8. Into the Storm


Chapter 8.
Into the Storm

      Weeks of demonstrations, committing myself to the student uprising with my body,
and the non-stop talking, flirting, and tuna fish sandwich-making, remain an
ecstatic blur of happiness and adrenalin.
— Susan Slyomovics, BC ’71 [1]

  1. Looking Afield

By the spring of 1967,   Barnard’s second president Rosemary Park had resigned and decamped with her new husband for California.   A search committee for her successor set to work and completed its work that fall with its recommendation for Barnard’s third president. At the time of her selection, Martha Peterson, then the Dean of Women at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, seemed  an unlikely choice.  First was the matter of origins. The 51-year-old Peterson was born outside Jamestown, Kansas, population 1,900, her father a wheat farmer and mother a newspaper reporter. She attended local public schools and then the University of Kansas, from which she graduated in 1937. She then taught mathematics in a Kansas high school for several years before returning to the University of Kansas where she combined jobs in student affairs and graduate work in educational psychology.  In 1957 she left Lawrence for Madison, Wisconsin, where she became dean of women and a close confidant of President  Fred Harrington. Even more than the ill-fated Dean Laura Drake Gill, it could be said of Martha Peterson that “she was no New Yorker.” [2]

There was also the matter of academic credentials. Unlike most of Barnard’s previous chief administrators, Peterson’s  degrees were from large coed public universities, and in a  field that many in the humanities and “hard” sciences found suspect. Nor did the fact that she came from an administrative position focused on students rather than faculty or that her classroom experiences were as a high school teacher endear her to  faculty  hoping for a repeat of the scholarly Park.  What Peterson’s early skeptics  failed to appreciate was that in choosing her, the search committee and board of trustees had settled on someone whose background  gave hope that should Barnard be in for a period of student protest and faculty disquiet, a no-nonsense Midwesterner might just be  what the unsettled times ahead called for.  She arrived on campus in November, 1967, just before all hell broke loose. [3]

  1. Life with a Wounded Lion

Of all the major interwar American universities, Columbia had the toughest time sustaining its standing in the post-war years. It ceased  being  the richest American university in the 1920s, falling behind Harvard, Yale and Princeton; by the 1930s it was no longer the largest producer of PhDs; and by the 1950s its continued placement among the four best  American universities was increasingly seen  as a classic  instance of lagging indicators. [4]

Recruiting and retaining faculty became a significant Columbia  problem in the 1950s. New York City was increasingly perceived by   recruitment targets as expensive and a tough  place to work or raise a family. For scientists,  Columbia’s already overbuilt campus offered little room for needed laboratory space. Internally,  Columbia was slow to see the need  to compete not only with  its traditional Ivy rivals, Chicago and the University of California,  but also with new challengers such as  MIT,  Stanford and Michigan. Many of these institutions  had presidents who seized on immediate post-war developments as opportunities  to push their universities to the front of the pack. In contrast, Columbia experienced an eight-year  gap in effective leadership encompassing the last five years of the Butler presidency and the three-year interregnum between Butler’s retirement in 1945 and Dwight Eisenhower’s arrival on campus in 1948. Nor, once at Columbia, did Ike ever really take up the full responsibilities of the presidential office,  leaving fundraising and faculty development to others, while he remained on call for various military assignments and then presidential campaigning. He was away from campus more than in residence during his five-year presidency.  [5]

During Eisenhower’s absentee presidency, Columbia operated under the day-to-day direction of Provost Grayson Kirk, who succeeded Ike when he relocated  to the White House  in January 1953. A competent and hardworking academic administrator,  Kirk was not forceful or imaginative enough to reset Columbia’s course,  but saw his responsibilities  less as transformative  than custodial.  He used federal research contracts and available foundation support to swell the university’s operating budget, but  in doing so  made Columbia increasingly reliant upon “soft” money. In 1964 federal research funds accounted for 45% of the university’s income .  Meanwhile,  the University’s endowment remained  concentrated in Manhattan real estate, with returns  substantially below those of  universities with more of their endowments in equities.  When in 1965 the Columbia trustees belatedly recognized their exposure, they directed a reluctant President Kirk to mount a capital campaign to raise $2 billion, then the largest campaign goal in the history of academic fundraising.  [6]


Two department-by-department rankings of American universities in the 1950s, one conducted internally in 1957 by the Columbia  political scientist  Arthur MacMahon  and the other in 1959 by Kenneth Keniston of the University of Pennsylvania,  placed Columbia among the nation’s top four research universities, along with Harvard, Yale and Chicago.  But rankings published in 1966, by the economist Allan Cartter for the American Council of Education using data for 1964, showed declines in the standing of nearly every ranked Columbia  department.  Overall the University placed seventh. Three years later, when the rankings were recalibrated and now included faculty assessments collected in 1967, Columbia had dropped to twelfth. [7]

