Make your own free website on
introduction | 1969 Open Admission Strike | 1970 struggles | 1980 | 1990 Here we go again, and again!!! | NEWSPAPER ARTICLES | Bibliography


1970 struggles

Struggles in the 70s The conquest of Open Admissions did not bring about an end to student activism at CUNY. Far from it. Well into the 1970s, CUNY campuses remained hotbeds of radical student activism. From the fall of 1969 to the spring of 1975 CUNY experienced a generally high level of student activism, but nothing comparable to the events of spring 1969. This was a nationwide phenomena. Both the carrot and the stick were used effectively to restore order on campuses and in society at large. From Open Admissions to the end of conscription, major concessions were made to insurgent constituencies in the hope of pacifying them. COINTELPRO actions directed at organizations like the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords and SDS, combined with real internal frictions, contributed to the effective destruction of those organizations and a general weakening of organized radical forces. And the role of simple exhaustion should not be discounted. The Open Admissions strike took a lot out of its participants physically, emotionally and academically. A hard core of committed activists continued to carry on the work, but the larger periphery of students, who could be counted on to attend a demonstration if not a planning meeting, began to shrink. The steady growth of the proportion of Black and Latino students in the university fueled a series of struggles over a variety of issues. In several instances fights were waged to defend the newly established ethnic studies programs and departments from various attempts to reduce their strength or independence. As students of color came to constitute a majority on various campuses there were also struggles for control over student governments. And of course the continuing war on Viet Nam remained a major concern for students of all colors, as did the practically annual attempts to cut CUNYs budget. Mention of a few incidents should convey the spirit of the times. In November 1969 five students were arrested at CCNY for raising an upside down American flag on a college building in protest against the war. Several months later at Brooklyn College 20 students were arrested in a demonstration defending the newly established Institutes of Afro-American and Puerto Rican Studies. Open Admissions went into effect in the fall of 1970. Most accounts emphasize the dramatic nature of the change, sometimes in lurid terms: open admissions hit the City College campus like the D-day landing. Chaos reigned: Students stood in line for hours, sometimes for an entire day, just to register. Of course these accounts reflect the social position of the writers. For people who had, in effect, already waited hundreds of years for the opportunity to attend college, spending a day in line to register for classes, while undoubtedly annoying, probably did not seem like such a disaster. (The original D-day, after all, for all of the chaos involved had also been the beginning of a process of liberation.) Nonetheless the changes were enormous. According to Lavin and Hyllegard (i) n September 1970 a freshman class of almost 35,000 students took their seats at CUNY a 75 percent increase over the previous years entering class. By 1974 the entering class had risen to almost 42,000 students. And clearly the university was poorly prepared for these changes. Almost immediately the Open Admissions policy came under fierce attack, with every misstep seized on as evidence of the folly of the whole endeavor. Mistakes were inevitable, but some forces seemed determined from the outset to prevent the new policy from succeeding. As if determined to sabotage the project before it could get off the ground, Governor Rockefeller called a special session of the State Legislature on January 6, 1972 to freeze CUNYs budget at the previous years level. Without increased funding to meet the needs of the rapidly growing student body, application of the policy of Open Admissions would mean fewer resources devoted to students who, because of their lack of academic preparation, were in need of more resources. The student response to this attack was almost instantaneous. By January 31 the formation of a Coalition to Save CUNY was announced. The Coalition even claimed the support of 13 of 20 CUNY college presidents. On March 3, CUNY students delivered over 80,000 signatures on petitions protesting the budget to Governor Rockefellers New York City office. Three weeks later 100 students from CUNY wearing black robes conducted a mock funeral procession from the BHE offices on 80th Street, down Lexington Avenue, and to the governors office at 55th Street and 3rd Avenue. The fight against the budget cuts wasnt the only issue claiming the attention of student activists at CUNY that spring. On April 20, 800 Hunter students rallied against the intensified air war on Viet Nam and joined nationwide student strike the next day. A week later the Hunter Day Session Student Senate passed a resolution expressing disgust and outrage over the continuation and now escalation of the war in Indochina. The changing ethnic makeup of the university and the uncertainty about the future of newly established ethnic studies programs also generated