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This Week in SUNY Purchase History: November 19-26

By: Moss Robeson


This past weekend in 1973, it was reported in The Load, over 35 people turned out to listen to a NYPIRG representative pitch “this [Ralph] Nader-inspired public action organization” to the campus, indicating “the possibility that student activism may be alive and well at Purchase.”

The NYPIRG rep, “a product of 60s activism himself, now neatly clad in suit and tie, began his talk by citing the numerous failures of the peace movement and student protests to sustain action…”


45 years ago this week, the SUNY Purchase student newspaper published an interview with former Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, by Adam J. Nagourney, now the Los Angeles bureau chief of The New York Times. That semester, McCarthy taught a course at Purchase College called “Roots and Issues in Recent American History.”

According to the student Nagourney, “McCarthy may be the man most responsible for our disengagement from the Viet Nam war…[and] is now entertaining the notion of running for President again in 1976…”


“Purchase is finally showing a desire to mobilize politically,” began an editorial that appeared in this week’s issue of The Load, titled “Purchase Must Remain Mobilized.” The student newspaper stressed, “If Purchase does not stay mobilized then all these efforts will have been for nothing… In crisis times… ‘innovative’ institutions like Purchase are the first to suffer.”

There were, of course, also a number of letters to the editor, such as,

“Word from the Wise” (“Why do people have to get so steamed when often a little serious thinking and talk can solve the problem?”)

“This Land ain’t Yours” (“Having been a commuting student at Purchase for over two years now…”)

“Servo Eats $$” (“Tuna salad or the lack of it, that is the question…”)

“Purchase gets Real” by a student named Bob. (“The idyllic place where I didn’t really have to worry about locking my door all the time is gone,” lamented Bob. “Between Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning, my tape deck was stolen from my locked car…”)

The day after the publication of this issue of the student newspaper, some 200 Purchase students traveled to Washington “to lobby for aid to New York City,” joining many hundreds more from the SUNY system. Just a few weeks prior, the infamous headline appeared in the New York Daily News: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” According to The Load, “The Purchase students livened up the crowd, ‘What do we want…, when do we want it…’ and other suitable sayings.”


40 years ago this week, “The Purchase faculty voted… to censure the College administration for ‘depriving the faculty of their responsibility in determining policies of tenure and administrative reorganization and their right to consultation.’ The censure—passed 33 to 6—is the second in President Michael Hammond’s two and a half year tenure…” The article was written by Eric Nagourney, younger brother of Adam, who also works for The New York Times today as an editor.


On November 24, 1981, the Jewish student group on campus, Ruach, sponsored a lecture (“A Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality”) by one Rabbi H. Matt. According to The Load, “Because Judaism stresses ‘be true to yourself,’ the Rabbi stated that he feels Judaism should not condemn homosexuals. His second point was… that God invisions the male/female [marriage]… to be the ideal, mature relationship… Gay people may not achieve this but the Rabbi observed that many Gays do approximate this ideal relationship through long-term, loving, supportive relationships. Rabbi Matt told us that Judaism stresses justice.”


This week in 1982, soon after the midterm elections, The Load featured a “Special Report” titled “Conservative in Control,” including student interviews with the infamous right-winger William F. Buckley and longtime Purchase political science professor Peter Schwab. The Buckley interview was conducted by an anti-communist Czech emigre. “When I came to America,” he began, “I was shocked to find that many American citizens did not support their country. They didn’t seem patriotic. Why do you think this is so?” He also informed Buckley about the “anti-American” attitude at SUNY Purchase: “When I started school here, it was the time of the Iranian hostage crisis…[and] many people were saying ‘America is finally getting what she deserves.’” Meanwhile, Peter Schwab told The Load, “It seems to me that what happened in this election is that the Republicans really did quite well,” despite losing 26 seats in the House. The Democrats, he said, failed to do capitalize on “an unusual opportunity” to do much better, largely because they “offered no alternative…”


The Thursday before Thanksgiving, it was reported in the student newspaper, “People at Purchase will have an opportunity to help do something about world hunger,” that is, by fasting for the day. “For each student on the meal plan who participates, Flik [the campus food service provider] will make a donation to Oxfam.”


This week in 2002, Purchase students participated in a “national action against war with Iraq,” organized by the “5 College Anti-War Network” (Amhert, Hampshire, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and UMass).

According to a statement by two Purchase students, presumably from the “Purchase Student Activist Collective” (PSAC) which organized the event, “100-150 students converged on the Mall at noon until 1:30. Approximately thirty of us staged a die-in, while others read facts outloud, handed out leaflets, banged drums and chanted. There were many signs. An open-mic followed, where professors and students spoke out.” One of the students said they faxed “11 different media sources in the area; none were in attendance.” (source:


This week in 2011 at SUNY Purchase, following a week of action by students under the banner of “Occupy Purchase,” over sixty faculty members signed a statement expressing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. It read in part: “Only by identifying the complex interconnections between repressive economic, social, and political regimes can social and economic justice prevail in this country and around the globe. As scholars, we celebrate the creative and intellectual work of OWS as an essential partner to our own efforts to facilitate the emergence of a more just social order…” (For the full statement:

Last Week

I regretfully didn’t get last week’s SUNY Purchase history roundup written in time, but among the highlights, in 1972 an article appeared in the second-ever issue of The Load about the late Food Co-op: “The search for the respectable vegetable has taken my roommate and me far and wide…[but] now there’s the SUNY Food Co-op and we’ve abandoned our wandering.”

The Co-op became, for many, a cornerstone of student life at SUNY Purchase. It carried on into the 2010s. Efforts to revive the Co-op in 2014-2016 were, one could say, co-opted by the creation of the Freestore in 2016-2017.

Also last week, in 1974, over a dozen students tried and failed to halt construction of a temporary parking lot, which is perhaps now the East 2 or 3 lot. They blocked a bulldozer until Harrison police arrived. “This is costing somebody a lot of money,” said a man identified as “Bob the Contractor.”

In part the students protested because they “awoke to the sound of bulldozers,” and were given no prior notice of the landscaping. At least one student considered the future parking lot to be akin to their “front lawn.” As told by a student reporter, Joanne Wasserman, yet another successful journalist in the making: “‘Some girl didn’t want a parking lot built,’ a cop shrugged. Another turned to some girls who were watching from a dorm window and said, ‘You tell your friends that if they try to stop work, we’ll arrest them.’ Bob was worried...” and seemed to wax nostalgic. “I grew up around here and used to come and play in the woods,” he told Joanne. “I know how beautiful it was.”



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