Meanwhile, Columbia College had its own problems. Since the early 1900s  it had enjoyed  a virtual lock on the best of graduates of New York City public schools and admitted only a small percentage of those academically qualified Jewish applicants.  In the immediate post-WWII years, with discriminatory practices eliminated, the College enjoyed  its geographically privileged access to the top Jewish graduates as well. But by the early 1960s, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, Amherst and other elite colleges  were actively recruiting these students.  Columbia historian Fritz Stern, himself a post-war graduate by way of a Jewish family and a NYC high school,  called the 1950s the “golden age” of Columbia College. A decade later  it had become the “safety school” of the Ivies. Add to the mix a scruffy and questionably safe campus, a core curriculum of limited national appeal,  plus few coed classrooms,  and you had, from a student-recruitment perspective, a tough sell. [8]

Student anti-war disturbances on the Columbia campus commenced in the spring of  1965, with a whimsical counter demonstration during the commissioning ceremony for  NROTC seniors.  By 1967, with the increasing involvement of members of the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, the demonstrations took on a more seriously disruptive character.  Barnard students numbered among these campus protesters, though they  directed most of their fire at the Columbia administration. A demonstration in Dodge Hall on March 24, 1967,  to protest the presence of a CIA recruiter on campus, and a second on April 21, when marine recruiters were on campus, both including  Barnard students,  represented an escalation of  conflict between irate students and hard-put-upon administrators. [9]

                                                                        3. Push Comes To Shove

As things turned out,  the first serious matter to confront incoming President Peterson was student-related. In March 1968, a Barnard student identified initially only as  “from New Hampshire,”  became the object of a New York Times story about  cohabitation with her boyfriend off campus.  Since  this arrangement violated College housing rules (they permitted off-campus living for non-commuting students only as a live-in caregivers) and because Barnard had so few students from the Granite state, the  student was easily identified as Linda LeClair, a junior. When summoned to the dean’s office to explain herself, LeClair, instead of apologizing for misrepresenting her housing arrangements, challenged the right of the college  to oversee  them. She and her boyfriend, Peter Behr,  were members of the Columbia chapter of SDS, and both insisted on her  right to live as they pleased.  Behr was also refusing induction into the army. LeClair’s case was referred to the college judicial council, made up of students and faculty,  which following a well-attended open hearing sanctioned her behavior but imposed no penalty other than banning her from the school cafeteria. Student opinion supported LeClair’s call for doing away with the parietal rules, seeing them as more restrictive than those that applied to Columbia men.  Meanwhile,  President Peterson, under pressure from the press and some of her trustees,  considered rejecting the council’s ruling and expelling LeClair. Before she decided,  other more pressing matters intervened. [10]

Developments that spring escalated  protest activities on the Columbia campus into a series of  violent confrontations that collectively became known as  “Columbia ’68.” Growing opposition across the United States to the war in Vietnam was intensified by reports  of  the January Tet Offensive launched by North Vietnam against South Vietnamese and US military installations all across South Vietnam. Anti-war demonstrations in New York City’s Central Park  were regular events attended by Barnard and Columbia students and faculty.  On campus, a change in SDS leadership brought Columbia College junior Mark Rudd and a set of like-minded undergraduate confrontationists to the fore, assuring a disruptive spring semester.  On February 23, two hundred students marched into Low Library to protest the presence of Dow Chemical recruiters on campus; on March 20, the New York City director of the Selective Service, on campus to discuss changes in the draft law, had a lemon merinque pie thrown in  his face by a student many  understood to be Mark Rudd. On March 27, SDS mounted a demonstration in Low Library, which prompted  staffers to demand  that disciplinary action be taken against the demonstrators. Six students, all SDS leaders,  were identified and put on probation. [11]

By then protesting students had settled on three non-negotiable demands:
1. Columbia end its membership in the Institute for Defense Analyses  (IDA), a quasi-governmental entity where Defense Department officials and university administrators  discussed the allocation of military research funds among research universities. In 1968 Grayson Kirk was the chairman  of IDA and trustee William Burden a long-time  member;

2. Columbia cancel plans  to build a gym in Morningside Park, the provisions for community-access approved a decade earlier by City Hall and Harlem officials now seen  as racially insensitive;

3. Columbia rescind  disciplinary policies that put SDS student leaders engaged in earlier protests subject to expulsion. Their exposure prompted a demand for “amnesty” for all protesters, past and future. [12]

One might ask  what these demands had to do with Barnard.  Barnard  was not a member of IDA; its faculty conducted no military research; the proposed gym was a Columbia College project and would not be open to Barnard students or faculty; Barnard’s disciplinary policies differed from those of Columbia and no  Barnard student was  at risk of expulsion. When, beginning on the night of April 23, the first of five academic buildings at Columbia were occupied and held  until a forced removal by New York City police in the early morning of April 30 , none of buildings belonged to Barnard and  Barnard authorities did not call for the police action. But if Barnard had no dog in this fight,  why were an estimated 300 Barnard students among the building occupiers? And why did 115 stay on in the buildings to be arrested when the police arrived? [13]

