Last Sunday evening, the executive board of Columbia’s Student Governing Board voted not to comply with a new, controversial flyering policy implemented by Barnard’s Student Life office. According to the SGB e-board’s statement, the rationale behind the policy was that it would “prevent the proliferation of non-student related flyers on campus and… actively prevent the occurrence of ‘bias incidents’ in violation of the university’s Community Principles Initiative.” Despite these good intentions, SGB chair David Fine, CC ’13, expressed his disappointment at the institution of a policy that “unnecessarily imposes a burden on student speech on campus” and Activities Board at Columbia president Saketh Kalathur (also CC ’13) echoed similar sentiments when ABC also voted not to comply.
While this is the first time in recent memory SGB has voted not to comply with a University policy, student dissension in general is virtually a Columbia tradition, skepticism of the administration in particular a trait many would consider themselves proud of. Searching the archives for the phrase “student protest” yields about 100 results; simply “student” and “protest” yield 1400 more.
These articles date all the way back to 1954, when University students and faculty feared Congressional limitations on their activities in light of the Red Scare. While no protests arose at Columbia specifically, there was substantial concern throughout the community, a survey reported, over “the investigations and… policy toward Communist teachers and toward teachers who invoke the Fifth Amendment.” Another Spectator issue from October 1964 is really a study of the diversity in topic and means of dissension, an article regarding the replacement of trash containers in residence halls after student protest at their removal next to a photograph of students protesting the allegedly unfair termination of a University employee for “engaging in a unionization drive,” and below that, a piece on the Committee on Social Mockery’s rally to “gain support for its ‘Tribute to Nothingness.’” Then, of course, there are the 1968 archives, which includes a horde of noncompliance coverage and perhaps one of Columbia Daily Spectator’s most exciting issues on April 27 of that year, which sports the headline (somehow bolder than most) “Negotiations Over Tri-Partite Body Tenuous; Brown and Carmichael Appear at Hamilton.”
There are numerous other instances recorded in the Spectator archives where students take action in order to call attention to issues near and dear to their hearts. Not all rallies, marches, protests, or—in last Sunday’s case—official statements generate as much commotion or are as memorable as those in, say, ‘68, but each manages to demonstrate the strong commitment to freedom and equality (two abstracts that are, albeit, not always simultaneously tenable) that has pervaded Columbia’s history for at least the past half a century.