Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jerry Kopel

SDS Faction Stages 6-Hour Sit-in

First Published: Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume CXIII, Number 101, 21 April 1969.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Nearly fifty members of the expansion committee of Students for a Democratic Society abruptly left Hamilton Hall lobby early Friday evening, ending an uneventful six hour sit-in. The protesters, who were demanding that the University open 197 vacant, Columbia-owned apartments to community residents, had initially vowed not to leave until their demands were met.

The expansion committee members, who have recently strongly opposed policies of SDS, staged the protest independent of the central body. 

Michael Golash, chairman of the committee, explained after the protest that the demonstrators left Hamilton “because we could not attain our demands and staying here would not be a politically useful thing to do.”Golash added that “extending the sit-in would only be a sentimental gesture.”

Some committee members who participated in the protest stated that the demonstrators failed to attract support by the University community. Others asserted that the committee had made a tactical error in staging a sit-in on Friday afternoon, compelling the small group to remain in an empty building over the weekend.

Before the protesters left Hamilton, various speakers asserted that further militant action would i be taken by the committee in the future. The speakers maintained, however, that any further action “must be commensurate with the small size of the group.”

University officials ruled Friday that the quiet indoor demonstration did not violate the Interim Rules on Campus Protest. William Kahn, proctor of the University, stated, however, that the protest would have been declared illegal had the committee members remained in Hamilton after the building closed at 11 p.m.

Friday’s events foreshadowed a final and decisive split between the expansion committee and the central SDS body. Sources close to the SDS steering committee have reported that a motion to dissolve the expansion committee will be introduced at the next general assembly.

Sharp disagreements over political theory and tactics have recently served to divide the expansion committee and SDS.

At an expansion committee meeting last Thursday night, ten people claiming to represent the SDS steering committee tried to disrupt the session, warning that “if the expansion committee takes a separate action tomorrow, they will be expelled from SDS.” Both sides accussed each other of indulging in “racist politics.”

At the meeting the committee decided not to actively support demands by Students Afro-American Society for a separate admissions board or demands by local high school students for “open admission” to the University. SDS has supported both groups’ demands.

Various committee speakers attacked the “open admissions” demand for “playing upon the frustration of an oppressed people to demand open admissions that do not attack the economic exploitation of black people.” Both the SAS and SDS demands were deplored for “fostering the illusion that the working class can successfully share power with the ruling class.”

The expansion committee sit-in in Hamilton lobby followed a noon rally. Simultaneously while the committee rallied at the sundial, SDS gathered on the steps of Low Library. The two factions engaged in a bitter shouting match, although three powerful SDS amplifiers tuned to full volume completely overwhelmed the expansion, committee speakers.

The committee orators told their audience that “we must ally ourselves with the working class to fight expansion head on.” They said the rally was “directed at one non-negotiable demand, the opening of the 197 apartments.”