No doubt some Barnard students went for social reasons with boyfriends for the partying and excitement.  But some also did so to protest one or another University policy in keeping with their ideological principles, and in some cases with those  of their parents. Whatever their motives, Barnard students were second only  to those of Columbia College in their representation among the building occupiers. They numbered among  the black students who “liberated” Hamilton Hall Tuesday, among the “McCarthy types” who occupied Fayerweather on Wednesday, and among  those who exchanged the laidback Fayerweather for the more militant and star-studded Mathematics Hall on Thursday.  Even Avery, which was more accurately a “sit-in” led by architecture graduate students, had  its Barnard participants.  The  Low Library occupation included Nancy Bieberman, BC ’69 and Barbara Bernstein, ’71, among others. Meanwhile,  Barnard students such as Mary Gordon, BC ’71, unwilling to risk arrest or scholarships,  staffed  the  SDS communications center in Ferris Booth Hall and helped with the contested resupplying of  Hamilton Hall and Low Library.  [14]

One demand added at the start of  the building occupations did apply to Barnard. It was to rectify the widely perceived  failure of both institutions to follow up their decision in 1964 to actively  recruit black students with the  hiring of more black faculty and the inclusion in the curriculum of  black-focused courses. This  demand was linked  to the  opposition to the construction of a gym in Morningside Park as part of a larger list of issues that black students had with Columbia. The occupation of Hamilton Hall was not an SDS-staged event or even a protest against the Vietnam War: it followed directly on a protest against the Morningside gym project and focused on  the demands of Columbia and Barnard black students.  Some of the black women in Hamilton were Barnard students, there in an expression of racial solidarity. [15]

On Monday morning, April 29th, with five Columbia buildings occupied  and the police preparing for a forced removal after midnight, Martha Peterson was inaugurated  as Barnard’s third president in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The event, attended by Columbia president Grayson Kirk,  passed peacefully  with a few picketers on hand . [16]

The clearing of the buildings by New York’s Finest in the early morning of April 30 was accompanied  by some violence, most occurring during the emptying of the last building,  Mathematics Hall, where militant protesters, students and non-students, resisted removal.  A subsequent charge by police into a crowd of observers gathered on the South Lawn, resulting  in some injuries and much recrimination, was later deemed by a police investigation to have been gratuitous.  [17]

None of the 115 Barnard students arrested in clearing the buildings required medical attention. They were taken from campus, booked at precinct courts throughout the City, and later charged with unlawfully occupying private property and resisting arrest. Their release was facilitated in several instances by  Barnard trustee Iola Haverstick posting  bond  as needed. [18]

While cooperating with their more exercised Columbia counterparts, Barnard administrators declined to add to the criminal charges against their students  with disciplinary charges of their own devising. Instead, College counsel moved to have the criminal charges dropped.  President Peterson convened an open meeting of students,  faculty and administrators later on the day of  the police bust, at which she sought advice on how to proceed. Barnard faculty, while divided over the issues, were uniformly  disposed to be forgiving of, if not secretly pleased with, their students’ actions. The Barnard trustees concurred in this conciliatory response. In this case the center held. [19]

Not so across Broadway,  where  events struck Columbia in the 15th year of the  presidency of Grayson Kirk and in the midst of  the largest capital campaign in the history of American higher education.  Two  months after calling the police on campus, with the capital campaign in tatters, Kirk resigned.  Responsibility for salvaging the situation had been  seized by a Faculty Executive Committee, brought into being the morning after the police action and  headed by Columbia law professor Michael I. Sovern. Upon Kirk’s departure, administrative authority passed to acting president  Andrew W. Cordier, and then to William J. McGill, who became Columbia’s 16th president in February 1970. McGill had taught quantitative psychology  at Columba in the 1950s, before becoming one of the faculty hired away, in his case by newly opened  University of California, San Diego, where in 1967 he became its chancellor. His dealings there  with the disputatious likes of Herbert Marcuse and Angela Davis earned him the reputation of “one tough Mick” and was part of his appeal to the  Columbia presidential search committee.  Once on campus he received  two charges from his board, one immediate and one longer-term:  the first, get Columbia off the front page of The New York Times by restoring campus order; the second, for which he was given five years (it would take ten), bring the University’s budget back into balance  by whatever means at his disposal. [20]

  1.   “Good Martha Peterson”

