The Scene at CUNY: On the Quad at Brooklyn College

May 1969

decorative image (same scene as described in this page's text)

Despite the police takeover of City College that has ended the student occupation there, signs of student resistance continue across CUNY campuses, with sustained demands for revisions to college admissions and curricular programs. At Brooklyn College, the Black League of Afro-American Collegians (BLAC) submitted a list of 18 demands calling for an open admissions policy and Black and Puerto Rican representation in learning programs and both the faculty and student compositions. On May 12, 17 Black and Puerto Rican students from Brooklyn College were arrested and charged with arson related to the occupation. Members of the campus community have rallied to raise bail for the indicted students and have started a student and faculty strike on campus.

illustration of Tony Nadal

Your friend, Tony Nadal, has invited you to Brooklyn College to join efforts to support the student defendants’ release. Tony is a political science student there and helped organize the strike. You head to City College campus to find and see that the occupation has ended at City College. You remember the invitation from Tony, so you hop on the subway train and ride down to Brooklyn to see what’s going on.

On the train you think about all that’s been going on, and wonder if things will change in the future. You will learn years from now that Tony will co-found the Department of Puerto Rican Studies at Brooklyn College. Accomplishing that took a great deal of effort from many of the people you will meet at Brooklyn College today.

You get off the train at the Flatbush Avenue stop. As walk toward the Brooklyn College campus, you can see the lingering burn marks against the Boylan Hall building from last week’s fire. You see large groups of students and faculty clustered outside on the quad. You spot Tony, who walks up to greet you. “We’re hosting a walk-out,” he tells you. “Students and faculty are both in on it.”

You hear the crowd begin a rising chant, led by a participant with a megaphone: “Strike! Strike! Strike!” Protesters begin to converge around the main entrances to the school, hoisting up protest signs denouncing the arrests: “Clear the cops!” “Free the 17!” “No police occupation of CUNY!” “Student rights, not raids!” “Drop the charges!”