A Conversation with Jonah Raskin—Remembering the Columbia University Protests in the Spring of 1968

Titsworth Marjorie Leff Miller ’53 Lecture Hall

Open to the public

/ Thursday

7:00pm-10:00pm

Screening of Newsreel’s Columbia Revolt (a collective documentary, mostly shot by Melvin Margolis, 49 minutess, 1969) followed by an exchange with Dr. Jonah Raskin.

1968 was incontestably America’s annus horribilis with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and riots and civil unrest rocking the country. At Columbia University, the spring of ’68 heralded student uprisings in close synch with an international movement from Paris to Berlin and Beijing, and from Prague to Berkeley, as protesters demanded a more just world. Columbia students alongside outside sympathizers like Tom Hayden, fresh from the demonstrations at Berkeley, and recent alums, like Jonah Raskin, objected to the university’s institutional support of the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), a think tank associated with the US Department of Defense, and the escalating war in Vietnam. They also objected to the creation of what would be a segregated gymnasium in Morningside Park, adjacent to the Columbia campus. The Columbia revolt with its demonstrations, sit-ins, and takeovers upended the University’s calendar that spring. The week-long impasse between protesters and administrators finally came to an end on April 30, following a bloody skirmish; one thousand police officers decked out in riot gear arrested some seven hundred students. The spring semester was quickly abridged and academic amnesty observed. And although it would be seven more long years before the Vietnam War ended, Columbia, as a result of that protest, not only disaffiliated with the IDA but also abandoned its original plans for the Morningside gym.