Barnard’s new president was immediately confronted with the challenge of keeping  student protests  from disrupting the normal business of the College. Her longer term challenge was dealing with  protest-riddled Columbia only belatedly reckoning with its life-threatening financial situation. As for the first problem,  Peterson  quickly established a reasonable level of student-administrative comity, demonstrating  a coolness under fire that would have done a Marine colonel proud.   The Linda  LeClair matter was resolved in the summer of 1968 with her suspension, not for violating the parietal rules forbidding co-habitation with a man, but for lying to the student-run College Honor Board . This was followed by a significant relaxation of those rules, which were more  restrictive than those applying to Columbia men. (They were also more restrictive than those Peterson monitored back in Madison.) By 1971 most restrictions on male visitors to the Barnard dorms were lifted; two years later Barnard and Columbia were experimenting with coed dorms, a floor of Plimpton Hall, Barnard’s 4th dorm which opened on Amsterdam and 121st in 1968, one of the first test sites. [21]

Other presidential actions helped  lower the temperature on campus. In early 1969 Peterson  joined with Columbia College dean Carl Hovde to form a  committee on Barnard-Columbia curricular cooperation.  Its recommendations led directly to a mutual loosening of cross-registration requirements and an immediate increase in curricular traffic across Broadway in both directions.  A second committee convened by Peterson in the wake of the ’68 disturbances was the  inelegantly named Committee on Committees, which   successfully pressed for reconstituting  standing Barnard committees, heretofore made up of faculty and administrators, among them  the Committee on Instruction, to include student members. The trustees introduced a similar reform in 1970, when they approved the inclusion of a non-voting student representative to the Board of Trustees. [22]

Meanwhile, issues  exercising Barnard’s black students, by 1970 some 100 in number and now organized as the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters (BOSS), required attending. These included the hiring  of more  black faculty . The only course  regularly taught dealing with the black experience  was  one on Literary Negritude, first taught  by Professor of French Serge Gavronsky and  in 1964 by an African American instructor, Louise Jefferson. In 1970 the College made its first full-time appointment of an African American,  Quandra  Prettyman (1970-2010), as a lecturer in English. Her course, “Explorations in Black Literature,” thereafter  became a fixture in the curriculum. In 1971 a second African American, the political scientist and attorney, Inez Reid,  was appointed to an associate professorship in Political Science. In 1979 Reid returned to federal service. [23]

Another immediate  concern for Barnard’s black students related to housing.  Many,  but not all, wished to live together and separately from  white residents. This soon took the form of a demand for  a “black corridor”  in Hewitt Hall. Peterson took this call seriously and had it considered by one of the tripartite committees (students/faculty/administrators) she introduced upon her arrival, despite objections  that she  was countenancing racial segregation.  On the committee’s recommendation,  Peterson announced  in 1972 that  current and incoming black students could request  to be housed  in Hewitt 8th or to be assigned housing without regard to  race. This arrangement, while  later ended when  it was found to be  at odds with New York State laws against racial segregation,  spoke  to the lengths Peterson was prepared to go to keep the most agitated elements of the fractious Barnard community  in the fold. [24]

Another example of administrative forbearance was Barnard’s  short-lived Experimental College. One of the more educationally dubious upshots of the 1968-70 campus protests  was the notion that peer instruction should replace the heirarchical ways of the traditional classroom.  At Columbia in the days after the police bust this notion took the form of courses designed by students for students, with faculty participation optional and then only in the role of facilitator. It was also thought that such an educational experience should not only be coeducational but residential. As with much of the restructuring talk transpiring at Columbia in those heady days, little came of it once McGill and his budgeteers were in place.  But what little that did found the Barnard administration and faculty more receptive. Successively under the leadership of the feminist provocateur  Kate Millet and the sociologist Hester Eisenstein, and housed in the Hotel Paris on West End Avenue, a mile from campus, the Barnard-Columbia  Experimental College tested the patience of Barnard administrators and trustees before quietly passing out of existence in 1975. [25]

Peterson also showed tactical adeptness when in 1972 some  faculty became interested in the prospect of securing recognition of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors into a union with full bargaining authority.  Rather than openly opposing the idea of faculty unionization, Peterson  encouraged faculty who were skeptical of doing so to propose an alternative mechanism by which the faculty’s  economic interests could be advocated for without  resorting to collective bargaining  and foregoing faculty claims to being more than employees. This led to a counter proposal for a  Faculty Finance Committee, to be made up of a tenured, a non-tenured and an off-ladder member of the faculty, each elected by that group, and charged to represent faculty interests in the budgetary process, including annually meeting with the chair of the Trustee finance committee. When Peterson supported its adoption before the faculty and helped secure for it trustee approval, and when successive chairs of the finance committee took seriously the presentations of the Faculty Finance Committee (since renamed the Faculty Finance and Resource Committee), unionization dropped from the faculty’s agenda, not to appear again until 2014 and then among contingent faculty. [26]

