Radicals Revisited: Eyewitnesses to Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement Mark 50th Anniversary

Alumni Gazette
By Martin Snapp

How time flies! This fall will be the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, and FSM veterans will return to campus for a reunion that will feature the usual events, plus some others you might not have anticipated.

For instance, are you ready for FSM: The Musical? Produced by Stagebridge in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the full-length musical production will have its first performance September 27 on Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage, with two additional performances the following day.

But wait! There’s more! The musical was composed by none other than Mario Savio’s son Daniel in collaboration with two veterans of The San Francisco Mime Troupe, Joan Holden, M.A. ’64, and Bruce Barthol ’68. Bruce sat in at Sproul Hall when he was a 16-year-old freshman.

“I feel a great responsibility to get it right for my father’s sake, and also for Michael Rossman and Reggie Zelnik and my mom,” says Daniel, who looks just like his dad. “I grew up with this history. I know it as well as anybody who was there.”

Daniel’s mom, Lynne Hollander Savio ’65, is the show’s creative advisor and a member of the 50th reunion committee.

The FSM began on September 14, 1964, when the University of California at Berkeley, under pressure from Senate Majority Leader William F. Knowland ’29, who was angered by Civil Rights sit-ins, announced that existing University regulations banning political activity on campus would be “strictly enforced.”

The resulting protests, unprecedented in scope, were the harbinger of the student power, civil liberties, and antiwar demonstrations that convulsed college campuses throughout the country for the next decade. They also triggered a voter backlash that many believe led to the election of Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on a promise to “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” as governor of California in 1966.

In the five decades since that memorable autumn, FSM has become part of the popular culture. In 2006, an episode of Battlestar Gallactica featured a character closely paraphrasing Mario Savio’s “bodies upon the gears” speech.

“I got an email from the producer wanting to know if he could use it,” says Lynne. “He said his wife was at Cal at the time, and they were both admirers. He gave the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture Fund a nice contribution in exchange.”

This year’s annual Savio lecture—to be given by Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at Cal—will be the last one sponsored by Savio’s friends and admirers, who created the lecture series after his death in 1996. From here on, it will be sponsored by the Social Sciences Division in the College of Letters & Science.

“The timing seemed right to both its organizers and campus leaders to ensure it would continue in perpetuity as a part of our academic landscape and as a commemoration of a very important part of campus history,” says Carla Hesse, Dean of Social Sciences and a member of the campus coordinating committee for the 50th anniversary. Dean Hesse’s father, Siegfried Hesse, J.D. ’50, was one of the lawyers for the Sproul Hall arrestees.

After decades of ambivalence, UC Berkeley is finally embracing this important part of its history. “Though I cannot presume to speak for our current administration, I think it is fair to say that the attitude of campus leaders to the Free Speech Movement has evolved over the past 50 years, from fear to pride in what the students at that time stood up for and what they accomplished,” says Dean Hesse.

The official celebrations will start even before the fall quarter begins, with freshman and new students in the On The Same Page program being asked to read Freedom’s Orator, a biography of Mario Savio written by NYU professor Robert Cohen, M.A. ’81, Ph.D. ’87. The celebrations will continue throughout the fall, including a concert by Mavis Staples, a hootenanny at Ashkenaz, exhibits at the Bancroft Library and the Berkeley Historical Society, documentaries at the Pacific Film Archive, a political poetry night at the FSM Café, freedom-of-speech symposia at the law school, and the Academic Senate’s commemoration of their historic vote on Dec. 8, 1964.

The reunion itself will take place Sept. 26–Oct. 3, climaxing with a rally at Sproul Plaza on Oct. 1, anniversary of the arrest of former grad student Jack Weinberg—the man who said, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Robert Reich, Dolores Huerta, and FSM veterans will deliver speeches from the Sproul steps, which were officially renamed the Mario Savio Steps in 1997.

