Student Occupations of Ford and and Sydenham Halls in 1969


Ford hall

While Brandeis University has a long and distinguished history of promoting social awareness and justice, it has often been Brandeis students who have demanded and made positive change on campus and beyond.   For a period of eleven days in 1969 (8-18 January), 60 to 75 student members of the Brandeis Afro-American Society occupied Ford and Sydeham Halls, presenting university administration with ten demands, including the establishment of an African Studies department and “year-round recruitment of black students by black students and headed by a black director.”  While faculty voted 153 to 18 in an emergency meeting to condemn the black students’ actions and then President Morris Abram announced that the black students were being held in contempt of a civil restraining order, most of the occupying students were granted amnesty and the administration finally agreed to a number of their demands.  On 24 April 1969, the faculty voted to establish an African and Afro-American department, which was first chaired by Ronald Waters.  Brandeis students make things happen.

Over the years, students taking courses in women’s studies, feminist theory, gender studies, LGBT/queer studies, and sexuality studies at Brandeis University have led many other campus initiatives, from working with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance; to pushing to add gender identity and expression to the university’s non-discrimination policy; and to establishing such student clubs as TransBrandeis, the Queer People of Color Coalition, and the Sex and Sexualities Symposium.


“Department History: The Student Occupation of Ford Hall,” Department of African and Afro-American History, online (accessed 10 May 2013) <>.

“Remembering Ford & Sydeman Halls: The Student Occupation of Ford Hall, January 1969,” Brandeis University Archives and Special Collections, online (accessed 10 May 2013) <>.

“Remembering Ford & Sydeman Halls: The Ten Demands,” Brandeis University Archives and Special Collections, online (accessed 10 May 2013) <>.

Wei-Huan Chen, “Establishing Diversity through the Years: The ICC continues its long tradition of cultural awareness after two decades,” The Justice 5 March 2012 (updated 7 March 2012), online (accessed 10 May 2013) <> .