The late 1960s was a period of unrest on college campuses across the nation. Passions reached fever pitch when the war in Southeast Asia was extended to Cambodia in April 1970. This move was the immediate cause of student protests at Kent State which on May 4, 1970, led to the death of four students and the wounding of nine more by the Ohio National Guard.
News of these shootings provoked an outpouring of grief and outrage on campuses nationwide. Baruch College, long reputed to be “cool” to the ferment happening elsewhere, found itself uncharacteristically in the middle of a serious class boycott at the time — brought on, among other things, by an increase in student fees. Sit ins, picketing, and rallies had rapidly become the common phenomena of everyday Baruch College life. The tone was “militant, cheerful, and legal.” Indeed, many of the students’ issues were supported by the faculty and administration of the college.
The dire news from Kent State put an end to this boycott. A memorial service was organized for Wednesday, May 6, 1970, with the participation of students, faculty and administration.
It is this memorial service together with the other events at Baruch College all related as immediate reactions to the shootings at Kent State that form the focus of this exhibit. The service itself lasted an hour and a half. Every seat was taken and people were standing up and lining the aisles. Following the service, there was a silent march outside the college’s main building at Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. Baruch students also participated in rallies citywide at Washington and Union squares. New York City public schools were closed on Thursday, May 7, and Friday, May 8. Baruch College, like all of CUNY, while officially open saw scarce attendance on these final two days of the week. Four Baruch students throughout these days sat in vigil with candles to commemorate their dead and wounded peers.
All the materials that portray the events at Baruch come from the Baruch College Archives (Prof. Sandra Roff, archivist). They are being made available because they may help to illustrate what often is hard for us, separated by many years from the events, to understand, namely, the high degree of emotion, disquiet, and genuine unease for the future felt, understandably, by so many people at the time.