1968: Columbia in Crisis

Commencement > Commencement Day

1968 Commencement Program

Columbia University commencement program, June 4, 1968.

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When the spring semester finally hobbled to a close, the University proceeded with its annual commencement ceremony planned for June 4, 1968.  Instead of holding it in the traditional spot on Low Plaza, the administration relocated the ceremony to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on 112th Street, a few blocks away from campus. In another break with tradition, the University decided that history professor Richard Hofstadter would give the commencement address, rather than University President, Grayson Kirk.


Students leave The Cathedral of St. John the Divine for Counter-commencement ceremonies held on Low Plaza, June 4, 1968.

Courtesy of Columbia College Today, Hugh Rogers, photographer, 1968

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Just as Professor Hofstadter began his speech, 300 graduating students in academic gowns silently walked out of the official ceremony. The protesting students marched to Low Plaza where the Students for a Restructured University (SRU) held a Counter-Commencement ceremony. That ceremony attracted an audience of 2,000, and included numerous speeches, beginning with an invocation by Columbia chaplain Rabbi Bruce Goldman. Other speakers included Erich Fromm, the noted psychologist, Dwight McDonald, the literary critic, and Dr. Harold Taylor, former president of Sarah Lawrence College, who stated: "As the only working college administrator among you, I confer upon you all the "B.A. degree: Beatification of the Arts." Afterwards, about 500 students, faculty and parents marched to Morningside Park, the site of the proposed University gymnasium, for post-commencement "frolics."

Audio of Professor Richard Hofstadter's commencement day speech, June 4, 1968.

Duration: 22:28 minutes

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Transcript of Professor Richard Hofstadter's commencement day speech, June 4, 1968.

Below is a copy of the transcript in PDF format. Click on the magnifying glass to search the document. Click on the plus sign to enlarge the text or use the zoom to the right of the plus sign.  Click on the double arrows for additional functionality including printing and downloading. Hover your mouse over any of the buttons in the toolbar to see a brief description of the function.

"Do your thing, but let us do ours."

Circular: "Do Your Thing But Let Us Do Ours."

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Students for Columbia University, formerly the Majority Coalition, requested that strikers respect the integrity of the University-sponsored commencement ceremony.

Police at 1968 Commencement<br />

Courtesy of Steven Epstein ‘68L, photographer, 1968

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Police presence around campus on Commencement Day, June 4, 1968.


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