A New Perspective on 1968

February 14, 2018

students in 1968 protesting on Columbia's campus

Columbia is a far different place today than it was in the spring of 1968 when protesters took over University buildings amid discontent about the Vietnam War, racism and the University’s proposed expansion into Morningside Park. After a weeklong standoff, New York City Police stormed the campus and arrested more than 700 people. The fallout dogged Columbia for years.

It took decades for the University to recover from those turbulent times. Columbia now has one of the most socio-economically diverse student bodies among its peer institutions. It has added a new campus designed to be open to the community and pursues fields of inquiry unheard of a half-century ago. Columbia is commemorating the 50th anniversary of those long-ago events with a deep dive of scholarship and exhibits chronicling what happened then and its effects today.

Treasures from the Archive

Crowds heading to Low Library from the SAS/SDS Sun Dial Rally, April 23, 1968. Gerald S. Adler (GSAS'80), photographer, 1968.

An anti-Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) protester.

Students who had occupied Hamilton Hall delivered this list of six demands on the first day of the protests.

The Strike Education Committee created and coordinated an alternative “Liberation School” that offered “counter-classes” to replace those being boycotted. Students protesting in front of Low Library hold a sign that states "Please Strike, Support Liberated Class."

Students occupying President Grayson Kirk's office. Photo courtesy of Columbia College Today, Larry Mulvehill, photographer, 1968.

Faculty wearing white armbands speak with student occupiers sitting on the Low Library ledge outside of President Grayson Kirk's office. Photo courtesy of University Archives.

Mark Rudd and other Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) leaders at a Strike Coordinating Committee press conference, April 26, 1968.

View of Philosophy Hall as strikers and administrators unsuccessfully attempted to end a standoff with a resolution neither party agreed upon. Photo by Gerald S. Adler, 1968.

University President Grayson Kirk and Provost David Truman at a press conference in the Faculty Room of Low Library, April 25, 1968.

The Bust, April 30, 1968. Courtesy of Paul Cronin, photographer unknown, 1968.

1968 'Live Tweeting'

Follow @1968CU on Twitter this semester as the University Library re-tells the events leading up to the explosive demonstrations in April and May with "live" reporting of this significant moment in Columbia University history.


Film Screening: May Fools  
Thu, April 12, 2018 at 6:30 PM
Buell Hall

Film Screening: The Cinema of May 68 
Thu, April 19, 2018 at 6:30 PM 
Buell Hall

CDM Class Reunion Day
Fri, April 20, 2018 at 10:00 AM 
Vagelos Education Center

Fifty Years After the Revolution: New Perspectives on 1968
Fri, April 27 - Sat, April 28, 2018
Faculty House

Film Screening: A Documentary on the Columbia Protests of 1968
Sun, April 29, 2018 at 10:00 AM
Butler Library


1968 Columbia in Crisis icon

Columbia University Libraries

An online exhibition from the University Archives.

archival photo of Phillip Lopate

'Reluctant Revolutionary'

Writing Prof. Phillip Lopate reflects on his experience in the protests.

50 Years Later

Alumni unpack the complicated history of the spring of 1968.

40th Anniversary Conference

In 2008 Columbia organized a conference on the protests.

Grateful Dead singer archival image

Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead held a free concert for students.

Commencement 1968

Columbia broke from tradition with an address by Richard Hofstadter.

1968 Ivy League Champions

Athletics honored the basketball team on Alumni Weekend.

architecture history book

'Abstract 2017'

Architecture students commemorate 1968.