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November 10, 1968 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-11-10

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Sunday, November 10, 1968


Page Five

Sunday, November 10, 1968 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

/Studeint power, evaporating in a nightstick 's thud

Crisis at Columbia: Report of the Fact-Finding Commission
Appointed to Investigate the Disturbances at Columbia Uni-
versity, by Archibald Cox, et. al. Vintage, $1.95 (paper).
The Cox Commission Report will not be one of the best-selling
books of 1968. This is true not so much because it lacks intrinsic
merit, but because commission reports in general attract a unique
4 and limited readership.
Only those who derive a certain smug pride from quoting such
documents, or those who for one reason or another have a special
interest in the subjedt discussed, will undertake to wade through
the morass of minutiae which commission reports typically com-
I guess I fall under both categories, but-especially the latter.
Since childhood, Columbia University has always held a certain
mystique for me, for reasons as irrational as my preference for
Tobin Rote over Bobby Layne, or the Brooklyn Dodgers over the
St. Louis Cardinals. I was tempted to apply for enrollment there my
senior year in high school, but was dissuaded by the expense. As
a reporter on The Daily, one of my first stories was a telephone
cover of the draft-ranking demonstrations at Columbia. I remember
being puzzled by President Kirk's attitude at the time. He was more
than willing to withhold rankings (a demand which had been
adamantly refused by the administration here) but he steadfastly
denied that student opinion in any way influenced his decision.
Even Nicholas in the October Manifesto as much as credited his
capitulation to the demands of the people!
LATE LAST APRIL, hitchhiking through the East between the
winter and spring semesters, I spent a day at Columbia observing

the "liberation" of five buildings. I'll never forget the enthusiastic
sympathizer who ;charged through the police fines ringing Low
Library, scrambled up the wall, and was hoisted into the window
by the cheering demonstrators inside.
Thus, from all of this, I brought to the Cox Commission Report
an especial curiosity, indeed, a feeling of vital involvement in what-
ever transpired at Columbia. I expected to be enraged by the
report's unfairness or delighted by the Commission's willingness
to embrace the guilt of, the establishment. In either case, I was
sure the report would misunderstand a situation which I too had
been unable fully to comprehend. I sensed I would have to look
elsewhere for the real answers.
Curiously, Crisis at Columbia sated my interest. Having read
it, I somehow feel that I will never be able to face another news-
paper account of conditions at Morningside Heights. For in some
way I am unable to understand, the Cox Commission Report con-
firmed some of my deepest suspicions and prejudices.
The report circuitously acknowledges the Kirk administration
was autocratic in its relations with faculty, students and the
neighboring Harlem community. Selfishly defending its own prero-
gatives, it kept the faculty at bay in disperse little groups in order
to minimize the professors' voice and influence; it denied students
any say in matters affecting their interests, callously rejecting
joint student-faculty advice, (nay, refusing even to release student-
faculty committee reports for community scrutiny), denying ac-
cused students public hearings, and perpetuating intolerable living
conditions; it ravaged the outlying black community, gobbling up
scarce housing for its own expansion plans, tightly and legalistically,
calculating its own narrow self-interest against the utility of
action which, if pressed too far, could provoke violent reactions.

