Armed Students Take Over Cornell University

Bang! Bang!
Bang! Bang!

A group of militant black students at Cornell “occupied” Willard Straight Hall. They were armed with shotguns and other firearms with which they threatened violence. Why? To protest Cornell’s “racist attitudes” and “irrelevant curriculum”.

This was on 19 April 1969. The students eventually left Straight and walked away. None were shot or charged or were punished in any way. On the contrary, Cornell’s administrators chose appeasement. To increase “diversity” at the campus, the school “introduced a curriculum in Africana Studies and established the Africana Studies & Research Center.”

Incidentally, some of the courses one can take in this intellectually rigorous program are “Being and Becoming Black” which asks “What constitutes Blackness?”, “The Whites are Here to Stay”, “Women in Hip Hop”, “Performing Hip Hop”, “The Black Radical Tradition in the U.S.”, and so forth.

It wasn’t only Cornell and it wasn’t only American universities’ relations with blacks, of course. Universities were just as anxious to enroll more women and other minorities, and they were as keen on increasing the fraction of all kids attending college. But there was a problem. University courses were hard; too hard to pass for the average kid. Not everybody can understand quantum physics, or Shakespeare, or the Peace of Westphalia, or differential equations, or the lymphatic system.

So, in order to put more kids through the system, the system had to be weakened and changed in its fundamental nature. No longer the place to study “the best that has been thought and said”, or even the place to gain training in a highly specialized subject, it was now primarily the place devoted to Culture as a thing in itself. And now we not only have “degree” programs in Africana Studies, but also Women’s Studies, Communications, Education, Gender Studies, Sports Education, or others that will quickly come to mind. Even these aren’t tepid enough, though. A complaint, and a true one, given by the students at Mizzou was that about half of kids aren’t graduating.

All of this could have been avoided had Cornell and the others refused to buckle under what were, let’s face it, harmless threats. So why did universities surrender when they didn’t have to?

Looking back in Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom, who was a Cornell professor at the time, said, “universities gave way under the pressure of mass movements and did so in large measure because they thought those measures possessed a moral truth superior to any the university could provide.” It wasn’t so much cowardice—though a yellow stripe runs wide over the hierarchy at Mizzou—that led Timothy Wolfe to resign, it’s that he, or at least those around him, believed in his “white privilege” and felt guilt over it.

It was the same at Cornell in 1969. Bloom said that the then provost who appeased the armed thugs “had a mixture of cowardice and moralism not uncommon at the time. He did not want trouble…At the same time the provost thought he was engaged in a great moral work, righting the historical injustice done to blacks. He could justify the humiliation he was undergoing as a necessary sacrifice.”

Prediction: we’re going to see spectacles like the following at Mizzou, at Ithaca College, and at every other place students sense their own anti-“white privilege” power. Bloom said, “immediately after the faculty had voted overwhelmingly under the gun to capitulate to outrageous demands that it had a few days earlier rejected—the leading members of the administration and many well-known faculty members rushed over to congratulate the gathered students and tried to win their approval.”

The race problems on American campuses are iatrogenic. There is already word that Ithaca College, whose boss was under threat for allowing a “hostile learning environment”, has installed a new Chief Diversity Officer, or some such prominence. Many large schools have not one but several such official organizations, each working to (1) ensure everybody keeps race on their minds at every possible moment, and (2) to teach everybody race is not important and is a social construct. Holding two divergent thoughts simultaneously like this is bound to produce insanity.

Everything that happened before will happen again. Coursework is still too hard for a large fraction of students. This creates jealousies and animosities between those that are able and those that aren’t. These we have seen play out then at Cornell and now at Mizzou. Administrators and professors will hit upon the same solution this time as last: hard courses must become less hard, or they must disappear. Both of which, as anybody attached to a university knows, are happening.

Update Mizzou already has a “Black Studies” major. That no “White Studies” is on the books speaks volumes (get it? get it?). Some classes: BL STU 1332-Social Perspectives on Women, Race and Class (same as Women’s and Gender Studies [WGST] 1332), BL STU 1334-Women, Race and Class (same as Women’s and Gender Studies [WGST] 1334), BL STU 3850-Gender, Hip Hop and the Politics of Representation (same as Women’s and Gender Studies [WGST] 3850), BL STU 1790-History of Early Africa (blacks in the antipodes are ignored in these programs), BL STU 2150-African-American Cinema (same as Theatre [THEATR] 2150), and the grievance-reminding BL STU 2200-Social Inequalities (same as Sociology [SOCIOL] 2200).

