Campus Ruckus: Back to the ’60s

We geezers who were college students in the late Sixties felt a rush of déjà vu at the sight of today’s front-page photos in the NY Times and Wall Street Journal showing confrontations between student demonstrators and police. I came of age in the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests and racial tensions. I participated in the former, both at Cornell and in Washington.

I exploited the latter in my essay seeking admission to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, pegged to my having witnessed an event that made national news—the infamous march across Cornell’s campus by gun-toting black students. We geeks who were studying in the library overlooking the Arts Quad hit the floor at the sight (through the window adjacent to my desk) of the armed marchers (one of whom later became a Cornell trustee). We feared that we might be caught in a gun battle. (There wasn’t one.)

My Cornell boyfriend (now my husband), with the library tower behind us

In both cases, I was sympathetic to the political positions of the protesters (while not always in favor of their tactics). My Columbia admissions essay is buried somewhere in my overstuffed file cabinets, which is probably for the best: It might prove embarrassing. To the best of my hazy recollection, I was trying to walk a fine line between the protesters’ need to get people’s attention for crucial issues, and students’ right to work in peace and safety.

All of which is to say: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or maybe not: The library where I spent the most of my waking hours is about to get a major facelift and the library’s website now includes an alarming, detailed page about Emergency Preparedness.


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