Jerome Neuner (1969)


The Jackass-in-Charge said that we must "shut it down," close the campus, throw away the keys and take to the streets. Problem was, for those of us who came to New York, to Columbia, poised to gain at least a toehold within the high-minded if overly sensitive world of the arts, the campus included our studios, which, of course, contained our young and fragile lives. A few of us, however, grumbled loud enough and thus won a respite and a small personal victory within the Long Struggle: we kept our keys. (We would of course make posters and other ephemera for the revolution, yes?) Among the many sideshows appearing during that grand Entr'acte of 1968, the student occupation of the President's Office was especially colorful. You had your red armbands, your green armbands, your blue armbands and your white armbands. The red ones were worn by the self-righteous professional agitators-in-training who had thrown open the large side window that overlooks the plaza in front of Dodge Hall, and there held court on the sill, accepting food offerings heaved over the heads of the police from their supporters beyond, who wore the green armbands. Green meant Forgive Them and, eventually, "Can't we just live together within a healthy stewardship of all things under heaven," but, at this point, they were the food wagon. Standing directly behind the line of police (who maintained a rigidly held cordon of flesh between them and us), were the blue armbands, the college jocks and future so-called compassionate financial swindlers who shared in the spirit of our youth and of the times and so boldly rose up en masse to block the food missiles as they were being launched. Now and then a salami sandwich would reach its target, caught by a grateful sitter-in-the-window and all the reds would cheer and claim Victory over the blue defense. But a great deal of treasure missed the mark and so fell down upon the solemn heads of faculty mediators who stood in a line with their backs against the wall beneath the window, their arms wrapped with white ribbons, a sign of their pontifical neutrality.