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Ethnic Studies a Perrenial Issue

by Russell Steinthal

T he arrest of 22 people during a student takeover of Low Library highlighted a week of increased student activism for ethnic studies. Neither student takeovers nor requests for ethnic studies are new to Columbia, having vexed the university on and off since the 1960's.

M ore than 100 students entered the Low Library Rotunda on the afternoon of April 9, and remained there overnight despite warnings by administrators that they were in violation of Columbia regulations and city law. University President George Rupp requested the police to clear the building the next morning. Twenty-two people, many of them students, were arrested after they failed to leave Low at police request.

I n response, the administration ordered the campus closed to anyone except Columbia students, faculty, and staff. This ban remains in effect at press time.

T he largest student uprising in Columbia history occurred in April, 1968, when students protesting the construction of a university gym in Morningside Park forced the university to shut down for nearly a week. More than 250 students were arrested when 1000 police officers ended student takeovers of Avery, Fayerweather, Hamilton, Low Library, and Mathematics.

T he ethnic studies movement at Columbia also traces its origins to 1968, when Columbia initiated a study which lead to the failed 1970 proposal for a School of National Studies. The school, which would have been an autonomous college within the university, was to focus on the history, sociology, and interrelationships of the urban, African-American, and Puerto Rican experience.

I n 1983, Columbia created the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, which offers Columbia College students an interdisciplinary major in African-American studies. Just last week, the Columbia College Committee on Instruction approved the creation of a new major in Latino studies. The committee is currently considering a program in Asian-American studies as well.


The Columbia "ETHNIC STUDIES NOW!" Homepage
Get President Rupp's views on the issue


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