protests. On February 23 four outside musicians and two students were arrested for playing Congas in the South Lounge of Hunter College. The two students were Jose Cruz and Manuel Otero, members of la Sociedad Eugenio Maria de Hostos, a Puerto Rican student organization subsequently involved in a struggle over the fate of the Puerto Rican Studies sequence at Hunter. Students protested the arrests and the Conga players were later invited to perform on campus by the Black Student Union. In April, Puerto Rican students and faculty at Hunter raised objections to the treatment of Puerto Rican Studies by the Hunter administration. In particular they objected to the imposition of an interim director, Luis Rodriguez-Abad on the program by President Jacqueline Wexler, and the failure to re-appoint Edgardo Lopez-Ferrer, an instructor in Puerto Rican literature, as well as problems with payrolls and the lack of adequate office space for the program. On May 3, an emergency meeting of student government, faculty and administrators concerning a call for a student strike turned into a shouting match when students pushed past security to get in. Wexler threatened to call the police on campus. On May 10, the Committee to Save Our Studies organized a rally at Hunter that marched on the Board of Higher Education where thirty Hunter students and three faculties prevented BHE Chairman Luis Quero-Chiese from leaving a conference room for four hours. When President Wexler refused to address a follow up rally the next day eleven students and four Puerto Rican faculties occupied the office of Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter and were arrested the next morning. The 1972-73 school year followed a familiar pattern with a high degree of anti-war activism in the fall, followed by a shift towards struggles in response to budget proposals in the spring. The Hunter College Day Session Student Government was offering draft counseling to young men up until the announcement of the end of military conscription on January 28, 1973. November 18 saw nationwide student demonstrations against the war. But the end of the draft and the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia meant a general winding down of anti-war activism. In late November, fifty students took over the office of Hunter College President Wexler protesting the killing of two students at Southern University by Louisiana State Police and demanding that Wexler sign a forceful condemnation of the killings and a statement that she would never call the police or National Guard onto Hunter. Governor Rockefeller sparked another round of student protests when he proposed the introduction of tuition at $650 per year at CUNY. An Ad Hoc CUNY Coalition was formed to organize an April 26 Rally in Defense of Free Tuition and Open Admissions. The Coalition was composed of the Black Studies Collective, Boricuas Unidos, Concerned Asian Students, and the Attica Brigade (a white anti-imperialist student organization). In May over 400 CUNY students seized a building at City College to protest what they regarded as the arbitrary suspension of SEEK students. Rockefellers proposed introduction of tuition was ultimately abandoned, but it was an indication of what was on the minds of the powers that be. The following school year saw an upsurge in activity on the part of Latino students and around Latino issues. On October 30, 1973 Puerto Rican students and faculty from Hunter College participated in a National March on Washington demanding freedom for Puerto Rican Nationalist political prisoners. The contingent had the support of the Black and Puerto Rican Studies Department along with two student clubs, Puerto Ricans United and the Hostos club. A month later Cesar Chavez spoke at Hunter to build support for the United Farm Workers grape boycott. The fall activities presaged an emerging confrontation in defense of Puerto Rican studies. On March 23, 1974, 400 CUNY students and faculty attended a CUNY-wide Puerto Rican Studies Conference. Benjamin Ortiz, Director of Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter described the primary purpose of the conference as to analyze and develop a joint strategy that engulfs students, faculty and workers against the attempt to destroy Puerto Rican studies at CUNY. The cross campus solidarity fostered by the conference bore fruit the next fall when Brooklyn College President John Keller rejected the choice of a search committee for Director of the Puerto Rican Studies Department. Keller sought to impose his own choice, Elda Lugo, over Maria Sanchez, the choice of the departments search committee. On October 22, 1974 students at Brooklyn College took over the registrars office in protest. The takeover lasted three days and attracted support from other CUNY campuses, notably Hunter, which had experienced a similar struggle three years earlier. Puerto Rican studies classes at Hunter were cancelled so that students and faculty could support the action at Brooklyn College. Ultimately 44 students were arrested for their participation in the action. But the battle at Brooklyn College however would be quickly overshadowed by a much broader struggle. None of the struggles that took place between 1969 and 1975 had the intensity of the Open Admissions strike. But they were important nonetheless. In some cases they were important