Columbia 1967 to 1971

by Regis Boff

I think the protests caught everybody off guard though Columbia College was well ahead of the national curve. The nature of the place was to question everything, learn from the debate, and build skills. It felt abrupt that argumentative and embarrassing exchanges became personal and sometimes violent. It must have felt like a stain to the professors and administration at first. The place has a history of the mind overwhelming violence and is proud of that. Schools had become a haven from Vietnam, and Columbia was no different than the rest. You did not have to die if enrolled. The tearing apart of that shelter took real nerve. We were all very young men ( All male school at the time). We were among the first to act on our conscience. We figured out that something was very wrong. That was no small realization at the time. It was dangerous to resist. Columbia, above all else, was brave. A bridge from our academia to the outside world let something new and savage inside. Clear sides formed. Words could no longer settle anything. Fifty years later, my life still never pauses to be grateful. Discredited are the divinities that demand gratuity. Gone are parents who held my hand for a while. Even my excellent luck is not a thing to tip a hat too. There is only one place I wish I could be again because it was perfect. Columbia College the way I found it in 1967.My class seemed to be trying to tear it apart. In my last two years there, it seemed to collapse entirely. My college disappeared overnight, and I had not enough time or wisdom to regret it. Violence does that.I understand now what a college should aspire to be, memory—where you can find all truth and none. I know that school is still there. — 

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