt and I, the one experience that I had with Mike back then, which led me to the notion that he was both brilliant and charming, was that he came over to our office in Teachers College. It’s one of the moments of my life. And we had our feet up on the chair, and it became obvious to me that Mike was basically taking a look to see whether or not he was going to have any trouble doing what he wanted to do. And having met Steve, who’s very brilliant, and myself, who I thought was somewhat savvy on politics and so I was teaching in the College and SIA at the time, it became really clear from an early point that the inheritors of the mantle of the leadership of this university was going to pass from Grayson Kirk and the patrician, WASPy, somewhat anti-Semitic, but not even—When I got to the College in ’62, it wasn’t anti-Semitic anymore. But it was anti-Semitic for many years. And forget about blacks!

But the bottom line is that Mike was going to inherit the universe. And Mike actually did. So I really would like to throw out that I think you’ve underrepresented yourself as usual in a self-effacing way. Because there was a meeting of the Ad Hoc Faculty Negotiating Committee with Alan Westin as chairman, who happens to be a lawyer, as is Mike, and Mike came in and essentially derailed the Ad Hoc Faculty Negotiating Committee. So from a politics and a power perspective, I think one of the interesting things about the University Senate is that the faculty and senior faculty, and all of the names he mentioned by the way in the first instance—Eli Ginzberg, Leuchtenberg, Nagel, Hofstadter if you will—there was a real group of them who would be meeting during the time of this mess and counseling behind the scenes about what to do.

And none of us knew what they were counseling each other about what to do. And so one of the interesting things today might be for Ron Breslow, who was around then—he may know—who had the idea of the University Senate first? Where did it come from? Because during the summer of ’68, myself, Nigel Paneth, and other members of SRU went around and interviewed practically everybody on this campus about what to do on the internal side of this university. And one of the key issues of the internal side of this university was the powerlessness of the students, not to mention that the faculty were upset that they weren’t being listened to. The students essentially were completely disempowered. There wasn’t a student government in the College at that time.

So one of the key issues that comes up here is, Who has the power? How do they use it? When do they use it? And are they smart about using it? And one of the key issues in ’68 was that Kirk really got stupid. And Truman, unfortunately, who was going to be president of the University, lost it all.

So this was a very emotional, passionate, amazing time. I’ll say a couple of things more about some of the issues on the table here. I think that SRU—and I commend SRU. I did not start SRU. I worked in SRU in research, and then I think Steve Silberblatt and I inherited it in the fall. But the bottom line is that I think that we were among the only people on campus who were actively opposing any violence by anybody.

Number one, the students went in the buildings and occupied the buildings, and committed a bunch of acts that were really heinous, among other things. Number two, the administration always had the option of calling the police. Those of you who remember Political Science 1, remember that the state has the monopoly on the use of violence. So the bottom line was the cops. And we opposed the police on this campus from day one in the Ad Hoc Faculty Negotiating Committee, and I will say that a number of the folks—just to make this interesting, Tom—a number of the folks that Mike refers to, like Eli Ginzberg, Leuchtenberg, Nagel and some others, nobody heard a word from them about whether or not police should come on this campus while they were maybe doing some negotiating behind the scenes. And Bob Belknap’s back there, who’s another major figure of this time, and might have something to say about these things, too.

So we opposed the violence, and once the violence occurred, then this whole thing came which I find a little bit boring now 40 years later, but I’ll read it for you. And that is [that] there needs to be some constructive rebuilding of our immediate context at Columbia. And what did that mean? Ready for this? University reform, institutional reform, governance of the university change, reorganizing the university, basic structure of the university changes, and structural reorganization.

Well, you know, as a political scientist, I took one look at the trustees and then I met my friend, Mike, and I said, “No way.” I said, “What’s going to happen around here is some very mild form of some moderate reforms, and then we’re going to hopefully have some smarter people around.” One of them I wanted to have here today from Washington State was Ted Van Dyk. Ted Van Dyk had lost the [1968 presidential] election with [Hubert] Humphrey [as an advisor to the campaign], and Humphrey, if you recall, lost the election in Illinois in the last minute. So it was really closer than you think. But Ted Van Dyk was hired by the University to sort of like help smooth things over. And he was a smoother, and he would meet with Steve and me and others from SRU and basically tell us, “You know, Cordier’s going to be cool, everything’s going to be fine. We’re going to isolate the SDS guys. Don’t worry about anything, and we’re going to really respond to your grievances and your needs.”

Well, does the University Senate today represent what students can have as a participation and power in a university appropriately? Is the Senate today functioning in a way that really deals with questions the University is facing, such as Manhattanville or anything else you want to bring up? Is the Senate having an active role in advisory— and also since Mike was president of the University for 13 years, right, 13, it would be very interesting to hear from Mike how he regarded the University Senate during his tenure since he established it. I would love to know what Mike thought of his creation.
John Thoms here, who was one of the beautiful people in the SRU group that started it, wrote that he wanted to see a new community at Columbia. He said he wanted us to speak the truth. And he said something which I like: “Human beings gathered together in the same room would do well to pay attention to one another.” I’ve been at Columbia since 1962. I’ve been a student, a faculty member. I helped found Project Double Discovery and other things. I’ve never found Columbia to be a place where it’s really an open dialogue and where you really know what’s going on, unless you know somebody. And as we know in this world, knowing somebody is a very big key to knowing what the hell’s going on.

So the idea that my friend Robert Paul Wolf, the philosopher, said in ’68—[There was some trouble with the microphone] I wish this thing was higher. I don’t like bending all the time. Thank you. I don’t have to. Okay. Boy, that’s uncomfortable—Robert Paul Wolf. I don’t know. How many of you remember Robert Paul Wolf from Philosophy? Brilliant, brilliant man. He came up to me after the bust, and I was taking somebody to the hospital and all that, and he said to me, “You know,” he said. And you know that twitch he had? He said, “The trustees are never, ever going to let this place really change.” And one of the questions about Columbia University is, Has it really changed in any fundamental way since that time internally? And I think the answer to that really is an interesting one. I think a lot of good things actually have occurred around here, and that might be something to reflect upon—whether the Senate has had some influence in making Columbia more responsive or (we know) much smarter, and much more attuned to the world in which it’s now living. I think I’ll stop with that. And thank you very, very much. It’s a real pleasure to be here.

And I will say one other thing quick. The SRU never, ever wanted a Senate with 62 faculty, 24 students, six research folks, two administrative staff. The bottom line was—I think the proposal was that we have equal power. And that is a very good thing to debate some time, but the idea of 62 faculty, 24 students, etc.--I’d love to know what others think in this room who really know a lot more than I do about the last 30 years, or 20 years of it. How’s the Senate been doing? [Applause]

MATHEWSON: Neal, you raised about 70 questions for us to deal with. But before we do, I’d like to bring on one more panelist, and that’s Professor Ted de Bary, who will also talk about the early portion. I meant to say earlier that I had hoped to sort of divide this into two parts: one on the formation of the Senate, and the other part on the first couple of years of the Senate, but I think that interest seems to be tightly focused on the formative time. Anyway, I’d like to bring on Ted de Bary right now. He was the Executive Committee chairman for the first two years of the Senate. But I think he wants to talk about something different this time. Ted. [Applause]

WM. THEODORE DE BARY: I would like to respond directly to the remarks just made about the University, and the idea that somehow it was created in 1968. But I’m going to stick to my prepared remarks in the interest of time. I think this account a little bit—it’s parallel to that of Mike Sovern, but from a somewhat different direction.

My journey to the University Senate started one day in late April of 1968 when I was working in my Kent Hall office trying to finish up a book the completion of which had long been delayed by a decade of service as chair of the University Committee on Oriental Studies, setting up the core courses on Asia, and then by two terms as chairman of the Department of Chinese and Japanese, which in the ’60s became expanded to the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. I was glad in 1968 to be free of administration for a while, and was determined not to be distracted by the disturbances going on just outside my window.

In the midst of this, I had a visit from a former student of mine, George Keller, who had since become the editor of Columbia College Today. He told me about an ad hoc faculty group who were meeting in Philosophy Hall, hoping to serve as intermediaries between the administration and the students occupying Low Library. I started attending those meetings, which didn’t get very far because Mark Rudd and the SDS insisted that Kirk and Truman resign as a precondition of negotiations.

