1965 / 1966 / 1967 / 1968 / 1969 / 1970 / 1971
The impact of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the politics of the new left and the unrest on college campuses across the nation leads to a major eruption of events late in the decade. 1968 is a year of demonstrations and assassinations, marked by violent protests at Columbia University and the Chicago Democratic Convention and the untimely deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. During this period, NYU is also experiencing some of its most volatile student activism stirred on by the Hatchett Affair and the Chi-Reston incident.

  • TET Offensive Begins - In late January, Vietnamese Revolutionary Forces mount a concerted attack on South Vietnamese cities and towns. The U.S. Embassy in Saigon is penetrated by National Liberation Front (Vietcong) suicide squads on January 31, while the former imperial capital of Hue is captured by Communist forces and retaken by U.S. forces after three weeks of heavy fighting.
U.S. Soldier
  • Students Protest Against Dow Chemical Recruiters - On March 6, 1968, approximately 500 NYU students demonstrate the reappearance of Dow Chemical Company recruiters on campus. Dow Chemical was the principal manufacturer of napalm, the toxic chemical burning agent used against plant life and human beings by the U.S. military in Vietnam.
Dow Protest
  • Eugene McCarthy Gets 40% of Vote - In the New Hampshire primary, peace candidate Eugene McCarthy garners 40% of the vote compared to 50% for the President - a tally considered to be a major upset for the administration.
  • Robert Kennedy Announces Candidacy for President
  • President Johnson Renounces Bid for Re-Election - One of the primary casualties of the Tet Offensive is President Lyndon Johnson. Having decided earlier in his term to escalate the war at the expense of his projected domestic reform projects (which he called "The Great Society"), Johnson is now held accountable for a war which, by early 1968, has begun to resemble a prolonged military debacle. The first sign of LBJ’s vulnerability comes in the New Hampshire primary, where peace candidate Eugene McCarthy garners 40% of the Democratic vote. The near-upset of the incumbent is followed by Robert Kennedy’s entry into the Presidential race in mid-March as a candidate with potentially more widespread appeal than McCarthy or Johnson.

    Lyndon B. Johnson President Johnson's announcement –"I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party as your President"—comes as a complete surprise to most Americans, and a partial surprise to Johnson himself. Until the last minute, Johnson had actually prepared two speeches—one, that he gave, which renounced his Presidential bid, ordered a partial bombing halt of North Vietnam, and called for negotiation with the North Vietnamese. The other speech, never given, announced a further escalation of the war.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated - On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is shot down while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. Following the news of King's murder, racial violence breaks out in cities nationwide.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • NYU Adopts New Minority Recruitment Policy - Following the King assassination, NYU suspends classes for two days devoting this period to student-faculty workshops on racism. These workshops lead to the formation of student-faculty committee, which provides recommendations to the University Senate regarding university policy toward black students in particular and minority groups in general.
James Hester
Smoking marijuana
  • Marijuana Survey Taken - A survey taken by the Washington Square Journal finds that 75% of NYU students have tried marijuana at least once. The average marijuana user at NYU is described as "a WSC [Washington Square College] student, usually male, 20 or 21 years old, living off-campus and majoring in the social sciences."
  • NYU "International Student Faculty Strike to Bring Troops Home" - NYU SDS and CEWV serve as the NYU sponsors of the "International Student -Faculty Strike to Bring Our Troops Home, End the Draft and Racial Oppression". This event consists of a week of anti-war protests and discussions, culminating on Friday, April 26, in a boycott of classes and a Saturday march down Fifth Avenue.
Bring-the-troops-Home Strike
Columbia SDS
  • Columbia University Shut Down By Student Strike - On April 23, the Columbia University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) sponsor a rally on campus to protest the university’s relation to the Institute for Defense Analysis, the school’s allegedly ‘racist’ policies in relation to the surrounding Harlem area, and disciplinary probation in effect against some of the SDS leaders. The rally, attended initially by some 150 students, soon escalates into an invasion of a university building where three school officials are taken hostage for 24 hours.
  • Paris Student Protest Triggers Nationwide Crisis - In Paris, student discontent erupts in a student strike beginning May 3, followed by a month of protest by the National Labor Unions, resulting in the shut down the Sorbonne and paralysis of communication and transportation networks across the country.
Paris protests
  • Robert Kennedy Assassinated - Just after announcing his victory in the California primary race, Robert Kennedy is shot down by Arab gunman Sirhan Sirhan.
    Kennedy assassinated
    • Soviet Union Invades Czechoslovakia
    Democratic Convention
    • The Hatchett Controversy - In mid-September 1968, controversy erupts over the appointment of John Hatchett as head of the black student center at NYU. John HatchettSoon after taking his post, it is discovered that Hatchett wrote an article in Dec. 1967 which accused the NYC public school system of being dominated by "anti-black Jews and Black Anglo-Saxons." Jewish and other religious organizations on campus called on the University to rescind Hatchett’s appointment, considering his remarks a case of "Black Nazism". University Chancellor Cartter, who was responsible for hiring Hatchett, denies any knowledge of the article at the time Hatchett was appointed but insisted that Hatchett’s article was "obtuse" and "should be read twice" to get the proper meaning. Initially, NYU administrators defend their choice of Hatchett as program director.

      During this larger controversy, Hatchett allegedly announces that certain seminars to be offered at the King Center would be open to black students only. NYU President Hester responds that such policies "are not in keeping with the spirit in which the Center was created and certainly not in keeping with the spirit in which I endorsed it."

    • Hatchett Fired - On October 11, 1968, John Hatchett is dismissed from his post as director of the King Student Center. President Hester attributes this action to the "the incompatibility of many of his [Hatchett] actions and public statements with the requirements of his position."
    Hatchett Fired
    Hatchett Protest
    • General Strike - A general strike is called by the Radical Coalition and lasts for about 10 days in October. Tension between various students groups on campus becomes evident as they quarrel over the real issues behind the general strike. The strike eventually fizzles.
    • Nixon Protest - On Halloween night in Washington Square Park, the Youth International Party sponsors a "Come Curse Nixon" demonstration.
    Nazi Nixon
    • King Center Independent - The Martin Luther King, Jr. Afro-American Student Center becomes independent of NYU and controlled by an independent board of black students and black faculty members.
    King Center
    Nixon wins
    • Chi-Reston Incident - SDS members disrupt speeches at NYU given by Ambassador Nguyen Huu Chi, the permanent observer of South Vietnam to the UN, and James Reston, an executive editor of the New York Times.
    NY Times response
    • NYU Suspends Students for Chi-Reston Incident - NYU administration suspends two students, SDS leader Robert Kirkman and PFP member John Mason, for participation in the disruption of the Chi-Reston speeches. (Mason is reinstated 4 days later after it is determined that he my not have been an active participant.) President Hester had earlier vowed to identify and suspend all NYU students involved in the disruptions, while apologizing to Chi and Reston for their "barbaric rudeness." SDS’s actions also merit an angry editorial from both the New York Times and the Washington Square Journal.

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