Alfred University News

Professor Emeritus Gary Ostrower reviews influential legal case originating on Alfred University campus during Vietnam War years

Alfred University Professor Emeritus Gary Ostrower ’61, who taught history at the University from 1969 to 2021, recently published an article in the online History News Network describing an influential legal controversy originating on the Alfred University campus during the Vietnam War years.

“Probably no period of US history witnessed more student unrest than the Vietnam War years before Congress ended the draft in 1971,” Ostrower notes in the article. On the Alfred University campus that unrest included a demonstration involving 15 students and two professors. One of the professors was fired in the aftermath of the demonstration, and the University suspended seven of the demonstrators for violating recently adopted demonstration guidelines.

In the aftermath, three of the suspended students, who were enrolled in the SUNY College of Ceramics, sued the University, and the case eventually went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City. Ostrower’s article describes the legal steps leading to the Court of Appeals’ eventual ruling, as well as the effect of the decision on subsequent cases involving the legal status of private colleges and universities that receive state funding.

The case, Ostrower writes, “has influenced a corner of American law for over half a century, which is to say that the ripple effects of the 1968 demonstration at Alfred University reverberate into the 21st century.

The article may be read at