This Day in History

April 23, 1968: Columbia Student Occupation

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

On April 23, 1968, Students for a Democratic Society, Student Afro-American Society, and others began a nonviolent occupation of campus buildings that lasted nearly a week at Columbia University. Students and community supporters called for the university to cut its ties to research for the war in Vietnam and to end construction of a gym in Morningside Park. After negotiations failed, the administration sent in the police, injuring many and arresting over 700, triggering a campus-wide strike that shut down the university (from

The Democracy Now! broadcast on the 50th anniversary includes interviews with Raymond Brown, former leader of the Student Afro-American Society; Nancy Biberman, a Barnard College student who joined the protests as a member of Students for Democratic Society; Mark Rudd, chair of the Columbia University chapter of SDS during the student strike; and Paul Cronin, editor of A Time to Stir: Columbia ’68. They also feature excerpts from the 1968 documentary “Columbia Revolt” by Third World Newsreel.

On the sixth day of the student occupation, nearly 1,000 police were sent in to clear the buildings. This resulted in a violent clash where police action on the protesters sparked a student and faculty strike, shutting the university down. Columbia University ended up terminating its contract with the Institute for Defense Analyses and decided not to build the gym in Morningside Park. Thirty students were suspended from Columbia as a result of the occupation and protests.

“H. Rap Brown,” Columbia University Libraries Online Exhibitions, by Lee T. Pearcy.

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Columbia 1968 Occupation Photos and interviews.

“Who Rules Columbia?”: How Power Research Supported the 1960s Student Movement by Derek Seidman

Columbia University protests and the lessons of “Gym Crow” by Judd Legum