The quip about the lack of “White Studies” or “Male Studies” is serious. Anybody taking a Black or Womyn’s Studies course or the like is purposely segregating themselves. Animosities cannot die when they are ensconced, and even encouraged, officially. Hence, iatrogenic.


  1. Gary

    By 1975-77 when I was there, the protesters had moved on to shouting down speakers like the last president of VietNam, Nguyen Van Thieu, and lapping up the lies of Alger Hiss. The Straight was back to normal student activities. But these events come and go (or else it would get boring) while the underlying leftist theme rolls on — promote feeling of guilt and jealousy to steal what can’t be earned. Which is an easy strategy since people are governed by emotion before reason. Yes, it shall continue.

  2. Ye Olde Statistician

    As Marx said, History repeats itself. The first time as tradgedy, the second time as farce. Or, to paraphrase Dan Pat Moynihan, we are ‘defining oppression down.’ Just as there are folks who have ‘stolen valor’ by pretending to a service they never had, there are radicals who want to relive the 1960s and pretend they are as brave and transgressive as those who faced assassination and lynch mobs, imagining that the eager-to-please president of U, Missouri is the second coming of Bull Connor.

  3. Bloom’s book is good; I often recommend it.

    Yet, there is another side (perhaps not an opposite side) to all this: the tradition of the children of the wealthy, sliding by with their gentlemen’s Cs, and surely not working very hard for their degrees. I mean, we’ve all read P. G. Woodhouse, right? All those wastrels went to university. (Where, at least in the U.S., women, Jews, and blacks were either forbidden or subject to restrictive quotas, as Asians are even now.)

  4. Briggs


    True, true. But that’s all gone now. It’s As for everybody, even for those who can barely (or not at all) read. The cure was worse than the disease.

    I’d bet not one graduate in a 1,000 today has read Wodehouse, the poor sods.

  5. Sander van der Wal

    How long before the best and brightest of other countries will stop coming to America? Lots of the US’s wealth is created by immigrants, but why would they keep wanting to come if all the locals are complete morons?

  6. It seems if you wait a three or four decades, you don’t need the gun to take over, just a hunger strike and a football team.

    I have to ask “What kind of idiot believes in white guilt and who let them get as far as a college president? Why isn’t this idiot scrubbing toilets at McDonalds where he obviously belongs? (No insult to toilet scrubbers–some of you would obviously make a better college president than this guy.)

    As suggested in many places, this can be cured by going to trade schools and skipping college. These are less expensive and you’re actually employable at the end. I could also see employers putting pressure on colleges, either by refusing to hire their graduates or demanding actual student achievement before a diploma is issued. Employers already have to send students to remdial classes in some cases, even though the person has a college degree. It’s expensive and should not be necessary.

  7. John B()

    Lee and Briggs

    I have seen Hugh Laurie et al in BBC Bertie and Wooster tales – my daughter had a Wodehouse book on tape (a jazz/black-face episode comes to mind) and this past year I picked up and read a Wodehouse collection…I had to wear a truss to keep my insides from spilling out

  8. Ray

    I started college in 1960 and remember the student demonstration and how the university administration capitulated to student demands. We joked that there was nothing more craven and cowardly than a university president. I haven’t seen anything the last 50 years to cause me to change this opinion.

  9. John B()

    Shows my ignorance:

    P. G. Wodehouse

    Jeeves and Wooster (Bertie was Wooster’s first name)

    … then there was the incident where Wodehouse was used by the Nazi’s when PG was living in France when the occupied the country. George Orwell defended Wodehouse calling him a “political innocent”.

  10. Rich

    “Universities were just as anxious to enroll more women and other minorities …” When did women become a minority? Are men a minority too? I know I am! Now I think about it, the whole world population may be composed of minorities.

