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Stand, Columbia

Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University

Robert A. McCaughey
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 760
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  • Book Info
    Stand, Columbia
    Book Description:

    Stand, Columbia! Alma Mater

    Through the storms of Time abide

    Stand, Columbia! Alma Mater

    Through the storms of Time abide.

    "Stand, Columbia!" by Gilbert Oakley Ward, Columbia College 1902 (1904)

    Marking the 250th anniversary of one of America's oldest and most formidable educational institutions, this comprehensive history of Columbia University extends from the earliest discussions in 1704 about New York City being "a fit Place for a colledge" to the recent inauguration of president Lee Bollinger, the nineteenth, on Morningside Heights. One of the original "Colonial Nine" schools, Columbia's distinctive history has been intertwined with the history of New York City. Located first in lower Manhattan, then in midtown, and now in Morningside Heights, Columbia's national and international stature have been inextricably identified with its urban setting.

    Columbia was the first of America's "multiversities," moving beyond its original character as a college dedicated to undergraduate instruction to offer a comprehensive program in professional and graduate studies. Medicine, law, architecture, and journalism have all looked to the graduates and faculty of Columbia's schools to provide for their ongoing leadership and vitality. In 2003, a sampling of Columbia alumni include one member of the United States Supreme Court, three United States senators, three congressmen, three governors (New York, New Jersey, and California), a chief justice of the New York Court of Appeals, and a president of the New York City Board of Education. But it is perhaps as a contributor of ideas and voices to the broad discourse of American intellectual life that Columbia has most distinguished itself. From The Federalist Papers, written by Columbians John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, to Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution and Jack Kerouac's On the Road to Edward Said's Orientalism, Columbia and its graduates have greatly influenced American intellectual and public life. Stand, Columbia also examines the experiences of immigrants, women, Jews, African Americans, and other groups as it takes critical measure of the University's efforts to become more inclusive and more reflective of the diverse city that it calls home.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50355-6
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Tory Preamble: The Short History of King’s College
    (pp. 1-48)

    Columbia’s has been a disputatious history. Even the designation of its prefounder has two opposing candidates. The one far more often cited for this distinction has been Colonel Lewis Morris (1671–1746), a considerable presence in the public life of both New York and New Jersey in the early eighteenth century. The claims of his being the prefounder of Columbia turn on a letter said by at least two historians of Columbia to date from 1702 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPGFP), the missionary arm of the Anglican Church established in 1701 in...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. CHAPTER 2 Flirting with Republicanism
    (pp. 49-78)

    The Revolutionary War disrupted operations at most American colleges. Harvard and Yale canceled their commencements in the wake of the clashes at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. During the subsequent siege of Boston, Harvard Yard was occupied by Washington’s forces, and the College was relocated to Concord until the British forces evacuated Boston in March 1776. The College of Philadelphia was occupied first by revolutionary forces in the fall of 1775 and later by the British; it did not reopen until the fall of 1779. The College of Rhode Island was similarly occupied by revolutionary troops and then used...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Knickerbocker Days: The Limits of Academic Reform
    (pp. 79-116)

    In 1955 Columbia historians Richard Hofstadter and Walter Metzger published an influential history of American higher education under the misleading title The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States. Hofstadter wrote the first part of the study, “The Age of the College,” which began with the European antecedents of the colonial colleges and concluded with American colleges on the eve of the Civil War. His analysis evoked a historical trajectory marked by modest beginnings and upward movement, especially during the years of the American Revolution and the founding of the new republic, when colleges achieved “a notable degree of...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER 4 Midcentury Stirrings
    (pp. 117-143)

    Following the quiet revolution of 1816, when Columbia abandoned its experiment with republicanism and returned to its denominational origins, the College’s trustees became increasingly drawn from the ranks of the New York Episcopalian community. Whereas in 1811 only seven of the twentyfour trustees (29 percent) were Episcopalians, by 1854 nineteen of twenty-four (79 percent) were. Most of the non-Episcopalians were ministers of the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church or the Brick Presbyterian Church that had since the 1780s provided Columbia with trustees from their pulpits and continued to do so in an unspoken hereditary succession.¹

    But theirs were by no means...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Takeoff
    (pp. 144-176)

    The histories of American universities in the late nineteenth century have traditionally been written around the several outsized presidents who seemingly dominated the era. If now suspect among political historians and repudiated by the crusty economic historian Thomas Cochran, the “presidential synthesis” remains alive and well among historians of American academe.¹

    There are good reasons for this continued focus on academic presidents. Unlike political presidents of the late nineteenth century, who typically held office for only four-year terms (only Grant served eight consecutive years), academic presidents were impressively long serving. Charles William Eliot’s fortyone-year term at Harvard (1869–1909) was...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Aspect of a University
    (pp. 177-210)

