Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University

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Cornell University Press, 1999 - Education - 359 pages
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In April 1969, one of America's premier universities was celebrating parents' weekend-and the student union was an armed camp, occupied by over eighty defiant members of the campus's Afro-American Society. Marching out Sunday night, the protesters brandished rifles, their maxim: "If we die, you are going to die." Cornell '69 is an electrifying account of that weekend which probes the origins of the drama and describes how it was played out not only at Cornell but on campuses across the nation during the heyday of American liberalism.Donald Alexander Downs tells the story of how Cornell University became the battleground for the clashing forces of racial justice, intellectual freedom, and the rule of law.

Eyewitness accounts and retrospective interviews depict the explosive events of the day and bring the key participants into sharp focus: the Afro-American Society, outraged at a cross-burning incident on campus and demanding amnesty for its members implicated in other protests; University President James A. Perkins, long committed to addressing the legacies of racism, seeing his policies backfire and his career collapse; the faculty, indignant at the university's surrender, rejecting the administration's concessions, then reversing itself as the crisis wore on. The weekend's traumatic turn of events is shown by Downs to be a harbinger of the debates raging today over the meaning of the university in American society. He explores the fundamental questions it posed, questions Americans on and off campus are still struggling to answer: What is the relationship between racial justice and intellectual freedom? What are the limits in teaching identity politics? And what is the proper meaning of the university in a democratic polity?

 

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Cornell '69: liberalism and the crisis of the American university

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The scenes recalled here of armed black students leaving a Cornell University building in 1969 speak loudly of the rule of law, radicalism, racism, power politics, intellectual honesty, and the ... Read full review

Contents

Student Militancy
25
The Rise of Racial Politics
46
Racial Justice versus Academic Freedom
68
Separation or Integration?
97
Progress or Impasse?
124
Liberal Justice or Racism?
145
The Takeover and the Arming of the Campus
165
The Deal
192
Student Power
231
A New Order
253
THE AFTERMATH
266
Cornell and the Failure of Liberalism
297
Chronology
309
Participants
316
Notes
324
Index
355

A Revolutionary Situation
211

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About the author (1999)

Donald Alexander Downs, an undergraduate at Cornell during the uprising, is the Alexander Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism and the Glenn B. and Cleone Orr Hawkins Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His other books include More than Victims and Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus .

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