Fact Check: The Truth Behind Columbia University's Web Page Commemorating '68 Student Protesters

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty Images
Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty Images


A real article on Columbia University’s official website describes the university’s treatment of student protesters in 1968 as follows: "New York City Police stormed the campus and arrested more than 700 people. The fallout dogged Columbia for years." The article also says the university is a "far different place today."


Rating: Correct Attribution
Rating: Correct Attribution


The 2018 article commemorating the 1968 protests was still on Columbia University's website as of April 30, 2024, when New York City police were called in to arrest 112 pro-Palestine demonstrators.


In April 2024, as Columbia University called on the New York Police Department (NYPD) to arrest protesting pro-Palestine students, an authentic piece of the university's history became an ironic talking point online.

Student protesters demanded the university divest from corporations profiting from Israel's war on Gaza, and on April 30, 2024, they occupied Hamilton Hall, a campus building. Later that day, the university authorized NYPD to enter the campus and make arrests. Police arrested dozens of people at the hall and from a protest camp outside the building.

The arrests took place exactly 56 years after police went into the same hall to clear out students protesting the Vietnam War and racism, a moment that Columbia University itself had commemorated on its website.

A number of posts on X shared screenshots of an article titled "A New Perspective on 1968," which recognized student protesters who took over university buildings to express discontent over racism, the Vietnam War and the university's proposed expansion into a nearby park.

One post noted the same website had displayed a warning sign in orange above the article detailing limited campus access that day due to the ongoing 2024 protests and arrests.

Many posts noted the irony of Columbia University recognizing past student protesters while arresting students during the 2024 protests.

Those posts were sharing a real article published in April 2018 that was still on Columbia's website, in which the university recognized the 1968 student protests 50 years earlier and described the university as a "far different place today." We thus rate this claim as "Correct Attribution."

The article says:

Columbia is a far different place today than it was in the spring of 1968 when protesters took over University buildings amid discontent about the Vietnam War, racism and the University's proposed expansion into Morningside Park. After a weeklong standoff, New York City Police stormed the campus and arrested more than 700 people. The fallout dogged Columbia for years.

It took decades for the University to recover from those turbulent times. Columbia now has one of the most socio-economically diverse student bodies among its peer institutions. It has added a new campus designed to be open to the community and pursues fields of inquiry unheard of a half-century ago. Columbia is commemorating the 50th anniversary of those long-ago events with a deep dive of scholarship and exhibits chronicling what happened then and its effects today.

The article was also archived here on April 30, 2024, and that page displays the orange warning sign about limited campus access.

The article was also referenced in a speech by Rashid Khalidi, a history professor at Columbia University, when he spoke to demonstrators the day after the arrests, as seen in this video from Middle East Eye. He said 2024 student protesters were also "on the right side of history," and one day their actions would be "commemorated the same way."


The 2024 pro-Palestinian protesters had unfurled a banner with the words "Hind's Hall" over Hamilton Hall, after Hind Rajab, a young girl killed in Gaza while under fire from Israeli forces in February 2024, according to an Al Jazeera investigation. The protesters' occupation of the hall came just two weeks after Columbia's president authorized NYPD to make arrests at the nearby so-called "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on campus.

To assess the accuracy of the "new perspective" commemorative post, we looked through archives of the student-run newspaper, Columbia Spectator, for coverage of the 1968 protests and subsequent arrests. An April 24, 1968, Columbia Spectator issue details protests at the university, also describing how students crowded into Hamilton Hall for an "all night vigil." On April 30, 1968, the newspaper reported the university called in 1,000 police officers to "end demonstrations," resulting in 700 arrests. Archival photographs from 1968 on a webpage belonging to the Columbia University Libraries show police chasing students and throwing them to the ground.

A 2018 Columbia Spectator report marking the 50th anniversary of the protests stated, "While no students have been arrested at a protest on campus since 1996, police presence at demonstrations has remained constant from year to year."

The 2024 arrests, according to the Columbia Spectator, were the largest mass arrests since 1968.


"1968: Columbia in Crisis." Columbia University Libraries Online Exhibitions. https://exhibitions.library.columbia.edu/exhibits/show/1968/bust. Accessed 3 May 2024.

"A New Perspective on 1968." Columbia News, April 2018, https://news.columbia.edu/content/new-perspective-1968. Accessed 3 May 2024.

"Arrests at Columbia University as New York City Police Clear Gaza Protest." Al Jazeera, May 1, 2024. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/1/new-york-city-police-enter-columbia-campus-as-gaza-protest-escalates. Accessed 3 May 2024.

"Columbia Daily Spectator 24 April 1968." Columbia Spectator. https://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/?a=d&d=cs19680424-01.2.5&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------. Accessed 3 May 2024.

Hernandez, Jorge. "'Gym Crow': Looking Back on the 1968 Morningside Gym Protests." Columbia Daily Spectator, https://www.columbiaspectator.com/sports/2022/02/15/gym-crow-looking-back-on-the-1968-morningside-gym-protests/. Accessed 3 May 2024.

"Hind Rajab: Were Israeli Troops around Where the Six-Year-Old Was Killed?" Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/2/26/hind-rajab-were-israeli-troops-in-the-area-where-6-year-old-was-killed. Accessed 3 May 2024.

Hussain, Khadija. "1968 to Now: Fifty Years after Police Violence, University Has Little Oversight of NYPD Presence on Campus." Columbia Daily Spectator, April 25, 1968. https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2018/04/25/1968-to-now-fifty-years-after-police-violence-university-has-little-oversight-of-nypd-presence-on-campus/. Accessed 3 May 2024.

McKee, Amira. "Dozens Occupy Hamilton Hall as Pro-Palestinian Protests Spread across Campus." Columbia Daily Spectator, April 30, 2024. https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2024/04/30/dozens-occupy-hamilton-hall-as-pro-palestinian-protests-spread-across-campus/. Accessed 3 May 2024.

"Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi Says Student Protesters Are 'on the Right Side of History.'" Middle East Eye, May 2, 2024. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz2VcELqF7s. Accessed 3 May 2024.

"Read the Letter Columbia University's President Sent to the NYPD Asking for Assistance." NBC New York, 1 May 2024, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/read-the-letter-columbia-universitys-president-sent-to-the-nypd-asking-for-assistance/5370439/. Accessed 3 May 2024.