defensive struggles that successfully preserved some of the gains won in 1969. More importantly they contributed to the ongoing development of a cadre of student leaders who would come to play a very important role when larger numbers of students were once again ready to move. Small demonstrations that attracted only a few dozen students were undoubtedly frustrating for their organizers, but it was precisely this sort of ongoing activity that schooled them in the basic techniques of organizing that they would soon employ on a much larger scale. The New York City Fiscal Crisis In 1975 New York City entered its so-called fiscal crisis. The New York City fiscal crisis is commonly viewed in isolation, as a self-inflicted product of profligate spending and poor financial management on the part of the city. This view is inadequate for a proper understanding of the effects of the fiscal crisis on the City University or the student movement that exploded in opposition to the measures that were proposed to change the character of CUNY. By outward appearances the crisis was a natural consequence of the downgrading of New York Citys bond ratings in response to its ballooning debt and shrinking tax base. But this market-centered view denies the essentially political nature of what happened. Deficit spending had financed both the war on Vietnam and the expansion of various social programs in response to the insurgencies of the 1960s and early 70s. When the country was hit by a recession in 1973, it was regarded as an opportunity by the U.S. ruling class to begin to roll back some of the gains made by popular movements over the preceding decade. The political situation did not yet permit a full-scale assault on federal spending on social programs. That would have to wait until the 1980s. Rather the assault was to begin on the municipal level. Befitting its size and diversity, New York City had the largest array of municipal social programs of any city in the country, and this made New York an ideal target for what would later be called shock therapy when it was applied to poor countries in the 80s and 90s. The imposition of a regime of intense fiscal austerity on New York City was not just aimed at New York. It was intended to send a message to every municipality in the country. The bond rating system essentially empowers private financial institutions to set public fiscal policy. By abruptly and sharply downgrading New York Citys bond rating, the fiscal crisis was in effect manufactured. It was not unlike the process by which the International Monetary Fund created a global Third World debt crisis in the early 1980s that enabled it to impose Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) on much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The important thing to keep in mind here is that bond ratings are not simply and directly determined by the impersonal forces of the marketplace. They are determined by very powerful people who personally and directly control the financial ratings institutions. Particular determinations may (or may not) be in response to market developments, but they are all political in nature. The creation of a fiscal crisis in New York City let every municipal government in the country know what they could expect if they thought they could buck the demands of the major banks and other financial institutions that controlled the bond markets. In the case of New York City this anti-democratic process was actually formally enshrined in the form of the Emergency Financial Control Board (EFCB), a special body created in response to the fiscal crisis, which was charged with overseeing and approving a wide range of municipal decisions with fiscal implications. The EFCB was constituted primarily by individuals representing the interests of investors and the financial community. Karl Marxs famous description of the executive of the state as but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie had possibly never been more precise. Just as the imposition of austerity on CUNY should be viewed in a global context it is worth recalling the larger context in which the student movement that resisted it arose. In the international arena the U.S. had just suffered a major military defeat and had been forced to withdraw from Viet Nam. President Nixon had been forced to resign as a result of the Watergate scandal. And a major confrontation was emerging in Southern Africa where the U.S. was threatening intervention in Angola and Black students in South Africa organized in the Black Consciousness Movement were preparing a major confrontation with the apartheid regime. Closer to home, the attempt to integrate Bostons public schools through busing had provoked an ugly racist response from the white working class community of South Boston. The situation was not as it had been in 1969 when it seemed that the tide was moving all in one direction. But neither was it one of abject surrender. Rather there was a widespread perception that there was pressing need to struggle, either to defend what had already been won but was now under attack, or to regain the momentum lost since the late 60s. This then was the situation when the fiscal crisis hit New York City and CUNY. In late spring, the Mayor announced deep cuts for all city agencies, including CUNY. CUNY, anticipating a budget of $650 million, was