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Breaking the Tension in Low
Marcel Agueros, Alum
Columbia College 1996

It was during the days of the Ethnic Studies protests in April 1996. Students had entered Low Library to lend support to negotiators meeting with administrators--but President Rupp took umbrage, and would not meet until the students left...a classic standoff.

The standoff started to morph into a takeover when we decided not to leave Low, raising the stakes and the tension. There were skirmishes at the doors as security tried to prevent students from joining us, and inside we were desperately trying to figure out what the administration would do next. Sometime around 10 p.m., the administration sent in a representative with a few security guards and a bullhorn, and he proceeded to explain in thorough legalese that we would be charged with trespass and arrested if we didn't leave at once. The stress was oppressive.

And then, from somewhere in the back: "What about Ethnic Studies?"

Suddenly everyone was laughing, and our situation--though still grim--didn't seem so bad anymore. Ten years later, Adam's wisecrack still makes me smile.

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