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THE HISTORY OF THE CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK: 1969-1999
introduction | 1969 Open Admission Strike | 1970 struggles | 1980 | 1990 Here we go again, and again!!! | NEWSPAPER ARTICLES | Bibliography

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1990 Here we go again, and again!!!

The 1989-90 school year did not see the same kind of university wide militant action as the previous year. But neither did it see the complete disappearance of such activism. Between the city and state, CUNY was targeted for another $50 million in proposed budget cuts. Significantly no tuition hike was proposed. The previous years experience had made the powers that be more cautious. Chancellor Murphy was replaced at this point with Wynetka Ann Reynolds (who had just been forced to resign as chancellor of the California State University system). Reynolds was expected to clamp down on student protests in ways that Chancellor Murphy had resisted. The main battleground in 1990 was John Jay College where that springs a popular Latino teacher, Professor Donald Torres of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice was denied tenure. While Torres had received a unanimous recommendation for tenure from his department college personnel and budget committee rejected him. Torres filed a civil suit alleging discrimination, but students decided to use more direct forms of action. At first students interfered with payroll distribution and glued locks around the campus, creating considerable chaos in the process. When those tactics failed to get results the students settled on organizing a mass action. On May 9, students took over North Hall at John Jay to the denial of tenure to Professor Torres and the proposed budget cuts to CUNY. The police were quickly called in and removed the students. The students described the arrests as brutal. Seven students were arrested and at least four were treated for injuries received at the hands of the police. The next day the students retook North Hall and this time issued twenty demands, including the resignation of President Gerald Lynch who they held responsible for the police brutality the evening before. Complicating matters was the threat by Karen Kaplowitz, President of the John Jay Faculty Senate to ask the American Association of University Professors to censure the university if Torres were granted tenure on the basis that it was interference with the principle of faculty governance. Reflecting the volatility of the situation at John Jay, Police Commissioner Lee Brown, who had been selected to speak at the colleges commencement ceremonies, cancelled his speech. The situation escalated on May 21 when about fifty students occupied CUNY Central Administration offices. The occupiers included students from John Jay, Lehman, BMCC, La Guardia, and Baruch. Two days later the occupier defied a Temporary restraining orders to vacate the premises. 300 employees who worked in the building either stayed home or worked in alternative offices. On May 24 the CUNY administration initiated disciplinary proceedings against the students. The occupiers responded by completely closing the building to administrators who had previously been allowed entrance. The Board of Trustees in turn responded by holding an emergency meeting at the Graduate Center and voted to meet with the students if they would reopen the building to the employees. The next day the students ended the occupation in return for negotiations on demands for amnesty and stronger voice in minority hiring and tuition issues. Four students were allowed to remain in building pending results. The struggles over the course of the spring of 1990 did not match the previous years intensity, but they did help hold together the core of activists forged in the 1989 strike, many of whom would play an important role again in 1991. The 1991 Student Strike The victory of the 1989 strike only delayed further efforts to raise tuition and limit access to CUNY. After the interlude of the 1989-90 school year, the attack was renewed. It started in December 1990 with the Board of Trustees voting to raise tuition by $200. In January, Governor Cuomo released his proposed state budget. The proposal included yet another $52 million in cuts to CUNY plus an additional tuition hike of $500 per year, raising tuition to $1,950. On top of this he proposed cuts in TAP awards of between $100 and $400 per student. The proposed cuts to CUNY went hand in hand with a series of cuts to SUNY and to other social services, laying the basis for a potential statewide student alliance with organized labor and community based organizations. In March 3,000 CUNY and SUNY students joined labor and community organizations in a 25,000 strong march on Albany opposing state budget cuts. But with the memory of 1989, CUNY students felt they had a more powerful weapon. The 1991 CUNY student strike began at CCNY on Monday, April 8 at 5:30 in the morning. Students occupied the North Academic Complex (NAC). The next morning at Hunter, the East Building was occupied. At Bronx Community College, Colston Hall was taken. Over the following week new campuses continued to join the movement. On April 15, 30 students took over Powder maker Hall at Queens at 4:15 in the morning, securing doors with chains and covering windows with newspapers so that their movements couldnt be watched from outside. That day students at New York City Tech seized Namm Hall. At BCC students took a second building, Tech 1. Classes were cancelled at CCNY, BMCC, City Tech, the Graduate Center and Hostos. Classes continued alongside building occupations at Hunter, Lehman, York, Queens, Brooklyn College, John Jay, Medgar Evers, Bronx Community College, and La Guardia. Brief occupations occurred at Baruch and at Kingsborough Community College. Occupations ultimately occurred on fifteen other campuses. At SUNY students briefly occupied buildings to express their support. Twenty students seized the