FSM-A Board Responses to: 3/22/2021, The New Yorker, The Making of the New Left, Louis Menand

History News Network
4/18/2021

Don't Erase Women's Leadership in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement
by Robert Cohen

Robert Cohen is Professor of Social Studies and Steinhardt Affiliated Professor of History at New York University, and the author of Freedom's Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s and co-editor of The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s.

Although Louis Menand's recent New Yorker article "The Making of the New Left" (March 22, 2021) offered perceptive observations concerning some aspects of the student movement of the early 1960s, its treatment of the Free Speech Movement - the first protest movement to use mass civil disobedience on campus in the 1960s - rendered women student activists virtually invisible. For Menand, Berkeley's free speech struggle of fall 1964 was a battle between men, primarily between UC's establishment liberal president Clark Kerr and the Free Speech Movement's famed radical orator Mario Savio. Most US history textbooks have this same male character, quoting only Savio in their brief accounts of the FSM. As Savio's biographer I would be the last person to argue against quoting his powerful speeches. But one cannot understand the Free Speech Movement without recognizing the important role that women played in this student revolt.

To begin with, the first spokesperson for the free speech struggle at Cal-the movement's key voice before Savio and before it even took on the name "Free Speech Movement"-was Jackie Goldberg, a veteran student leader who chaired the initial negotiations with the UC administration. Though Goldberg would soon be replaced by Savio as the Free Speech Movement's key spokesperson, before that happened she played an essential role in achieving a peaceful resolution of the police car blockade. With a police invasion imminent - aimed at breaking up the non-violent student blockade that was preventing the campus arrest of civil rights and free speech activist Jack Weinberg - Goldberg insisted that the free speech struggle's negotiating committee sign an agreement, the Pact of October 2, ending the blockade and establishing a framework for further negotiations over the campus free speech dispute. Savio initially opposed the Pact, but was outvoted and went along with it reluctantly. Goldberg had been insistent that the Pact was needed to avoid bloodshed, and later tragedies like that seen at Kent State, where deadly force was deployed against student protesters, proved her right. Goldberg's organizing and negotiating talents would later carry her to the LA School Board and City Council, and to the California state legislature where she helped to found the caucus championing LGBTQ+ rights.

The Free Speech Movement's newsletter, its central publication and an eloquent voice for free speech, was edited by the socialist student activist Barbara Garson. Offering not merely movement news but witty mockery of the administration and humorous political cartoons, the newsletter avoided leftwing jargon and cliches, narrated the free speech struggle with verve, candor, militant tactical advice. Garson would go on to become the prominent author of All The Livelong Day and three other books on blue and white collar working people, as well as the popular antiwar play MacBird!.

Over the course of the Free Speech Movement its most prominent female student leader was Bettina Aptheker. In Cold War America it was almost unheard of for a Communist to assume a leadership role in a mass movement. That Aptheker played such a role as an elected member of the Free Speech Movement's most influential governing body, its Steering Committee, was a testament to her evident leadership ability and to the Berkeley student movement's rejection of Cold War anti-Communism; the FSM embraced a New Left ethos, judging activists and leaders on the basis of their character and the effectiveness of their work for democratic movement goals rather than their ideological or party affiliations.

At an early stage of the FSM, UC President Clark Kerr red-baited the student movement. Rather than deferring to this Cold War scare tactic, Savio and the FSM not only backed Aptheker but insisted that she be a featured speaker at the very next FSM rally, which she was. Aptheker brought to the FSM valuable political experience, from her organizing off campus in the Bay Area civil rights movement and on campus in leading the WEB DuBois Club. She was valued, however, not only as an eloquent movement spokesperson but as an unusually patient negotiator and a level- headed and astute tactician.

