Tomorrow marks the 45th anniversary of the Willard Straight Hall Takeover. During Parents’ Weekend on April 19, 1969, approximately 100 black students occupied Willard Straight Hall. The students stood to protest racial issues and discrimination that they were facing on campus. The Takeover, which lasted approximately 36 hours, ended with students leaving the Straight armed with guns. After a semester of racial tensions, the incumbent President James A. Perkins resigned as Cornell’s seventh president, saying to The Sun in 1977, “it seemed to me quite clear that one way — a strange way — to contribute to healing the community was to resign.”
Not only is this anniversary a historic one, but it also acts as a reminder of one of the events that lead to the development of Cornell University as we know it. In part, due to the Takeover, the University saw changes that include the formation of the University Senate and the restructuring of the Board of Trustees, the building blocks of the Student Assembly and the foundation of the Africana Studies and Research Center. The Takeover started conversations about University political processes and the way the University sees the different groups that live and learn on the Hill. Forty-five years after the acts of one group that felt marginalized, the event introduced a new period of University action, a new outlook on campus issues and increased diversity — all of which still influence us today.
We at The Sun feel that it is pertinent to remember our University’s plentiful history; to know where we have come from and where we are going as a campus. We believe the Willard Straight Hall Takeover is an important reminder that Cornell needs to continue to make issues of inclusion a top priority. Our work is not done. There are still students who feel excluded from conversation surrounding the University and who struggle with issues that we have not solved. There is still room for progress and this anniversary is a wonderful reminder of that.