This was no surprise to me. Before Rudd launched his attack on Low Library, he took his band of SDS radicals down into Morningside Park to stage a demonstration against a proposed Columbia and community gym in the park. When he emerged by the stairway from the park and reached Morningside Drive, he was holding a banner aloft inscribed “To rebel is justified.” Perhaps few who saw the photo shot in the Spectator the next day understood whose battle cry this was or how portentous the slogan was.

It came from Mao Tse-Tung, originally in a call to his revolutionary cadres in the 1930s, but [was] reiterated in a speech celebrating the Communist victory in 1949, a major speech entitled “Stalin Is Our Commander,” [laughter] honoring Stalin as the leader of world revolution. And that’s who Mark Rudd was quoting.

In the earlier version Mao emphasized how different his revolution was from anything like the traditional civility of the Confucians. It was not a gentle tea party or an exchange of scholarly conversation, but something that both justified and demanded the use of force. He belittled liberals as polite pantywaists who did not have the guts to engage in fierce and prolonged class struggle, who always preferred compromise. This prefigured Mao’s later Cultural Revolution, which was coming to its devastating climax in China in precisely 1968.

When Mark Rudd rallied his forces outside Low Library, his cry was “Up against the wall, motherfucker!” He would, he said, force Kirk and Truman to say no. By this he meant that he did not want any qualified yes from the administration, leaving the way open for a negotiated compromise. He wanted outright confrontation in which he would impose his own demands on callow liberals who would not want a messy fight.

At the moment when Low Library was occupied, Grayson Kirk was downtown, but asked David Truman by phone to call in the police. Truman hesitated. He still hoped to negotiate, as did the majority of the faculty group I was meeting with in Philosophy Hall at the time. As you know, Truman eventually had to call in the police, and it would prove even messier.

Later, after Kirk and Truman were forced to resign, Andrew Cordier was brought in as president, and for him, when push came to shove, he did not hesitate to call in the police. Fred Friendly of the Journalism School used to say in admiration of Cordier, “Andy has the gift of spreading foam over everything. So the radicals can’t get their hands on him.” [Laughter] But Fred and the Executive Committee of the Faculty knew by this time that they had to support Cordier when it became necessary, to defend the civil rights of the University.

Earlier the right of the University to defend its civil rights, its due process and civil activities, especially the right not just of academic freedom, but even the freedom of assembly, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, to carry out its legitimate academic activities, had been challenged by Rudd and the SDS in the form of strikes against the holding of classes and regular academic ceremonies. I had heard that students from other New York campuses, and even from as far away as Boston, were among the cohorts occupying the Columbia buildings. But it was only when I attended a conference at Aspen in Colorado called to discuss student rebellions in the U.S. that I met radical students from Berkeley and other Bay Area campuses who proudly introduced themselves to me as among those who had occupied Columbia’s Mathematics building.

Meanwhile, the media kept talking about the students as if they represented most Columbia students. But actually SDS never represented more than a small minority. A larger group of students called the Majority Coalition actually blockaded the buildings occupied by the SDS, hoping to starve the latter out. The question of how students could be accurately represented was in the back of my own mind when I later participated in the meetings that led to the creation of the University Senate.

In ’68 there were student governing bodies in several schools, but they could hardly be heard above the uproar created by the SDS. This convinced me that only a senate representative of all students, as well as faculty, could speak for the Columbia community as a whole in defending the essential rights and functions of the university.

While attending the meetings in Philosophy Hall, I was invited by historian Fritz Stern to meet in his Claremont Avenue apartment with other leading members of the faculty like Lionel Trilling, William Leuchtenberg, Richard Hofstadter, Ernest Nagel, Paul Marks, and Magnus Gregersen of the Medical School, and other distinguished scholars, who then joined in publishing the Statement in Defense of Academic Freedom from Mob Violence. This was published in the New York Times.

Next, at a large meeting of the faculty, university-wide, that has already been referred to by Mike, it called for the creation of an executive committee of the faculty, with elected faculty representation from several schools. I was elected to it from the Graduate Faculty of Philosophy. In the meetings of the Executive Committee, two issues particularly concerned me. One was that the new senate not just be a faculty senate as at so many other universities, but should include students and administrative staff and alumni, and it should be university-wide. The other question was, Who should preside? I believed that the Senate should have its own leadership. Others thought the president of the University should preside. But I felt that if the Senate were merely at the disposal of the president, it would tend to become just an instrument of administration. We compromised by having the president preside at plenary meetings, but the Senate would have its own executive committee and its own chairman, so that the president would have to deal with it as a body exercising its own powers.

As it turned out, I was elected the first chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, and served in that capacity for two years. I think the arrangement worked well at the time, but others can judge for themselves by consulting the report I submitted at the end of my term. By that time, I had been asked to serve as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, which I did from ’71 to ’78. But that is another story.

Lastly, I want to thank Tom Mathewson for convening this forum, even more for carrying on the tradition which we started 40 years ago. Everything depends on good people like yourselves willing to serve the university community in the way that you do now. Thank you. [Applause].

MATHEWSON: Thank you very much, Ted. About that report that Ted wrote after two years as Executive Committee chairman, I read it about once a year to get an idea of the possibilities of this institution, especially when I’m a little down about it. And it’s in the packets that we’ve tried to give out to everybody. And it’s simply an account of what the Senate accomplished in those two years. And if I had more time, I’d be happy to summarize it myself, but I urge you to read it yourselves. The sense of urgency that I see from this distance in the whole effort to restructure Columbia and to launch this group just continues to make an impression on me.

I wanted to take some time for discussion and questions now. And I’d like first to invite panelists. They’ve been listening to each other. Would any panelists like to say something or ask one of the other panelists anything at this point?

HURWITZ: Well, I just want to say one thing, and that is, and I’d love Walter to say anything, Walter Metzger over here, professor of history at Columbia University, member of the Ad Hoc Faculty Negotiating Committee. Just for the historical record, and I don’t know the answer, what happened to Alan Westin as co-chairman of the Executive Committee of the Faculty and the three or four folks from the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee who were on the Executive Committee of the Faculty? They seemed to have disappeared very shortly after the formation of that committee under your leadership, Mike. Just to make this interesting, folks.

SOVERN: I described the circumstances of our election, which were not a model of democratic process. And so we felt, that is to say the ten of us, that we had to repair that defect as soon as we could. And we went through, as I remember, two elections. The first was within a few weeks of our selection, and at that point it seemed to me, and the committee concurred, that it was important, having worked together at a critical moment, that we keep the group together. So the first election was an up-or-down vote on the group. You could throw us out, but you had to throw us all out. Not surprisingly, under the circumstances, we were reelected.

Then we had a real election at some point after. I’ve forgotten the precise timing. That was the point at which Ted and other distinguished colleagues joined us, and the representational principle was [based on] individual faculties. So each faculty got to choose one representative, and so at that point—and we also had a couple of nontenured seats—so at that point the group grew to, I think we had 17 faculties at that time, Ted. So at that point the group grew to 19 or 20. And the original members of the group, in order to continue, would have to be elected by a faculty to which they belonged. And I confess [that] of the original—from the Ad Hoc Faculty group—I don’t remember. Walter, I think, was reelected. And I think Alex Dahlin was too. I don’t think Alan Westin was, and Danny Bell was. So three out of the four, I think, were reelected.

MATHEWSON: Oh, by the way, if you would identify yourselves, and if I don’t know you, I’d be very interested to hear your connection to the Senate or the events of the period of ’68. Tao.

TAO TAN: Hi, I’m Tao Tan. I had nothing to do with 1968 [laughter], but I am a Columbia College graduate of 2007 and currently a student at the Business School and chairman of the Student Affairs Committee in the University Senate. My question is for President Sovern, and I think it was raised earlier by Neal Hurwitz, and it is, How did you view the Senate during your time as president, and was it consistent with your view of the Senate during the time when you created it and when you served on its first Executive Committee?

SOVERN: Actually I didn’t serve on the first Executive Committee of the Senate. I beat my sword into a plowshare and was not in the first wave of new senators. I joined later. As I worked with the Senate, I was amazed at my prescience. [Laughter]

HURWITZ: Hear, hear. Hear, hear. [More laughter]

SOVERN: It really seemed to me to work. Now, we haven’t mentioned a very important variable. Ted talked about the compromise in which the president of the University presided, but there was a separate chairman of the Executive Committee. And I guess I have to acknowledge—to be fair, Ted—that the trustees forced that on us. They would not accept a deal in which the president was not the presiding officer of the Senate. And so we conceded on that one, and as Ted said, got the chairmanship of the Executive Committee in exchange. But the president is a member of the Executive Committee, and so a very important part of the relationship between the president and the Senate takes place in those meetings of the Executive Committee, of which the provost is also a member. And so it’s a smaller group obviously than the whole body, and it works very well with free exchange. Many’s the time I would share confidential information with the Executive Committee which it did not make sense to have out in the larger community. And so that was always a cordial relationship.