On at least two occasions, Aptheker's political judgment exceeded Savio's in ways that proved enormously helpful to the FSM. After a particularly frustrating meeting of the UC Board of Regents, in which the university's leaders refused to consider the movement's free speech demands and implied imminent punishment of its organizers, Savio insisted on convening a sit-in at the administration building. This despite the fact that the FSM's leadership was split on whether to sit in, and had initially rejected this act of civil disobedience (since there had been no time to educate and mobilize the campus). Savio insisted on the sit-in as an act of moral witness no matter what the consequences. Aptheker rejected this position on the grounds that this sit-in would result in isolation and defeat of the movement. Once the sit-in began without mass support and was en route to failure, Aptheker helped talk the protesters into leaving, so the aborted sit-in avoided futile arrests and punishment that might have crushed the movement.

Aptheker proved equally insightful on tactics at the mass Greek Theater meeting convened by Kerr and his faculty allies on December 7, 1964. Kerr had refused to allow Savio or any student to speak at this meeting, aimed at imposing a political settlement without granting the campus free speech rights championed by the student movement. Determined to speak at this meeting, Savio was leaning towards rushing the stage just as the meeting was about to end. But Aptheker realized that such a tactic would look aggressive, and so suggested that Savio walk, not run, to the stage, which would come across better since the audience would observe his calm and deliberative approach and be eager to hear from him. Heeding Aptheker's advice, Savio did walk to the stage, and the aggression came not from him but the campus police who grabbed him and dragged him by his tie away from the podium before he could say a word - an act of political repression that outraged thousands in the audience.

This was a major turning point in the FSM. The day after the Greek Theater incident, the faculty in the Academic Senate voted overwhelmingly to back the FSM's central demand that the university cease regulating the content of speech on campus. Aptheker would go on to play a leadership role in the student movement against the war in Vietnam, the movement to free Angela Davis, Feminist and LGBTQ+ studies, and as prolific author and professor at UC Santa Cruz, and a crusader against child abuse.

Nor was Aptheker the only politically skilled woman on the FSM Steering Committee.

Philosophy graduate student Suzanne Goldberg was also an influential voice. Goldberg co-authored with Savio the Steering Committee letter to President Kerr just before the FSM's culminating sit-in, informing Kerr that unless the free speech restrictions and threats of disciplinary action were lifted mass civil disobedience would result. The Steering Committee's lone conservative Mona Hutchin, a libertarian who would later make headlines defying the sexist restrictions on women riding on the running boards of San Francisco's cable cars. And the leader of the so-called "moderates'" student revolt against the FSM leadership, which caused a brief but serious crisis within the FSM, was Jo Freeman of the Young Democrats, who would go on the become a prominent feminist author and activist.

Since the FSM was a mass movement, heavily dependent on grassroots support and volunteer labor, it would be inappropriate to discuss women's role in the FSM only in terms of leadership at the top. Female student labor in the rank and file, at the various FSM "centrals" where such vital tasks as campus communications and press relations were handled, was also crucial to the FSM's success. Many key logistical and support tasks of the volunteer labor in the FSM centrals was coordinated by Marilyn Noble and Kathleen Piper. And though the most famous FSM arrest was that of Jack Weinberg, since it sparked the police car blockade in October 1964, two month later women activists represented a major part of the mass of arrestees in the FSM in its culminating sit-in at Sproul Hall - at least 289 of the 778 arrestees were women.

It would be false to depict the FSM, a movement that erupted before second wave feminism had surged and raised consciousness about sexual inequality, as a completely egalitarian movement on gender. Women veterans of the FSM, most notably Aptheker, point to the ways that women's ideas were often devalued, women were talked over by men in FSM executive committee meetings, and women were mistreated as sex objects. And there were instances where women's contributions to the movement were slighted. The report movement activists wrote on the history of political repression at Cal, a research project co-led by Lynne Hollander and Michael Rossman, was dubbed "the Rossman Report." Still, it is true that within the FSM women were more prominent in leadership positions than was the case with early SDS, suggesting how contradictory and complex FSM history is on gender.

The sexual dynamics of the FSM and women's place in the Berkeley student movement have yet to find their historian, and they never will unless historians break with the tendency of writers like Menand to misread the FSM by gendering it male.