A direct outcome of Columbia ’68 with repercussions for  Barnard was the recognition among women who had participated in the demonstrations that their own gender-specific interests now needed attention.  This  took organizational form in an ad hoc committee of women faculty pressuring University  administrators to look into salary discrimination, which, while directed at Columbia, benefitted from the active participation of several Barnard faculty,  among them Catharine Stimpson, then an assistant professor of English, later editor of the feminist journal, Signs, and still later dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at NYU and president of the Modern Language Association, and Patricia Graham, then director of the Barnard Education Program, later dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and president of the Spencer Foundation. Similar gender-specific concerns led to the founding in 1971 of  the Barnard Center for Research on Women as one of the nation’s first feminist research institutes and home to the nationally recognized The Scholar and Feminist Conference. Launched with a founding gift from trustee Eleanor Thomas Elliott, BC ’49, the Center had as its founding director the feminist and writer Jane Gould. While some of the Center’s early activities were edgier than  less committed Barnard feminists thought appropriate, Peterson here as well demonstrated a singular capacity to “keep calm and carry on.” [27]

                                                 5.  Barnard Trustees to the Fore
President McGill’s strategy for seizing  the financial reins of the University was to  wrest control over all tuition and grants going to  the 18 schools nominally reporting to him. While the deans of the engineering school, the law school  and journalism grumbled but complied, those of the wealthier  schools and divisions, most notably the medical school, the business school and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, resisted.  As McGill described the always contentious and sometimes brutal process of settling budgetary questions with his school deans, “I decided them and then forced them down the throats of the parties.” [28]
Although  Barnard was not one of the University’s schools in terms of its finances, and thus not one of the parties to which McGill referred,  neither was it  exempt from being seen as a potential source of needed income and savings for the University.  Among the first changes announced by McGill was that Barnard would  now be expected to pay its way. This included an annual payment for the continued use of the University’s libraries and athletic facilities. It also ended the policy of the Kirk administration waiving charges for any imbalance in cross-registrations; henceforth, Barnard would make an annual payment to Columbia for the net balance in cross-registration flows. This was to occur at the same time both Barnard and Columbia were expected to open up more  courses  to undergraduates  enrolled elsewhere in the University.  [29]

Part of the logic behind Columbia encouraging more cross-registration, aside from the added revenue that would flow eastward across Broadway, was that it would reduce redundancy in course offerings and future faculty hires.  If Barnard, General Studies and Columbia College, for example,  all offered courses in Chaucer and each had a Chaucer specialist on their faculty, might there not be substantial savings all round in the consolidating these resources?  But by this logic,  why not simply merge the faculties? This was  the conclusion  Columbia’s Dean of Graduate Faculties, George Fraenkel,  came to and vigorously campaigned for. In anticipation of such an outcome, Fraenkel  set about to assure himself that  Barnard not rush to tenure faculty who could then not  be easily dispensed with come the merger. For a merger to save money, junior faculty on both sides of Broadway had to be dispensable. And lest the merger of faculties be thought to be Fraenkel’s hobby horse alone, McGill  in his first weeks back on Morningside told the Columbia Spectator, “I have always favored the merger of the Barnard and Columbia faculties.” [30]

However supportive of faculty merger, McGill was more  focused on securing immediate financial help from Barnard. He  made known his expectations to the Barnard members of the Joint Trustee Committee on Barnard-Columbia Relations, consisting of board Chair Wallace Jones,  Treasurer  Plimpton and trustees Katherine Woodbridge and Katherine Auchincloss. They in turn directed  Peterson to negotiate a comprehensive deal with McGill that would pay Columbia enough to secure the affiliation  but not so much as to bankrupt Barnard. They also directed her  to allow Columbia to take a more determinative role in the tenuring of Barnard faculty,  while a full merger of faculties remained on the table. [31]

Peterson played her weak hand with considerable skill, at one point prompting one of the principal Columbia negotiators, Vice President Paul Carter, to complain in November 1972 to President McGill:

In honesty and candor, I feel that the failure of these attempts is a result of Martha’s refusal
to acknowledge the importance of Barnard’s relations with Columbia and her consequent
refusal to negotiate in good faith. Where there are tentative agreements, I have made
concessions; where there is no agreement, Martha has refused to budge. So long as this
dilemma prevails, I see no hope for an agreement. [32]

By the spring of 1973  the outlines of a deal were made known to the two boards. The financial  arrangements called for Barnard to make an annual payment (backdated  to 1970) for the continued use of the University’s libraries and gym facilities. The libraries payment  would be determined  by a comparison of Barnard’s annual expenditures for its own 100,000 volume library with the average library expenditures of the other Sister colleges, all with much larger libraries, with  the difference payable to Columbia. The negotiated first payment, due July 1, 1973,  was for $200,000, a number that could be expected to rise every year .  A similar calculation was made in the case of Barnard’s  use of Columbia’s gym facilities. The back-payment agreement covering 1971 to 1973 totaled $600,000; that for 1973-74 another $700,000. [33]

A  different formula was used to settle on the annual payment Barnard would  make to Columbia for the net balance in cross-registrations; it required Barnard to pay 10% of a student’s tuition for every net course a Barnard student took at Columbia. First guesses made in 1971 as to the expected range of  the annual cross-registration  payment: another $300,000 to $400,000. [34]

