And nostalgia runs rampant

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strikeThought you had enough 1968 invocation this fall? Get ready for the blitz–May will bring the 40th anniversary of those heady weeks, and ’68 veterans are not going to let you forget. On April 24-27, a group of them will put on a four-day bonanza of talks, discussions, and parties in conjunction with individual faculty members and academic institutes to both commemorate and demystify the uprising. The organizers have been coordinating with the Columbia administration, which will put on its own academic conference on May 2 or 3 (probably a bit too close to finals for most of us to stomach), and Barnard, which has invited Stanford professor and strike participant  Estelle Freedman to give the annual Gildersleeve lecture on what 1968 meant to her at the end of March. In any case, they’ve already set up the tools of modern organizing—Yahoo groups (one for alumni and one for everyone) and a blog. Can the flower power generation handle Facebook?

UPDATE: More information here!




  1. stomach

    Isn't it funny how invitations to University events/dinners always proliferate during finals or reading week? It's a Columbian tradition.

  2. wtf

    Those geriatric nutjobs should be banned from campus. 1968 needs to remembered, yes, but like how the Holocaust is remembered -- as a shameful and horrid event in our history that must never happen again. And those responsible for it must be prosecuted and punished (which they never were, unless its by life).

    • awesome

      comparison, psycho. 1968 and the Holocaust.

      What's so horrible about protesting university racism and complicity in a war that most people agree at this point was pretty awful?

      • racism?

        Institutionalized Racism at Columbia is the ultimate canard...

        Please tell me all about the Univeristy's racist plans in 1968. (Here's a hint: the gym wasn't racist)

        • assapopoulos

          the gym was, and is, extremely racist. black people there consistently flaunt their power and privilege by lifting much more weight than i can.

        • hey dude

          the gym's separate entrances did not separate black from white. they separated univ affiliates from NON-univ affiliates. its not the univ's fault that M'side is a cliff. if it were really that big of an issue, the univ would have no problems building an inconvenient winding staircase around. you might as well call Apollo Theater racist because white people don't frequent it.


    • Hey

      Chris Kulawik, is that you??

    • EAL

      While I wouldn't go so far as to compare '68 to the Holocaust, it truly was a dark time in the University's memory. It is something to be remembered, but ABSOLUTELY NOT something to be looked back upon with fond memories. Some misguided fools got caught up in the spirit of the times, and raised a huge ruckus over it. The gym most certainly was NOT racist; in fact, only 5 years before, the gym's plan had been praised by local community leaders. But the shocks of the civil rights movement, coupled of course the "black power" movement of Malcolm X and others, had created by 1968 a "perfect storm" for this sort of protest. A gym that was not considered a problem (the University AND the community were to benefit! Imagine that!) was suddenly interpreted as racist when it clearly was not.

      Worst of all were the aftereffects of 1968. The University became a national embarrassment, the City went downhill, applications numbers stagnated, rich alumni stopped giving and many severed their ties with the school. A whole slew of traditions were lost, the alumni club downtown could not go on and was sold, and the University endured some of the worst days in its history. No, 1968 did not cause all of this, but it was a large factor in the equation. No other Ivy League school ever experienced anything like this, and Columbia sank from the ranks of HYP to a lower tier of schools.

      In recent decades, Columbia has made a conscious effort to recuperate from the disastrous effects of '68. Alumni giving is up (not as high as other Ivies, but still up), the City and neighborhood are safe, and Columbia is once again attracting some of the brightest minds in America to both study and teach here. I'd much prefer to keep it that way. I have great love and pride for my Alma Mater, and I relish interacting with our alumni when they come to campus for Homecoming and other sports events. I've noticed in my time here, that there aren't many like me, and some students seem to hate this place even though they chose to come here. Perhaps those people will cheer at Mark Rudd and his ilk and look back on them as some kind of "freedom fighters". However, I see no reason to commemorate any of the so-called "brave souls" (a characterization with which I strongly disagree) when all they brought was harm and discord to this College and University. We should celebrate the newfound prosperity of fair Alma today rather than the unrest that helped set Columbia back from its peers for many years.

      • I wouldn't go...

        You "wouldn't go so far?" Nice to know. At exactly what point would you draw the line? Sorry, but the way that you constructed that opening sentence really gave me a good laugh.