CRISIS AT COLUMBIA portrays the Kirk administration as
inept (remember the Strickman filter) and oblivious to rapidly
changing social conditions. Indeed, in one particularly gratifying
paragraph, the Commission underscored the need for liberal uni-
versities to reappraise their real estate dealings in the black
Much of the difficulty appears to be traceable to the con-
flict between, on the one hand, the older commercial philosophy
that the acquisition of land is purely a matter of financial power
in the market place and, on the other hand, the newer emphasis
upon community renewal, egalitarianism, and social coopera-
tion. The two are not easily blended, and we cannot predict
the ultimate accommodation. But Columbia's policy-makers
pursued the older philosophy too exclusively and long after it
ceased to the viable. The approach exemplified in the publica-
tion quoted above is not only socially and morally wrong-
which is enough to condemn it; it is also unworkable in the
social and political climate of 1968,..
AND THE COMMISSION condemns explicitly the lack of any
semblance of democracy on the Columbia campus: "At a time when
the spirit o'f self-determination is running strongly, the adminis-
tration of Columbia's affairs too often conveyed an attitude of
authoritarianism and invited distrust."
Yet while deploring this authoritarianism, the report finds
that "student power" was the main issue not for the core of real
radicals in Columbia SDS, but for the liberal and moderate students
who sympathized with the occupation of the buildings. The ac-
curacy of this observation is self-evident; the identical point has
been made by Mark Rudd repeatedly in his comments to the press
and in his speaking tours.
Rudd and the more militant factions of SDS across the nation
(including what is now Voice here) have given up on student
power. Now the catch phrase is "movement-building." The role of
the student radical is not to democratize his campus, for this
merely serves to emphasize the distinctions between the classes
of the oppressed. Democracy (whatever it now means in this new
radical canon) must be achieved throughout society. The obliga-
tion of students who objectively perceive this requirement is to
participate in the establishment of a permanent radical movement.
And how is that movement to be built? Not through "bullshit
rapping" (shorthand for education and persuasion), for rapping
has been demonstrably ineffective in the past. Instead, the move-
ment must capitalize on the inate radical consciousness with
which most students are imbued ("look as their sex, their music").
That subconscious radicalism is elicited by confrontation: Colum-
bia, Chicago confrontation. Await the arrival of the police, fully
- aware that the police will be unnecessarily, stupidly brutal. And
that nothing engages the horror of subconsciously radical students
like brutality.,
Whether this ideology, fully developed in all of its nuances,
motivated those who occupied Low Library (Hamilton Hall was
eventually under control by the black Students Afro-American
Society, which seemed interested primarily in the gymnasium issue;
Avery by architecture and Fayerweather by graduate students,

"The people taking
part in the rebellion
that led to the shut-
d o w n of Columbia
aimed to strike at
larger issues concern-
ing the corporate, ex-
ploitive make-up of
the university."
Ann Arbor
Oct. 25'

both of which groups seemed to have highly specialized internal
grievances) is not the point. What is relevant is that their demands
were not couched in the rhetoric of student power; that many of
them saw Columbia as one front in a general revolutionary struggle
-not necessarily a struggle for democracy.
INDEED, THE COLUMBIAS and Chicagos may have been the
" progenitors of the philosophy of "movement-building." Although
student power had little to do with Columbia, movement-building
seems more a rationalization after the fact. The Commission cor-
rectly observes that the demonstrators in Low and Hamilton were
completely unwilling to compromise on any of the issues, and that
those in Low encouraged the Ad Hoc Faculty Group's efforts to
mediate not because they had any attention of bargaining but on
the hope that they could "politicize" AHFG.
The Cox Commission Report will not generate controversy for
its findings. Rather, the major point on which dispute will arise
is the Commission's assumptions. They include'a regard for the
university and a preference for reason and civility. I find these
values attractive, especially compared with the general disregard
for them evinced by some of the more militant factions of SDS.
Still the Commission leaves a major question begging. What con-
stitutes reason and civility? If the Commission is willing to admit
that the Kirk administration was authoritarian and unresponsive,
how would the Golden Age of reason and civility come about, as-
suming that a decent respect for the opinions of the university
community constitute some part of reason and civility in a uni-
versity administration?

