Write Columbia's History
Through the Eyes of a Returning Vietnam Vet
Christian Seger
Alum
Graduate School of Business 1966

For four years, I served my country proudly in the United States Navy as a diving and explosive-ordnance disposal officer, often at sea in foreign waters. Just before being separated from active duty, I was present in the Gulf of Tonkin aboard an ammunition ship at about the time of the famous incident of that name. Very soon thereafter, I came to the Columbia campus for the first time, wearing my Navy dress blue pants that I had tailored to look more like civilian clothes. One of the first sights to greet me on campus was a group of students sitting around a card table, collecting money and blood for the Vietcong! I was outraged that treason was taking place right in the heart of a great American university, but I resisted the urge to turn over their table and scatter their literature. I never forgot that sight, however, and as the years went by, Columbia's proud reputation became more tarnished by such behavior, until the debacle of 1968 when a group of students took over the president's office. Two facts stand out about that period. First, chanting demonstrators disrupted the commissioning ceremony for the Naval ROTC unit that was being held on graduation day in 1968, and the midshipmen—after four years of hard study—did not get their commissions before proud parents and friends. Instead, they were forced to slink back to a small room elsewhere on campus. Second, the University did absolutely nothing to dislodge the outlaws in the president's office. The University's groveling, ignoble fear in the face of outright anarchy encouraged more such behavior as time went on. I was not proud of that incident and of Columbia's approach, which eventually resulted in the dismissal of President Grayson Kirk. I wish I could attend Professor McCaughey's April 27 lecture on "Columbia '68: A Chapter in the History of Student Power" to see what spin the University places on those times now.



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