Though FSM took place half a century ago, those who were there remember the events as if they happened yesterday: the thousands of students on Sproul Plaza surrounding the police car holding Weinberg; the mass sit-in at Sproul Hall and the mass arrests that followed; the cops jumping on Mario Savio as he attempted to speak at the Greek Theater; and the climactic Academic Senate resolution.

“Jack and I set up the card table at 11:30 on that fateful day when he was arrested,” recalls John Sutake ’68. “The reason he was arrested and I wasn’t, was that he was not a currently registered student and I was. It sort of hurt my feelings.”

Many of the FSM leaders were veterans of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, where they were deeply influenced by the nonviolent militancy of Bob Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr. But FSM drew support from across the political spectrum, including fraternity boys, sorority girls, even Young Republicans. Most had never before taken part in a demonstration.

“We were all sitting there, shivering for our careers,” the late Michael Rossman ’63, one of the first people to sit down around the police car, told me before his death in 2008. “We had just come out of the McCarthy period, when people’s lives were destroyed for walking a picket line, let alone sitting around a police car in the middle of a plaza of a great university.”

“I had to make a choice,” says Lee Felsenstein ’72. “Was I a scared kid who wanted to be safe at all costs? Or was I a person who had principles and was willing to take a risk to follow them? It was like that moment in Huckleberry Finn when Huck says, ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell.’”

“I was coming out of class and saw them take him into the car,” says Jeremy Bruenn ’65, Ph.D. ’70. “Somebody said we should surround the car, and we did. I remember wondering whether they would drive over us, and being happy when they didn’t. I thought they showed fairly good judgment in not creating more of a situation than was necessary.”

“When people climbed up on the po­lice car, they took their shoes off first. There was no in­tent to dam­age. It was all done civilly.”

“I was sitting by the front bumper,” remembers Damon Tempey ’66. “Weinberg was in the back of the car for more than a day, so he peed into a Coke bottle and ate sandwiches. He had a ringside seat for the speeches as people mounted the police car and spoke.”

But not everyone on the plaza that day was a supporter.

“The vast majority of us were simply walking across campus and stopped to find out what all the commotion was about,” says Phil Litts ’66, who was elected Head Yell Leader later that year on a platform that mocked FSM. “I was on my way back to Unit Three for lunch.”

Although he opposed their goals, Litts was still impressed by the way they went about it.

“Mario Savio was very respectful of people with opposing views. There was no name calling. And when people climbed up on the police car, they took their shoes off first. There was no intent to damage. It was all done civilly, and that’s something you don’t hear a lot about.”

That night, some fraternity boys started heckling the seated protestors and flipping lighted cigarettes at them.

“A bunch of us formed a cordon line with our backs to the frat boys and let them beat on us to protect the people sitting on the ground,” Sutake told me. “Later, when we realized we had to reach out to these people, we went to the frats and sororities giving little talks explaining what we were all about. I don’t know if it changed any minds, but we were trying to build a mass movement, and that included people who disagreed with us.”

The confrontation escalated in fits and starts over the next two months, with rallies, sit-ins, cancelled classes, and picket lines urging students to boycott the few classes that were still going on. Litts, who crossed the picket lines, arrived at his lecture hall and found only two people there: him and the professor.

“I was watch­ing my­self be­ing mis­used by the me­dia to state something that was totally un­true about what was go­ing on at Berke­ley. It was my rad­ic­al­iz­ing mo­ment, and I have nev­er trus­ted the me­dia ever since.”

“So I had a one-on-one tutorial. I sat in the front row, he sat on top of his desk, and we talked, and it was great.”

Ginger Lapid-Bogda ’68 (née Snapp), on the other hand, was an FSM sympathizer who wouldn’t have dreamed of crossing a picket line. But some classes remained open by pre-arrangement between the professor and the FSM leadership, including her anthropology course in Wheeler Auditorium.

