Some 300 student protestors, among them members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), were joined by campus groups and local groups such the United Black Front, the Congress of Racial Equality and the Harlem Committee for Self-Defense in seizing the office of the dean of Columbia University.  The acting dean, Henry Coleman, explained that he had no control over the protestors’ goals—the siting of a new gymnasium on Columbia property in Harlem, which the protestors condemned as “racist” and Columbia government contracts with Institute of Defense Analysis—and, saying “It’s getting too crowded here and we’re going to have trouble,” retired to his office.

After a week of mounting protests and the seizure by protestors of five university buildings—including the office of university president Grayson Kirk—on April 30, some 1,000 New York City police moved onto campus and in an attempt to regain control of the buildings.  Classes were suspended as the protests and building takeovers continued, and a review panel, headed by former United States Solicitor General Archibald Cox, a professor at the Harvard Law School, undertook analysis and resolution of the turmoil.

In late May, the university appointed a “director of student interests,” Assistant Dean Irving DeKoff, and over the summer, efforts by administrators, faculty and alumni to restore order and accommodate student issues alternated with the preparation for court trials of some 1,000 student protestors.  Two women students, both in the School of General Studies, were fined $250 and jailed for 15 days.     The New York Times