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The Presidents of
the University of Chicago

A Centennial View
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John Smart and Edward H. Levi review plans for the David and Alfred Smart Gallery, ca. 1971.

John Smart and Edward H. Levi review plans for the David and Alfred Smart Gallery, ca. 1971.

Edward H. Levi

Levi took office a few months after the riots which accompanied the Democratic Convention in August 1968. Students picketed outside the Conrad Hilton during his inauguration dinner. In January 1969, after demands were rebuffed to reappoint sociology professor Marlene Dixon and allow students to participate in faculty hiring decisions, a group of students took over the Administration Building. Levi's actions were watched closely since many campuses faced similar protests. While refusing to call in police or use force to get the students to leave, Levi also refused to capitulate to their demands. He consistently referred to the higher goals of academic freedom and discussion which should govern action on campus. After two weeks of occupation without result, the students voted to leave the building. University disciplinary committees summoned 165 students for hearings, expelling 42 and suspending 81 more. Reflecting later, Levi commented, "There are values to be maintained. We are not bought and sold and transformed by that kind of pressure."

After Watergate had emptied many offices in Washington and President Gerald Ford began making replacements, Levi was asked to become U.S. attorney general. Upon winning Senate confirmation, Levi resigned as president and moved to Washington in February 1975.

In 1977 Levi returned again to the campus where he had spent most of his life. Honors and distinctions followed, including the presidency of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the first time that the position had been conferred upon anyone outside of New England. Having resumed his teaching in the Law School and the College, Levi maintains an active presence in the University community.

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