“There were movie cameras in the room, and for some reason I could tell one of the cameras was doing a close-up of me. I thought, ‘Can they do this without my permission?’ But I didn’t think any more about it until a few weeks later, when I was back home in L.A. having Thanksgiving dinner with my parents. We were watching Walter Cronkite, and one of the stories was a report from Berkeley. The reporter was saying, ‘Students are crossing picket lines in droves, like this coed.’

“Lo and behold, it was my anthro class, and the coed the camera was zeroing in on was me! I was watching myself being misused by the media to state something that was totally untrue about what was going on at Berkeley. It was my radicalizing moment, and I have never trusted the media ever since.”

Aside from Mario Savio, the best-known FSM leader was Bettina Aptheker ’66, whom the media portrayed as an intransigent hardliner because she was a Communist.

“The irony is that Bettina was one of the moderates,” says Sutake. “She was always saying, ‘Go slow’ and ‘Be reasonable.’ But she was a convenient target.”

The nightly FSM executive committee meetings often lasted into the next morning because everyone had to be heard.

“I sometimes went nuts listening, but you had to do it, and some of the speechifying was great,” declares Kate Coleman ’65. “Like the time we were trying to decide if Mario should lead us into a sit-in—I forget which one—and Barbara Garson in her Brooklynese said, ‘I don’t believe in the cult of the personality … (pause) … but if you have one—use him!’ We all laughed, because of course it was fitting that Mario lead us that day.”

The crisis finally came to a head on December 2, when Joan Baez led about a thousand students singing “We Shall Overcome” into Sproul Hall for a mass sit-in.

Some passed the hours by doing homework, some sang Civil Rights songs, some watched Laurel and Hardy movies, and a sizable group of Jewish students celebrated Hanukkah by dancing the hora.

“I ran into my Anthro 1 T.A., who was just a wonderful guy,” recalls Bob Kroll ’68. “I asked him how I did on the midterm, and he said, ‘Terrible. I was going to give you a D, but since you’re here in Sproul, I’m going to raise it to a B.’”

At 3:05 a.m. on Dec. 3, Chancellor Edward Strong ordered the building locked and gave the students an ultimatum: Get out now or be arrested.

“Some were be­ing dropped, so they would go bump, bump, bump as they were dragged. It was so fright­en­ing.”

A few avoided arrest by climbing down a rope from the second floor balcony, including Sutake. “I was only 18 and already on probation from an arrest from a previous Civil Rights demonstration, so the sit-in leaders told me I could do more good on the outside by raising bail money and organizing transportation to Santa Rita,” he says.

But as soon as he climbed down the rope, others on the ground outside started climbing up.

“I heard on the radio that the arrests had started, so I got on my bike and rode to campus as fast as I could,” says Paula Shatkin ’67 (then Kogan). “Now, I am no athlete, but somehow I got hold of that rope and was pulled up to the balcony. That was the most physically daring act of my life, before or since. But, goddammit, I was not going to miss getting arrested after all that work and sitting in and demonstrating!”

The arrests began at 3:45 a.m. It took more than 12 hours to arrest them all.

“The cop who arrested me said, ‘Do you want us to carry you out? Or do you want to leave like a gentleman?’” says Malcolm Zaretzky, Ph.D. ’71. “They were dragging people down those marble steps, so I elected to walk.”

“Some were being dropped, so they would go bump, bump, bump as they were dragged,” Linda Rosen ’66 remembers. “It was so frightening.”

The arrestees were cheered by onlookers as they were put on busses and driven to Santa Rita. But the feeling wasn’t unanimous.

“As we got to the corner of Telegraph and Channing I looked out the window and saw this little old lady, who was probably younger than I am now,” says Glenn Lyons ’65, Ph.D. ’71. “I flashed her the peace sign, and she shook her fist at me. That was my first inkling that not everyone in the world thought we were doing a great thing.”

Neither did some of their fellow students.