The third  agreed-upon  payment by Barnard to Columbia covered  general services overhead costs of operating Columbia, much like the “indirect costs”  Columbia charged federal agencies to cover “overhead.” Annual price tag:  $100,000. The total projected costs  added to Barnard’s operating budget  as a direct outcome of the college’s 1970-72 negotiations with the cash-strapped Columbia was between $600,000 to $700,000. Coming on top of  the projected 1974-75 budget deficit of $500,000, the chair of the finance and budget committee Robert Houget reasonably called the situation  “unacceptable.” [35]

However much a strain these payments placed on Barnard, they did not  measurably improve Columbia’s balance sheet, which in 1972 still showed a deficit of $17 million.  But that may not have been Columbia’s purpose. As a Columbia finance staffer explained the then operative strategy  to the incoming University Provost Peter Kenen: “The object of the negotiation is not optimum pricing of x-registration, but maximum pressure for academic merger.” [36]

The deal struck about Barnard’s  tenuring procedures was qualitatively more sweeping. It effectively transformed a process in place since the late 1940s by which Barnard departments nominated junior members for tenure to an elective  committee of Barnard full professors called the Appointments and Tenure Committee (ATP) for College-wide consideration. The ATP then passed positive recommendations on to the President for her approval. If the president approved, the candidate’s name then went to the Barnard  trustees for pro forma approval. The view of the cognate Columbia department as to the candidate’s qualifications could be and often was sought at some  stage of this internal process, as were letters from outside scholars in the candidate’s field, but the opinions received were advisory, not dispositive. The Columbia University provost played no role in the process. [37.]

Under the new dispensation favorable recommendation of the ATP and the president’s concurrence would now be “subject to review by a University ad hoc committee subsequent to Barnard’s internal tenure procedures.” The ad hoc committee  would consist of five full professors, three drawn from the Columbia faculty and two from the Barnard faculty, all chosen by the University provost. A favorable recommendation from the Ad Hoc Committee and acceptable to the provost then – and only then – went back across Broadway to secure pro forma approval by the Barnard trustees. A negative vote of the Ad Hoc Committee or a rejection of a favorable vote by the University Provost effectively ended the process with the candidacy being rejected. Because this arrangement closely matched that which obtained for Columbia’s professional schools (with the notable exception of the law school), those supporting its adoption argued that it more effectively assured Barnard tenured faculty equal standing in the University whereas the earlier arrangements did not. It also came under criticism by those opposed to it as a classic instance of “double jeopardy.” [38]

Both the financial and tenuring arrangements worked out by the Joint Trustees Committee were adopted at the  June 4, 1973 meeting of the Barnard trustees. This came after Treasurer Plimpton assured board members concerned about faculty reaction that he had polled a number of department chairs — likely all tenured males — and found them amenable to the new arrangements.  Although the board’s leadership and members of the Joint Trustees Committee pressed for and received a unanimous vote on its handiwork,   doing so led directly to an insurrection within the board and a new set of board officers a year later. [39]

The prime mover in this insurrection was Eleanor Lansing Thomas  Elliott, BC ’49, a board member since 1960 and one of the College’s principal fundraisers.  As early as McGill’s first appearance as an ex officio member of the Barnard board in October 1970, “Elly” Elliott had  challenged his assurances that he intended no harm, citing his statement favoring merger of  the Barnard and Columbia faculties.  When, two years later,  Plimpton again sought out endorsements of the tenuring plan from some senior members of the faculty, Elliott did her own polling of women faculty with different results. Behind-the-scenes references to the trustees who had negotiated the deal with Columbia as  “The Gang of Four”  — Jones, Hoguet, Auchincloss and Woodbridge — suggested the comity that had characterized earlier board dealings had left the room. [40]
Custom dictated that upon the end of a board chair’s term,  she/he stay on for a second term or call for the election of the vice chair, who in the fall of 1974 was Robert Hoguet. But custom was not followed  and upon  Jones’s departure,  Eleanor Elliott was elected to become the 9th chair of the board and only its second woman. This was followed in short order by the departure of two of the reputed “Gang of Four,” Katherine Auchincloss and Catherine Woodbridge, and  thereafter by Robert Hoguet. Meanwhile elected in rapid succession to the board were William T. Golden at the October meeting prior to Elliott’s election, Helene Kaplan, BC ’53, at the December  meeting,  plus Arthur Altschul in 1975 and Gedale Horowitz shortly thereafter. All became dependable allies of the new chair, who also had  the support of  ongoing board members Blanche Graubard  BC ’36 and Ellen Futter, BC ‘71. [41]