I ___ ____ ____ ____

What hands form a Past for

The Progressive Historians,
by Richard Hofstadter. Alfred
A. Knopf, $8.95.
One of the omnipresent cer-
tainties in the minds of my
graduate school contemporaries
in the early 1960's was that our
Ph.D. preliminary examinations
would contain an historigraph-
ical question on the reputation
of Frederick Jackson Turner or
Charles A. Beard. It was a cer-
tainty which, in my case, never
came to pass, but it struck fear
into our hearts and had us half-
convinced we would soon be sell-
ing shirts at Sears. It was at
that time already a formidable
task to acquaint oneself with the
life, scholarly publications, and
subsequent reputation of these
historical giants, and it is one
of the virttes of Richard Hof-
stadter's new book, The Progres-
sive Historians, that he pro-
vides us with admirable sum-
maries of their careers and re-
putations up to the present. In
addition, he has included the
less well known but also in-
fluential Progressive scholar,
Vernon Louis Parrington.
All three of these scholars
were Midwesterners, and they
came of age at a time when the
disparities between new indus-
trial realities and prevailing in-
tellectual presuppostions in
America could no longer be
reconciled. Before the 1890's
history had been written by the
gentleman amateur from the
Northeast, who entertained the
"gentle reader' with romantic,
nationalistic n a r-r a t i v e s, of
America's past. One had to be
independently wealthy to be an
historian; George Bancroft, for
example, spent about $100,000
of his own money on research
in his lifetime, and even by 1880
there were only 11 professors of
American history teaching at
the college level. Nineteenth
century scholarship was, above
all, formalistic, dealing with
timeless and abstract verities.
This was most observable in le-
gal theory, where the prevail-
ing concept was that the courts
should simply compare legisla-
tive acts to! the fundamental'
law, discarding- them if they
did not properly fit; but the'
formalistic a ethic p e r v a d e d

ica and its grand destiny no
longer seemed so certain. His-
torians who ,incorporated the
ideas of the possessing classes
about social and economic is-
sues, who wrote reassuringly
about the achievements of
white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant
culture in America, and who,
above all, seemed monumental-
ly unconcerned about the prob-
lems most Americans worried
about, now seemed outmoded.
The generation of scholars
who came of age in the 1890's
could not overlook such turmoil,
especially if, like Turner, Beard,
and Parrington, they. did not
share the prevailing Eastern
complacency and denigration of
the importance of the' West in
American history. History, for
them, had to be relevant to the
social and economic issues of
the day, and it must try to
reconcile a continued belief in
progress with the current Amer-
ican crisis. What seemed most
evident to Turner and Parring-
ton, reacting to the Populist re-
volt, was that the "common
man" had been ignored by
scholars, so they set out to rec-
tify the situation.
Turner placed his emphasis
on the Western frontiersman;
he revolutionized the historical
profession by arguing that
American individualism, dem-
ocracy and nationalism had re-
sulted from the frontier expe-
rience, rather than having been
the result of the transplantation
' of essentially Anglo-Saxon
ideals and institutions across
the Atlantic.
Parrington, an English pro-
fessor at the University of
Washington, was essentially
concerned with the moral and
social function of literature. In
his Main Currents in Amer-
ican Thought he presented -a
d u a 1i s t i c interpretation of
American political literature. It
resulted in the apotheosis of
those he considered dissenters,
democrats, liberals, and human-
itarians, and the vilification of
those in the tradition of Puri-
tanism, Federalism, Brahmin-
ism, or modern conservatism.
Both Turner and Parrington
neglected urban problems be-
cause of their restrictive defi-
n,iinn orf theomnf mla"

creasing advocacy of isolation-
ism and his obsession with for-
eign policy in the 1930's and
1940's blinded him to pressing
domestic concerns. Like Turner
and Parrington, Beard was de-
termihed to penetrate to the
hidden fore, the basic substance
of history. Ideas, he believed,
were merely masks for the real
and essential economic motives
of historical actors.
In his most influential work,
An Economic Interpretation of
the Constitution, Beard applied
this belief to a study of the
Early National period of Amer-
ican history, concluding that
the movement for the Consti-
tution had been initiated and
implemented by the upper
classes, whose investments had
been unfavorably affected un-
der the Articles of Confeder-
ation. To many Americans, this
was carrying the revolt against
romantic nationalism too far.
Warren G. Harding's Marion
(Ohio) Star, for example, was
scandali zed that "SCAV-
Beard always claimed, not
very satisfactorily, that he in-
tended no moral condemnation
in this and subsequent works.
The problem was that, like
Turner and Parrington, he was
influenced by both the post-
Darwinian trend toward "scien-
tific history" and by his desires
to make history an active in-
strument of self-recognition
and self-improvement. The
greatest shortcoming of all three
scholars was their inability to
reconcile the two.
The result was an imperfect
escape from the mistakes of
their predecessors. The eternal
verities were still there, al-
though couched in economic
terms. In their concern to make
the past relevant to the present
they distorted it in a different
way. Beard, for example, could
not envision the concept of
democracy in eighteenth cen-
tury terms, but only as it ap-
plied or ought to apply to post-
industrial America. Parring-
ton's dualism prevented him
from having any feeling for the
movement and mutation of