      • XJE  

        I've posted about this before-- 68 was bad, but it was a symptom more than a cause. The reason Columbia isn't an HYP is because the school's fate was tied in some respects to the city, so as NYC declined, Columbia suffered. That's not all bad, though. Our desperation for bodies meant that we could no longer afford the institutional racism that kept the Jews out of HYP. That sounds like a joke, but I think overall that's a positive outcome. The other side, of course, is that with the decline in Wasp orthodoxy, there's this perceived decline in 'prestige' as measured in maple-paneled fireplaces or whatever.

        I would attribute the lack of school spirit some people see today to the fact that Columbia is not an undergrad-focused institution and hasn't been for a long time. Law and Business are the moneymaking schools, and CUMC's patent royalties are what actually pays the bills. Columbia College is a vestige, and the fact that we even exist is thanks only to the fact that the University as a whole subsidizes us.

        You attend a selective college that's a very small part of a huge, moneymaking, research university, and you'll be rewarded with a well-paying job on Wall Street or admission to law school if you want it. You were not promised anything substantially different when you applied here.

        I realize that a lot of people came here only because they couldn't get in to one of the more "collegey" Ivies, but that, to me, is a poor reason to complain. Anyone who can manage to be admitted to Columbia could easily make it at any number of undergrad-focused institutions.

        The problems you see with the University were due to the economic circumstances of NYC in the second half of this century, combined with Seth Low's lack of foresight in not buying more land. You just can't see a single event like '68 and blame it for everything.

        • Oh 20

          I find this sort of discourse on Bwog extremely interesting, as 20 wrote, but is there any particular reason we, or I at least, are so fascinated by this navel-gazing? Who is gauging our prestige relative to HYP? Also, isn't our lamentation of that inferiority only furthering the idea?

          And god, is getting an investment bank job as easy as I often hear implied? What is the failure rate of a not-fuck-up Columbia student wanting to do this?

        • 12312

          Right on the money.
          More went into fomenting '68 than just the political atmosphere of the times. Columbia's situation and its neighbors definitely had to do with it. Columbia's fate is intimately tied to NYC, especially because Columbia is so close to Harlem. We can especially see this in how the College has grown in prestige in the past 20 years, exactly in-step with 17 years of NY's non-stop drop in crime rate.

        • ZvS

          "decline in maple-paneled fireplaces"... that's a gorgeous line.

  3. why was

    the 1968 student leader so grumpy?

    he was a real stick in the Rudd!

  4. Whatever

    these people made nothing of their lives. They "profess" in some bullshit dept like anthro or they are florists. They bring nothing to the table. If anyone that participated in '68 made anything of themselves they would have other accomplishments in life that they didn't need to base their lives on something they did 40 years ago. This is like the high school football QB that works at the gas station and constantly relives his glory days.

    • Right

      You really want to dive in and prove that not a single person responsible for "1968" made anything of him/herself since then? Where are you going to get your facts from, polling everyone who was a student that year who might have participated in the protests to see if they feel they've had fulfilling lives since then (as well as how they would define the words "fulfilling" and "successful")? Or maybe just flipping through old yearbooks and alumni magazines and reading the "Where Are They Now" notes?

      I don't know about ALL the people who were there, but I do know about a select group: my father and his college friends, all of whom were at Columbia in 1968.

      While my father is a successful doctor on the faculty of one of the nation's best medical schools, one of his best college friends is also a doctor in a comparable position, while the other made enough money on Wall Street to retire at age 35, and now spends his time funding academic chairs at Ivy League schools and producing Broadway plays. All three of them started out in middle class backgrounds, all three of them made something of themselves: enough at least to give their kids far better than they had growing up.

      Yep, I'd really call that unsuccessful.

  5. celeb

    I happen to know the leader of the strike lives at 111th and Broadway. I've been to his place for dinner.

    What outrages him most about Columbia now: that Carman has never been re-done.


  6. anthros=florists  

    Why do much hate for anthropology?

  7. Avi

    1968: The year Nixon won.

  8. exactly

    They turned to medicine and Wall Street and professional life. They recanted of their misguided, Marxist ways. Right on, buddy.

