Why the History of CUNY Matters: Using the CUNY Digital History Archive to Teach CUNY’s Past

Stephen Brier


This article describes the newly launched CUNY Digital History Archive (CDHA), a project of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the CUNY Graduate Center. The CDHA is designed to provide open, online access to a rich array of digitized historical sources that detail the important history of the City University of New York (CUNY). The article reviews that history, focusing on the postwar expansion of the city’s tuition free municipal college system and the subsequent birth of the CUNY system in 1961. CUNY’s growth helped launch a student-led fight for open admissions at various CUNY campuses in 1969-70, which resulted in the dramatic expansion of the undergraduate student body, including the admission of large numbers of working-class students of color in the early 1970s. The article ends with a discussion of impact of New York City’s 1976 fiscal crisis, which led to the elimination of free tuition and a cutback in CUNY’s plans for expansion and growth, a consequence that CUNY still has to deal with.

Full Text:



Association of the Bar of the City of New York (1999). Report of the Commission on the Future of CUNY Part I. “Remediation and Access: To Educate the ‘Children of the Whole People’” http://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/part-1-remediation-and-access-to-educate-the-children-of-the-whole-people.

Baruch College, CUNY. “Blogs@Baruch Program” http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/.

City University of New York Comp Comm (2016). “CUNY SEEK and OA Oral Histories” https://compcomm.commons.gc.cuny.edu/cuny-oral-histories/.

City University of New York, Office of Undergraduate Education

(2010). “Writing Across the Curriculum at CUNY: A Ten-Year Review.” https://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/ue/wac/WAC10YearReportJune2010.pdf.

CUNY Digital History Archive, http://cdha.cuny.edu/.

CUNY Graduate Center (n.d.). “The Writing Fellows Program” https://www.gc.cuny.edu/About-the-GC/Provost-s-Office/Governance,-Policies-Procedures/Detail?id=4936.

Fabricant, Michael and Stephen Brier (2016). Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press).

Macaulay Honors College, CUNY (n.d.). “Instructional Technology Fellows Program” http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/itfprogram/.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/rt.2017.357


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Stephen Brier

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/


Articles in this journal are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

University Library System MarkThis journal is published by the University Library SystemUniversity of Pittsburgh as part of its D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program and is cosponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

ISSN 1941-0832 (online)