The cause of the uprising at Columbia was not the system of government, for any system of government for that university might in the fifties and sixties have involved ties with IDA and might have undertaken the building of a gymnasium in the park. (Who, after all, objected to these things when they were begun?) And indeed, even Columbia's system of government, archaic as it was, was quite capable of responding to changed attitudes, and was engaged in the process of cutting the ties to IDA, before the student uprising. As to the gymnasium, the fact was that aside from the protests of defenders of New York parkland and design (I am among them), who objected violently to the gymnasium, there was little other protest. Even the Harlem community was either indifferent to or actually supported the project.
With IDA and the gymnasium alone, as we all now know, the SDS at Columbia would have gotten nowhere. But then there comes the illegal seizure, the successful confrontation, the battle with the police, and new issues arise. The radicals are now joined by the liberals. The latter are concerned with due process, with government, with participation, with education. The liberals are much less concerned with the revolutionary change in the society that the radicals insist is necessary. The liberals demand amnesty for the protesters, due process before punishment, a new role for students and faculty, a change in "governance."
The script was played out before Columbia, at Berkeley in 1964 and 1966, and it is now being played out at Harvard. In 1966 at Berkeley, radical students blocked military recruiters. Police were called onto the campus to eject and arrest them. What was the faculty's response? To set up a commission on governance.
Making new radicals
he logic of these events is truly wonderful. The blocking of recruiters on campus has nothing to do with the governance of an educational institution. Whether it was run by the state, the trustees, the faculty, the students, or the janitors, any university might consider it reasonable to give space for recruiters to talk to students, and if these were blocked, any administration might well decide at some point to call police. But then the liberal students and faculty move into action. First, shocked at the calling of police, they demand that new governance arrangements be created. Then, because they dislike the tactics chosen to remove the disrupters, they demand amnesty for them. Finally, because they have been forced into a tactical alliance with the disrupters—after all, the liberals are defending them against the administration—they begin to find the original positions of the disrupters, with which the liberals had very possibly originally disagreed, more attractive.
We are all aware that calling in the police radicalizes the students and faculty (so aware that many students and faculty protesting President Pusey's action at Harvard said, "Why did he do it, he knows it radicalizes us"—they spoke as if they knew that, according to the scenario, they were supposed to be outraged, and they were). We are less aware that the radicalization extends not only to the police issue and the governance issue but to the content of the original demands. A demand to which one can remain indifferent or opposed suddenly gains enormously greater moral authority after one has been hit on the head by the police for it. Thus, the first mass meeting of the moderate student element after the police bust, in Memorial Church, refused to take a position on ROTC and asked only for a student referendum, and referenda, as we know, generally turn out in favor of retaining ROTC in some form on campus. It is for this as well as for other reasons that SDS denounces votes and majority rule as "counterrevolutionary." But the second meeting of the moderate students, in the Soldiers Field Stadium a few days later, adopted a far more stringent position, hardly different from SDS's. And a few days after that, the distinguished faculty, which had devoted such lengthy attention to ROTC only a short time before, returned to discuss it again, and also took a more severe position.