“On the night I gradu­ated, I went to Sproul steps and screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘You screwed our Uni­versity!’ I was so angry. The things I wanted to do, the fun I wanted to have, were taken away from me.”

“I belonged to a politically conservative group called Students For Law And Order. We had funding from one of the UC regents,” explains Bruce Roberts ’68. “Our job was to go onto campus with flyers and talk about why [FSM] was an inappropriate thing for the University.”

Their families weren’t always supportive, either.

Linda Rosen says, “My parents down in Orange County were so mad at me, they took away the Mustang they had bought me for graduation and gave it to my sister,”

“My parents’ reactions were classic,” remembers Susan Peterson, a grad student in literature back in the day. “My father said, ‘They’re just a bunch of Commies!’ My mother said, ‘You’re our daughter, and we love you no matter what.’”

Jentri Anders ’67 (then Barbara Samuels) returned home from Santa Rita the next morning to be greeted by her husband, who hugged her and said, “Take a bath. You stink.”

“We split up and were officially divorced two years later,” Anders says.

On Dec. 7, President Clark Kerr attempted to defuse the crisis with a kiss-and-make-up convocation at the Greek Theater. All seemed to go well until the end, when Savio approached the microphone. He was jumped by campus cops who wrestled him to the ground, ripping his suit to shreds and turning the convocation into an uproar.

Indeed, the regents, at Kerr’s urging, rejected the Academic Senate vote. But after another month of moves and countermoves, the first legal political rally finally was held at Sproul Plaza on Jan. 4.

Some of the arrestees suffered repercussions for years afterwards; others didn’t.

Jentri Anders was puzzled why she kept getting turned down for federal jobs until somebody referred her to an FBI agent who told her, “You have an arrest record and a file with us because of your participation in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. I am going to fix it so that you will never work for the federal government.”

On the other hand, Susan Peterson tells me, “Every time I apply for a new teaching job and have to go through a criminal background check, I delight in giving them more information than they want about FSM.”

Mario Sa­vio “was so humble. I don’t think I really ap­pre­ci­ated that un­til later, as the left got ugly and star­ted to eat its own.”

Bob Kroll adds, “When I applied for the bar years later, they asked me, ‘Have you ever been arrested?’ I said, ‘Twice. Once for sitting in at Sproul Hall, and once for coming through LAX with a joint in my pocket. They wrote me back and said, ‘No problem.’”

And famed poster artist David Lance Goines, who would have graduated in 1967, insists that “FSM changed my life. I was studying classics and headed for an academic career. Instead, I was expelled from school and became an apprentice printer, which led to my artistic career, which would never have come to pass had I not been forcibly removed from the arms of my alma mater.”

So was FSM a good thing or a bad thing? Fifty years later, they’re still debating that.

“On the night I graduated, I went to Sproul steps and screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘You screwed our University!’” says Bruce Roberts about the protests. “I was so angry. The things I wanted to do, the fun I wanted to have, were taken away from me. And not just from me—from the entire student body.”

Paul Coopersmith ’68 disagrees. “For all that happened at Berkeley in the ’60s and early ’70s subsequent to the FSM, it never approached the pure, non-egotistical, lets-make-the-world-a-better-place idealism of that movement. I attribute much of that to Mario, who, looking back from this distance of half a century, strikes me as the most selfless leader this country has produced in a very long time. Without Mario, there may have been a Free Speech Movement. But it would not have been the FSM we came to know and so fervently believe in.”

“FSM was not a hate-filled movement, and so much of what came after was,” says Kate Coleman. “And a lot of it has to be credited to Mario. A lot of guys in the movement were arrogant jerks, but not him. He was so humble. I don’t think I really appreciated that until later, as the left got ugly and started to eat its own.”

But I think the late Reggie Zelnik, a junior faculty member in 1964 who became chairman of the Department of History and co-editor (with Robert Cohen) of a great history of FSM called The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s, summed it up best when we talked about FSM shortly before his untimely death in 2004.

