During the early history of the College, morning chapel oration topics “were all carefully censored in advance by the Faculty”1 but that did not prevent political discussion in debating societies or student involvement in major electoral campaigns of the time. In the early 20th century, CCNY students gained notoriety for their left-wing politics, illustrated by anti-ROTC and anti-Fascist demonstrations and the various alcoves in Shepard Hall where one could argue Marxism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, and Socialism daily, leading the Hearst press organization to dub the College “the Little Red Schoolhouse.”
Successive generations of students held demonstrations against McCarthyism and anti-war protests, and led sit-ins and building takeovers to protest in favor of social change and open admissions and against the institution of tuition. Later they protested tuition increases along with the end of the open admissions policy.
1 Rudy, S. Willis. The College of the City of New York: A History 1847-1947.