administration building at the Purchase campus and an occupation also took place at Stonybrook. On April 16 CUNY took the BMCC occupiers to court. The same day a small group of students shut down the Graduate Center with the support of 200 others rallying and maintaining a continual presence outside. The occupations held strong for another week. On April 24, eight thousand students rallied outside Governor Cuomos offices in the World Trade Center and then marched for three hours through downtown, briefly blocking traffic on West Street. At the beginning of the strike the building occupiers claimed the support of the majority of the student body. And the march through downtown revealed that they still commanded significant student support. But the relationship between the occupiers and the rest of the student body was not the same as in 1989. While most of the building occupations in 1989 were carried out by small groups of students indeed the tactic demanded it the actions were an organic outgrowth of the larger movement and commanded the support of the student body at large. This time the students who carried out the occupations were, in many cases, veterans of the 1989 strike. They had been radicalized by their experience and there was a tendency on their part to sometimes take a superior attitude towards the masses of ordinary students. This disconnect was apparent at Hunter where the occupation of the school library tended to antagonize the student body. Underlying some of the divisions between students were divisions of race and class. Open Admissions had made CUNY a more working class institution and a majority of students were (and still are) people of color. But the CUNY student body is far from homogenous. And the impact of budget cuts and tuition hikes are felt differently by different sections of students. This creates differences in the sense of urgency created by particular measures. Paul Rogat Loeb writing of the 1991 strike in Generation at the Crossroads summed it up: White students from Westchester and Great Neck felt frustrated, to be sure, by larger classes and curtailed services, but they could better afford to pay more tuition. Indeed many would rather pay more tuition than see deeper cuts in staffing and services. This attitude was not confined exclusively to white students. The leaders of the strike were not necessarily themselves facing the prospect of being unable to attend school. But as a group predominantly made up of students of color they viewed the tuition hikes in particular as an assault on access to higher education for their communities. Whatever their underlying cause though the division in student ranks was played up in the media and utilized by the administration to drive a wedge into the movement. The clearest example of this was at BMCC, where the administration sent out letters to students in the nursing program informing them that if classes remained closed they would lose the course hours they needed for their licensing exams. The day after the mass march through downtown a group of administrators gathered outside BMCC along with Chancellor Ann Reynolds, several faculty members, a class of nursing students, and others responding to (the) letters the administration had sent out. The situation was a textbook example of the tactic of divide and conquers. In a seemingly choreographed manner, the professors urged the nursing students to directly confront the students occupying the building. The administration had also called the media, and the nursing students began chanting Get Out! Get Out! Get Out! accompanied by a BMCC dean whose resignation the blockaders had demanded. Someone smashed a glass door, and the group poured in. The events at BMCC had been carefully planned by the administration to emphasize and amplify divisions in student ranks. But those divisions were real and the impact on the other occupations was quick. The occupiers themselves were not united with some arguing that the erosion of student support meant they needed to use other tactics. In any case after two and a half weeks everybody was tired. The events at BMCC left many demoralized and weakened their resolve to continue with the occupations. The next occupation to end was at the Graduate Center where the students agreed to walk out voluntarily. Other campuses wouldnt go so easily. Very early the next morning, 300 police massed at Yankee Stadium before descending on Bronx Community College in 3 a.m. raid. They entered the occupied building by prying loose the windows. Once the police were inside the building they told the students they had 15 minutes to vacate the premises before they would be arrested. Ten students chose to walk out. But another 17 remained behind and were arrested. Twelve students were arrested at Lehman after 300 police raided the occupied building there. The same day students at La Guardia and Queens decided to abandon the buildings they held. The following night when 700 police were massed at York College, the students chose to march out voluntarily and thereby avoid arrest. There were now ongoing occupations at five campuses: Hunter, CCNY, City Tech, John Jay and Hostos. Students voluntarily abandoned buildings at John Jay and New York City Tech. One student was arrested at City Tech however for refusing to leave and running through the halls wielding a machete. By the end of Saturday, April 27, only Hunter, City and Hostos remained under student occupation As buildings across CUNY were abandoned, activists who had avoided arrest began to join the occupation at City College, making it the likely site of a last stand. On April 28, students at Hostos surrendered their building. Three days later, on May 1, students at Hunter finally surrendered the library, leaving the only occupation on the campus where it had all started, City College. The stage was set for a show down at City College. At 8 in the morning on May 1, community leaders, including Dominican City Council member Guillermo Linares and the Rev. Calvin Butts, descended