“As a historian, I always like to remind people that nothing is as beautiful as it appears on the surface,” he said. “But FSM was as good as it gets. It certainly never got that good again.”

For more information and updates on the FSM reunion, check the FSM Archives web site (Twitter hashtag #FSM50), the campus FSM web site, and the On The Same Page web site.

Reach Martin Snapp at catman@sunset.net.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of UC Berkeley, The Bancroft Library. Group carrying “Free Speech” banner through Sather Gate [ca. 1965].

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.
Filed under: Cal Culture
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Comments

I only read the headlines since the light box is hurting my eyes.
A great look back! Thanks, Martin. I wasn’t exactly radicalized by the FSM, but seeing the sloshed frat dudes flicking lit cigarettes, brandishing their beverage containers like clubs, and shouting “Yer breakin’ the law!” at peaceful seated kids their own age was an eye-opener. Little did I know what an accurate foretaste of the political history of this country it would turn out to be.
Good story.
Oh jeez, I am going to have to brace myself for a flood of self-congratulatory revisionist histories of the FSM. I was a Poli Sci major from ’61 - ’66, and I have an entirely different take on events. While initially the FSM pursued reasonable grievances regarding political activity at Berkeley, it was quickly co-opted by the left, morphed into “class struggle,” and free speech fell by the wayside (“on strike, shut it down!”) This article recasts history in a particularly tendentious way. One point, among many: I was at the convocation at the Greek Theater, and Mario Savio was not “jumped” by the “cops” and his suit was definitely not “torn to shreds.” The article fails to note the not unimportant fact that Savio was, after some confusion, allowed to speak. (The author can see this for himself in a video available on the internet. Should I wait for a correction?) I also see little about the legacy of the FSM in this article. What did months of unrest and the more or less permanent politicization of the University gain us? The right to set up card tables on the “Mario Savio Steps?” It is more than a bit ironic that an article in the current California Magazine asks whether “the commencement speech can be saved” in the face of protesters who seek to silence speakers. I think a reasonable case can be made that there was more free speech, more genuine political debate at Berkeley in 1961 than there was in 1966 (or, as I suspect, today.) So much for the FSM.
Mario Savio was glad to hear points of view that differed from his, and so am I. Your memory of the Greek Theater convocation, however, differs from that of others who were there. They told me they took up a collection on a spot to buy him a new suit.
“Berkeley home of free speech” as long as you are saying what everyone wants to hear, if not you’re chastised. It is so very sad how Berkeley has become the complete opposite but exactly the same as 50 years ago. Now for the last 30+ years nothing ever changes Berkeley politics remains stuck in the 70’s never progressing still worrying about everyone else’ business while Berkeley remains a mess Politically…Rather sad!
Are you talking about Berkeley the city or Berkeley the university? I think people sometimes conflate the two.
My wish. I’d like to see Gov. Brown invite President Putin to dialogue on the concept of “Free Speech.” I don’t even know if POTUS would allow this. AKA Old Blue ’71.
I was a senior in the fall of 1964, and likely the only undergraduate at UCB from Mississippi. I had been in my hometown of Jackson during part of Freedom Summer, and was highly sympathetic to what the Council of Federated Organizations was trying to accomplish. (We are commemorating Freedom Summer here in Jackson right now. The great Bob Moses is still alive, and as modest as ever.) Naturally I was sympathetic to the FSM. Of the many memories, one stands out: I got out of a Sociology class at 11:50 and was headed to the noon rally at Sproul. I happened to fall in behind Mario Savio and Charlie something, the ASUC President. (Mario had on the standard work shirt and jeans; Charlie had on a Gant madras and khakis.) They were coming from a meeting with administrators, and were about to make a report at the daily rally. I could hear their conversation. Mario was telling Charlie about being in Jackson during Freedom Summer and getting beaten up by the Jackson police. Charlie was wide-eyed. I knew exactly what he was talking about, and where it occurred. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. I knew I would come across as a goober. As for the Greek Theatre episode, I was there. I was giving Kerr (or was it a Dean?) credit for making some good points, but when Mario was strong-armed I was as outraged as other FSM supporters. I have no memory of his suit being “torn to shreds.” Later on I sat on the steps of Wheeler and listened to the Faculty Senate debate. Although I regrettably missed being arrested at the sit-in, I felt throughout that I “had my hand on the rump of history.” (N. Mailer)