And, to be utterly candid, it was like a marriage. It had its ups and its downs. There were times when it was a pain in the ass, other times when I was very glad it was there, particularly in times of institutional stress—issues like South African divestiture, or on a few occasions when I had to call the police. On those occasions, I’m trying to remember, I think we put in a provision that requires the president to consult with the Executive Committee before calling the police, unless there’s an emergency, in which case he’s to consult as soon as possible. And I used that, I thought, to good effect. So I was happy it was there, I must say. And thought I worked well with it.

MATHEWSON: Yes. I don’t remember your name.

BERCAW: My name is Roy Bercaw. I was a student in 1968, and I was very angry that classes were stopped. My motivation for getting involved was, I wanted to go to school. I wasn’t a politico, and I ended up being a representative to a special committee of the trustees [the Temple Committee], and all the things that the student groups—the leftist student groups—said about our group of students turned out to be true. They said that the trustees were just going to use us to say they were speaking to students and ignore us, and that’s what they did. So what I realized—we had to organize into a committee and have one person speak for us. And since we were the only elected group of students on campus, we had legitimacy over all the other student groups. And to this day that I meet some of these people here, we’re still the hated student group. And we had one member that had dual citizenship—Steve Silberblatt. He was not only in Students for a Restructured University (SRU), but he was a member of the committee too. So he had equal access to being hated and loved at the same time. [Laughter]

So what I want to—just a couple of brief comments about, that were made here during this process of creating the University Senate. Professor Sovern—President Sovern—said that it supported including students in the decision-making process, and yet his committee was all faculty. So I know that he did meet with our group and all the groups, he was meeting, but when it came down to participating in the creation of their proposal, it was a faculty proposal that Professor Grad helped greatly with, and Professor Westin and the other members of the committee, but it was all faculty. And our group, I couldn’t get our people to do much of anything, except to run around and meet with the trustees. This was one of their favorite things.

Another thing that Professor Hurwitz mentioned was that the students were—I’m sorry, it was Professor de Bary—about how could students be chosen to represent all of the students, because he said SDS represented a small group and so on. And the trustees created this process, and there was a dispute, and I spoke with Tao Tan about this earlier, and Harold Wechsler [a panelist at the present meeting] was one of the proponents of having a separate student organization, and the faculty wanted them to be part of the University Senate. And I supported the faculty position at the time, but I’ve come to think that—now I think that students should have had a separate organization that could be more expressive of their own desires and needs and interests. But, you know, it’s too late for that because as was pointed out, it’s too difficult to change things.

But one thing that I did notice during that period was [that] before these changes came about, the president of the University, according to [the] Statutes, had the power to appoint members to a Faculty Council, and he would meet with them whenever necessary. During the crisis, he was meeting with them every morning. Andrew Cordier was having meetings daily, every morning. And I read the Statutes, and I found that the president had the power to appoint anybody to this council. He could have appointed students, and he could have undermined all of the—do you want me to stop or something?

MATHEWSON: No, I thought the Faculty Council was abolished at the very first meeting of the Senate.

BERCAW: Yeah, but this was before the crisis. This was the University Council—right, right, right—and the president had the power to appoint anybody. And I mentioned this to Professor Grad, and he said, “Don’t say anything to anybody,” but I don’t think Cordier knew that. And he could have undermined much of the opposition by appointing a group of students to be on that committee. Because the trustees, one of their main oppositions to having students participate in the decision-making process was that students are only here for four years and they shouldn’t be allowed to participate in, you know, permanent rules and regulations. So I responded to them by saying, “Look, you know, you have United States Representatives that are elected for two years, and they have much more power over everybody’s lives.” So that argument doesn’t make sense in their opposition to allowing students to participate.

And, oh, the final thing—what I contributed to the creation of the Senate was, in the summer of [1968] I asked every student group that existed on campus at the time, and John [Thoms] came up to the, I think it was the Motel on the Mountain, and Harold [Wechsler], I think you were there, too. And we had every [group] represented. Anybody that wanted. SDS didn’t participate. But every group we could get sent representatives. We were trying to hammer out a unified student proposal for whatever restructuring. Because our charge was to study restructuring the university too, and we ended up more or less supporting generally the faculty proposal, except for this one minor dispute that we had at the time about whether students should have a separate organization or be part of the Senate. And so we ended up supporting that. But, you know, our, my committee or our committee was really like a committee of Rodney Dangerfields: We never got respect, and we still don’t get any. If you go to the University Archives, you’ve got to really dig to find out about us. So that’s what I can contribute now. Thanks. [Applause]

MATHEWSON: John Thoms, did you want to say something?

JOHN THOMS: First of all, I don’t remember going to any meeting in a motel on the mountain.

ANOTHER VOICE: Yeah, they had one.

THOMS: So I don’t think I was there. Secondly, in the very beginning you said that the students on the trustees’ committee were the only elected student group with any legitimacy.

BERCAW: Well, the question of legitimacy is another issue. I mean—

THOMS: Well, it’s the only elected student group.

BERCAW: As far as I know, we were.

THOMS: The origins of SRU. The bust occurred, and the next day we came to campus, and there were wounded people everywhere. I got involved. I was a graduate student in English, and I got involved when I saw the 65-year-old secretary of the graduate English department with a bloody head because she’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The SDS had posted in different areas of the campus signs for each individual school, and the idea was that any—if 70 students—for each 35 students one person could be elected to the Strike Coordinating Committee, and there were, I guess, over 70 students there, and I was elected and Mike Engberg from Mathematics was elected, to go to the Strike Coordinating Committee. At the Strike Coordinating Committee, which was over 70—I’m thinking 72, 73 people, I never could figure out—I know that there was representation from every one of the [occupied] buildings, and I know that there seemed to be a lot of other representation from SDS, but the number of people who were actually elected that day came to about 24. We were roughly a third of the Strike Coordinating Committee, and we had been duly elected by that number of students. At the Strike Coordinating Committee, I just talked a lot, and I ended up becoming the voice of the more moderate students. I’d like to think of myself as Kerensky to Rudd’s Stalin. [Laughter] Or Lenin, I guess. Sorry. Yeah, sorry. Old age, old age is hitting me.

ANOTHER VOICE: No, no, it’s a good idea.

THOMS: Thank you. Yeah. No. You know, I was the liberal copout. But I spoke for a lot of people on that committee, and we had this real problem. As was said earlier this morning, whoever controls the mimeograph machines controls the revolution. And they were very good at keeping us there deep into the night, debating and debating and debating what would be the position of the Strike Coordinating Committee. And then they would put out their position as the position of the Strike Coordinating Committee.

The frustration mounted, and I had called a rump session, a caucus of the moderate students, and we agreed that we had to part from the Strike Coordinating Committee. Mark Rudd had called—yeah, yeah, yeah, you were there, I remember. Yeah. Mark Rudd had called a meeting in John Jay Hall, in a big auditorium in John Jay Hall, and I was on the program as a speaker, and he assumed I was going, you know, to say the sorts of things that he wanted me to say. And I got up there and I said, “We can’t do this. The rhetoric of the strike committee, all this Marxist dialectic, was not suitable to the discourse of the University. We were not the vanguard of a revolution. And our third of the committee needed to find our own way, and we were going to march out, and we marched out to a lot of boos.

We met separately and came up with the awkward—due to Sandy Kaden’s suggestion—the awkward name of Students for a Restructured University. We were phase one of Students for a Restructured University. Neal [Hurwitz], as he said, was hired later on, and he ended by the fall becoming I guess phase two as much as it was –

HURWITZ: Phase three, actually.

THOMS: Phase three, okay. To simplify as much as possible, the whole point of Students for a Restructured University was pretty much what everybody’s been talking about. It was clear that students needed a voice in the governance, and it was clear from my own—I was, by the way, also teaching at the time part time at the Columbia College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, now a defunct limb, ex-limb, of Columbia University. So I considered myself also faculty. I was 25 at the time.