March 21, 2021

To the Editor

Louis Menand’s piece “Change your Life: The lessons of the New Left” (March 22) focuses a great deal of its attention on the Free Speech Movement, in which I participated as a member of its steering committee. He makes quite a few errors and misses some key points about it and about the New Left. The Women’s Liberation Movement was a root component of both, which Menand fails to see. Evidence for this abounds in the numbers of women who led and were involved in both and the transformation of consciousness that resulted. New Left men especially in SDS were not ‘indifferent’ to the women’s movement, they were hostile to it. FSM was not a ‘parochial affair’; it had national and international repercussions. It united more than two-thirds of the student body in opposition to university regulations that had been in place for decades not only at Berkeley but across the country. These regulations had banned communist speakers, or others deemed ‘controversial,’ and prohibited all manner of student speech, assembly, leafleting, tabling, and so on. FSM was above all else, a consequence and extension of the Black led, student supported civil rights movement in the SF Bay Area. Following the election of Byron Rumford, the first Black person elected to the California State legislature in 1962, that movement grew and mounted successful mass protests and sit-ins, in 1963 and the spring of 1964, to challenge generations of racial discrimination in hiring practices in SF’s fast food and hotel industries and its ‘auto row.’ We had just begun to take on the Bank of America, when the administrative gauntlet was thrown down. Likewise, Menand unfortunately missed the most powerful moment in FSM’s history. Following our arrests, which he accurately describes, there was a student strike, including by graduate students. It was sanctioned by the Central Labor Council and the Teamsters. It effectively shut down the campus. This is what preceded the faculty meeting Menand recounts. FSM did not ‘set a trap’ for the university’s president, Clark Kerr.  It built an irresistible mass movement in defense of the First Amendment. Menand accurately reports on the faculty meeting that supported FSM’s demands, but he misses its meaning. It was the faculty vote that broke the back of Regental resistance to changing their regulations, to ‘not go beyond the purview of the First and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.’  A national sweep of regulatory changes in public universities and colleges across the country followed, finally crushing the last remnants of the 1950s McCarthy repression and purges. This then gave further impetus to waves of campus protests against the war in Vietnam, in support of Black-led movements for racial justice, and the explosion in feminist consciousness. Changes in university and college curriculum came shortly thereafter when students initiated massive campaigns for Black and Third World studies, and a few years later, Women’s Studies. 

Bettina Aptheker
Distinguished Professor Emerita

*****************************************************************************************

Lee Felsenstein
2460 Park Blvd. #1
Palo Alto, CA 94306
650-814-0427
21 Mar 2021


The New Yorker
To the Editor,

Louis Menand’s article “Change Your Life” (Mar. 22) while aptly titled, falls just an inch short of the target. By focusing purely on the subjective outcome of the New Left (as represented almost entirely by the Free Speech Movement) “...the sense that your words and actions matter, that you matter...” as the net outcome of the whole effort, Menand fails to note the body of objective outcomes that made a vast difference not only in the participants’ lives but in the world.

As a participant in the Free Speech Movement and as the founder (in 1998) of The Free Speech Movement Archives (www.fsm-a.org), I can speak with at least a bit of authority. FSM was nearly unique in the fact that it was successful – and disbanded shortly after its aims were achieved.

Success was not a regular feature of radical fiction of preceding decades – the climactic struggle was always lost, leaving the reader with the resolution that some day the revolution would succeed. In our case it did succeed, and though the objectives were limited the results were not – we overthrew the order of in loco parentis through which the university controlled our lives. And the big outcome would not become visible for a year or so.

I cite the FSM as the proximate cause of the counterculture – as far as can be told a large number of students, realizing that their interests lay elsewhere, left the university that year and struck out for San Francisco and points north, south and east, with many forming the nucleus of what was to be the Haight-Ashbury. Nearly every veteran of the event has a tale to tell of how their lives took an unexpected turn as a result of their Berkeley experience.

Reading the conclusion of Menand’s article one could be excused for feeling as if one had just finished one of those old radical novels – thinking “yes, someday in the future right will prevail, though not yet”. Forgive my umbrage – we DID prevail, and we helped make a significant dent in the universe, one which we hope to be extended in years to come.