  9. its such

    a nauseating contrast to see the death of a woman in Pakistan who was actually laying her life on the line for her people versus the glorification of a bunch of privileged do-nothings who believe their pretend sessions promoting revolution actually made a difference to anyone except the next revolutionaries, who're the same as the old revolutionaries

    no wonder barack and other columbia folks don't give a rats ass about their old alma mater. i already don't.

    • Unbelievable

      Wait, did you really just do that? Did you honestly just invoke the death of a courageous woman, and a tragedy for hundreds of millions, to prove this trivial point? That too is nauseating.

      However, I agree with you that this has gone too far. I think the overall effect of the protests was positive, but not so positive that they should be made into this type of holy grail.

  10. the downturn

    Incidentally, the 70s was a difficult era for all of NYC- what with bankruptcy and all. These protests had nothing whatsoever to do with that. And crime in the city isn't down because Columbia re-discovered the Iliad. (Imagine what Mayor Giuliani would think at the thought!) I don't like campus radicalism anymore than you do, but I think it's important to be grounded in fact.

  11. invisible_hand

    june 5th is my birthday!!!

    and i was born in '86... which, if you switch it around, is '68!!!

    holy shit, i am at the center of the universe!

  12. HYP

    Enough with the collective inferiority complex, and enough with the abbreviation HYP. The differences are wildly exaggerated.

  13. Well...

    we can all bicker back and forth along our party lines about whether or not the protests of '68 sucked, but didn't we all learn during the Ahmadinejad affair that if nothing else (besides, well, institutions of learning) universities should be places of controversy? Everybody else in this country is going to sit back in their collective apathy/monotony, content in the fact that placing their ballot in the box will affect change. Nobody else is willing to confront issues, so the country looks to its students. The '68 protest was indicative of the national climate, initiated at one of the only places where opinions could be expressed in a relatively non-violent (ignoring when the president got shot a year later) manner--unlike the riots in cities across the country in the years leading up to '68. People are feeling, somebody needs to do the talking...

    • 68er

      I'm one of the organizers of the 40th anniversary events, and I'd like to clarify a few things. I realize that this blog is not representative of all students, but nevertheless, the comments here demonstrate a great deal of ignorance about what happened in 1968 and what the 40th anniversary is about. So, let me just point out a few things:

      The anniversary will be a re-examination of what happened and not primarily a nostalgic alumni get-together. As part of that, we hope that there will be events that discuss what the issues were and what happened from all points of view.

      The gym was opposed by the Harlem community, the mayor, and the parks commissioner -- yet Columbia's autocratic leadership would not yield. The criticism that the gym was racist was based especially on the fact that it was going to be built on public land important to Harlem. The apartheid-like backdoor for the community added salt to the wound. At the time there were about a dozen African American Columbia students, a handful of Latinos, and barely any Asians. The racial inequities of an almost all-white private university imposing itself on public land were pretty obvious to most, even those who did not occupy the buildings.

      People who participated in the occupation and strike have gone on to be judges, lawyers, organizers of performing arts centers, engineers, housing developers, professors (like Estelle Freedman), business people, clergy, doctors, magazine editors, journalists, scientists, record producers, winners of major book awards, Emmys, Grammies -- and, yes, comunity college and high school teachers. And most of us have enjoyed successful lives of social engagement and value those who teach high school as highly as those who preside in courtrooms. If you read the NY Times, there was a recent obituary of St. Clair Bourne, one of the lead African American film makers today, and he was one of the students who occupied Hamilton Hall.

      So, you can deride the event, and you can dismiss the old farts, but I suggest that you actually learn the facts about what happened and do not rely on myths and misinformation.

      If you want to learn more and participate in discussing the upcoming events, go to the public Yahoo site:

      • here here

        Thank you '68er.

        There are haters, but be aware-- there are definitely some of us who appreciate you

      • 68r also

        To me, the events being planned for April are nothing more than a self-serving reunion of those who brought Alma Mater to her knees and violated her through every orifice of her body. There was absolutely no justification for their actions - the gym, the war, civil rights notwithstanding. The facts? I was there and I know what I saw, heard, and read.

      • let me ask

        you something 68er..will you discuss the vast majority of students who opposed you on campus at that time? Or those of you who led the movement that ended up blowing up buildings across the US? Will this actually be a reflection on what happened or just a back patting farce?