Seems like just yesterday, I attended the 2oth anniversary, of the FSM. Mario Savio gave a riveting speech on the steps of Sproul hall about what was going on at the time in Central America. He still had it.
Mario Savio 1964 The faculty and the President, all America wanted to represent, with all the academic pomp and might as Berkeley tried to sell it’s right to obfuscate, confiscate, and delegate freedom of speech at Sather Gate. At the theatre called the Greek the stage filled with strong and meek. As Mario approached and tried to speak they dragged him nearly off his feet. All the speeches all the talk all the ostentatious display all so suddenly dragged away. An hour later on Sproul Hall steps we listened to some new precepts. As there that day it all began we came to see the message at hand. And now lest we so soon forget as we move into a century barely here yet, as we measure persons who stood so large, yes, Mario Savio, you led the charge. Miscellaneous Love Poems © 1999 Nathan Spooner nbspublish.com B.A. Philosophy, 1966
Just for the record, Dan, you were not the only Berkeley undergrad from Mississippi in the fall of 1964. I can vouch for the fact that a chap with the unlikely name of Doric Ball, who was a fellow Barringtonian (i.e., resident of the not-quite-yet-infamous ASUC Co-op, Barrington Hall ) also hailed from the state that so many of us Northerners loved to hate. And as for Mario’s sport jacket being torn to shreds, I think there may well have been just a wee bit of poetic license at work. Photos of him being dragged off the stage at the Greek Theater attest to the fact that the officers in question did not have an especially high regard for what he was wearing (let alone his anatomy), and may have torn off a sleeve or two in the process. As to any tearing to shreds, that would have had to occur out of view of the audience. But of course, as we know, the UC police at that point in history would never have done anything as mean and nasty as tearing a protestor’s jack to shreds, and then hiding the evidence.
Thanks, Paul. I may be able to track him down, given his singular name. I lived in Barrington myself, but that was in 1963-64. Had Mr. Ball been there, I would have found him, or he me. My favorite name from my year there was John Leonard Proctor Maynard. He was from Vermont, and descended from the judge at the Salem Witch Trials featured in “The Crucible.” By the fall of ’64 I had moved to a rented house on 66th in Oakland. I shared it with a friend who was in graduate school, who had picked the house in large part because it was across the street from the White Horse Tavern. He described the place to me in glowing terms, but he had gone in to inspect it only during the day time. Soon after we moved, he took a date there for a drink and discovered that the White Horse was the most prominent gay bar in the East Bay. Oh, well. That was then.
That’s funny, what you wrote about the White Horse, Dan. I joined an encounter group in the summer of ’68 that met every Wednesday evening at a house on Wheeler St in Berkeley. At the end of every meeting, some of the older members went for drinks at the White Horse. Being a younger member, and a new comer, at that, I assumed I knew why I was never invited to join them. But having read your post, there’s a new explanation, after all these years. I never would have guessed. Small world.
I enjoyed reading this article. Here’s an update on my former post. Given the recent sanctions against President Putin and what I believe to be limited Western media coverage, I decided to join the FB Fan Club of President Putin. I was honest about who I was and who I knew, i.e. Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein both who served or are serving on Intelligence Oversight Committees but was admitted. I hope I do not get arrested for sedition. (a joke). I did de-friend some of my high profile FB friends to reduce the risk of them being hacked. Lastly, I wished to express my gratitude to Professor Paul Feyerabend who taught me always to examine my 180 degrees opposition before deciding on my beliefs.
