Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (iv)

I had gotten my part-time job at the Journal of Philosophy as a result of my friendship with Nancy and Teddy. While walking around campus in late September, I bumped into Nancy and Teddy and mentioned that I was looking for a part-time job. Teddy looked at Nancy for a second and then turned to me with a big smile:

“We know of a job. Working where Nancy works. For John Cauman’s mother. At the Journal of Philosophy office.”

Nancy was also smiling and I felt excited at this sudden prospect of working with Nancy. “I’ll speak with John Cauman’s mother about you next time I go to work,” Nancy said.

The previous academic year, Cauman had been a bearded freshman who looked much older than most other freshman. As a freshman, he had served as Columbia SDS’s first treasurer and he seemed to be an efficient radical bureaucrat. He seemed to be politically radical mostly because he was cynical about the U.S. Establishment and intellectually turned-off by the illogical nature of most U.S. government arguments in favor of the war in Viet Nam, because he didn’t wish to be drafted and because he felt intellectually bored by Columbia’s academic life. Columbia SDS steering committee people had held at least one meeting in the Riverside Drive apartment where Cauman lived with his mother.

Cauman’s mother was a tall woman in her late 40s or early 50s who had a deep voice and a strong intellectual interest in philosophy and abstract questions of logic. She was in charge of putting out the Journal of Philosophy and would often raise her voice if she felt frustrated by other people’s inefficiency or demands. She did not like the fact that her son was bearded and more into being a Columbia SDS treasurer or a hippie, than being into academic careerism. Because of Nancy’s recommendation, Cauman’s mother hired me for the minimum wage shipping clerk job.

Nancy’s job was being a clerk-typist and she usually would put on her glasses and type up letters and forms for Cauman’s mother in a serious and efficient way. At the Journal of Philosophy office, Nancy was pleasant, but we rarely talked about more than our academic lives, our political lives or Columbia SDS chapter business. Teddy would often stop by and meet Nancy at 5 p.m. on the days she worked all afternoon, and he remained much friendlier towards me than was Nancy. After six months working at the Journal of Philosophy, I quit because Cauman’s mother was unwilling to give me a small raise.

My classes during Fall 1967 included courses required for my sociology major: “Systematic Sociology Theory;” “Society Transformation Post-1800;” and “Political Sociology.” My other courses were literature courses: “Poetry in the 20th Century I;” and “Shakespeare I.”

The “Systematic Sociology Theory” and “Society Transformation Post-1800” courses were both taught by the Columbia professor who was closest to Columbia SDS people on a personal and ideological level: Professor Dibble.

Dibble appeared to be in his 40s, had a mustache, and was especially fond of Harvey. During Summer 1967, before Harvey enrolled at the University of Wisconsin graduate school, Harvey was able to live in Professor Dibble’s apartment for free, while Dibble was away from New York City for the summer.

As a lecturer in class, Professor Dibble was pretty incomprehensible for many students, was ill at ease and would tend to mumble. But ideologically, Professor Dibble was a hard-line Marxist and staunch anti-imperialist. He also didn’t overestimate the 1960s revolutionary potential of the U.S. industrial working-class. When I mentioned that I might attempt to do factory work and attempt to organize factory workers after I graduated from Columbia, Dibble made the following observation: “I worked in a factory in Philadelphia once. And while the workers would bitch a lot and complain behind the boss’s back a lot, they were not open to radical ideas.”