        And its cute to dismiss those who are frustrated with their alma mater as 'cliche' but its pretty simplistic to do so---columbia's endowment and its relative size versus some of its ivy sisters isn't because we don't produce enough bankers, etc who don't have the money to donate. It's because there's an enormous disconnect between those who are intensely political and believe they own the university and the rest of the student body--which spans world class depts in the sciences/arts/engineering/etc. and who cringe every time somebody associates their university with fox news as opposed to the latest nobel/fields medal caliber research or pulitzer prize winning book

        • EAL

          Haha, I'm easily one of those latter people. Those naive and ill-informed children who like to protest everything just give this University a bad name when it truly is a world-class center for research and learning.

      • Brad

        "The gym was opposed by the Harlem community, the mayor, and the parks commissioner -- yet Columbia's autocratic leadership would not yield. The criticism that the gym was racist was based especially on the fact that it was going to be built on public land important to Harlem."

        That's ridiculous and you're clearly unaware of your own history. The gym was to be benefit the Harlem community immensely because, had you ventured out there during your stint in Morningside, you would've known that the park was a goddamn haven for crime. Before the decade turned into the the damned sixties, Harlem leaders actually wanted Columbia to build a gymnasium in the park. They saw it as a way to give the space some much needed life and bring students down off the top of the hill into the community below. Even Jane Jacobs, one of the most liberal planning theorists of all time, wrote about how fantastic it would be for the university to build in the park. Furthermore, Columbia had, for years, hosted events in the park for the community children, be it assisting in organized athletics or general leisurely activities. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a segment of the Columbia-built gym was to be reserved for the community. It just so happened to be at the bottom of the facility as, well, the damn community was at the bottom of the park. If Columbia had the funds to build the thing five years earlier, there would've been none of this. Instead, a few opportunistic students tried making an issue out of nothing and neither the university nor the community won in the end.

  14. Yawn

    really guys? '68 is done, whether you approve or disapprove. Don't have a hunger strike about it. As always, there's the one bwogger who comments "No wonder bla bla hates his alma mater, I certainly do too" or "No wonder xx doesn't donate to Columbia, I won't either". These reactions are getting really cliche.

  15. .....

    As much as things like hunger strikers annoy me (and they REALLY annoy me), everyone should accept that protest is part of Columbia's identity. 1968 is an integral piece of columbia's history and all these protests to that protest evidence that the spirit is still strong.

    If you support a cause, good for you.
    If you don't, have a good laugh at things like hunger strikers over a juicy burger.

  16. annoyed

    Hunger strikers don't annoy me. They can eat or not eat whenever they want. I don't care. I am, however, quite dismayed by administrators that involve them in key decisions, and keep the rest of the student body at arm's length.

  17. protest

    remember the riotous commencement of 1811!

    protest as a columbia tradition predated the core by 108 years!

  18. Bull!

    Sorry dude, "violated her through every orifice of her body?" If you're really a 68er, you're way too old for such earthy language.
    Plus, you offer absolutely no support whatsoever for your claims. Nice try, faker.

    • 68r also

      To use such a pronoun as "dude" you show that you are way too young to be of any credibility on the matter.

      • Dude

        To make such a comment as you just made you show that you are way too old to have any place on this blog.

        68ers, if these comments are really from you, please fuck off. Stop patting yourselves on the back. Yes the world was different then, and people are wrong to condemn you outright, and yes some of you may have ended up with successful careers. But the fact remains that you fucked Columbia for several generations afterward, and ruined the careers of several of your contemporaries. To you, the sacrifice may have been a just one, but you left a lot of people with no choice but to sacrifice themselves to your cause.

  19. well-endowed

    Just to set the record straight, $6 billion is no small amount of money to have on reserve. Of course, Harvard has no parallel in this regard. But having five times our capital resources certainly doesn't make them five times better.

    • well-hung

      consider this my well-endowed friend. Based on its student population, Columbia has the same endowment resources/student as Middlebury, Carleton, and Brown. And probably a lot more overhead and costs to squeeze out of those resources.

      Also there's no metric for measuring multiples, but take a look around and ask yourself which of Columbia's programs is in the same league as Harvard. Law? Medicine? Business? Arts and Sciences? They're damned good programs, but given the option between Columbia and Harvard... well just ask the various admissions offices about their cross-admit data...