And we met together, and we decided that we needed to be a force for, a pressure for bringing about some kind of meaningful student representation in the University. What we ended up doing was getting $30,000 in research grants from—what?

ANOTHER VOICE: Was it Ford [Foundation]?

THOMS: Yeah, we got some from Ford. We got from three or four different foundations. We hired people like Neal [Hurwitz] and Phillip Lopate, of all people—big names in the town. We hired them to do research during the summer with the intention of having that lead to a report on how the University could be restructured.

I basically became separate from that movement, from that particular direction of the committee. I was busy all summer being interviewed. I was just being interviewed all the time. Anytime anything happened on campus and anybody wanted to know what the “moderate” students’ opinion was, they would call me. And my own position, I thought, was pretty general, and I felt no discomfort in saying that I believed that the moderate students wanted no gym in the park, no complicity in the Vietnamese war, and all the charges against the students to be dropped, and we wanted to have meaningful student representation in the governance of the university. And I was filmed for TV, you know, all sorts of things.

The other thing that we did, and I just want to set the historical record straight because, God knows, enough of the media got this wrong. SRU put on the Counter-Commencement. SDS had nothing to do with it, except to show up at the last minute and try to steal our bullhorn.

MATHEWSON: I’d just like to mention that the speech, John Thoms’s speech announcing the exit of this dissident group from the Strike Coordinating Committee in May of 1968 is in the kind of informal packet that we gave out. So it’s a three-page, extraordinary speech, and I hope you’ll read the whole thing. I’d like to give everyone a chance to speak up here. I see you, Andrew [Springer], but let us, let us give our speakers a turn. And I’d like to ask Harold Wechsler next to speak to us. He’s Columbia College ’67, and he had a variety of roles in the Senate that he’ll tell you about. He’s a professor of the history of education at NYU, and why don’t you go ahead and talk to them, Harold.

HAROLD WECHSLER: Sure. Sometime during the week of April 23rd I put on a green armband. I had grown up in a Brooklyn neighborhood that included many police, firefighters and civil servants, and I knew what the police might do if called onto the Columbia campus. I’m still haunted by the images that you’ve seen this morning of the police action, but I was also repelled by the brief triumph of what I believed was manipulatory democracy symbolized by the gathering of SDS leaders on the balcony of this building, looking down at over 1,000 demonstrators protesting the police action.

I decided to stay at Columbia for my graduate work in history after receiving a B.A. from the College in 1967. Several weeks after the police bust, I joined the staff of the Project on Columbia Structure, the student-faculty research arm of the Executive Committee of the Faculty. The project, directed by Columbia Law School professor Frank Grad, recruited about 15 students from several Columbia divisions. I spent the summer of 1968 attending staff and committee meetings, discussing the University’s past and future relationships with its students, faculty and the surrounding community, and writing about University governance.

The project was located in an apartment house basement on Morningside Drive. Between the predictable kvetches about a finicky, one-page-at-a-time Xerox machine and temperamental air conditioners, the graduate students on the project asked why our our programs did not address the conditions of academic work, university governance and student and faculty rights and responsibilities. Absent that instruction, the Project, and later the Senate, was at least a crucible for campus leadership for some of us.

The Project’s September ’68 report—this is the Project’s ’68 report—signaled the direction later taken by the Executive Committee of the Faculty. “Academic government has failed to keep up with contemporary needs and expectations,” the report stated, “and has been largely unresponsive, not only at Columbia but at universities generally, both to the desires of faculty and students to play a role in the shaping of the university’s policies and social goals, and to the need of defining the relationship to the society of which it is a part.”

Significant change in governance, we knew, was coming to Columbia, and we saw research as a way of helping that process along. The project continued into the ’68-’69 academic year. The heating in the Morningside basement office proved as temperamental in the winter as the air conditioners in the summer. One highlight:, members of the Columbia College band, dressed in their blue blazers, serenaded and surprised staff members with a chorus of “Who Owns New York?” during our Christmas party. That party, by the way, evolved into a characteristically intense discussion of whether black studies courses belonged in separate or established departments.

The project produced about 20 reports that related directly to the work of the Executive Committee—like Bill Bonvillian’s 162-page report on the University’s questionable community relations and housing policies and Mark Weiss’s report on junior faculty at Columbia—[and] that later enabled Senate committees to define agendas and to act on concrete data. My report on methods of trustee selection argued that board self-perpetuation was not incompatible with Senate participation in the selection process. The final Senate proposal included a significant consultative role for the Senate in trustee selection.

I suspect that informal discussions among students and faculty on the project staff and members of the Executive Committee were equally or even more influential than our formal reports. Frank Grad attended most Executive Committee meetings, and its minutes show that his comments to the committee were consistent with the staff consensus on most issues. At the same time, Frank often guided us toward a more nuanced understanding of how universities work.

Few staff members supported a bicameral governance structure that separated students from faculty. You know [from Roy Bercaw’s earlier comments] how I stood. The Executive Committee opted for the unicameral body by fall of [’68], and its minutes quote one member as saying students do not want an “isolated, Mickey Mouse, play legislature of their own,” where it would be easy to develop adversarial attitudes. But collectively the staff did not see itself as an independent political force. It took no formal collective positions on Senate proposals. In contrast, many other student organizations had much to say, though finding common ground among all students proved difficult.

A year in the basement gave us time for our views to develop. Mark Weiss recalls that the two of us worked all night to prepare a critique covering many technicalities of the draft proposal for a senate issued in February 1969. Focusing on the composition of the Senate and its committees, eligibility for Senate seats and for places on committees, representation of constituencies, and Senate and committee powers, we knew that the rules of the game helped to determine substantive outcomes and that all university constituencies therefore expected the Senate by-laws to be fair.

To those who could read between the lines of our report, the message was that the tenured faculty and the administration would have to give just a little more. Project members were impressed by the proposed Senate by-law giving the Senate broad legislative powers. The list of enumerated powers did not limit the Senate from considering, and here’s a quotation from the by-laws, “all matters of university-wide concern, all matters affecting more than one faculty or school, and all matters pertaining to the implementation and execution of agreements with other educational institutions that are now or hereafter become affiliated with the university.”

This was Frank Grad’s position from the outset. I’m not sure he needed any “utzing” from the student staff members, but he got some anyway. But he and the staff knew that having broad powers did not compel their use.

A while later, having run out of fellowship funds, but with a thesis to complete, I accepted a position on the Senate staff. So let me add a few comments on the Senate’s inner workings from a staff perspective. A 1972 report for the Committee on Structure and Operations noted that the Senate usually upheld the key decisions made in its committees. The reason, I think, is that at least one respected and savvy member, usually from the faculty—though not always, and not always the committee chair—helped to assure the wisdom of proposals and reports.

Each committee had a personality. Some committees worked by consensus with few formal votes. The meetings of the Committee on Rules of University Conduct, in contrast, were formal, with many votes taken. Not surprising, given the key role that disciplinary procedures and due process played in the events leading to April 23, 1968, and given that two of the major protagonists on the committee were lawyers. The specifics are less important than understanding that by the late 1960s in loco parentis was dead, but that a replacement philosophy of student-college relations proved difficult to find, and not only at Columbia.

Most senators rose above the roles that Cambridge don Francis McDonald Cornford defined in Microcosmographia Academica, subtitled Being a Guide for the Young Academic Politician. Rarely, if ever, did senators rely on Cornford’s Principle of the Wedge: “that you should not act justly now, for fear of raising expectations that you may act still more justly in the future [laughter], expectations which you are afraid you will never have the courage to satisfy.”

The times were not ripe for a senator to invoke the Principle of the Dangerous Precedent: “that you should not now do an admittedly right action for fear that you or your equally timid successors should not have the courage to do right in some future case which is essentially different but superficially resembles the present one. Every public action which is not customary,” Cornford added, “is either wrong or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows,” he concluded, “that nothing should ever be done for the first time.” [Laughter]

Only a few committees engaged in “comma hunting, a sport,” Cornford noted, “that wastes unlimited time. Once start a comma hunt and the whole pack will be off, full cry, especially if they’ve had literary training.”

I knew and worked with the first three generations of Project, Executive Committee, and Senate administrative and support staff. All groups benefited from the many hours invested by Bobby Malaudin, Shirley Blackman, Moira O’Malley, Suzanne Howard, Rochelle Pollock, Patricia Lynn, Kathy Belsinger, Chris Ferguson, and Sharon Scully, [and] many others, a tradition continued by Tom Mathewson, Justine Blau, and Jessica Raimi.