on the campus to defend the occupation from any police action. The community leaders and students entered into negotiations with CCNY President Halston at 10 a.m. that would continue for the next fifteen hours. At one oclock in the morning President Halston finally signed an agreement ensuring de facto amnesty for the occupiers. Students would be required to write an explanation of their actions. Their guilt or innocence would be determined through the disciplinary process, but no punishment would be imposed. On May 2 the NAC building was surrendered and the 1991 student strike came to an end. Shortly thereafter the state legislature passed a budget that reduced the tuition $500 tuition increase to $300 and restored a significant portion of the proposed cuts in Cuomos original budget. Viewed in this light the 1991 CUNY student strike could be seen as a partial victory. CUNY students were certainly better off because it had happened. But the divisions that had arisen between students broadly and within the ranks of the movement in particular were significant. The overwhelming sentiment coming out of the 1989 strike had been that the building takeovers had been an effective tactic. The feeling after 1991 among many was that they were no longer so powerful. Media coverage undoubtedly contributed to this assessment. In 1989 the takeovers were seen as an act of desperation in the face of draconian cuts. There was a grudging respect for the students courageous defiance. In 1991 though, the occupations were portrayed as a sort of radical student rite of spring that was only interfering with the education of serious students. The 1991 strike showed that without sufficient mass support, the use of militant tactics would be ineffective and could be exploited to split the movement. The 1991 strikers took the support of the student body for granted. The less exciting work of educating and winning the support of the student body was neglected in favor of an unprepared rush into confrontation with a university administration much less reluctant to call in the police and a state government unwilling to suffer a second defeat. After the Strikes The 1991 Student Strike was the last time students occupied buildings at CUNY, but it was by no means the end of the struggle in defense of Open Admissions. Between 1991 and 1995 the CUNY student movement largely took the form of a series of skirmishes between student activists and the CUNY central administration over the basic democratic rights of students to organize protests. In the spring of 1992, Lehman College agreed to host a debate between the candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination on March 31. Students at Lehman saw the debate as an opportunity to raise awareness of the destructiveness of another round of proposed budget cuts and to expose the role of elected Democratic Party officials in the attacks on CUNY. They planned a March 27 teach-in on the subject of the cuts and a demonstration immediately before the debates. But the Lehman Administration prohibited both events. A federal lawsuit was necessary to secure the students their basic right to protest. The protests at Lehman College also revealed another persistent source of conflict within the movement to defend CUNY. Health and Hospital Workers Local 1199, under the leadership of Denis Rivera, sought to participate in the rally outside the debates and offered the students the benefits of their substantial resources. But the offer wasnt without strings. Rivera insisted that Democratic Presidential candidate Jerry Brown be allowed to address the rally. This essentially undercut the message of the students who wanted to expose the role of the Democratic Party in the attacks on CUNY. In the end it became clear to the leadership of 1199 that they could not impose Jerry Brown on the rally. 1199 withdrew from the coalition organizing the rally, forcing the students to scramble to replace 1199s promised resources. Another struggle that was important in the mid-90s was the efforts of students at York College to organize Black Solidarity events in 1993, 94 and 95. In 1993 Black students at York College sought to organize a Black Solidarity Day event on November 3 and invited several prominent radical Black activists Viola Plummer, Prof. Leonard Jeffries, and Dhoruba Bin Wahad as speakers. The administration attempted to cancel the event and to arbitrarily punish the organizers. The event finally took place when the students took action to sue the university. Several weeks later two students were brought up on disciplinary charges for allegedly verbally abusing an administrator and removing a flyer from his bulletin board. The next year the students at York attempted to organize another Black Solidarity Day on November 7 and invited Khalid Muhammad, Viola Plummer and William Clay to speak. Again the administration attempted to prevent the event from taking place. College Vice President Ronald Brown cancelled the event because of the inability of the campus to provide adequate security at such short notice. On the morning of the event All entrances to campus were closed except one where students were required to present ID and pass through a metal detector and scheduled speakers were barred from campus. 