slated for $87 million in cuts. But the cuts didnt stop there. In August the Mayor announced an additional cut of $32 million to CUNY. The cuts in city funding in turn triggered an additional $23 million in state cuts, which were tied to city spending by a legislated funding formula. Scrambling to absorb $87 million in cuts, CUNY suddenly found itself having to deal with a total of $142 million in cuts. Organizing against the cuts at CUNY began before the full extent and ultimate implications of the proposed cuts were known. Organized student opposition first appeared at Hunter College. On February 18, a Hunter Ad-Hoc Committee on the Budget Cuts was organized by Puerto Ricans United, the Puerto Rican Student Union, the Radical Student Union (a white student organization) and the Young Socialist Alliance (the student wing of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party). Similar initiatives were soon underway CUNY-wide. On April 23, Mayor Abe Beame proposed an increase in student fees to $90 plus the introduction of tuition at $25 per credit. Within days protests broke out across CUNY. On April 28, 75 students at Hunter College took over the Student Activities office to demand demanding an auditorium for a planned rally against budget cuts and proposed introduction of tuition. The administration quickly granted the students demand. Later that day 700 SEEK students protested at the Board of Higher Education. Two days later 1,500 Hunter students rallied in the auditorium. After the rally, protesters seized the Dean of Students office and held it overnight. The protests continued with takeovers taking place at Lehman and City College. On May 8, a CUNY-wide rally took place at Gracie Mansion and a week after that 100 CUNY students and faculty took over the BHE offices. The demonstrations in the spring of 1975 only prefigured what was to come. But they also revealed an ideological fault line that was to persistently reappear within the CUNY student movement. This fault line was over whether to view the proposed cuts exclusively in economic terms, as an assault on poor and working class New Yorkers irrespective of race, or to view them primarily as a racist assault on the educational opportunities of communities of color. The concrete question around which the issue came up was one of whether or not to emphasize the potential impact of the cuts on ethnic studies programs and SEEK. A particularly clear statement of one side of this contradiction appeared in an opinion piece in the Hunter Envoy titled SEEK Protest Divides Students by Deborah De Sarle: Mayor Beames proposed cutbacks to CUNY educational programs, financial and the proposed raise in tuition involves and directly affects all students of the City University. All of CUNY have risen in protest to this threat to free education. Students have united for this cause in all but one campus: HUNTER COLLEGE. Here, where the initiative to rally was taken, the emphasis has been on racial discrimination rather than on the universal effects of the cutbacks on students. The Ad-Hoc Committee Against the Budget Cuts have given SEEK and Black/Puerto Rican Studies a major priority over the other issues at hand in this struggle. The leadership of the Ad-Hoc Coalition has succeeded in widening the increasing gap among ethnic groups rather than creating a feeling of solidarity among students. This contradiction represents in part the division between the liberal and the liberationist visions of Open Admissions at CUNY. The truth of course was that not all the effects of the cutbacks were going to be universal. The introduction of tuition would be a hardship for most students, but it would tend to push only the poorest students out of school altogether. These students would be disproportionately Black, Latino and Asian. Budget cuts to any program would hurt the students in that program, but not all programs fulfilled the same functions. Cuts to SEEK would again drive out the poorest students, and attacks on Black and Puerto Rican studies were not simply motivated by financial considerations, they were part of a larger ideological effort to discredit what was being taught in those programs. Some inevitably viewed the fiscal crisis as an opportunity to clean house and roll back changes in the character of the university that had accompanied Open Admissions. Black and Puerto Rican studies attracted only a small number of majors, but for many students, particularly students of color, taking one or two classes in those departments often had a significant impact on their college experience. It served in a sense to inoculate them against the Eurocentric bias they were bound to encounter in much of the rest of their coursework and to connect their studies to a history and tradition of struggle on behalf of their communities. There was little question that the fiscal crisis was being used to carry out an attack on programs that served mainly students of color. An example of this was a move over the summer to close down the Paris Hotel, a residence used by the university for SEEK students in need of housing. Located at 37th Street and West End, the Paris Hotel had provided housing for about 150 SEEK students since 1968. It was not simply a residence either. It was a locus of activism for SEEK students within CUNY. Some of the planning of the Open Admissions strike, for