 

6/10/2017

Recently the on-line publication,Truthout posted Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda and Beezer de Martelly's article "The Home of Free Speech: A Critical Perspective on UC Berkeley's Coalition with the Far Right," which offers one of the most distorted and misleading histories ever published on the Free Speech Movement.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/40608-the-home-of-free-speech-a-critical-perspective-on-uc-berkeley-s-coalition-with-the-far-right

The article miscasts the Free Speech Movement as anti-radical in a crude attempt to discredit the cause of free speech, past and present. As veterans and historians of the FSM we offer the following corrective to this article and share it with the Berkeley community in the interests of historical accuracy. We believe this is especially important today since our campus community this past year has faced numerous challenges to its free speech tradition, and if that tradition is to endure its history needs to be understood not distorted.

The authors contend that the Free Speech Movement transformed Berkeley's militant anti-racist student movement into a "politically tepid" struggle over student free speech rights. "Politically tepid?" The free speech struggle at Berkeley in 1964 resulted in the first use of mass civil disobedience on a university campus. This included a 32 hour human blockade around a police car on campus, mass sit-ins in the administration building that culminated in December 1964 with the arrest of close to 800 in the FSM's culminating occupation of Sproul Hall (the largest mass arrest in California's history and the largest in the history of American higher education). All this sparked a TA strike and student boycott of classes, as well as a faculty revolt against the UC administration that ended the university's restrictions on free speech.

The authors seem blind to the anti-racist character of the Free Speech Movement. The protester whose arrest on Sproul Plaza ignited the police car sit-in was civil rights worker Jack Weinberg, who was staffing a campus CORE table when he was arrested. Mario Savio, who was the FSM's leading spokesperson was a veteran of both the Bay Area Civil Rights Movement and Mississippi Freedom Summer. He opposed UC's free speech ban in part because he saw it as an attempt to suppress the student wing of that movement. So did national civil rights leaders John Lewis and James Farmer, who endorsed the FSM's struggle for free speech as a vital defense of the civil rights movement. The reason the FSM refused the administration's "compromise" solution to the free speech dispute, a compromise that would have banned only "unlawful" advocacy, was because this would have stood in the way of the students' continued use of civil disobedience in their struggles against racism and for free speech.

It is true that in the second half of the 1960s the Berkeley student movement's focus was often on issues other than racial discrimination in the US, but this was not because the FSM depoliticized the movement, as the authors suggest; it was because stopping the unjust, brutal, and racist US war in Vietnam became such a consuming struggle (A struggle supported by SNCC as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Berkeley became a national center of resistance to that war.

The free speech rights won by the FSM helped make this antiwar activism possible and paved the way for the late 1960s struggles for greater representation and curricular change by students of color and for the feminist, LGBTQ, anti-apartheid, TA and staff unionization and Occupy Cal movements since the 1960s. Given Berkeley's reputation as a national center of student activism -- which the FSM helped to establish -- the authors' argument that the FSM depoliticized the Berkeley student movement is ludicrous.

Their attempt to read the FSM through the lens of right wing professor John Searle's political biography is bizarre. The FSM was a student movement. Searle was not a Berkeley student. Yes back in 1964 (before his rightward shift) Searle did support the FSM, but so did many other Berkeley professors. In fact the faculty group supporting the FSM was known as the Committee of 200 so there was nothing singular about Searle. There is no connection whatsoever between the FSM and Searle's alleged acts of sexual harassment, and implying such a connection is both inaccurate and slanderous to a movement whose leaders included women such as Bettina Aptheker and Jackie Goldberg who would later become prominent in the feminist and LGBTQ movements.

Yes it is true that students of all political stripes supported the FSM's free speech struggle. The authors see this is a horrible weakness, but politically student movements are more powerful if they can champion such unity. The authors are offended that the FSM Steering Committee included Mona Hutchin on the right. But it is unclear why this should be scorned. The Left dominated the Committee but saw no need to monopolize it and neither do we. Hutchin, by the way, was a libertarian who would later get arrested winning for women the right to stand outside on San Francisco's cable cars.