Finding a meeting time for as many as 17 committee members proved daunting. So did reminding members to show up. No phone mail or e-mail then. Senate colleagues—staff colleagues—took informal bets on who might actually appear. Taking minutes proved a challenge for those committees where members especially loved to hear the sound of their own voices. Perhaps our most daunting test—organizing over 200 amendments to the draft Rules of University Conduct. The staff took a crash course on “Robert’s Rules,” and in those days before computers cut-and-paste meant cut and paste. Glue, we learned, was not good for the Xerox machine.

Critics at the time often charged that University faculty had abandoned their institutional obligations in favor of professional and disciplinary recognition. Worse, so the indictment went, they guided their students in the same direction. But the faculty members who served on the Project on Columbia Structure, the Executive Committee of the Senate, and the Senate itself and its committees refuted that charge. Many of Columbia’s best known and respected faculty members invested much time and energy in healing a deeply wounded university. We students learned that lesson well.

I’ve spent the past 35 years teaching courses on higher-education administration, and still apply the key lesson learned during my year on the Project: Faculty, staff, and students have an institutional stake equal to trustees and administrators, and therefore must retain a voice in campus affairs, and not only during crises. In turn, those constituencies have a responsibility to serve and to accept that responsibility with the same dedication and commitment we give to our teaching and research.

I take pride in the small part I played in helping the Project, and the Executive Committee through the Project, design and implement a governance mechanism that the president could consult at tense moments, that created informal connections across a university divided into many fiefdoms and vassalages, and that kept a careful eye on the administration, as Walter Metzger emphasized in an early speech to the Senate, while becoming the university’s arena for resolving important disputes, for channeling potential crises into productive directions, and occasionally—maybe only occasionally—as Robert Kennedy famously said, for turning problems into opportunities. Thank you. [Applause].

MATHEWSON: Thank you, Harold. I’d like to go straight to Mark Weiss and give him a chance to talk. He was one of the inaugural student senators, and I was lucky to find him just a couple of days before, earlier this week. So I just met him today. He has an M.A. from 1968 at Columbia, I believe. He’s a poet and translator. He recently edited a collection called The Whole Island, Six Decades of Cuban Poetry, and he’ll be doing a panel himself on that subject in a few days, on the 27th. Mark. [Applause]

MARK WEISS: I have to say that my life has been so far away from academia, despite teaching occasionally as an adjunct in various places, that I haven’t thought about this in 40 years. It comes up once in a while in my mind, but only in the vaguest terms. And what I’m going to present is going to be pretty vague, but bear with me.

I want to clarify a couple of things, and John Thoms hit on some of it. We were very much in the same place politically. We were in the middle.

As soon as the buildings were occupied, a bunch of faculty and junior faculty, and I was an incipient junior faculty member—I was about to start my graduate teaching at the College—formed ourselves into a group that night and day stood in front of the buildings, I think primarily Low Library, in order to keep a bloodbath from happening between the—what was it, the student majority group?

AUDIENCE: The Majority Coalition.

WEISS: Majority Coalition, and the…. Right. And the kids inside the building, not all of whom were SDS, by the way. What?

CHAUNCEY OLINGER: The pukes and the jocks.

WEISS: Well, I don’t want to get—I mean, to get inflammatory about something from 40 years ago seems a little bit strange. But that was really where my involvement started, and I saw what, what happened. To describe either group as representing the majority of students on the campus is simply, I’m sorry, very strange.

What happened was, the night that the police came the majority of the campus turned against the administration instantly [with] the first blood that was shed. Well, maybe the second. I think I may have been the first. I mean, you know, I remember, I have this image in my mind of Robert Gorham Davis, a very distinguished, elderly professor who I loved dearly, running down the street in front of a charging horse cop. I mean, you know, it was such a profoundly stupid move. It had nothing to do with legal rights. And the idea that the campus was going to return to order the next day so that the last month of classes for the year could happen was simply ridiculous.

And in my mind the sacrifice that should have been made was that last month of classes. Let the thing run out. Everybody—nobody would have stayed in the buildings over the summer. And deal with it over the summer, and it would have been far less costly in every sense.

Now, I think there was a profound miscalculation on the part of the University. This is not College Station, Texas. This is New York City. Columbia University is a big power in New York. It’s—what is it, the third largest landowner in the city? But it doesn’t pay taxes on most of that land. I think that the power structure at Columbia really expected the City of New York to back them, for instance, in Morningside Park. But in fact Columbia, as powerful as it is and as rich as it is, is more or less irrelevant to the city. If it disappeared tomorrow, New York would not change appreciably. It would still be a major intellectual, financial, and every other kind of center. Whereas, if Texas A&M disappeared, College Station would blow off the map. What I’m saying is, the degree of commitment is different. I may be exaggerating. I’m saying the degree of commitment is different. This is not a one-industry town.

ANOTHER VOICE: You may be wrong.

WEISS: What?

ANOTHER VOICE: I think you’re wrong.

WEISS: Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m saying this is not a one-industry town, and they couldn’t expect that kind of a union. So the city basically abandoned Columbia in its hour of need. At least abandoned one part of Columbia in its hour of need.

Now, I want to talk—let me go back into history a little bit. There’s not a whole lot to correct. When Harold and I plowed this thing out in a couple of nights, it was based on the work we had been doing on the Project on Columbia Structure. And we felt rather betrayed, actually, by the initial Senate proposal. We did this, and we managed to commandeer a mimeograph somewhere, and we churned out 1,500 copies of it. Yup. Was it your mimeograph machine? Yeah. I know we weren’t legal. Okay. And we distributed the thing in mailboxes all over the campus, everybody we thought was important, plus handing them out on the street. And some of the changes were instituted.

When the Senate convened, the students got together beforehand, the student representatives. There had been a slight increase in our numbers. Got together beforehand and the representative from the Law School—I represented graduate students in Humanities—the representative from the Law School gave a tutorial in Robert’s Rules of Order, and we walked in there profoundly organized, and pretty much had our way for the first six months before the faculty figured out that they had to take this seriously.
I mean, the first thing that we did was a proposal that Robert’s Rules of Order be the rules of order for the Senate, and we were the only ones who knew them. So if you look at the chronology and you see things like, let’s see, the Senate adopts a resolution opposing the Vietnam War, adopts policies on releasing information in response to government subpoenas—all of that early stuff that looks so great was because we pushed it, because we were very, very well organized.

But I want to talk about some—maybe they’re philosophical issues. For myself, I was very naïve. I think the administration in other ways was differently naïve, but I think both had an archaic idea of the independence from the rest of society of universities. On my part it was that, and I think this was shared by a fair number of people, it was that universities were places where education happened for its own sake, not for the sake of corporations or patents or sports franchises, which God knows Columbia doesn’t do, but a lot of other places do. I mean, Columbia—What? We’re kind of proud when we lose games?

But I’ve been at schools—for instance, University of Arizona—when I was there, the basketball team supports much of the university. I mean, it’s a major franchise. Patents. I mean, when we went after research at Columbia, monitoring research at Columbia, I don’t think that we were really aware that we were talking about an important part of the corporate structure and an important part of the income of the university. I think even the students in the sciences weren’t aware then. I think everybody would be now.

So there was that sense of this, I don’t know, academy on a hill in a forest somewhere, where you actually were devoted to selfless education. And that was what was profoundly challenged by all of this.

For myself there was something else going on, and I think for a lot of people. One of the major challenges of what we did, I’m talking about the students now, but I think it was also true for what you did, was that we really were challenging hierarchy. And universities tend to be among the more openly hierarchical structures in our society. You know, less so than the military or various churches, but, you know, they’ve rarely—we all know it. I mean, there’s full professors, with chairs, etc., down the line. Suddenly students were dealing with senior faculty on an equal footing, certainly in the Senate. I think by virtue of my being in the Senate I became a representative, a student representative, to the English Department faculty committee. This created, okay, this created problems. It created issues.

I remember faculty members with whom I’d—now, this is a minority; this didn’t happen all the time—but I remember faculty members with whom I’d been on very good terms suddenly behaving in ways that I couldn’t, for reasons I couldn’t understand—quite hostile. You know, some of these people are long dead. I’m not going to name names.

