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Class of 1938...



In the mist of Word War II, the class of 1938 were engaged in defining the balance between receiving a quality college education and the reality of a prominent world wide crisis that touched the lives of many CCNY students. Despite the political trauma that surfaced in many parts of the United States, the students of the City College of New York showed that a good college education and a sometimes spontaneous social life style can be achieved in an era of propaganda and an unstable political and social atmosphere.

It is not hard to imagine that a military influenced association flourished on the City College campus when the country was about to enter the second biggest war the world has ever seen. In 1921, a group of five ambitious undergraduates sought to foster the spirit of camaraderie and good fellowship among the officers of the R.O.T.C. by establishing the new Officers’ Club of CCNY. The club sparked the recruitment of over a hundred members, five times the number of members when it was initially founded. The Officers’ Club varied activities provided the focal point for the social life of its cadet officers. The activities of the Officers’ Club were far from being restricted to simply club activities. Whenever there was an official college ceremony such as Charter Day or Commencement, it was the members of the club who had the responsibility of acting as standard bearers. During Army Day or Armistice Day parades, and other civic functions, the club members would perform the duties of the ceremonies.

On April 13, 1934, the Class of 1938 witnessed the feverish activity of the first anti-war strike. Eight hundred students gathered at a flagpole meeting, which was led by the passionate, deep-voiced Eddie Alexander. The College authorities had previously declared such a meeting illegal. The meeting was broken up by acting Dean Morton D. Gottschall, who was aided by Sergeant Buccarelli of the Military Science Department and the police.

Election for the class council made Robert van Santen president, Joseph Brody, vice-president and Cliff Sagar, secretary. The class sponsored a newspaper, The Recorder, which was issued only once until its reappearance as the Jester in the senior year. In September, the second half of the class poured in through the portals of the Colleges and filled what President once called “these cloistered halls”. There the class of 1938 elected Solomon Chaikin to the presidency and secretariate.

On December 7, Mr.Mortimer Karpp, then advisor to the freshmen class, introduced the House Plan idea at a “free cigarette” smoker. Seventeen of the twenty-one students who had been expelled for their activities in the “Jingo Day” celebration of 1933, marked by the famous incident of the flailing umbrella, were reinstated.

In an era of global political struggle, a spark of a roaring fire was ignited here at the City College of New York, when the Campus announced on the fifth of October that a small group of touring Italian students (the Italian government was under Fascism at the time) were to appear at the freshmen chapel in the Great Halls. The Student Council planned a protest meeting and sent a letter to President Robinson, calling for a cancellation of the official College welcome. On October 9, two thousand students jammed into the Great Hall. President Robinson’s welcome speech was greeted with boos and hisses by the students. Edwin Alexander, representative of the Student Council, gave a politically motivated address, which ticked off the Italian students, who were offended by being labeled “enslaved by their Fascist government.” Alexander was forced off the stage while thousands of students roared “Let Alexander speak !” The conflict waged on between the student body and the administration, which prompted the college to temporarily suspend Student Council activities until both sides came to terms.

The college’s Society of Optimists was set up in 1935 by a group of pre-medical hopefuls who had decided to look into their common problems for themselves. Spurred on by the loud and long laments of the many City College students who failed to be admitted to med school, the founders established the society. The primary function of the organization was to be the study of ways and means to aid these and future undergraduates in their pursuit of med-school.

The rivalry between CCNY and NYU was played out on the football field and the basketball court. While NYU seemed to have the advantage in tournament play, CCNY athletes were motivated to defeat their arch nemeses. CCNY closed its basketball season with an 13-3 record and was regarded as a great team, despite not being a championship team.

The fall of 1935 saw the beginning of a new era in the social lives of City College men, when the gym dances made their first appearance under the sponsorship of the House Plan. Other organizations soon followed suit, and these affairs became frequent, enjoyable, and financially successful.

Even though the class of 1938 could not predict their future, they knew for certain that strength and optimism were imprinted on them by their individual experiences in the City College of New York.




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