Write Columbia's History
Studying and Protesting in 1968
Robert Hegel
Alum
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 1967
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 1973

As a Ph.D. candidate finishing my coursework during the spring of 1968, I was obliged to choose between going to class (for the professors who demanded that we do) and participating in anti-war activities. Like most of my classmates, I did both. We worked long hours contacting members of Congress and faculty and students at other universities to organize protests against the bombing of Cambodia and other elements of that terrible conflict. During the time of the most intense protests at Columbia, Professor Burton Watson held his Chinese literature classes in his apartment not far from campus. He changed the syllabus, however, to explore China's great tradition of antiwar poetry. Discussion then quite naturally focused on the historical—and present—role of the intellectual in times of war and the appropriate avenues for protest. Those discussions were one of the high points of my five years at GSAS.



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