    Columbia college changed significantly during the twenty-five-year presidency of F.A.P. Barnard. Yet the Columbia University to come, including the Columbia of today, was only partially discernible in 1889. The College Seth Low inherited in 1890 bore resemblances to the earlier Columbia, but changes in the next decade would effectively end most similarities with Columbia’s downtown collegiate past so that by 1900 the shape and character of the modern university was largely set. Even before the new century had begun, Columbia had become a recognizable prototype of what the chancellor of the University of California, Clark Kerr, would call seven decades...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER 7 Bolt to the Top
    (pp. 211-233)

    Nicholas Murray Butler was the dominant personality in Columbia University’s history in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also the best-known university president of his era and for most of it the academic whose pronouncements on matters domestic and international were assured closest attention in the national and world press.¹

    Some of Butler’s conspicuousness can be attributed to Columbia’s location in the nation’s media capital and some to his own sedulous courting of the press. But some surely also had to do with the assurance, and often arrogance, with which he projected himself into so many different...

  15. CHAPTER 8 1917: Twilight of Idols
    (pp. 234-255)

    While research-oriented faculty were the principal beneficiaries of changes attending the rapid growth of Columbia in the 1890s, their rising fortunes did not occur without grumbling from correspondingly diminished estates. Some trustees held to the traditional notion that faculty ought to be teachers, first and foremost, and that scholarship ought to supplement professors’ teaching, not vice versa. For these trustees, the principal interaction they envisioned for faculty was with undergraduates in the classroom and on campus, not with disciplinary colleagues at far-off conferences or in learned journals that neither trustees nor students read. “I fail to understand why the heads...

  16. CHAPTER 9 Jews at Columbia
    (pp. 256-276)

    Early-twentieth-century academic anti-Semitism has not wanted for chroniclers. That Columbia figures prominently in this literature is largely due to a fine book by the historian Harold S.Wechsler (CC 1967; Ph.D. 1974). Its deceptively bland title notwithstanding, The Qualified Student: A History of Selective College Admission in America, 1870–1970 (1977) offers a thorough treatment of the many ways Columbia between the world wars actively discriminated against otherwise academically qualified Jewish applicants to Columbia College, Barnard College, and the Medical School. It has been a model for subsequent studies of anti-Semitism at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Those familiar with Wechsler’s work...

  17. CHAPTER 10 The Invention of Columbia College
    (pp. 277-299)

    Two developments mark the interwar history of Columbia College: a temporary rise to athletic prowess and the invention of a distinctive undergraduate curriculum. Neither development stemmed from presidential influence or a continuation of the earlier faculty battle between the Burgess-led university faction and the Drisler–Van Amringe “College Men.” That battle was long over, and Burgess had won. What happened to the College in the 1920s and 1930s was novel, creative, and not ongoing. It involved finding a role for the College and the cadre of discontented faculty aligned with it in the dominant university. The Columbia College that emerged...

  18. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  19. CHAPTER 11 Prosperity Lost
    (pp. 300-327)

    Columbia’s wartime dislocations ended with the Armistice and the brief economic instability that attended demobilization. By 1920 enrollments were back up and gave every indication of a limitless potential for further increases. This growth occurred despite a 1919 increase in tuition for most parts of the university from $150 to $250. By 1928 student fees accounted for 56 percent of the university’s total income ($5.3 million of $9.6 million), the largest percentage in the university’s history. That year Columbia rejected some six thousand applicants.¹

    Commercial property values in New York City surged in the early 1920s, assuring Columbia higher rents...

  20. CHAPTER 12 Columbia in the American Century
    (pp. 328-355)

    On April 13, 1945, in front-page headline, the New York Times reported “PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT IS DEAD.” Roosevelt was sixty-three years old and had been president of the United States for thirteen years. Eleven days later, the Times reported, in a headline on the top left front page (the top right was preempted by “RUSSIANS BORE INTO BERLIN”), “Dr. Butler Resigns as Columbia Head: 44 Years in Office.”

    Coming within days of each other and within weeks of the Allied victory in Europe, these announcements shared certain features. Editorial commentators remarked on the singular longevity of the respective presidencies. Just as...

  21. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  22. CHAPTER 13 A Second Flowering
    (pp. 356-390)

    Although recruited from the faculty, Grayson Kirk was hardly a campus insider. Half his eight years as a member of the Department of Public Law and Government had been spent in government service or on leave. His name had not been included among the presidential possibilities put forward by the faculty committee in 1945 and 1946. Until he was appointed provost in 1949, he remained largely unknown to faculty outside his department.¹

    Shortly after being installed as president, Kirk ventured from his office in Low over to the Men’s Faculty Club. He then proceeded to the “long table,” where unaccompanied...

