Students recall ’68 Old Sem takeover

A student event this year paid tribute to the October 1968 occupation of Old Sem by 30 students who demanded a black activities center, more black speakers and entertainers, courses on the black experience and culture, and the recruitment of more black faculty and staff.

Students, faculty, and staff “take over” the OC in remembrance of the October 1968 occupation of Old Sem. (Photo by Jamie Kelly)

In February students held an event to remember the ’68 takeover, and “took over” the Orange Carpet during lunch. They ringed the OC with photocopies of the Oct. 21, 1968, special issue of The Cornellian, and photos published in local media in the aftermath. Down the middle of the OC was a tape line that read “There’s a fine line between Civil Disobedience and By Any Means Necessary.”

Students, faculty, and staff were asked to sign in and take a place on the continuum.
The event was organized by sophomore Ariel Harris of Spring, Texas. She got the idea after seeing the takeover mentioned during the Black Cornellians Expo in January, and the event was held in February in honor of Black History Month.

The idea, she said, was both to make people aware of the history of student protest at Cornell, as well as to increase student activism on campus, an area she thinks is lacking.
The response, she said, was beyond her wildest dreams. Not only did students stop by to participate, faculty and staff, including College Chaplain Catherine Quehl-Engel ’89 and college historian The Rev. Richard Thomas, chaplain and professor of history emeritus, stopped, spent 15 minutes in silence on the OC, and shared their thoughts on civil disobedience.