1,000 students gathered in the street and demanded removal of metal detector and that the event be allowed to proceed. Again the administration was forced to back down, and the event took place without incident. The 1995 Struggle The next big upsurge in student activism at CUNY broke out in 1995. Once again tuition increases and budget cuts were proposed. Once again CUNY students responded with a powerful and militant mass movement, this time under the banner of the CUNY Coalition Against the Cuts. In his January state budget proposal, Governor George Pataki proposed $116 million in cuts, the elimination of the SEEK program and College Discovery, the reduction of the maximum TAP award to 90% of tuition and a $1000 a year increase in tuition. The proposed cuts and tuition hike were even more draconian than those proposed by Cuomo in 1989 and 91. On February 27, 8,000 CUNY and SUNY students attended a rally in Albany organized by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) against the proposed cuts. Tiring of a long series of speakers, a section of the crowd broke away and marched up and down a long mall before pushing past police on horseback and into the state capitol building. Chanting Revolution! Revolution! the crowd occupied the rotunda for half an hour before proceeding to SUNY central administrative offices where again they pushed past the police and took over the first floor lobby of the building. Several days later on March 1, large numbers of CUNY students joined a 20,000 strong march against healthcare budget cuts organized by healthcare workers union local, 1199. Several days later Governor Pataki attempted to speak at a hotel in the city and found his path blocked by AIDS activists and CUNY students. On March 15 CUNY faculty organized speak-outs against the budget cuts and tuition hike across the university. At Hunter the speak-out in front of the West Building turned into a confrontation with the police when about a hundred students poured into the street and were attacked by the police without warning. Eight students were arrested and one was hospitalized. The event electrified the CUNY student movement which was already planning a major demonstration against the cuts for March 23. The CUNY Coalition had acquired a permit for a rally at City Hall but planned to march from City Hall to Wall Street without a permit. Wall Street was chosen as a target to indicate that the movement believed that the financial institutions based there were the real power behind any budgetary decisions. The March 23 demonstration was possibly the largest single political protest by young people of color in the history of New York City. Over 25,000 students turned out for the demonstration. It wasn't just CUNY students either. An estimated 14,000 New York City High School students walked out of classes across the city in spite of attempts to lock them in their schools. Even if half of them made it to the demonstration they were a visible and energetic presence. The crowd overflowed City Hall Park and filled the side streets. Mayor Giuliani called out thousands of cops in full riot gear. When the crowd attempted to march on Wall Street though, the police attacked - using horses, riot batons, and pepper spray they tried to break up the crowd. The crowd wasn't going anywhere and for the next couple hours they battled the police and tried to break through their lines. Police attacks were met with a hail of bottles. The cops would arrest students only to have them snatched back by the crowd. The police were as brutal as the crowd was determined. By the end of the day over 40 students had been arrested and many more were injured. The demonstration was the top story on every TV station and was on the front page of every newspaper. In a matter of days, the proposed cuts and tuition increase were both scaled back? This was an important victory, but it had come at a price. The movement had failed to carry out the action it had promised - a march on Wall Street, and many students were now frightened to come to future demonstrations. In the wake of the March 23 demonstration, the CUNY Coalition began to fall apart. The CUNY Coalition was a very freewheeling collection of concerned students, student government officers, independent radicals and members of various socialist, communist, anarchist and nationalist organizations. Decisions were made at huge mass meetings that often broke down into screaming matches. On March 24, Rev. Al Sharpton and 1199 president Denis Rivera called for another march from City Hall to Wall Street on April 4, this time with a permit. About 5,000 people, mainly students, turned out for the demonstration. There was considerable frustration in the student movement with the way the April 4 march was called and organized, and many students came away feeling that they had been manipulated. After the April 4 march the momentum of the movement returned to the campuses. At SUNY Binghamton Governor Patakis car was stoned by students as he attempted to visit his daughter who was participating in an event on campus. On April 11 about 20 students at City College initiated a hunger strike in the NAC building, traditionally a 24-access building. City College president Yolanda Moses called in the police that night to arrest the hunger strikers and their supporters when they refused to vacate the building at 11 pm. 47 people was arrested. Only minor charges were brought against them, but the police denied the hunger strikers water in an effort to break their resolve and get them to eat. The next morning the hunger strikers returned to CCNY and by early evening they had been joined by hundreds of students from across CUNY as well as a number of community-based activists. When the crowd was again threatened with arrest they poured out into the street and marched through Harlem in the rain for several hours. The next day Governor Pataki attempted to speak on Staten Island and was confronted by transit workers, school bus drivers and CUNY students who successfully shouted him down. But by this time the movement was for all intents and purposes over. The concessions to be won had been won in the days immediately after March 23. The failure of students to occupy offices or buildings in 1995 was blamed by many for the failure of the movement to completely stop the tuition hike and the budget cuts. The repressive actions of the CUNY central administration had undoubtedly made students reluctant to take such actions. Many students who were willing to risk arrest did not feel willing to risk suspension or even possible expulsion from college, even if the latter threat was exaggerated. In retrospect it seems clear that had students seized even a few buildings in the wake of March 23 they would have been in a