Now Available | Cox Commission Records

At the University Archives, we are always interested in materials related to student protests and activism, which are an integral part of campus life. We recently processed a small collection of administrative records that offer insights into the wider perception of the student strike on campus in 1968 and the factual investigation led by the Cox Commission.

Psychiatry & Social Science Review cover, July 1968. Cox Commission records (Box 4, folder 6), University Archives.

After the Student Strike of 1968, the Executive Committee of the Faculty requested that a fact-finding commission be appointed to investigate and document what had happened and why. The Commission was chaired by Harvard law professor Archibald Cox, together with five other faculty members: Anthony Amsterdam, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Dana Farnsworth, Director of University Health Service, Harvard University; Honorable Simon Rifkind, former Judge, Southern District Court; and Hylan Lewis, Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College. The Cox Commission, as it became known, was given the mandate to establish a chronology of events leading up to and including the Columbia crisis, and to inquire into the underlying causes of those events. The Commission held twenty-one days of hearings from May 7 to July 25, 1968. They heard testimony from seventy-nine witnesses and compiled 3,790 pages of transcripts. Their final report, Crisis at Columbia, was published in a paperback edition on September 26, 1968. The report stressed the lack of effective channels of communication between administration, faculty, and students, and implicitly endorsed the Executive Committee’s idea for a representative University Senate.

The recently processed Cox Commission records include the original audio tapes, unorganized and uncorrected transcripts, and the final transcripts of the testimony from the hearings, as prepared by Professional Reporting Services. There are also the general exhibits from the hearings: publications, articles and newspaper clippings, letters from students, alumni and neighbors, notes, pamphlets, etc. Additionally, there is a collection of printed materials such as newspapers and magazines which detail the events on campus. As expected, there are issues of the student newspapers: Barnard Bulletin, Columbia Owl, Columbia Spectator and the Columbia Law School News. But there are also many local and national publications: Life, Time, and Newsweek magazines but also Ramparts, The New Leader, and Commonweal. And there are even issues of alumni magazines from other colleges (Harvard, Oberlin, Wooster) with their accounts of what happened at Columbia.

The Cox Commission records from the Office of the President are part of the more comprehensive University Protest and Activism Collection (in particular, see Subseries XIII.3: Cox Commission). This particular set of records was transferred from the Cox Commission to the Office of the Secretary in October 1968 and, from there, transferred again in 1987. To discover additional resources, please consult our 1968 Crisis research guide.