The Public Interest

Columbia and the New Left

Daniel Bell

Fall 1968

THE “siege,” “insurrection, “rebellion” at Columbia—all these terms are extravagant, yet it is hard to find one which is apt- has been characterized by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) as a spontaneous protest by the student body, or a substantial portion of it, against the “complicity” of the university in the war, and against the “institutional racism” of the university in the neighborhood; they explain the scope and intensity of the events by the extent to which the university was guilty of these charges. The administration itself attributes these events to the organized efforts of a small cadre of the SDS that was able, successfully, to manipulate a larger body of students who had been politically disoriented by the war in Vietnam. Some observers, noting that the events at Columbia were almost simultaneous with student agitation in Berlin and Paris and Milan, have talked of a “world-wide” movement of students against “bureaucratic” society. 

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