stronger position to keep the pressure on Albany. The turnout for the March 23 demonstration showed a depth of support for the movement that was stronger than in 1991. But it was essentially a one-shot affair with no plans for keeping the pressure on. The action was both too militant in so far as it frightened off some students from future demonstrations and not militant enough in as much as it failed to really disrupt anything for more than a day. Carefully planned occupations or a sustained campaign of direct action that clearly targeted the administration or the political establishment rather than students, while entailing real risks for the participants, could have forced a more complete retreat from the original budget proposals. The fall of 1995 was comparatively quiet. There were a number of not particularly successful efforts to bring back together some of the forces in the CUNY Coalition around a number of issues. A third Black Solidarity Day at York was organized for November 6, 1995 with the same lineup of speakers as the year before. Operating under orders from Chancellor Anne Reynolds, York College President Minter explicitly banned Khalid Muhammad. On November 6 all entrances to York were closed except for one where SAFE Team members were denying entry to anyone without CUNY student or staff ID. One student was eventually arrested for refusing to produce and ID and then sitting down at the entrance. A crowd of students gathered on campus and then marched off campus to return with Muhhamad, but the gates were locked. Confronted with approved contracts for the speakers, the administration once again relented and allowed Muhammad on campus to speak. President Minter resigned a month later under apparent pressure from Chancellor Reynolds. Long-time York Security Director Burrows also resigned the following June. The administration attempted to bring up three students on disciplinary charges for violating the speaker ban but the charges were ultimately rejected by a student-faculty disciplinary committee. During the winter intersession though, Governor Pataki announced another round of proposed budget cuts to CUNY. This brought back together many of the participants in the previous year's struggle as well as some new folks. This time it was decided to establish a structure that would guarantee that decisions were being made by student activists with a real base on their campuses by requiring each campus to delegate four members to participate in the CUNY-wide meetings and by limiting off-campus participation to invited groups. The new structure also demanded that each campuses delegation be at least half women and half people of color. This was a response to a persistent problem with meetings be dominated by outspoken white men. The spring 1996 movement was smaller than the 1995 movement, but it was able to put in place a more durable organization and to achieve a higher level of political agreement. The new coalition chose to call itself the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM), and consisted of a hard core of groups at Hunter, CCNY, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, and The Graduate Center, with off-again on-again participation from a number of other colleges, notably Bronx Community College, BMCC, and Hostos. SLAM organized a 1,000 strong rally at Times Square that marched to Madison Square on March 21. SLAM also hammered out a ten-point program that sketched out its vision of the university and the kind of society such a university would need to be a part of. Student Government On a number of campuses there was considerable frustration with the established student governments, which were regarded, as corrupt or unresponsive to the needs of the student movement. On a number of campuses, progressive student activist joined slates running for student government in the hopes of making the resources of their respective student governments more available to the movement in defense of CUNY. The most ambitious effort was undertaken at Hunter College, where the strong SLAM group ran a full slate and won the election by a landslide. The Attack on Remediation Starting in 1998, the CUNY Board of Trustees, now under the leadership of Herman Badillo, renewed the attack on Open Admissions. The main thrust of the attacks was the proposed elimination of remedial classes at CUNY senior colleges. Even though the vast majority of 4-year colleges in the U.S. provide remediation, Badillo proposed to eliminate all remedial classes at CUNY's senior colleges, thereby forcing students to first attend the community colleges. No provision was made for expanding the remedial classes at the community colleges. The overall result of the proposal would be to slam the door of education in the face of large numbers of mainly Black, Latino and Asian students. CUNY's senior colleges were to be made whiter and more middle classes. Massive student protests at the CUNY Board of Trustees meetings saw CUNY students and faculty arrested both inside Board meetings and in the street. These protests combined with a lawsuit against the violations of the New York open meetings laws resulted in a one-year delay in the elimination of remedial classes. After a public hearing at Hunter College again led to the arrest of students the Board finally approved the proposal in January 1999. It was subsequently implemented in stages at all the CUNY senior colleges. At this writing the plan is subject to review by the New York State Board of Regents in 2003. The attack on remedial classes failed to generate the sort of mass student protests that occurred in 1969, 1975-76, 1989-91 and 1995. A dedicated hardcore of activists, many of them veterans of 1995, put up a heroic but ultimately doomed resistance. They were willing to take the risks of direct action but they lacked the mobilized support of the student body that would have given such actions real power. Conclusions From 1969 to 1999 CUNY students engaged in a valiant fight to secure and defend expanded access to