Although hard evidence is lacking, it was widely thought at the time that  Elliott made it her first order of business as chair to urge President Peterson to look for employment elsewhere.    Elliott had served as social secretary to John Foster Dulles in the Eisenhower administration, was married to the advertising executive  John “Jock” Elliott, and had been Barnard’s  principal fundraiser since 1959. She was very much the sophisticated New Yorker but also a committed feminist. Some have suggested she viewed  the matronly Midwesterner Peterson unsuited to the task of fundraising among New York’s wealthy; still others  that she disapproved of  the president’s domestic circumstances, which by 1974 involved an open and possibly lesbian relationship with a frequent visitor from Wisconsin. Still others pointed to Peterson’s  absenting  herself from Barnard for three weeks in the fall of 1974 to tour China with  an American Council of Education mission as what turned  the board chair against her. [42]

Finally, there was Peterson’s string of five annual deficit budgets, an accumulated debt of $913,000 and a shrinking endowment which, while in part attributable to the inflationary times, had occurred on her watch. At the board meeting immediately prior to her resignation, the meeting minutes state:  “Mr. Jones spoke of the larger issue of survival and the maintenance of independence.” Yet the unstated charge against Peterson was that she  had been insufficiently attentive to Barnard’s needs in her dealings with Columbia and had become too close to the “Gang of Four” and its accommodationist strategy. As one board member later put it, she had been a party to very nearly “giving away the store.” [43]

For her part, after seven years Peterson had tired of the Barnard job and become “pretty weary of living in New York.” In 1974 she was 68 years old and not in the best of health. She was said to be uncomfortable among sophisticated New Yorkers, not excluding Barnard board members. Her newly elected position as president of the American Council of Education and her professional and personal ties with Midwest  academics  produced several job offers, among them the presidency of Beloit College, located within a few miles of her ailing mother.  In May 1975, President Peterson announced that she was resigning from Barnard to accept the Beloit presidency. There she served effectively as its first female president for six  years before retiring in 1981. She died in 2006. [44]

Peterson’s quiet departure did not placate her faculty admirers (the author among them) or prevent some from characterizing her decision as coerced and the result of an unrepresentative contingent of faculty urging the trustees to force her out. “She was fired,” one faculty member with friends on the board at the time later declared.  Another, Professor of Classics Helen Bacon protested  to Wallace Jones that trustees “in touch with a small and unrepresentative group of faculty and [were] mistaken what they heard from them for faculty opinion.” [45]

How to assess Peterson’s presidency? She was an effective day-to-day manager for  seven of the most tempestuous years in American higher education; no academic visionary and no public intellectual, she was personally inclusive, listened to students, supported junior faculty and earned Columbia’s respect. She  experienced budgetary and student-recruitment problems that she did not solve. When caught in a trustee crossfire, she extricated herself by  going back home. She was the right person at the Barnard helm during the worst of the student-protest storm, when neither the faculty nor the trustees could have kept the ship from being swamped. And then she left quietly. Her dear friend and philosophy professor Joe Brennan offered this epitaph a year after her departure: “Good Martha Peterson! She gave Barnard seven years of her generous life, but unlike Dorothy, her fellow Kansan, she did not find her Emerald City. Not in New York, anyway.” [46]

  1. Students of the Fall: Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘N Roll
    Perhaps no four-year cohort of Barnard undergraduates ever experienced so complete a transformation of the prevailing student culture than those  entering in the second half of the 1960s. Part of what made the changes so dramatic, and for many disorienting,  was that the prevailing parietal  rules governing student conduct were antiquated. Curfews for residential students, strict limits on male visits to the dorms (4:00 to 10:00 P.M. weekdays,  noon to midnight weekends) and the persistence of dress codes all seemed carryovers from an earlier era. Living off-campus with a boyfriend was strictly forbidden.  This in a city all too familiar with the “liberating” impact of “sex,  drugs and rock ‘n roll,” as well as home for the largest gay and lesbian communities in the country and the most permissive  provisions for securing an abortion, although doing so remained illegal until 1970. In the fall of  1969,  Barnard set about dismantling its parietal rules. A year later the College allowed students to live where they wished and permitted men in the dorms at all hours. To find one of these visitors in your roommate’s bed became, although not a common occurrence,  a source of  irritation and if reported a basis for room reassignment.  [47]The presence of drugs on campus first became an issue of institutional concern in the late 1960s, although by then parts of the Morningside Heights neighborhood, especially along the upper reaches of Amsterdam Avenue, had long been known as drug-distribution points. Most of the reported student use involved marijuana, although heroin was not unknown and was available. In the fall of 1970 an incoming Barnard student died of a drug overdose injected at a Bronx party. Drug dealers were thought to be operating out of Ferris Booth Hall, Columbia College’s student center,  and said to make periodic passes through the dorms. At least one  Barnard student of the Class of 1971  recalled four decades later: “Drugs – a big part of Barnard life – pot the first night on campus/mescaline/acid my junior year… was tripping all the time.” Increased surveillance by dorm advisers and stricter enforcement by the New York City Police Department, along with a growing recognition among students that drugs can and did kill, kept the  casualties of this pharmacological infestation limited and allowed the campus within a short period to return to alcohol as the drug of choice. [48]