The authors are quite wrong to suggest that ever since the FSM the Berkeley administration has romanticized that student movement. It was veterans of the FSM and subsequent generations of student activists not the administration, who in the first decades after the FSM commemorated that struggle. On the tenth anniversary, the UC administration would not allow the installation of an art piece on Berkeley's campus commemorating the FSM if it even mentioned the movement's name, claiming it was too divisive. FSM veterans and student activists used FSM commemorations not for 1960s nostalgia but to continue the struggle for social justice and peace, defending immigrant rights, affirmative action, and opposing US imperialism and apartheid. Mario Savio's speeches at the FSM's 20th and 30th anniversary commemorations in 1984 and 1994 were as ardently anti-racist as any of his speeches in the 1960s.

It is true that following Mario's death in 1996 the University of California, prodded by a generous gift from an FSM-era alum and by lobbying by Cal's student government, finally moved to honor the FSM and Savio. Given this history of courageous and progressive struggle such recognition was long overdue.

The authors are correct that in Trump era the far right has been waving the banner of free speech to distract from its hateful bigotry. But that's no reason for them to slander the Free Speech Movement a la Searle, and to falsely paint it as de-politicizing or right wing.

The Free Speech Movement Archives Board
Lee Felsenstein, President, Anita Medal, Treasurer, Gar Smith, Secretary.
Board Members: Bettina Aptheker, Robert Cohen, Susan Druding, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Steve Lustig, Jack Radey, Barbara Stack

 

http://www.dailycal.org/2017/01/17/free-speech-movement-veterans-historians-comment-milo-yiannopoulos-free-speech-controversy/

The Daily Californian
1/17/2017

Free Speech Movement veterans and historians comment on Milo Yiannopoulos free speech controversy

To the Editor:

As veterans and historians of the Free Speech Movement, we are writing to comment on the forthcoming visit to Berkeley of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos is a bigot who comes to campus spouting vitriol so as to attract attention to himself. His modus operandi is to bait students of color, transgender students and anyone to the left of Donald Trump in the hopes of sparking a speaking ban or physical altercation so he can pose as a free speech martyr. His campus events are one long publicity stunt designed to present himself as a kind of hip, far right, youth folk hero — sort of Hitler Youth with cool sunglasses. “Look at me, I’m so rad, the PC police won’t let me speak on campus.” That’s his whole shtick in a nutshell, along with bigotry.

Banning him just plays into his hands politically, which is one reason why we were glad to see the UC administration refuse to adopt such a ban. True to form, however, Yiannopoulos and his Berkeley College Republican sponsors nonetheless put on their phony free speech martyrdom routine when the administration asked them to pay for security needed to ensure that the incendiary bigotry of their event does not end in bloodshed.

Berkeley’s free speech tradition, won through struggle — suspension, arrest, fines, jail time — by Free Speech Movement activists is far more important than Yiannopoulos, and it is that tradition’s endurance that concerns us. “The content of speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university”: That’s what the pivotal Dec. 8 resolution says, as adopted by the Berkeley faculty’s Academic Senate when it finally backed the FSM’s free speech demand in 1964. Under the terms of that resolution, even the worst kind of bigot, including Yiannopoulos, must be allowed to speak on campus. So the UC administration was acting in accord with those principles when it refused to ban Yiannopoulos.

We were thus disappointed that so many Berkeley faculty signed an open letter supporting such a ban and criticizing the UC administration for refusing to ban Yiannopoulos. The best way to battle his bigoted discourse is to critique and refute it. And really, that is not hard to do. Just have a look at his speeches, which are devoid of logic and humanity. For example, one of his speeches we read online finds him arguing against criticism of racial slavery in the U.S. since many societies had slavery, which is basically a kind of moral relativism for dummies. If even a 10th of the 100 or so faculty who signed those pro-ban open letters showed up to ask this bigot tough questions or held a teach-in about what’s wrong and unethical in his vitriol (and in the rest of the so called “alt right”), they could puncture his PR bubble instantly, avoid casting him in the role of free speech martyr and prove that the best cure for ignorant and hateful speech is speech that unmasks its illogic, cruelty and stupidity. At a time when we have a bigoted president taking office in the White House it seems especially important for universities to expose and refute bigoted speakers — banning them evades that responsibility.