I remember also, through all of this somehow I managed to be a model graduate student. I was involved in founding an academic club, the Eighteenth Century Society, and we managed to secure space, and we had a party for the retirement of Jim Clifford, who was the great 18th-century specialist in the department. And the freshly minted chair of the department, just brought in from elsewhere, who I don’t know had actually started serving yet, we’re chatting. You know, I’m being a good academic graduate student. We’re chatting, and he’s my guest actually. And at some point he stops me, and he got this really nasty look on his face, and he said to me, “So tell me, what do you people want?” And I was shocked into—I mean, it’s not easy to silence me. I was shocked in silence. And I thought, What does he mean, Jews? [Laughter] You know, I mean, that was my first thought. And what he meant, I think—I mean, I thought about that off and on for years. What he meant was—I think he thought I was SDS. I think he thought any challenge to the hierarchy was an ultimate challenge, and maybe it was. Maybe it was. But it was just a shocking moment.

So shortly thereafter I went off for a year of supposedly writing my dissertation, and found myself truly not wanting to write it. And it was a great year. I wrote 100 pages of poetry. I really solidified my commitment to my vocation. And I’ve thought occasionally, Maybe it would have been a good dissertation, maybe I should write a little article to sum up the general ideas, but [I] have no interest in going back to it.

When Columbia started putting in the new ex-cathedra doctorates, I thought, Well, gee, I could do that. I’ve certainly got enough credits, you know, credits and stuff. I mean, I’ve written 20 books. I decided not to. Why would I want to do that? It was a product, among other things, it was a product of a profound disillusionment. I never really put it together, but I would express it as, “Write a book for those people? I don’t even want to talk to them.” That, you know, so that’s also a cost of all this time.

Now, I’m glad the Senate’s still there, and I’m glad I had a part in it. And I’m glad I had a part in making it more egalitarian. For me—just before I left I met Bill McGill a couple of times. Bill had been brought in, I think, as the fixer. He had been the fixer at San Diego State University (SDSU), where, by the way, he is not remembered particularly fondly, where he had—a lot of faculty members left in the wake of his settling things down there. And the first meeting with him—it was very shortly before I left—the first meeting with him, I realized very few of us were political creatures in the way that the people that we were at times up against and at times trying to cooperate with were. And that was also part of our naiveté.

Okay, that’s really all I’ve got to say. [Applause].

MATHEWSON: Thank you, Mark. And I just can’t help but notice one thing, that the point of view that you’ve expressed from those days would be considered rather radical today, I would say. And it’s very, it’s especially, it’s extraordinary to me that someone with a radical sensibility in 1968 saw a way to pursue it by mastering and revising statutory language in a University senate structure and mastering Robert’s Rules, and making those kinds of changes for student power in an organization like this. I don’t know if that could happen today. I don’t know if a radical student would say, “Oh, I’m going to get in the Senate, and I’m going to organize and aggressively figure out ways to change the positions of students in the Senate.” I just, I don’t know how that would happen today.

WEISS: I think it depends on what you mean by radical. Like John, to a lot of the students in the buildings I was some kind of reactionary. And I saw myself as pragmatic, and I also saw myself as—I also saw in front of us limited possibilities. I mean, the country is not in good shape, and it’s not such an easy thing to fix. So I don’t, you know, I’m not sure. I mean, I think of myself as a left liberal. I don’t know that I would have used the term then, but I think that’s what I was.

THOMS: I wasn’t in the buildings, Mark, but I remember you. It’s so good to see you today because I remember you so well. And I always thought you and I basically agreed on everything.

MATHEWSON: Let me go to Ron Breslow. We don’t have much time. [Applause] And Ron is a University Professor based in chemistry and several other departments, and he was a senator in 1969, and he’s a senator now. There was a hiatus [laughter].

RONALD BRESLOW: Yeah, there certainly was. There certainly was a hiatus. I mean, I came back to the Senate now because I was concerned about some particular issues on the campus, and I decided this is the place where they get settled. It really works. It really works. I was concerned about the assignment of space in the wonderful new building on the corner of 120th and Broadway, you know, this interdisciplinary science building, and how it was all being done. I joined the Senate, joined the committee that looks into the whole thing, and have been raising hell in that committee ever since. Right, as he will testify [points to Sen. Tao Tan, who like Breslow is a member of the Campus Planning and Physical Development Committee].

TAN: Thank you very much, Professor Breslow.

BRESLOW: That’s right. Okay, and other things of that sort. It’s really the place where things happen. But let me tell you a little bit about what I remember about how we got the thing started. There’s been an awful big emphasis on doing it in order to satisfy the needs of the students. I agree that there was a big piece of that too. But the fact is, the faculty were quite unhappy also about the sense that they had very little interaction. They didn’t see trustees, and they were not sure exactly who it is that was making the decisions. And when we saw the way that the strike was being handled, I think we lost even more of whatever respect we had for the administration.

Ted de Bary mentioned Cordier. Let me tell you how Cordier handled things in contrast to what was done there. After he became the president [in August 1968], there was still a certain amount of ferment in the place, and a group of students said to him, “We demand to speak to you tomorrow,” and he’s after all the president. He said, “Okay, that’s fine. Let me look at my book.” He said, “I see I have an opening at 6:30 tomorrow morning. Would that be all right?” And that was the last he heard of it, right? [Laughter] Well, I mean there’s a world of difference between that and saying, “Who do you think you are? etc.,” you know, there really is. He really said, “I’m willing. If you guys really care about this, you’ll show up at six-thirty. If you don’t really care, you’re just trying to make a case about something, you’re not going to make a case with me.”

I was involved in the Bill McGill business, and let me tell you how that actually happened. Because the Senate by then consisted of faculty and also of students, there were three committees appointed to find Cordier’s successor. There was a faculty committee, there was a student committee, and there was a trustees committee. And the faculty committee and the student committee, after a certain amount of just meeting with each other, decided we would become one committee, because really what the students had to contribute was terrific. We could talk to faculty in other institutions about how they felt about the possible candidate; they could talk to students in other institutions about how people felt about that guy. And so we found that was really very helpful.
The trustees eventually decided that we seemed to have a better idea of what to do than they did, and ultimately, because I knew Bill McGill, ultimately they agreed with our decision that we should hire him, that we should get Bill McGill. And they gave me the wonderful job of flying out to University of California, San Diego, and convincing him to move to New York.

Now this was February. We had the usual weather in February here. There were whales off the coast of where he was living, spouting in the air. And my job was to convince him to come. And that was really directly, I think, because of my connection in the Senate that this whole thing got going. But my position with him, which I think is still absolutely correct, is that the presidency of Columbia University is an unbelievable opportunity to take what we, everybody, calls the bully pulpit and get noticed. People can come up and film you by taking a taxi up from the major organizations and then going home again and filing their reports, you can appear in the New York Times, you can appear on television. And we see that there are many presidents who do take advantage of that. Lee does that now. And I think it was a wonderful opportunity, and so he was in fact willing to go.

But the main thing was that by then the students really had a role in the thing, and it was a sensible role. In the Senate there was a lot of back and forth there, but mostly extremely good natured, and I would say—there were questions about investments, but then one of the students got up and he said, “Well, I really think we have to revise our investment policy, but all I know about is bank CDs, and I don’t know that much more about investments.” It was fine, and it was relatively good natured, and there was not a lot of fighting about it.

The big issue now, I’ll tell you, in the Senate, the Senate is now dealing with the big issue in which the students and the faculty are to some extent on opposite sides, and that has to do with the academic calendar. The student position is, If you wait until after Labor Day to start your classes, you have an excellent chance, if Labor Day is late, an excellent chance of giving exams on the 23rd of December, which certainly interferes with the rest of their lives. And, of course, it’s not so wonderful for us either. We have to grade these exams after the 23rd of December. And so their position is, They would like to start at a well-defined time, time certain. And if Labor Day comes later than that, fine. That’s a day’s vacation. They would like to start at a time certain, and some of the faculty are concerned that this will interfere with their vacation plans or whatever. It’s going to get resolved. It’s going to get resolved, and it’s not a battle between the students and the faculty. They have presented their arguments. Some faculty have presented various arguments: Maybe we don’t have to have the Election Day and the day before Election Day, and the students said, “No, we really like that as a break in the term. You get a break in the spring; we’d like to have a break in the fall.” I mean, it’s all back-and- forth, reasonable, reasonable conversation. I should admit I’m now a convert to the student position. I think they’re right, and I’m going to see if I can convince the rest of my faculty that’s also true. But yeah.

