The history of Columbia, while unique and marked by special features, parallels the growth of America. The changes Columbia went through are also the changes our country went through -- continuous, accelerating expansion at the expense of internal maturation. Overriding policy placed investment in the future ahead of satisfying current needs. The Columbia uprising is the direct result of unresolved domestic problems conflicting with such an investment policy.

Columbia has not always been located in Morningside Heights. The first Columbia campus was situated an lower Broadway, in accordance with a charter issued by the King of England (Kings College) in 1754. As an exclusive boys' school educating the sons of nobility, it placed heavy emphasis on a broad, liberal education based on the classics. By mid-1850, lower Manhattan was a thriving commercial and financial center unfit for a growing college campus. So, in 1857, the school moved to a deaf and dumb asylum located in midtown Manhattan.

The change in residence was accompanied by a wave of expansion and reform that signaled the ascendancy of a new commercial elite. Business elements throughout the East were becoming dominant in this period of history and were supplanting the old-line nobility as new fortunes were being accumulated from westward expansion and increased trade. The new commercial elite encouraged, a broadening in Columbia's social base and the establishment of professional schools for training highly specialized managers and technicians; the Law School was founded in 1859 and the School of Mines six years later.

By 1890, the city's expansion and turmoil had caught up with the campus and the trustees again decided to move northward. With funds donated by J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Willis James, A. A. Low and others, an 18-acre site consisting of four undivided city blocks nobly situated on the crown of Manhattan was acquired. At that time, the area was relatively undeveloped and free of slums. An authoritative history of Columbia published at the turn of the century noted, however, that the Morningside Heights site was of "historic interest. It was in this immediate vicinity and partly upon this very ground that the revolutionary battle of Harlem Heights was fought and for the first time in that contest, the raw, undisciplined American volunteers showed that their valor and persistence could successfully withstand the loyal troops and the ground was fitly consecrated to high purposes by the blood of early martyrs to the cause of rational freedom."

As with Columbia's former move, its relocation to Morningside coincided With a wave of expansion -- both for the nation and for Columbia. The continent had been settled by this time and a new direction was sought. The Great Depression of 1893 mirrored the indecisiveness about where to go; confronted by domestic ills and popular unrest caused by rapid industrialization, America had the alternative of either facing and curing their ills, or burying them in a new burst of expansion beyond her frontiers. The renewed business drive for markets and strategic resources set a new course which triggered the Spanish-American war. After each succeeding war, domestic needs were further submerged beneath the priorities of overseas expansion.

Both the construction of the Morningside campus and the transformation of Columbia College into a university marked a new era in the school's development. Graduate faculties emerged (Political Science, 1880; Philosophy, 1890; and Pure Science, 1892), and the professional schools were enlarged. Requirements for additional space dictated the construction of a massive campus, a campus which in its architecture and landscaping intentionally glorified expansion and empire. The architectural firm of McKim, Mean & White, noted for its design of monumental public buildings modeled after the imperial Roman period (such as the recently demolished Pennsylvania Station in New York), drew up a master plan that cut the campus off from the surrounding neighborhood and emphasized the hierarchical, authoritarian structure of the University. Low Library (modeled after the most outstanding example of Roman imperial architecture -- the Pantheon) was specifically designed to humble all those who approached its imposing edifice and focus attention on the seat of legal power.

During the unusually long presidency of. Nicholas Murray Butler (1902-1945), Columbia reached what has been called the Augustan Age. It was the age of the great humanist teachers, an age when the professional schools, though ascendant, were still not dominant. Butler set the theme for the new era when, he dedicated Columbia to "the international-mind." With funds collected from upper-class associates he expanded the University's size and national prestige. Yet he failed to mobilize financial support outside his close associates and upon his retirement crisis developed.

Like, the state of the whole nation, the post WW II period was a time of, confusion and indecision for Columbia. Again, the central question was internal consolidation versus accelerated expansion. A new president was not inaugurated for three years and the final selection, five star General Dwight D. Eisenhower, represented at best a public relations man with military contacts for contracts. The real power gravitated toward Grayson Kirk, an international affairs expert who served as a top State Department officer during the War. According to McGeorge Bundy, Columbia [along with Harvard] is now one of the "two great internationalist" universities in the United States.

Under Kirk's direction, the size of the student body as a whole remained constant while the budget increased five fold. An analysis of the University's financial base reveals, that government contracting and gifts have greatly increased their contribution to overall operating expenses, while student tuition and return on investments have declined. As a result, programs geared toward serving external institutions -- and concentrated in the professional schools and research centers -- greatly overshadow the commitment to student education.