example, took place at the Paris Hotel. To close it would be to deny SEEK students a unique vehicle for CUNY-wide coordination. In response to this threat SEEK students took over the Board of Higher Education building in August and were able to secure the survival of the Paris Hotel for another year. The fall semester began with preparation for a student strike in response to the proposal to impose tuition. On August 27, the Hunter College Day and Evening Student Governments voted to call a strike if the proposed budget cuts and tuition plan were imposed. Similar actions and student protest across CUNY in September and October put pressure on the Board of Higher Education, which voted against instituting tuition on October 22. During the fall, BHE Chair Alfred A. Giardino instructed CUNY Chancellor Robert J. Kibbee to develop a plan for dealing with the anticipated cuts. At the same time however Giardino and the Board were developing their own plan. In early December the New York State Board of Regents issued a report calling for drastically increased state responsibility for the funding of CUNY, strongly affirming continuation of the open-admissions policy the key recommendation was the call for the imposition of tuition. In this regard the report asserted that through TAP and federal programs, no student would be prevented from attending CUNY because of inability to pay. The Board of Higher Education however refused to institute tuition. On December 15 the BHE passed a resolution demanding (1) uniform and strict guidelines defining student progress towards a degree and (2) new standards of proficiency in basic skills as criteria for admissions to the junior year of college and for admission to senior colleges on the part of those wising to transfer from community colleges. The Chancellor was also directed to develop plans for scaling down the size of the University through the elimination and consolidation of programs and campuses. The Board also went into private session to pass a resolution establishing a requirement of at least an eighth-grade level of math and reading competency in order to enter the University. On its face perhaps such a requirement seems reasonable. But if it had been applied to the 1971 freshman class the measure would have excluded more than 40% of Black students and 35% of Latinos, but less than 10% of whites. Of those who would have been excluded, 9% had already graduated and 36% were still enrolled. In short as David Lavin, Richard Alba and Richard Silberstein explained in Right Versus Privilege, using a device that promised to reduce freshman classes by a third, the board had in effect chosen to terminate the open-admissions policy as an alternative to imposing tuition. By February 1976 Kibbee had developed a plan to change the respective admissions criteria for the senior and community colleges that would have transferred many students from the former to the latter but would also have excluded far fewer students overall than the BHE plan. Kibbees plan also called for the merger of six campuses eliminating John Jay, Hostos and Richmond College (on Staten Island) as well as the transformation of Medgar Evers and York into community colleges. But the CUNY student movement was opposed to all proposals that would roll back Open Admissions and continued with preparations for a major demonstration at the state capitol in Albany. Opposition to the closure and consolidation of campuses contributed to the overall momentum of the protest movement. In late February hundreds of students at John Jay and Richmond Colleges, joined by their respective college presidents, protested the elimination of their colleges. A few days later 400 students demonstrated again at John Jay. On March 4, 500 people attended a rally at Hillcrest High School in Quuens to protest the proposed conversion of York into a community college. Four days later 150 people signed up to speak in opposition to the plan at a BHE hearing. 3,500 more people protested outside and, reflecting the intensity of feeling, a bomb threat was apparently called in. The Fight for Hostos The most intense fight took place over Hostos which served an almost entirely Latino student body in the Bronx and was distinguished as the only bilingual institution in the system. To understand the fight for Hostos it is necessary to know a little about the previous history of the college. On January 22, 1968, in response to demands from the Puerto Rican community, the BHE voted to establish Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College in the South Bronx. The college was designed to serve the Puerto Rican community. It was part of a larger project to improve living conditions in the South Bronx, with a special emphasis on the expansion of health services. Its curriculum was to offer students a liberal arts education needed to transfer to any of the CUNY four-year colleges and to train those interested in careers in the health field. To provide educational opportunities to adult workers interested in improving their skills and expanding their knowledge, especially in the health area. Finally, the school was to be a bilingual institution in which students would be allowed to develop fluency in a second language while comleting their studies in either Spanish or English. For the first time in CUNYs history, a language other