There has been quite a bit of uproar in recent weeks from conservatives (and a few liberals) over race-based activism on college campuses, particularly the protesting at the University of Missouri that culminated in the president’s resignation. Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens said, “The campus uprisings of 2015 are the latest symptom of the disease of the American academy.” Michele Bachmann said on Twitter that there is an “anti free speech jihad on college campuses.” And FOX News pundit Todd Starnes was perhaps the most emphatic, and wrote, “This is the generation that will destroy America.”
However, it seems pretty much every critic of campus protesters is forgetting about the protests in the 1960’s, which often were so tense that they involved people of color carrying firearms. In 1968, Columbia University students began a sit-in that started over a planned gymnasium in Morningside Park, which is on an incline, in which students and faculty would enter from an entrance at the top and the predominantly black community from the bottom, a design based more on where each community lived but nonetheless had negative symbolism. A number of student groups of all races occupied various halls, with Columbia’s Student Afro Society (SAS) barricading themselves in Hamilton Hall, where they held Dean Henry Coleman hostage. The SAS was joined by CORE, SNCC, the United Black Front, and the Mau Mau Society. A number of eyewitnesses reported some were armed.
And while some people are condemning protests now at Ithaca College, they should first take into consideration nearby Cornell University. In 1969 the school’s Afro-American Society (AAS) occupied Willard Straight Hall. brandishing rifles to protest various racial issues on campus. A number people who were staying in the building for a parents weekend were ejected. President James Perkins later resigned at the end of the academic year.
There was also the “Orangeburg Massacre” of 1968, in which black students from South Carolina State protested a segregated bowling alley, and began throwing things at police. In response, police opened fire, killing three students and injuring another 27.
So before people assail today’s generation of student protesters, it would serve them to remember the violent student protests that occurred only a few decades ago, in some of these critics’ own lifetimes. Yet there was no destruction of America as a result then; in fact one of the ringleaders of the Cornell takeover would later become a trustee. So do not act like today’s student protests, almost entirely nonviolent, are some sort of unprecedented event that will cause a societal collapse.