Theodore de Bary
My journey to the University Senate started one day in late April of 1968 when I was working in my Kent Hall office, trying to finish up a book, the completion of which had been long delayed by a decade of service as Chair of the University Committee on Oriental Studies, setting up the Core courses on Asia, and then by two terms as Chairman of the Department of Chinese and Japanese, which in the '60s was expanded into the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures to include Korea, Vietnam, and Tibet. I was glad in 1968 to be free of administration for a while, and was determined not to be distracted by the disturbances going on just outside my window. In the midst of this I had a visit from a former student of mine, George Keller, who had since become the editor of "Columbia College Today." He told me about some faculty who were meeting in Philosophy Hall hoping to serve as intermediaries between the administration and the students occupying Low Library. I started attending these meetings, which didn't get very far because Mark Rudd and the Students for a Democratic Society insisted that Grayson Kirk, president of the University at the time, and David Truman, who was part of the Columbia administration, resign as a precondition of negotiations. This was no surprise to me. Before Rudd launched his attack on Low Library, he took his band of SDS radicals down into Morningside Park to stage a demonstration against the proposed Columbia and Community "Gym in the Park". When he emerged by the stairway from the Park and reached Morningside Drive, he was holding a banner aloft inscribed "To Rebel is Justified". Perhaps few who saw the photo shot of this in Spectator the next day understood whose battle-cry this was, or how portentous the slogan was. It came from Mao Zedong, originally in a call to his revolutionary cadres in the 1930s, but reiterated in a speech celebrating the Communist victory in 1949—a major speech entitled "Stalin is our Commander" honoring Stalin as the leader of the world revolution. In the earlier version, Mao emphasized how different his revolution was from anything like the traditional civility of the Confucians. It was not a gentle tea party or an exchange of scholarly conversation, but something that both justified and demanded the use of force. He belittled liberals as polite panty-waists who did not have the guts to engage in fierce, prolonged class struggle and always wanted to compromise. This prefigured Mao's later Cultural Revolution which was coming to its devastating climax in China in 1968. When Mark Rudd rallied his forces outside Low Library, his cry was "up against the wall mother-fucker." He would, he said, "force Kirk and Truman to say NO." By this he meant that he did not want any qualified "yes" from the administration, leaving the way open for a negotiated compromise. He wanted outright confrontation in which he would impose his demands on callow liberals who would not want a messy fight. At the moment when Low Library was occupied, Kirk was downtown but asked Truman by phone to call in the police. Truman vacillated—he still hoped to negotiate, as did the majority of the faculty group I was meeting with in Philosophy Hall at the time. As you know, Truman eventually had to call in the police and it would prove even messier. Later, after Kirk and Truman were forced to resign, Andrew Cordier was brought in as President, and for him, when push came to shove, he did not hesitate to call in the police. Fred Friendly of the Journalism School used to say in admiration of Cordier, "Andy has the gift of 'spreading foam over everything, so the radicals can't get their hands on him,'" but Fred and the Executive Committee of the Faculty, knew by this time that they had to support Cordier when it became necessary to defend the civil rights of the University. Earlier, the right of the University to defend its civil rights, its due process and civil activities, especially the rights of academic freedom and freedom of assembly (guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to carry out legitimate academic activities), was challenged by Rudd and the SDS in the form of strikes against the holding of classes and regular academic ceremonies. I had heard that students from other New York campuses, and even from as far away as Boston, were among the cohorts occupying the Columbia buildings, but it was only when I attended a conference at Aspen—called to discuss student rebellions in the U.S.—that I met radical students from Berkeley and other Bay Area campuses, who proudly introduced themselves as among those who had occupied Columbia's Mathematics Building. Meanwhile the media kept talking about "the students" as if they represented most Columbia students, but actually SDS never represented more than a small minority. A larger group of students called the Majority Coalition, actually blockaded the buildings occupied by the SDS, hoping to starve the latter out. The question of how students could be accurately represented was in the back of my mind when later I participated in the meetings that led to the creation of the University Senate. In '68 there were student governing bodies in several schools, but they could hardly be heard above the uproar created by the SDS. This convinced me that only a Senate representative of all students as well as faculty could speak for the Columbia community as a whole in defending the essential rights and functions of the university. While attending the meetings in Philosophy Hall I was invited by historian Fritz Stern to meet in his Claremont Ave. apartment with other leading members of the Faculty like Lionel Trilling, William Leuchtenburg, Richard Hofstadter, Paul Marx, and Magnus Gregersen of the Medical School, and other distinguished scholars, all of whom then joined in publishing a statement in defense of academic freedom from mob violence—the statement was published in the New York Times. Next, a larger meeting of faculty, university-wide, was held at the Law School, which called for the creation of an Executive Committee of the Faculty with elected faculty representation from the several schools. I was elected to it from the Graduate Faculty of Philosophy. In the meetings of the Executive Committee two issues particularly concerned me. One was that the new Senate not just be a Faculty Senate, as it was at so many other universities, but should include students and administrative staff. The other question was who should preside? I believed that the Senate should have its own leadership. Others thought the President of the University should preside, but I felt that if the Senate were merely at the disposal of the president, it would tend to become just an instrument of administration. We compromised by having the President oversee plenary meetings, but the Senate having its own Executive Committee and its own chairman, so that the President would have to deal with it as a body exercising its own powers. As it turned out I was elected the first Chairman of the Senate Executive Committee and served in that capacity for two years. I think the arrangement worked well at the time, but others can judge for themselves by consulting the report I submitted at the end of my term. By that time I had been asked to serve as Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Provost, which I did from 1971-78—but that is another story. The author is a graduate of Columbia College '41, Graduate school of Arts and Sciences '48, and received his PhD in '53. He is the John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University and Provost Emeritus Special Service Professor....