of their errors and tos
their stereotypes. A "con
school of historians, ledk
niel Boorstin and Louis
arose during the 1950's,
downplayei the magnit
conflict in America's past
more recent historians
shown, were meaningful1
torical actors, and self-i
was never perceived obje
But as Hofstadter observ
fact that Turner and
have been criticized fors
and so 'belligerently isi
dication of their enduri
portance, as , well as th
that their categories sti
vide the frame of ref ere
the ,attack. Their most
tant contribution to th
torical profession, he con
was that they transform
writing of history froml
and narrative accounts
analytic, problem ap
This led to the prolifera
historical monographs,i
unmixed blessing, a ju
to which those who hav
a good many doctoral d
tions will readily attest.
Hofstadter points oul
the tension between the
tific ideal and the de
draw moral lessons, to
truth useful, is still a
dilemma in the writing
tory. As the Progressiv
torians have shown (a
implication in this accou
the New Left historian
activist historian "who
he is deriving his polic
his history may in fact
riving his history from1
icy. ." The result may1
he will "lose his respect
integrity, the independen
pastness, of the past."
On the other hand, H
ter sees a danger in the7
positivistic inquiries oft
cial sciences, as well as
nihilism of much of ourc
literature. Historians, b
cludes, should strive to
the past in all its com
to show man in his whol
his triumps, his defeats,F
aspirations. The result,
plies, may be increased
ness and - insight into V
man condition. History
remain the most hum
among the arts."

shatter lease only by venting his anger
sensus" on Roosevelt.
by Da- The book is suggestive in more
Hartz, ways that Hofstadter makes ex-
which plicit. The extent to which all
rude of of the main ideas of the Pro-
Ideas, gressive historians were in the
have intellectual ' air at the time is
to his- striking and suggestive for
interest those interested in the socio-
ctively. logy of knowledge. Otis Gra-
ves, the ham's stimulating treatment of
Beard the Progressive reaction to the
so long New Deal in An Encore for Re-
an in- form has made us aware of the
ng im- extent to which there may be
he fact a dialectic of reform in Amer-
ill pro- ican history, and Hofstadter's
nce for new book suggests Graham may
impor- be correct. The Progressive his-
ie his- torians were quickly transform-
ncludes, ed from being considered avant-
ied the garde to being regarded as
literary completely outmoded.
to the
proach. Hofstadter too quickly dis-
ition of misses the New Left historians,
not an who have reminded us how far
dgment we have gone toward smooth-
ve read ing out the most creative and
isserta- original bumps in American
history. Ie admits that when
writing The American Political
it that Tradition in the 1940's he was
scien- unduly influenced by the idea
sire to of an American consensus, but
make this is not his only historical
critical distortion. The Age of Reform,
of his- while a creative and important
ve his- book, nonetheless submerges the
nd, by real social and economic issues
nt also of the period by concentrating
is), the on the psychological reactions
thinks and reactionary desires of the
y from Populists and 'Progressives. The
be de- conformist bent of psychiatry
his pol- in the 1950's bears out the
be that dangers inherent in such an
for the approach.
nce, the Finally, after I finished read-
ing The Progressive Historians
ofstad- the first question my wife asked
narrow was what Hofstadter had had to
the so- say about Mary Beard. Upon re-
in the flection, I had to answer that he
current had said nothing, nor had he
he con- h
reveal mentioned Mrs. Turner' or Mrs.
plexity, Parrington. She, of course, re-
eness- minded me that behind every
and his famous man there is a woman.
a war- Richard Hofstadter, take note

At your

Today, there is

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More on the War Against the
Young: Martin Duberman Isays
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No More Vietnams? Is it even
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Where does the Vietnam ex-
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the hu-
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Today's'writers . . .

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