Columbia University, like many contemporary institutions and associations, wholly devoted itself to the mobilization. And like similar institutions, it was a bridge between two different modes of social organization: while previously, many Americans had numerous obligations of equal value: to their communities, to their states, to their voluntary associations (like their churches, or schools, or fraternities), now all of these obligations were subordinated to the growing demands of the state’s new, singular purpose. Columbia made this transition easy. It worked for the state with an almost gleeful zeal.
What followed on campus was a massive, willfully uncritical celebration of the war as a central part of university life. Columbia University formed its own battalion. It reshaped its curriculum to explain the war to its students, and ready them for service. It integrated its community into the war mobilization. Its professors built weapons and wrote propaganda. Its administration became a de-facto recruitment and surveillance office. Its students became manpower.
By doing all of this, it promised its students that the war was an integral part – nay, the culmination – of their education. And above all, it promised them that the war would somehow be meaningful.
It is February 7th of 1917 and the United States is not yet at war, but Nicholas Murray Butler is holding a rally anyway. He summons the faculty and student body for a general assembly…Read More
Administration & Alumni
Columbia’s administration, led by President Nicholas Murray Bulter, was the driving force behind much of the war enthusiasm on campus. It was Butler, along with the University Secretary Frank D.…Read More
To accommodate what the administration and government saw as the needs of war, the curriculum of Columbia University changed significantly in 1917 and 1918. Probably in the most meaningful sense,…Read More
Faculty at War: an account of what Columbia Professors did to mobilize…