the university, especially for students of color. If in the end the gains made in 1969 were largely lost by 1999, literally several hundred thousand people benefited directly from this struggle and the social and political map of New York City was remade as class after class of CUNY graduates of color took up positions of power and responsibility in the workings of the city. The 1990 U.S. census revealed that New York City had over the course of the 1980s become a majority non-white city. Open Admissions at CUNY and the struggles that preserved it in some form for as long as they could ensured that that majority would not be ruled over by a white elite, at least not in the same fashion, as had once been the case. By looking at the major upsurges in this struggle it is possible to draw out some lessons that can be said to have some general application. The first is that issues of race and racism have always been at the center of the fight over access to CUNY. Since 1969, students of color have consistently spearheaded the fight to defend Open Admissions. At times they have been able to count on the support of organized white allies. On other occasions they havent. While Open Admissions has benefited the whole working class of New York City, the attacks on it have not been directed equally at all sectors. Neither has all sectors shown equal determination to defend the principle of higher education for the whole people of the city. This should not be surprising. Communities of color would be and have been the main victims of the attempts to roll back Open Admissions. It is the understanding of the racist character of the attacks on CUNY that has animated the most spirited defenses of the university and that has drawn into the struggle the active support of whole communities, which has on several occasions been the key to victory. The persistent attempts by some to reduce the fight over access to CUNY to its (nonetheless very real) class dimension in an attempt to make a more universal or inclusive appeal have consistently rested on an erasure of the workings of white supremacy within the working class. The result cant help but be an impoverished understanding of New York (and the United States) multi-national working class. The second major lesson to be drawn from these experiences is the power of mass direct action to get results. CUNY students have employed virtually every conceivable tactic in the course of the struggle to defend Open Admissions, from circulating petitions to lobbying legislators to registering student voters to filing lawsuits to engaging in hunger strikes to planting pipe bombs. But the tactics that have most consistently mobilized large numbers of students and won major victories have been ones of mass direct action, in particular prolonged building and office occupations. The reasons for this are straightforward. Despite their numbers, CUNY students are never likely to be a powerful voting bloc. As students in a commuter university they are a transient and dispersed population. They almost all live in securely Democratic State Senate and Assembly districts and are unlikely to ever abandon in large numbers the elected Democratic Party officials who have frequently been behind the attacks on CUNY. Moreover a large percentage of CUNY students are not even U.S. citizens. Even if they were to pursue an electoral strategy it would take years to realize when most of the budget battles that set the pace for struggles at CUNY begin and end within six months. On the other hand most CUNY students are young (if not as young as other college students) and enjoy the relative freedom to involve themselves in prolonged and intense political struggles and to take considerable risks, including that of arrest. By seizing physical control of an administrative office or a campus building they can interfere with the operations of a large public institution and draw attention to their plight in a manner that is frequently embarrassing for elected officials who might not really care how the students vote. Also by taking action on campus they can call on the student body to join in or otherwise support the action. Such actions also have a tendency to inspire imitators and to draw in other social forces including labor unions, churches and community based organizations, all of which creates a sense of urgency around resolving the grievances that inspired the action. Building occupations won Open Admissions in 1969; saved Hostos in 1976, prevented budget cuts and tuition hike in 1989, and even won concessions in 1991. The militant mass mobilization on March 23, 1995 also won concessions though not on the order of the earlier actions. The third major lesson is that tactical militancy is not a substitute for actual mass support. The student body must be actively won over first to the demands of the movement and then to support for its methods. This requires constant ongoing education through leaflets, speak-outs, teach-ins and other sorts of educational activity, as well as mass meetings or other foray where differences over tactics can be argued out and the mood of the student body measured. The fourth and final major lesson is that having allies matters. The biggest victories have been won when students taking direct action have been able to call on the support of community organizations, labor unions, and even key elected officials. The support of such allies lends legitimacy to the student demands and function as a vehicle for getting the students case out before the broader public, especially when the corporate media are unwilling to do so. These lessons may seem obvious. But they have not been. They have been learned only through the course of difficult struggles in which, as often as not, the wrong course of action has been pursued or divisions have paralyzed the movement before it could even get started. This too is another important if easily forgotten gain of the CUNY student movement a wealth of experience in struggle that can inform future struggles.