Remembering Rose

Remembering Rose

In September 1945 Rose Coser and I were new graduate students in the Department of Sociology at Columbia. She was from the beginning a vivid and forceful presence who used to sit in the front of Robert K. Merton’s classes and ask probing questions in her soft but firm German-accented voice. Though still in her twenties, she was a few years older than most of us and inevitably assumed something of a leadership role. Professor Robert S. Lynd encouraged some of us to organize a Socialist Club—this was a time of great political hope with the war having just ended. Rose and I and several others drew up a statement of principles, including the assertion that we were “opposed to all forms of totalitarianism.” This sounds innocuous enough today, but it was intended to signal our rejection of Stalinism, although only a few of us, of whom Rose was much the most politically sophisticated, were anti-Stalinists. (Lewis Coser did not become a student in the department until a few years later.) Our intention was understood, however, and we had trouble obtaining the signatures of second-year students needed to certify the club as a Columbia student organization, although eventually we did so.

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