  20. ....

    Or even better at all, dare I say.

  21. Another 68'er

    I'm interested that there is so much talk about Columbia's endowment (a word rich with symbolism) and so little talk about the role of the University in society both now and then. I suggest that rather than reacting to the 1968 strike and the 40th anniversary conference with overly broad and relatively ignorant condemnation, you use the conference as an opportunity to learn about the history of your own institution. One thing you may be surprised to know is that once the police were called onto campus to expel the strikers from the buildings, the vast majority of Columbia undergraduates, and a huge number of grad. students and faculty (by every measure at the time) supported the strike until the end of the term.

    The world was a radically different place in 1968, however events in that year, including the Columbia strike which sparked both smaller and hugely larger events all over the globe, are part of the history which has molded our world today.

    The conference in April is going to look at that history from many different points of view, including very negative ones. Do your mind a favor. Leave it open to attending an event or two.

    • I only

      wish that you were drafted and sent to Vietnam instead of trying to kill our Alma Mater. Then, when you get skewered by the Viet Cong, you might just begin to appreciate the freedom of knowledge and inquiry Columbia stands for, and also appreciate the pettiness and silliness of your week-after-week pretend revolutions in between Marx-reading and pot-smoking sessions.

      What makes me happy is that your generation will shortly begin dying off of old age in the next decade or two. And my generation (that is, the ones that have inherited the mess you left us) responds with wholesale condemnation and unrestrained contempt for your actions.

      You don't deserve to be commemorated. But then again, you don't deserve to be swept into the dustbin of history either. People like you are to be upheld as shining exemplars of the depth of human depravity.

      That is all.

      • Anonymous

        Laff. Overreaction much? No matter how terrible your opinion of the 68ers is, they're not the Red Guard or the Hitler Youth, and I suggest you stop trying to bend your imagination by forcing them into that mold.

        Just relax, take your IB job, and try and sleep with hot girls. Then maybe, one day, after you've slept with enough skanks, that voice in your head saying you're not strong enough will stop being audible.

        ps You have a small penis. I did it for the lulz.

      • Someone

        Whoa, yikes.

        Do you seriously dislike these people that much? Don't you think they accomplished anything positive (say, in connection with the civil rights movement?)

        • Zach

          The "your generation will die off soon" taunt is a little bit tired, too. I think Robespierre said it the first time. Anyway, call Godwin on him and go home.

        • huh

          what did the 68 protests have to do with the civil rights movement? a lot of misapprehensive blustering is all I can find - disputed "discrimination" arising from architecture adapting to natural topography that was tenuously linked to theoretical notions of hierarchy.

          • Someone

            Is this a serious question?

            Sigh, well I guess it has to do with MLK's opposition to the Vietnam War, the Panthers, and the turn that the Civil Rights movement took after he was killed.

        • no...

          I don't think they accomplished anything positive. When they die, they might fertilize the earth and push up some daisies. That might be it.

  22. Brad

    I'm not Columbia '68, but I have done a fair amount of research on the events that took place on Columbia's campus that spring semester and I can tell you that - without question - the protesters did not have the support of a "majority" of students, faculty, etc. This is very well documented in the Cox report and again in Stand Columbia.

    Not surprisingly, the protest, like virtually all protests at Columbia (or, to be fair, elsewhere at college campuses), was little more than a few disorganized messages that caught on by students interested in rising against authority figures that became strong enough to get in the way of the daily operations of the university. What the protesters viewed as a success in the short term only angered most members of the university community in the long term, and very little was accompished beyond recognition.

    The university's image was left tarnished for years and the lack of alumni support brought the school close to shutting down. Faculty positions, financial aid and minority outreach, athletics, and even slight attempts at expansion were all left in doubt for the next two decades.

    You'll be hard-pressed to find one good thing that came from the events that took place in '68.

    • alum

      One good thing that did come out of '68 was the change in the university's calendar from having the first semester end in January (after a short Christmas break) and the second semester end in late May to the current schedule of having the first semester end before Christmas and the second semester end at the beginning of May. The change makes sense in itself, but it was also taken in order to get the students out of the dorms and off campus before they got cabin fever from being cooped up in warm spring weather. The campus had shutdowns in the spring of 68, 70, and 72. Since the calendar change, no shutdowns.