This was a great read. It’s also going to help us immeasurably in the planning of our celebration of the Free Speech Movement (50 years) and Berkeley’s own Public Access Television Stations’ (Berkeley Community Media, channel 28) 20th anniversary. The date for the celebration will be October 4th, 2014. This seems to be the true beginning of the FSM in Berkeley and follows the launch date of Channel 28 by a mere week and a half. BCM, from the beginning, has been a staunch supporter of Free Speech serving as an open forum for anyone with a voice. We do not censor any of our programs and have been on the front lines of preserving the rights of all who pass through our doors to speak their truth. We provide access to a studio production facility, digital cameras and editing capabilities and teach members to produce their own programs to air on “The People’s Channel 28). We have also produced events with Amy Goodman of Free Speech TV’s “Democracy Now!” and air Free Speech TV’s programs on a daily basis. Other programs and FS advocates aired on the station include; Country Joe and the Fish, Frank Moore, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky and many more. We hope readers will keep an eye on us and join us for this celebration and continue to support Free Speech!
Actually, it looks like the major events happened on October 2nd but Saturday’s a much better day for celebrating!
I hope to see many of you at the reunion.
The pivotal moment at the Greek Theater was not when Mario took the microphone to announce the gathering at Sproul Plaza, nor when the cops jumped him. Given the dances we had been dancing, that was predictable drama. It was when, in front of the assembled Department Chairs on stage, the entire faculty on the ground, and as many students as the amphitheater could possible hold, Kerr used the phrase “this great University.” And ALL THE STUDENTS LAUGHED. What “great University”—you mean this one? Ha-ha-ha. Give it up, Clark! That was the true vox populi. That was the moment when the faculty, collectively, really understood what was going on, that the administration with its silly politicking and mindless disciplinarianism had brought the University to the brink of ruin.
Thanks for this post Kitty Piper. RE: the true vox populi. I’m still a bit confused. What actually will be happening and where on Oct 4th? There is a program on Berkeley Community Media?
One of a series of graduate study periods at Berkeley was during the FSM. I had applied for the position of Assistant to the Dean of Student Activities but withdrew when I was offered a high school principalship in Hayward. One year later, I was watching on TV a fierce argument between Mario Savio and the guy who had taken “my job.” Oh, how I regretted missing an opportunity to engage in dialogue on that historic occasion! Hmm….what would I have said?
Dr. Lambert, the Assistant Deans were in a rough place, as were the Deans and Clark Kerr himself. The “bad guys” were the Regents, and the Oakland Tribune person (Knowles?) in particular. I hope you would not have said “I am only following orders,” but I’m sure there were others who did. Looking back, it was a time when reason ultimately prevailed, at least for awhile. Later the right-wing and left-wing paranoids came to dominate, and it was “the worst [who were] full of passionate intensity.”
Enjoy the celebration of the free speech movement—now DEAD since no conservatives are allowed to speak at this really closed campus in the future. Have a good time pretending that you are still a great university of thought and diversity.
I was an honors student in history and we had our own room in Donnel Hall which happened to adjoin the history department’s office. We could lean against the crack in the door and overhear what professors were saying. Many of them thought that the FSM could be compared to the French Revolution. A number of them were very sympathetic to the students. I was particularly fond of Professor Slottman whowas very pro the student protests. Professor Shorsky (sp?) taught a very influential course on Vienna at the turn of the century. H had a very avant guard political viewpoint. Hiis classes were huge but he would invite the students A-C D-H etc. to his home for a bit of hospitality. I worked at the library (chemistry,astronomy, math/stat and physics) and especially the math grad students were pretty radical and active in the FSM. I would have loved to have been inside Sproul Hall for the fateful sit-in. But I didn’t get out of my job until after the campus police had shut the doors.I walked by Sproul Hall on my way home and my upstairs neighbor Anya Allister called down to me to bring her some birth control pills. I was a transfer student from Antioch and there were quite a few of us who were involved in the FSM. I had sufferred from a nervous breakdown while studying aroad at Oxford and was suffering from bipolar disorder. The