TAN: Well, Professor Breslow, you know, as the head of Student Affairs Committee I hope to update you that it has been resolved, and we will vote on it on April 30th. The Education Committee came to a consensus where literally we locked ourselves into a room, and we said, “No one’s leaving until we resolve this.” And very shortly it was resolved.

BRESLOW: And is it resolved in your direction?

TAN: It has been resolved in a way that’s acceptable to everyone except the people who write columns in the Columbia Spectator, but nothing ever makes them happy.

BRESLOW: Okay. Okay.

TAN: But the long and short of it is no one will be forced to take an exam on December 23rd.

BRESLOW: Well, okay. Okay. I think we need to see the details of this one. But anyhow, regardless of that, the point is, it really does function and the student role in the place in things that really matter to them, I think, is very strong. So it’s really terrific.

Now at the time, I think there was a very strange sense of the relationship of us not only to the trustees we didn’t know, but also to the administration itself. And the worst part of it, which I’ll tell you about, maybe you know about this. Ted decided not to give the details, and I guess Mike decided not to give the details. There was a meeting called in the chapel by the president, and so all the senior faculty were there. He called the senior faculty there to this meeting where he would appear in front of us. When he walked into the faculty, he was roundly booed. And you can imagine what effect that had. So I think the resignation obviously had to come after that. I mean, it was a vote of no confidence by voice vote essentially.

And unfortunately David Truman got associated with the whole thing. I think he was a favorite for many of us for the presidency, and he could have been fine. As you know, he went off and became president of something else. But I think he was also tarred by the whole thing, and it was just not possible for that to happen. Too bad. We lost a very good man out of that whole thing.

But the result of it, I think, has been very healthy for the university. I think the Senate, you know, after all the Senate does a lot of things and nobody even notices. But it does useful things, and it represents what is the best thing you can have in a University, a formal place where all the different levels of the University can discuss issues, including the president. Now it’s true that the trustees insisted that the president had to be the presiding officer in the Senate. What a great idea! He’s there, and he can be quizzed and questioned about their policies. It’s absolutely perfect. He doesn’t rule the thing in such a way that nobody can speak. He doesn’t do that. But what he does is to actually present every time a summary of what decisions have been made, and what things are up—often inside information that was not available before. And he’s responsive to things and listens to the arguments, and so it’s exactly the way a University ought to be run.

I feel a little bit like Pollyanna saying, “Wasn’t it a great thing we had this terrible riot because it produced the Senate?” I won’t go that far. Obviously I won’t go that far. But the result, the Senate itself, as the fruit of that effort, the Senate, I think, is a very good thing. And I’ve enjoyed being there. I have other things to do with my life, obviously, but I enjoy being there because I like the interaction with representative students, with other faculty members, with the administration, hearing the arguments for the various things, and also serving on committees which really can make a difference. And I think they’re actually true. And if you have an opportunity to run for the Senate, [and] you say, “Well, that’s for somebody else,” think about it again because it’s really a very worthwhile thing to do, and I think you’ll find it’s really quite an interesting thing. It’s not enormously time-consuming, but it does in fact give you a chance to play a real role in the life of this institution, which as we all know, except one person in the room, is actually the most important thing that New York City has. Right? Except for Weiss. Okay. Good. He said it’s not that important. All right.

But what he did say is that New York City could live without it. I think it can’t live without it. I think it’s terribly important. Not only our alumni, but I think our relationships in the city are really terribly important to us, and the fact that we now present ourselves not as an authoritarian university with a lot of unhappy students and faculty, but as a place which actually works together and can actually solve problems in a mutual way, I think that’s a real asset, frankly.

And so, I think that was a very good thing that emerged out of all that. It emerged out of chaos as things often do. Often people say sometimes in the worst of times suddenly good things are done, which in fact turn out to be worthwhile, and I think that was one of them. And so I’m glad to be back in the Senate again. I have no intention of making a life activity out of this. And I intend to be teaching here for quite a while. But nonetheless, I think it was a very good thing, and I think you probably heard that from most of the people who spoke here. They talked about how it happened, but it all seems that it was one of the best resolutions of the problems we had. And they were really crazy. They were bad problems, bad problems, but also crazy problems, funny problems. I was one of the faculty members lined up outside Low Library to protect the people inside from the people outside, the moral (not moral) majority, whatever they were—Majority Coalition—to keep those people apart. But at one point, I had to assist somebody to climb into the window into Low Library because one of his very good friends, the child of one of his very good friends, was in there. He was the Poet Laureate of England. I was boosting the Poet Laureate of England into Low Library. I mean, this was not war to the death. This was to some extent the Passion Play, right? I mean, it was really quite an interesting experience. I think all of us who were part of it felt that it was really terribly educational and in some ways a very educational experience.

And then the business with the police. I mean that was really terrible, and it didn’t have to happen that way. Some of you will know the police came on the campus earlier, not to beat people up, but just to protect certain things. And so they went into Low Library and went into the president’s office, and the students there thought, Well, this is it. We’re going to be escorted out of here and that’s going to be the end of the occupation. They didn’t do that. They took away some of the valuable paintings and left, leaving the kids there. I mean it was really—they were not there to beat anybody up, but eventually of course it happened, and that was a terrible thing. And I think nobody, nobody could put any kind of a gloss on that That was really an awful experience, and I feel sorry for the people involved in it, obviously.

It went on for quite a while, as you know. We became symbolic, and then things happened all over the country, some things much worse than here. People were actually murdered in some other places. We never got to that level, but we became symbolic because of this wonderful contact we have with the press.

The year after the riots when everything was fine, Newsweek magazine had a cover saying “New Trouble at Columbia.” The trouble at Columbia was that a certain number of the students had been told that they could not come back that next year; they had to be suspended for a while. And they were there arguing with the registrar about whether they should be allowed to vote. But somebody got a photograph of that and played it as if the riot was still persisting. And of course there was no such thing. So we do get great coverage when we win something, like when we won the tennis tournament. I guess you guys know we’re now Ivy League champions in tennis. We got very good coverage of that. We usually get great coverage of everyone, every athlete who actually turned out to be pretty good, and there was always a surprise in the papers. [Laughter] And we used to get great coverage of that. It’s really a focal place. I mean, it really has a very focal role in the world, and I’m glad that it’s now being run in a reasonable, sensible way, and that was one of the good things that came out of this. Thanks very much. [Applause.]

WEISS: Can I have two seconds just to correct very briefly? What I was saying is that Columbia is not as important politically in the city as a lot of universities in smaller cities are, that finally, push comes to shove, the power structure of the city will not go to the mat for Columbia if they have other issues.

MATHEWSON: Okay. We have very little time left, unless people just want to stay. I’m enjoying this very much, but I know it’s been two hours. But I’d love to have somebody—Andreas, I’d like to let somebody speak who’s not here for every Senate session. Would you, Chauncey, would you like to speak? Turn it on.

CHAUNCEY OLINGER: There seems to be no light. Oh, there, it’s on. The light’s on, but it’s not working. Tom, is this being tape recorded?

MATHEWSON: It is.

OLINGER: Well, we need to do a little fact checking. Some things that have been said; there’s evidence that things that were said were not factual. But to come to the first thing, about the role of Columbia in the city. Some years ago I edited and wrote a book on Columbia and the city. Copies are still available from the University Seminars office. I think if you read that book, you will see that Columbia plays an enormous role in this city. It’s far more than an octopus; it’s a thousandpus. Every department, every department—

ANOTHER VOICE: Millipus.

OLINGER: Almost every division of the university has enormous linkages all out across the whole city and it has had for many, many years. Now NYU’s coming along, but Columbia I think is still regarded, and I spent 20 years downtown in the finance industry after studying philosophy here. Columbia is taken very seriously throughout the city. I don’t think that we could dispense with Columbia in the city.

MATHEWSON: Could I ask another person to make a comment? We’re very short on time.

OLINGER: Couple other points. At one point I asked Betty Jemmott, the former secretary of the university, what was recorded in the trustees’ minutes regarding Grayson Kirk leaving his post as president. She told me, and Mike Sovern can confirm this, that Grayson Kirk did not resign. He retired. And I believe that’s a true statement. He was close to retirement age, and he retired. It is constantly repeated over and over again by members of the faculty that he resigned. And you might have thought that he would have resigned given what he’d been through. But the minutes of the trustees, according to the former secretary of the University, indicate that he did retire. You may have wished that he resigned, but he did retire.