than English was accepted as a medium of instruction for non-language courses. The college opened in September 1970 with a class of 623 students. From the outset it was plagued by a lack of adequate facilities and resources, which immediately gave rise to student and faculty protest. By April 1971, the colleges first president, Dr. Nasry Michelen was forced to resign and was replaced by Candido de Leon. Reflecting the lack of commitment to the college it was not until1974 that Hostos was even fully accredited by the Commission of Higher Education. By that year enrollment at the school had reached 2,000 and Hostos had become the most cramped institution of higher education at the city and state level. In that year, students, faculty, and community members organized themselves to obtain better physical facilities. After several rallies and marches, a letter-writing campaign and lobbying in Albany, the State Legislature approved the acquisition of a new building. When the BHE announced its intention to eliminate Hostos, two organizations, the Save Hostos Committee and the Community Coalition to Save Hostos organized marches and sit-ins. The movement at Hostos understood itself to be a part of the larger fight to defend CUNY. They also raised the demand for no budget cuts, the preservation of Medgar Evers, and the defense of Open Admissions and free tuition. On March 6, 20,000 CUNY and SUNY students marched on Albany. Six buses came from Hunter alone. The large turnout was no doubt encouraged by decisions like that of the Hunter Academic Senate which had voted the previous week that no member of the Hunter community would be penalized for attending the rally. The march was a huge success in spite of heavy snows. It was also very militant. The Revolutionary Student Brigade (formerly known as the Attica Brigade) and the CUNY Fight Back Organization spearheaded the attack. The Hunter Envoy described the scene: (s) tudents barged past the officers, smashing glass doors; as they entered the lobby they smashed glass exhibits containing Revolutionary War flags. A student carrying one of the flags led the march through the floors of the building in search of Governor Careys Chambers. Also at the head of the march, student pallbearers carried on their shoulders a coffin painted black and and lettered EDUCATION. Among the several students arrested and jailed for the action was Hunter student Robert Hoke. The Hunter Day Session Student Government wired $1800 to Albany towards his $2500 bail. Hoke was apparently arrested while removing shards of glass from the broken doors to protect people passing through them from injury. The Albany confrontation, while perhaps the most spectacular action of the spring, hardly marked the end of the struggle, particularly at Hostos. On March 19, 300 Hostos students briefly occupied the BHE offices. Less than a week later, after the BHE voted on a preliminary consolidation plan that would eliminate Hostos, students and faculty occupied the campus. In spite of these actions on April 5, 1976 the BHE approved a merger of Hostos with Bronx Community College for a supposed savings of $3 million. (The plan also consolidated Richmond College and Staten Island Community College into the college of Staten Island, reduced Medgar Evers to a community college but preserved York as a senior college.) The Board vote sparked a very militant confrontation with police in front of the BHE offices that turned into a running street fight. Meanwhile, the occupation of Hostos continued. For 19 days students and faculty administered the daily functioning of the College. Finally on April 12, the take-over ended when the police intervened and arrested 40 students. The police also evicted students occupying a building at Lehman College that same day. On May 5 a thousand City College students demonstrated at the beginning of a three-day boycott of classes. 13 faculty members who went on hunger strike to protest the proposed cuts and imposition of tuition joined them. On May 11 Hostos students and faculty demonstrated outside the offices of Governor Carey at West 55th Street. Another student takeover of Hostos was attempted later when the University ordered a one-week closing of all CUNY colleges as part of its austerity program. On that occasion, the police forcibly removed the students. This action was more successful. In response to these actions and the massive community support they attracted the New York State Legislature would finally pass the Landes Higher Education Act guaranteeing the existence of both Hostos and Medgar Evers. Nonetheless, Hostos suffered as a result of the cuts that ultimately came. The Health Sciences Division was abolished as an administrative unit, the Department of Social Sciences was consolidated with the Department of Behavioral Sciences, and ESL replaced the truly bi-lingual approach that had previously characterized the college. And ultimately, some of the most militant faculty were retrenched when it came time to cut jobs. Tuition Imposed The crisis accelerated at the end of May. On May 17, the CUNY Council of College Presidents voted to propose the imposition of tuition on students at a rate of $650 per semester. On May 28 Chancellor Kibbee, citing a lack of operating funds, ordered the shutdown of the entire university pending an emergency bailout. The dramatic action left