Barnard students  of the late 1960s and early ‘70s were  the first to deal with racial issues  on campus. By 1970  approximately 10% of the student body was black. They included wealthy debutantes from Detroit like Michelle “Micky”  Patrick, ’71, and others prepared at private boarding schools, but also a representation coming from inner-city neighborhoods with “street cred.” Nor did those speaking for black students, including those among the founders of the Barnard Order of Soul Sisters (“BOSS”) and later among those pressing the administration for separate living arrangements, have  inter-racial harmony their first priority. “Kumbaya”  was  not their anthem. [49]

Sexual orientations other than “straight”  became another  pressing issue, not because they were newly discovered but because they had now become openly discussed, seriously explored and in some instances championed.   Ditto abortions:  legally prohibited and grounds for expulsion as recently as 1968,  three years later  they were covered by the College’s medical insurance. [50.]

Much of the retrospective attention paid to Barnard student life in the late 1960s focuses on its radical nature and links to  larger  social movements (anti-war; feminism; civil-rights; environmentalism) and, given its contemporary prominence, rightly so. It is just  one of the many strengths  of the Barnard Alumnae Class of 1971 Oral History Project that its interviews encompass a  representative collection of voices, including Barnard alums of the period who either sat out the revolution or survived it with earlier beliefs and practices intact.  This was more  the case with commuting students (in 1970, still 40% of the student body) than with residents,  and more likely among those who came to Barnard from religiously observant families than politically radical ones. [51]

Barnard students continued to come from a wide range of family circumstances.   Ruth Stuart Bell, ’71, described her own as  “a Brahmin family, an old Boston family. Both branches of it….” And then there was Josephine Drexel Biddle Duke, whose  middle names mark her bloodlines to three of America’s richest and socially well-placed  families, who left Barnard after a year. Another first-year student in 1967-68, Katherine Brewster, traced her ancestry back to William Brewster, a founder of Plymouth Colony in the 1620s. At the other end of the class spectrum was Carol Santanello Spencer, ’71, whose parents were working-class Italian Americans, while Fay Chew Matsuda was born “in the back of a laundry in Ossining, New York” to Chinese immigrants.  The father of Karla Spurlock-Evans ‘71 was a factory worker in the mill town of Willimantic, Connecticut. [52]

If somewhat less likely to hail from New York City, Barnard students in the late 1960s and early 1970s were more self-selecting than those attending the other remaining Sisters (Vassar went co-ed in 1969 and Radcliffe effectively merged with Harvard in the early 1970s.) Factors of propinquity, overall cost and academic reputation appear to have been more crucial than family ties, social exclusivity, or the desire for an all-women’s collegiate experience.  In an era when single-sex colleges had become a harder sell, Barnard’s link with Columbia and its location in New York City (even for outlanders) remained positive features. Still, most of the young women  who applied to Barnard during this period were admitted, although under  half of them then came to Barnard.  Many who went elsewhere, especially if opting for a  public institution, did so  in part for economic reasons.  [53]

Another view of Barnard students of the late 1960s that belies  the retrospective focus on their rebelliousness, is the number of alumnae from that period who subsequently went on to play  major roles at Barnard. These include administrators President  Ellen V. Futter ’71; Dean of the College Dorothy Denburg ’70; political scientist and Associate Dean of the Faculty Flora Davidson ’71; English
Department Lecturer and College Registrar Constance Brown, ’71. Faculty include  Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English and Writing  Mary Gordon ’71; trustees include  Frances Sadler ’72, one of the founders of BOSS. [54]

For all their political activism and social experimentation, most  students of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s remained focused on academic performance, seeking out courses on both sides of Broadway that served their intellectual interests and professional aspirations. To this end they contributed to the first Barnard/Columbia Course Guide, with candid assessments of hundreds of courses open to  undergraduates by undergraduates. Woe to the faculty member who dismissed the immediate impact of a  scathing evaluation on their enrollments or assistant professors on enrollments or  their tenure prospects, and the administrator or historian  who dismissed this important step in the rise of student agency. [55]

While proportionally  fewer graduates of this period went to graduate school and into academic life than a decade earlier,  college teaching jobs having become few and far between, many more now enrolled in law school or MBA programs and took up careers in law, business and finance. Barnard continued to send outsize numbers of  graduates to medical school and into the health professions. Others turned  their collegiate interests  into careers of social activism. Many of these profession-bound graduates were the academically  ambitious daughters of the city’s newest  residents, now as likely to be  from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East (Dr. Esther Amini Krawitz ’71) as from Ireland or Eastern Europe. While so much else changed during these crowded years, Barnard remained as it had been from  early on, if  then reluctantly and faute de mieux, and since the late 1940s proudly, at the service of New York City’s and now the nation’s “deserving and aspiring crowds.”   [56.]