frantic days of the FSM set off one of my manic moods. I went to the University Health Clinic to obtain some sleeping pills. I was stunned that the mental health clinic was empty. A doctor who prescribed a senative for me told me that when people are involved in a major political upheaval they tend to not want or need any psychiatric therapy. I lived off campus with a boy friend who was a painter a few years older than myself. We had met at the infamous White Horse. I made a lot of gay friends because I would frequent the gay tea rooms at various spots (there were many,many) and a lot of the gay men turned out to be student activists as well. I once heard someone qip that the whole FSM was started by homosexuals, communists, and Antioch transfer students. I loved the history honors program. Professor Stuart Rothman and the other professors were very supportive during this whole crazy period. The FSM sort of morphed into the anti Vietnam protst movement. Berkeley was the place to be although it did lead to my father disinheriting me. I graduated cum laude, and I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. I return often to Berkeley and always visit the art museum and the little museum of Anthropology. I remember my student days very vividly. I went on to have a career in politics (Common Cause, International Relations, Government Affairs officer for the Wildlife Conservation Society). Certainly the FSM greatly influenced my political outlook. “As the branch is bent, so grows the tree”. (The Bent Tree- Dorothy Canfield Fisher.)
Never doubt my friendship. Love my sorority, love my letters, and love my sisters. ΑΧΩ alpha chi omega
I can hardly believe that the fsm took place 50 years ago. It remained a pivotal moment in my life and many of the lessons I learned by participating in this student led movement have stayed with me to today.
I would hope that a $30,000/a year education would teach a substantive bit more than where the Gay Bars were located. And how to employ cronyism as a means to personal status development. Berkeley has never had a single day, nor hour of free speech. Ask any artist, or pseudo-intellectual . As humans we are not free to create new patterns of speech. We are slaves to the social dimension of speech, Our generated speech is created for the listener, and so…. what we say is never free in spirit. So speaking is Instead a orchestral demonstration of saying what others want to hear. How can saying what others want to hear have any basis in free creation. In demonstration of this truth I offer anyone to climb to the steps of Sproul, and in a clear public voice begin shouting racial expletives. You will find your freedom diminished in ways I can not enumerate here in this chastened watered down yes mans roll call.ha..
I would point out that while you are free to shout racial expletives, others are equally free to respond to your behavior. That’s freedom. You should have learned that when you were two years old.
To what extent are others equally free to respond to my behavior. Can they yell at me back? K. Can they knife me? Can they slander me? What’s the limit exactly
“As a historian, I always like to remind people that nothing is as beautiful as it appears on the surface, but FSM was as good as it gets. It certainly never got that good again.” What a great sentence!
As I settle into my 7th decade, I remember my participation in the fsm as one of my “finest moments”. What goes around comes around. One again issues of civil rights and economic democracy are front and center. As we are besieged by the rhetoric of lunatics, as the middle east convulses the entire planet, my student scuffles stay with me as a reminder to “keep on truckin”.
I love my fraternity! Sigma Chi Omega Jewelry!
I feel now and felt 50 years ago that fraternities and sororities have no place at a publically funded university. I love the look of many of the buildings they inhabit but they are a throw back to another era. When I pass by Greek row during pledge week I’m astonished to see the parties still in progress and the well scrubbed participants. It is pathetic in my view.
The First Amendment protects, among other things, freedom to say and write what you want. The courts have ruled that slander is punishable if it can be proven at trial. Physical violence and trespassing are not protected. To say something like, “Does that give them the freedom to knife you?” is being rhetorically ridiculous. But you do, for example, have the right to be publicly vulgar. However, you are not protected from the criticism of others, public shaming, and exclusion because others have the right to respond to your words in a physically non-violent way.

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