The (Professional) Afterlife of Student Activisms

According to the Washington Post, in the 1950s and 1960s, New York was the capital of the Jim Crow North, “Jim Crow segregation and racism had a strange and robust career outside of the South, especially in that supposed bastion of liberalism, New York City. Citizens at every level of New York society gave it life: journalists at national newspapers, wealthy suburban homeowners, working-class renters, university bureaucrats, police commissioners, mayors, union leaders and criminal court judges.”  Notably, it describes, “Donald Trump’s father was arrested at a Klan parade — in Queens.”

In the early 1960s, Baruch students like, Donald Woods ’60 and Franklin White ’61, organized students in the service of racial justice–including bringing Malcolm X to campus in 1961.

At CUNY, student activisms around racial and social justice is “perhaps best seen in the struggles for open admissions at CUNY in the 1960s. The postwar years witnessed an immense increase in the demand for state-sponsored public higher education, leading to the founding of the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1948 and the consolidation of seven senior and municipal community colleges under the CUNY system in 1961. Over the next decade, CUNY opened nine new college campuses, but this expansion could not meet the escalating demand for higher education among the nearly eight million New York residents. New York also experienced a major demographic shift in the 1950s and the 1960s, with nearly a million African Americans and Puerto Ricans taking residence in the city, replacing white residents, who had moved to nearby suburbs. Despite these demographic pressures and the expansion of the university system, CUNY’s meritocratic admissions policies ensured that it remained overwhelmingly white and middle class throughout the 1960s.”  You can read more about it in “Revolution at CUNY:  Remembering the 1969 Fight for Open Admissions” (The Advocate, 30 July 2018).

By 2008, students like Sean Perryman ’09,  organized around their concerns about equity and diversity.

Learn more about student activisms at CUNY in this essay “The Struggle for CUNY:  A History of the CUNY Student Movement, 1969-1999” by Christopher Gunderson.