October 30, 2017

1934. Anti-Fascist and Fascist Students Clash on College Campuses

Fascist Italian Student Delegations Visit the United States
A crowd of 2,000 students at the City College of New York protest the expulsion of 21 antifascist students and call for the removal of college president Frederick B. Robinson, November 20, 1934 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how The New York Times covered the rise and fall of fascism in Europe. In 1934, the City College of New York's president Frederick B. Robinson invited a delegation of Fascist Italian students to visit the campus. It attracted a large protest from anti-fascist students and resulted in several expulsions. The Times reported on the incident. Similar protests occurred at New York University and Princeton around the same time.

From The New York Times, October 10, 1934:
Visiting Group Ushered Out of City College Hall After Free-for-All Begins
Outsider Ejected—200 N. Y. U. Students Attend an Anti-Mussolini Meeting
Anti-Fascist outbreaks marred two college receptions yesterday to visiting groups of Italian Fascist honor students, causing a free-for-all fight among undergraduates at City College and a slight disturbance at Princeton, where a townsman was blamed.

At the same time, a number of New York University students protested plans for welcoming ceremonies in honor of the visitors today.

The Italian students, 350 strong, and representing twenty-six universities, are touring American institutions of higher learning. One group of sixteen visited City College yesterday and another group of thirty went to Princeton.

Robinson Denounces Hecklers

The City College disturbers were denounced by Dr. Frederick B. Robinson, president of the college, who was heckled during his address of welcome. Dr. Robinson declared that the conduct of some of the students "was worse than that of guttersnipes" and warned that "those who were found out would be accommodated with the type of treatment they deserve."

The anti-Fascist feeling at City College manifested itself yesterday morning, before the arrival of the visitors, when a group of undergraduates, carrying placards, marched in a picket line before the entrance to the main building.

The Great Hall was filled with students at noon when the sixteen visitors, accompanied by Dr. Robinson, Dean Morton Gottschall, Professors Alonso Arbib-Costa and Felix Weill of the romance language department and members of the undergraduate Italian Club, entered. As they passed down the aisle to the speakers' platform a mixed chorus of boos and cheers greeted them.

After addresses by Dr. Robinson and others, Edwin Alexander Jr., a student, approached the microphone and said the student council had been invited to greet the visitors and he was its representative. He said the City College undergraduates meant no personal discourtesy to the visitors but he had "a message to the enslaved and tricked student body in Italy."

At that point other students on the platform pushed him away from the microphones. Members of the audience surged forward and there were hand-to-hand fights with the attendants and students, who attempted to drive them back.

Meanwhile the visitors left by way of a rear door.

After the meeting in the Great Hall several students held an Anti-Fascist rally in Lewisohn Stadium, where they passed a resolution asking the dismissal of Dr. Robinson.

Man Ejected at Princeton

The disturbances at Princeton occurred at the close of ceremonies in the faculty room of Nassau Hall, while the Italian students were singing the Fascist national anthem, composed by Dr. Giuseppe Blanc, who was there with them.

David Di Donato, a resident of Princeton but not a student, arose and shouted in English and Italian, "Down with Mussolini!" The visitors finished the anthem and marched in a body to the other end of the room, where Di Donato was being jostled by some of the 150 Princeton students and townsmen in the audience.

Joseph Patuelli, a student from the University of Bologna, who headed the group of visitors, intervened and persuaded spectators to leave Di Donato alone. Di Donato was escorted out of the hall and off the campus.

Joseph Patuelli, one of the students, presented to the university a book containing the histories of the Italian universities, and invited representatives from Princeton to be present at the inauguration of the University of Rome next Summer.

About 200 N. Y. U. students held a meeting in Washington Square Park here under the auspices of the university chapter of the Student League for Industrial Democracy and the National Student League, in protest against the welcoming of the Italian students at the Hall of Fame this afternoon by the university's Circolo Italiano.

At the Hotel Lincoln several of the dozen visitors who are of Jewish extraction declared there was no discrimination against Jews in Italy.
From The New York Times, October 11, 1934:
No Disorder at Hall of Fame as Visitors, Shouting 'Il Duce!' Confront Anti-Fascists
Dean to Talk to Parents About Fight There Before Taking And Further Action
Unabashed by an anti-Fascist meeting of New York University students, a group of visiting Italian honor students emerging from a reception at the Hall of Fame yesterday hoisted one of their number on their shoulders and had him address the assembly in English.

Although New York University students made the occasion an excuse to protest against fascism, there was no disorder such as the free-for-all fight that marked the reception of the Italian visitors at City College on Tuesday. As a result of the City College outbreak, five undergraduates were forbidden yesterday to attend classes pending final disposition of their cases.

200 Italians in Group

Two hundred young Italians, part of a delegation making a good-will tour of American universities, made up the group that visited the uptown centre of N. Y. U., where Dr. Robert Underwood Johnson, director of the Hall of Fame, welcomed them as "representatives of great institutions of learning."

After the reception they encountered a protest meeting on the steps of the Gould Memorial Library, which had been arranged by the Heights Liberal Club, the National Student League and the Student League for Industrial Democracy.

The Italians raised their hands in the Fascist salute, shouting "Il Duce! Il Duce!" Seventeen policemen lined up as a barrier between the two groups. Then the visitors hoisted Piero Vinci, captain of the All-Italian rugby team, on their shoulders.

"We came to the United States," said Vinci, "to find out what kind of life you lead. We invite you to come to Italy to see the progress we have made in the last ten years."

Students in charge of the protest meeting tried to point out that their demonstration was not aimed against the visitors or against the Italian people but against fascism. Some of the visitors asked for a translation of these remarks into Italian, but the police intervened with the request that their leaders parade them away from the scene.

Later, Professor Alvin C. Busse announced that representatives of the Italian students had agreed to debate the Heights Liberal Club on "Fascism versus Democracy." The date for the debate was not given.

City College Action

The five City College students who were forbidden to attend classes until further notice were Gilbert Cutler, Charles Goodwin and Leo Rubenstein, juniors, and Morris Milgram and Edwin Alexander, sophomores. They were called from their studies yesterday morning and told by Dean Morton Gottschall that they were not to return until the dean had had an opportunity to talk with their parents.

Mark Eisner, chairman of the Board of Higher Education, said that the City College authorities had not asked his board to act on the matter.

At the college, opinions on Tuesday's demonstration was sharply divided. Two undergraduate newspapers expressed the view that the college administration should have averted the demonstration by canceling the visit. Professor Allen Overstreet of the Philosophy Department gave a statement to The Campus, an undergraduate tri-weekly, deploring the fact that the visitors could not have been courteously received and courteously informed "of our own fundamental belief in free speech and the liberties of man."