faculty unpaid and postponed the graduation of thousands of students as well as the issuance of grades. Four days later the BHE voted 7 to 1 for the imposition of tuition. The lone dissenter was Vinia R. Quinones, the only Black member of the Board. Shortly thereafter the State Legislature voted to approve a short-term rescue package to enable the University to re-open. That same day, 5000 students were protesting in the streets in front of City Hall, but the deal was already done. The university would remain closed for two weeks until June 14. When it was reopened there were deep feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration. The establishment of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a financial aid program that was supposed to cover the full tuition expenses of the poorest CUNY students, accompanied the imposition of tuition. TAP was sold as a measure that would effectively make tuition progressive. Students able to pay would do so, thereby in effet subsidizing those who could not. The promise of TAP was key to selling the imposition of tuition and it was treated like a sacred promise that would last into perpetuity. As CUNY students would later learn to their dismay, in politics yesterdays sacred trust is tomorrows broken promise. TAP would become another frequent target of the budget cutters axe. Even with the promise of TAP the impact on the university of the decisions that had been made would be enormous. Total enrollment at CUNY dropped within a year by 70,000 from roughly 250,000 students to 180,000. But that was not all. In 1975 53% of entering freshman went into the senior colleges. This figure dropped to 35% in 1976 and continued to decline for several years thereafter. And the decline in Black and Latino enrollment in the senior colleges was even steeper. The 1976 CUNY freshman class was the first majority non-white class. But the 1977 class would be 52.7% white. While the university student body, in keeping with overall demographic trends in the city, eventually became predominantly non-white, the short-term reversal of the general trend in freshmen enrollment spoke volumes about the racist implications of the decisions imposed by the so-called fiscal crisis. The 1975-76 student movement at CUNY was not successful in preventing the introduction of tuition and a number of other important changes in CUNY. But it was able to prevent the elimination of Hostos and John Jay and to preserve the senior college status of York and partially Medgar Evers. SEEK and the various ethnic studies programs also survived. In the case of almost all of these struggles, the racist nature of the proposed changes was put front and center. These were not attacks directed equally at all CUNY students or even at the New York City working class as a whole and to pretend otherwise would have contributed nothing to the victories ultimately secured. Indeed it would have only created confusion. The defense of specific colleges and programs against perceived racist attacks contributed considerably to the power of the broader movement against the imposition of tuition. It was students of color who were most likely to be pushed out of CUNY by the imposition of tuition. Attempting to reduce the attacks on CUNY simply to their class dimension and to deny their simultaneous racial character might have made some white students feel more comfortable in the movement, but it is very doubtful that it would have strengthened the movement. The introduction of tuition was an enormous defeat for the CUNY student movement, but it didnt mean an end to student activism. Even further cuts to CUNY were expected in the next years budget and students began to mobilize even before the budget was introduced. The movement during the 1976-77 school year wasnt nearly as powerful as the year before, but it did not disappear. At Hunter on December 8, 75 students participated in a rally organized by Asian Students In Action, the Black Student Union, and the Puerto Rican Student Union. When the State budget proposal was released it included further cuts to CUNY and a $100 cut in average TAP award. At Brooklyn College the administration sought to cut costs by attempting to push out as many as 800 SEEK students. On January 21, 1977 fourteen students were arrested at Brooklyn College in a takeover of Registrars office in protest against this attempt. Demonstrations continued through the spring. On March 15, one thousand CUNY and SUNY students, organized by their student governments, rallied in Albany against proposed budget cuts. A little more than a week later on March 23, five hundred students rallied at City Hall against the cuts. In May the University Student Senate organized a protest against the halt in construction of new buildings intended to relieve the overcrowding of the university. And reflecting the changing demographics of the college (and the university) in May 1977, Cynthia Smith became the first Black woman student body president elected at Hunter College. In 1979 the Board of Higher Education was reorganized as the Board of Trustees with ten appointees to be made by the Governor reflecting the increased level of state support for the university. The same year tuition was raised to $900 per year with very little organized mass student opposition.

A Look at Shepard Hall from the Gate at Amsterdam Ave.