  23. CHAPTER 14 Afternoon on the Hudson
    (pp. 391-422)

    An institutional moment can be rich in accomplishments and at the same time beset with problems. So it was at postwar Columbia. Even the positive conditions facilitating the accomplishments of the 1950s and early 1960s—a decentralized administration, outside funding, the presence of semiautonomous scholar-entrepreneurs, the advantages inherent in a particular moment in the city’s ethnic history—contributed to problems that became manifest in the mid-1960s.

    The relationship of the Columbia geology department and its offshoot, the Lamont Geological Observatory, represented an even more dramatic tail-wagging-dog phenomenon than did the Bureau and the sociology department. Part of the difference between...

  24. CHAPTER 15 Riding the Whirlwind: Columbia ’68
    (pp. 423-461)

    As on other campuses, Columbia through its history has experienced two kinds of student misbehavior. The more common might be classified as simple rowdiness. Examples include the kinds of behavior George Templeton Strong regularly reported in his diary, such as rearranging classroom furniture, producing minor explosions in Renwick’s lab, and carousing outside faculty quarters. In Butler’s student days, rowdiness took the form of turning over horse carts on either side of the Forty-ninth Street campus. Beginning in the 1890s football rallies and the games themselves became occasions for one or another form of often inebriated student excess. In the 1920s...

  25. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  26. CHAPTER 16 It’s About Columbia
    (pp. 462-489)

    The fundamental political split within the faculty in 1968 was never between those who supported the protesting students and those backing the administration. In point of fact, of the twenty-five hundred or so Columbia faculty, only a few dozen throughout the university actively identified themselves with Kirk after the bust, perhaps the same number with Truman, and they were largely limited to Columbia College faculty. Similarly, no more than a dozen faculty openly aligned themselves with SDS and the Strike Coordinating Committee. A self-described contingent of “Radical Faculty” consisted of a half-dozen members of the anthropology department and hardly anyone...

  27. CHAPTER 17 A Tough Place
    (pp. 490-510)

    Andrew Cordier’s appointment as acting president in August 1968 was conditioned on his not being a candidate for the presidency. By the time the trustees acknowledged his important service by electing him president in August 1969, the search for his successor had been underway for ten months. The process involved two committees, one of trustees chaired by Robert Lilley, which would make the formal decision, and a nine-member faculty committee, which included three members of the Faculty Executice Committee—Michael Sovern, Professor of English Robert Gorham Davis, and Polykarp Kusch—and was chaired by Professor of Chemistry Ronald Breslow. Only...

  28. CHAPTER 18 Bottoming Out
    (pp. 511-532)

    As my Barnard colleague Rosalind Rosenberg details in her forthcoming study, the place of women achieved contested prominence at two distinct points in Columbia’s history. The first, as noted earlier here, occurred in the midst of institutional expansion, financial good times, and the presidency of F. A. P. Barnard in the 1870s and 1880s. This resulted in the creation of Barnard College in 1889 and the opening of Columbia graduate programs to women. Teachers College was also an indirect beneficiary of this first wave of feminist agitation.

    Yet, despite the backing of President Barnard, opposition from trustees, faculty, and students...

  29. CHAPTER 19 Columbia Recovered
    (pp. 533-556)

    For all the credit due the McGill administration, its decade-long struggle to bring the university into financial equilibrium left much undone. It was not accompanied by a general uplift of spirits. Extended belt-tightening budgetary battles seldom are. But moreover McGill did not see tending to the psychological well-being of the university as his job. Life’s tough. In handing his presidency over in 1980, he offered his somber assessment that it was going to take three presidencies to make Columbia right.¹

    On July 1, 1980, Michael I. Sovern became Columbia’s seventeenth president. In many ways, his election represented a return to...

  30. CHAPTER 20 The Way We Are
    (pp. 557-577)

    After President Sovern’s announcement in May 1992 that he would resign the following June, the trustees formed a search committee to identify his successor. Board Chairman Henry L. King (CC 1948) was selected to chair the committee, which, in addition to five other trustees, included a faculty member and one student. Provost Jonathan Cole and ex-vice president Donald Hood enjoyed some support on campus, but the search committee indicated early on that it was looking for an outsider with administrative experience and scholarly standing in the arts and sciences. Vartan Gregorian, the newly elected president of Brown, was a serious...

  31. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  32. Epilogue: Worth the Candle?
    (pp. 578-582)

    In the preface of their recent and estimable Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America’s University (2001), historians Morton and Phyllis Keller explicitly reject the job of determining “whether or not Harvard is as potent a force (for good or bad) as [its idolators and detractors] claim” as too “difficult to measure.” “In any event,” they state, “that is not what this book is about.” Surely, a prudent course, leaving this messy, perhaps unanswerable question to others. Yet in explicitly acknowledging the question at the outset of their narrative, they embolden a less prudent historian at the close of his...

  33. NOTES
    (pp. 583-684)
    (pp. 685-690)
  35. INDEX
    (pp. 691-716)