  11. JohnK

    I say, Jeeves, what’s this rummy business going on down at the good old Grantham-upon-Stratham U.?
    It is said that the students are protesting, Sir.
    Yes, Sir.
    Protesting what?
    It is difficult to ascertain, Sir.
    You know, I oft-plied the moldy shelves myself there, back in the day, Jeeves.
    Yes, Sir, I have been aware.
    Not quite the A-Forms for me, though.
    Yes, Sir.
    We used to give the kitchen Master the old what-for, don’t you know. Bingo Little and I used to cut off the crusts of the bread before it was served at luncheon. Drove the Master positively looney.
    Indeed, Sir.
    I mean, the man got as boiled as a lobster just before giving up the ghost, as it were. Couldn’t figure who had done it.
    Yes, Sir.
    I can only imagine what pranks they’re up to these days. What do you hear, on the Q.T.? Beguile me.
    I am most reluctant to do so, Sir. I fear that you may be less than entranced by student pranks these days.
    Oh, come now, Jeeves, we’re all adults here. Have a dash.
    As you command, Sir. It would seem that there has been yelling, screaming, shoving, and mention of…
    Well, out with it!
    Of… poop, Sir.
    Good Lord. Poop?
    Poop, Sir.
    Under what circumstances, one ventures to ask?
    Under the gravest circumstances, Sir. Headmasters have been forced to resign under the onslaught.
    Of poop.
    Among other things, Sir.
    Jeeves, it would seem that something has seriously Gang aft agley at the old G-upon-A. Let us steer clear. Oh, and Jeeves?
    Cancel the old Alumni Fund contrib. this year. And while we’re at it, contribute it again, as the Raven quoth, Nevermore.
    Indeed, Sir.

  12. I recall my first initiation to student violence at SUNY/AB in the early 60’s: the faculty club (the most beautiful building on campus) was torched, student mobs paraded through classes, and the first faculty meeting I attended was dominated by long-haired radicals who would not let anyone else take the floor. That was the first step on my road from a secular Jewish liberal who worked Cambridge, Mass. for Adlai Stevenson to a Catholic conservative who will campaign for most any Republican except Donald Trump.

  13. Richard Spacek

    It was interesting to see Media Studies replace Anglo-Saxon in the curriculum here. Did I say “interesting”? I meant “ball crushingly horrible.” Ecclesiastes 12:9-12

  14. Sylvain

    The only way you could have had a Ph.D is because the system has been weakened.

  15. Coast Ranger

    Back in the day when by brother was at San Francisco State and on strike, my father worked at the San Mateo county courthouse . He would hear the sheriff deputies getting ready to go up to the City to volunteer to keep order or, as they put it, to crack some heads.

  16. Gary

    At my undergraduate university, a take-over of the Administration Building in 1971 on grounds similar to the Cornell situation gave way in 1974 to streaking. The kids back then…

  17. John B()


    A JohnK original ?

    Love it … thanks

  18. Bob

    In 1969 I was too busy getting my academic ass kicked in an engineering curriculum. The hippies were setting bon fires on campus, and I don’t remember any thinking person celebrating with them. The only thing I might regret is all the drugs and free sex. On the other hand, some of those chicks were protesting because they were too ugly for social intercourse.

  19. John

    It was a bit of a shock for me to go from Vietnam in 1968 to a few months later the University of Kansas. KU, when I had left it to join the service, was a classic straight-laced midwestern university. On my return, the radicals were all over the place. My former econ professor (who had told us he was a communist) was leading student sheeple in their marches against the war. A high school friend was the leader of the SDS – of the “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh is Going To Win” chants at the rallies. Not too much later, the radicals got wilder. They burned down the Student Union. They rioted against the police, and tried to kill them. And, of course, the faculty did nothing about it.

    As soon as the draft ended, this whole movement vanished. There were no more demonstrations. Sadly, though, a lot of the worst of the radicals were busy getting their doctorates.

    There is some nice shadenfreude, though, seeing these draft dodgers who are now senior professors at their universities getting attacked themselves by self-righteous antidemocratic students.

  20. John

    Now they don’t have to bring their own guns to intimidate people to kowtow to their idiocy, the good ‘ole US Government provides them all the guns they need, even sends special carrying cases so the lefties don’t have to get their hands dirty. I think they call those carry cases the police or sum such.

  21. Ye Olde Statistician

    now senior professors at their universities getting attacked themselves

    The Revolution always eats its young. Ask Robespierre.

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