students fight back

In addition to campaigning against militarism and fascism, CCNY students campaign during the 1930s for racial equality and for the appointment of black faculty to teach black studies courses; demonstrate with striking workers, fight against the imposition of student fees and an increase in the subway fare, and protest in great numbers when students or politically-active faculty are dismissed.

October 26, 1932 Oakley Johnson, an English instructor publicly known for his Communist sympathies, is dismissed. Over 1000 students rally. President Frederick B. Robinson calls the police, who club the demonstrators and arrest four students. This is the first time during the Depression years that a college president called the police to an American campus. Over 1000 students attend a “mock trial” to condemn President Robinson. Nineteen student organizers are suspended.

strike May 29, 1933 Students protest use of police on campus and to reinstate students suspended and expelled after an anti-ROTC demonstration.

alumnipetition This alumni petition (June 1933) endorsed by several prominent graduates, supports free speech for students , protests the firing of Oakley Johnson, the banning of the progressive student clubs and the suspension of two student newspapers.

schappesprotest April 30, 1936 One thousand students stage a sit-in at Shepard Hall to protest the firing of faculty activist Morris Schappes of the English department. This is the first organized sit-in of this magnitude on an American college campus. The sit-in continues for several days.

schappesflyer May 12, 1936 The Student Council calls a conference with delegates elected from each classroom to organize support for Morris Schappes.

mocktrial May 1936 Students organize a mock trial of President Robinson to protest the firing of Morris Schappes.

June 1936 As a result of the massive opposition by students and the Teachers Union, the NYC Board of Higher Education reinstates Schappes and twelve other dismissed faculty activists. Because of this campaign, the New York State legislature agrees to new tenure rules for New York City’s public colleges.

December 19, 1938 President Robinson submits his letter of resignation, the result of an ongoing campaign by student groups which gains the support of the CCNY Alumni Association.