I don’t know that there’s any evidence that Grayson Kirk was anti-Semitic. Do you have any evidence, sir, that he was? I have never heard that charge made before.

HURWITZ: I didn’t say he was.

OLINGER: Well, you might take a look at his 2,000-page oral history to see whether you find any indication of that or any of the record of Spectator which I reviewed for 20 years, or any other allegation that I have ever seen any real evidence or action to that effect. It may be. It may be that I haven’t seen all the evidence, but as far as I know, I’ve never seen any evidence about him personally in that regard.

MATHEWSON: We are running out of time. Can I let somebody else –

OLINGER: Sure. Sure.

MATHEWSON: -- make a comment? Andreas, can you speak briefly and tell us?

ANDREAS SVEDIN: So hello. I am the outgoing chairman of the student caucus of the Senate here, and I have to chair a meeting in minus one minute at the Alumni Center. I just want to answer the question about the students’ power, the votes and so forth, and kind of say 40 years later what happened. And it’s all about access. Most of the controversy of the time was about access, getting access to the president. The second notice is a lot about the informal power. We speak about that—deals are made in the corridor and so forth. And in that, the committees and the Executive Committee are very important because there everyone gathers around the table and makes the informal deals. There is where we gather and solve the problem, and the students have access to those tables. And it doesn’t have to do with votes; it has to do with, as it was said in these papers, that it is more about presenting your case, knowing who you represent, and that is something that calls back to us to know who we represent, what do the students want. And I think the Senate, as it is set up, is an excellent access for students to voice their concerns if they know what to ask for.

So the question is not, Will the president hear? But, What should the student tell the president?

HURWITZ: Thanks so much. That was really well said. There’s one point I want to make here, and that is that Herbert Deane, who was actually somebody I would call a friend, Julian Franklin a friend—When I was at the College, ’62 to ’66, in the College and then a graduate student and teacher until ’77, it was kind of amazing that, you know, Herbert Deane—talk about correcting the historical record—Herbert Deane is the guy who’s known as saying, “I don’t care what students say. It’s like them telling me if they like strawberries.” But if you read David Truman’s thick reminiscence on 1968, which is amazing—Have you guys seen that? Yeah. Isn’t that something? Talk about feelings and everything. But the bottom line is, Herbert Deane, who was Truman’s buddy and in Low during this whole time, and others on the faculty—and I’m sure, Ted [de Bary], you’re one of them too—these were the most successful guys in the world to students. They were the most wonderful, you know, inspiring, incredible experience of being at Columbia. And I don’t know if Jerry Sherwin’s still here, the president of the College Alumni Association for many years, but one differentiation between me and everybody else then who was opposed to this or that, and, Chauncey, I remember you from the old days. And by the way, I did not say Grayson [Kirk] was anti-Semitic. But the bottom line is some of us really love Columbia. We really respect Columbia, love Columbia, and our own experience here had so much in it that was so powerful and so good and so important, and especially in terms of the interactions with the individuals. So from my heart, I always loved this place, and I think a lot of us had a very emotional response in ’68 on various levels. But I think, Ron [Breslow], you summed it up beautifully. I congratulate you.

BRESLOW: Let me say one thing about the Herb Deane thing. It’s so obvious to any of us who are faculty members. What he said was, Telling me what the students say they want is like telling me they like strawberries. Until he hears the arguments for their position, he doesn’t know how to evaluate it. That’s such an obvious argument. The danger, of course, of the sound bite is that nobody put the second part in. Which is really, after all, what anybody with any sense would say: Don’t tell me what they say they want; tell me why so we have some chance to evaluate it. And that’s what the thing was about. And he just got shafted by sound-bite journalism. And they even made a movie.

CHAUNCEY OLINGER: But he did have some rather strong personal—

MATHEWSON: Could I ask that man—I don’t know you, but I’m pointing to you right now—?

JACK KAHN: Okay. My name is Jack Kahn. I was an undergraduate in the late ’50s. I always thought of Professor [Walter] Metzger as such an incredible historian. Could we possibly ask him to share a few valuable insights with us?

HURWITZ: Hear, hear.

WALTER METZGER: Does this work? Well, time lays a kind of mist over events. It’s been 40 years since these things happened. If I were to underscore some of the points that were made in this discussion, I think I would give emphasis to these things. First, the Columbia experience in ’68 was not unique. It was a worldwide phenomenon. It affected every modern society. There was a—the malaise was deep. What might have differentiated this country’s experience from the rest of the world was that we were so heavily involved in Vietnam. The young people who were not all that political had good reason to be frightened, because if they didn’t keep their grades up, they could be sent thousands of miles away under conditions of great danger. I might say that the war, putting that kind of pressure on the faculty, also made the faculty deeply uneasy. I failed a student at his peril.

Reference was made to the police. I think it was you, Professor Breslow, perhaps someone else. It cannot be emphasized enough. The Ad Hoc Committee was formed, I think, essentially out of a feeling that universities are sanctuaries, and these students—awful as they are—I mean, these rich men’s sons in skid row clothes! [Laughter] But we mustn’t let them be hurt. We mustn’t connive in their hurt. That’s unspeakable. When that realization struck us, David Truman lost his hold on the faculty. Of course he was one of ours. And he was in many ways admirable, but he was, I think—something very deep in his experience as a child. The organized, arrogant, angry youngsters were more than he could bear.

I saw those police. You had to be six-foot-four to be on the Tactical Police Force in New York in those days. They were lined up on Morningside Drive, and they were batting their sticks against the trees to get their blood up. This was not fun and games. And then when it came, and I was there with the others, they came with their heads bleeding, and this was Columbia? This murderous place had suddenly emerged for us. Yes, think of the police if you want to come close to understanding the emotional temper of those times.

Something was very special about Columbia even though we share an awful lot. There was a perfect storm here because a number of different student elements came together at the same time. What was so special about Columbia—Berkeley of course had student riots—was that our student elements were territorial. If you were black, you were in Hamilton Hall. If you were SDS, you were in Low Library. If you were graduate students, who we thought loved us [laughter] but they didn’t, they were in Fayerweather Hall.

To the blacks, Hamilton Hall was a country. They kept it clean. They could rule themselves. They are not—this was a form of what I would call devictimization. The expulsion of the idea, the vomiting up of the idea that black is inferior, that black is hopelessly incapable. They made their stay in Hamilton Hall capable. And at the end, they were the ones who said, No, we’re not going to have our heads bloodied. They did threaten us. They said, You hurt us and Harlem will be here with torches. That was a very important consideration in the whole story. But they marched out with dignity as a well-disciplined army would. They were proving something very important to themselves.

I could go on and on trying to get past the veils that separate me from those events. But I do want to say one small word. The success of the Senate is remarkable because the reward system in this institution does not point in Professor Breslow’s direction. It does not say, Do good things to assist the administration. It says, Get that foundation grant, write that book that will be reviewed in the Times, and then I will get you the office, a corner office with all the windows. You’ll get the parking space. You’ll get foundation grant awards. You’ll be important. That, in spite of the incentive system, the reward system which goes the other way, the Senate should have survived and I think done quite well—we don’t ask too much of it—I think it’s quite remarkable.

But here’s my very smallest tin-type: I want to say a word about Mike [Sovern], who came and beguiled us. He knew very well that this was not where our main interests were. He knew that some of us had powerful, strong ego problems. All academics do, but some had more than others. He knew how to work with it. He was friendly, amiable, smart. Those years were pleasant years with Mike, and I think somehow it is the courtesy and the wonderful texture of relationship that one can pull from all of this that makes things succeed. [Applause]

MATHEWSON: I know some people may have to go and the panelists have hung in there past the time they agreed to originally. So I think I feel I ought to bring things to a close now, with regret cause I’m enjoying this very much. I want to thank particularly Paul Cronin. You know he did the thing in the morning. You know he’s making that movie, but you may not know that he sat around a table with us several times and said, Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you do something about the Senate? And we finally did, and I thank you, Paul, for egging us on [applause] so tirelessly.

And I’d also just quickly like to thank the students who helped us out all day today. There are about half-a-dozen student senators. I’m going to forget some of the names so I’m not going to try to name you all, but you know who you are. And thank you very much.

END OF SESSION