      The strikes did not have the support of a majority of students. After the police bust there was naturally a reaction against the excess violence, but that did not extend to support of the initial strike "objectives." And in fact there is no way to justify any of the three Columbia strikes. As institutions go, Columbia was and is a force for good in society. If you have a problem with liberal arts colleges and research universities, you have a problem with organized society. If the strikers had tried to shut down the Pentagon (or even a local draft center) to stop the Vietnam War or to shut down Dow Chemical to stop napalm production one could respect them. But that would have been dangerous to their health and resumes. Shutting down the classes they attend? What could be lazier or more self-serving?

      • another alum

        The cops didn't use enough force. Too many 'occupiers' walked away without injury.

      • 68er

        San Francisco State and Berkeley, along with many schools around the country (I don't have a figure handy, but it may amount to close to a hundred) had demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, and building occupations in 1968 and after, many directly in the wake of Columbia's. I don't think the school schedule had much to do with it. Also, in response to some of your other suggested targets for demonstrations, anti-war demonstrators demonstrated against all of them: for example, hundreds of thousands of people tried to shut down the Pentagon in 1967 (remember the iconic photos of people putting flowers down the barrels of the guns of soldiers guarding the building), there were many protests at and about Dow, the Catonsville 9 broke into a selective service office and burned draft records with Dow's napalm, and much much more. Most of the students who took part in the occupation and strike actually liked their education, wanted to attend classes, knew they were risking their "health and resumes" -- if you read St. Clair Bourne's obituary, you would learn that he was expelled from the film program as a result of his participation in occupying Hamilton Hall -- but they took the stand that it was a moral imperative that we do not be "good Germans" and accept an unjust war and racial discrimination, after all avenues had been blocked. Just a short time before, in February, 3 black students were killed by police at Orangeburg, SC, demonstrating peacefully against a segregated bowling alley. The administration had said all research for the war had ended -- which demonsrators knew to be a lie, and then proved it -- and they insisted on building the gym, despite the opposition of the community to the agreement drawn up years before, and the opposition of the mayor and commissioner of parks. The administration was incredibly arrogant and autocratic. Demonstrators thought that Columbia could be "a force for good in society," but it could also be a force for imperial war and racial oppression. In the wake of the campus demonstrations all over the country, many changes took place at universities that many take for granted today. Despite whatever disputes there are today, the way the present administration has tried to engage with the students and the community is lightyears away from Grayson Kirk's admininstration. You should be more straightforward and simply say that it's OK for Columbia to lord over students and the community and the entire city, that it should disregard all inequities in society, and that the Vietnam war was a good idea -- in fact, we got a war today, so you might think that one was a good idea too. At least you would be getting your actual opinions out into the open, and not make up some silly excuses about the dates of the academic schedule.

  23. 68r also

    Please understand, if you are capable, that not every 68r participated in the strike or were of the same opinion. As for me, my academic agenda was rudely, violently, and illegally interrupted by a band of wandering marauders and a few Columbia students. Damn Visigoths!

  24. Another '68

    Good Sirs (and from what I hear, good Madams as well),

    It has dawned upon me that with all this hubub about 1968, we have forgotten the true heroes of our fair alma mater: the class of 1868. Remember us!

    Theodore Havemeyer
    School of Mines, 1868

  25. 49er

    Goooooldd ruuuuuuuuuuuush!

  26. Hannibal

    All 68ers should be slaughtered and eaten.

  27. 68r sir

    you really are a pompous turd aren't you?

  28. Anonymous

    My class ('73) was jokingly called the "dumb class" since we were the first to apply after the events of '68 allegedly scared off some applicants. After I got there in 1969, there were still protests of some sort for the first few years, conveniently right around the time of spring finals. I was a good little Barnard nerd girl and not involved in any of this.

  29. alumnus (non-1968)

    Most importantly - why is there no love for the 1967-68 Ivy League Champion Men's Basketball Team?

    That was Columbia's best moment in 1968 - not the other garbage.

  30. stop the thread!

    Wait. Shit.

  31. Insectovoid

    Does everyone have TLA disease? What does "HYP" stand for?

  32. DHI

    Venerable ol' Hypnotist University, the greatest school in all the land, according to everyone who's had an interview there.

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