We urge students to express their opposition to the bigotry of Yiannopoulos and all speakers on campus whose views are hateful, and to do so non-violently, in ways that do not prevent such speakers from making or completing their remarks. Those tempted  to block access to or disrupt speeches by such reactionaries should resist that temptation and reflect on FSM leader Mario Savio’s criticism of the disruption of  UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick’s speech  at Berkeley in the Reagan era. Savio said that, for the sake of Berkeley’s “very precious” tradition of free speech, Kirkpatrick had to be accorded the right to speak. While conceding that her militaristic views might seem intolerable, Mario argued that “for our own good we need to find ways of tolerating what is almost intolerable.” Making a distinction between heckling (raising tough questions in a robust manner) and disruption (drowning out or in some other way preventing the speaker from completing her remarks), Savio urged protesters “to stay on this side of the line that separates heckling from disruption.” This would “prevent what she represents from crushing our liberties—which we can use … to oppose and I hope eliminate what she represents.”

Finally, this whole controversy leads us to call on the Berkeley College Republicans to reflect on their own approach to organizing. While you do have the right to sponsor hateful speakers, how does it serve the campus community, your classmates, or the party of Lincoln to do so?

Board of Directors,
Free Speech Movement Archives
Robert Cohen, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Steve Lustig, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack

 


July 29, 2015
Statement by the Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives:
As leaders and organizers of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and representatives of the FSM Archives, we are proud to take part in this Journey for Justice. We won, in Berkeley in 1964, the right to organize sit-ins and demonstrations without being sanctioned as students; we won recognition for teaching and research assistance as workers; and we won a deep sense that as individuals, even as students, even as workers, even in debt, marginalized, and far from the seats of power, we had worth, rights under the US Constitution, and the responsibility to exercise those rights and strengthen them. We drew inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, and that struggle is not over.  We took as our own specific focus the maintenance of the right of free speech and assembly, organization and demonstration, free from prior restraint by fear of loss of standing or livelihood, and that struggle is not over either. As we move forward, the spirit of every movement veteran, the strength of every hand put on the freedom plow, is with us in the ongoing Journey for Justice.

 

 

A Statement of Concern from The Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives

April 4, 2015

To: NYU President John Sexton;
NYU President-designate Andrew Hamilton

The dictionary defines academic freedom as the "liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference."

On March 15, 2015, that freedom was squelched by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when it prevented NYU Professor Andrew Ross from boarding a flight from New York to Abu Dhabi, where he hoped to investigate local labor practices – including the reported exploitation of migrant workers contracted to build the university's campus in Abu Dhabi.

Though the UAE cited "security concerns" as the reason for the ban, it is evident that Professor Ross was barred from making this research trip because he has spoken openly of the role of Emirati and foreign employers in perpetuating the systemic abuses of workers in the Emirates and other Gulf states.

The board of the Free Speech Movement Archive condemns this violation of academic freedom and urges NYU's President to protest this violation and to demand the restoration of academic freedom as a condition for its continued participation in the operations of the Abu Dhabi campus.

As veterans and historians of Berkeley's historic Free Speech Movement, we know that the free exchange of ideas is a precious liberty that can only be won and preserved through struggle. Now is the time for NYU to show its commitment to that struggle and to freedom itself.

The Free Speech Movement Archives was founded by veterans of the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement. The FSM-A website has been cited in The Infography as one of the most excellent sources of information available for learning about "Social Movements of the 1960s."

This statement represents a majority consensus of the FSM Archives Board.

 

November 24, 2014

The Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives is in solidarity with UC state-wide protests against increased tuition fees.  In raising tuition, the Regents are in direct violation of the Master Plan for Higher Education, the Donahoe Act, signed into law by Governor "Pat" Brown on April 27, 1960.

This standing law guarantees that tuition at the UC campuses will never be charged, in order to make higher education in the state accessible to all people.  Whether the discriminatory charges are called tuition or fees, they violate the guiding principle of the law: that higher education ought to be available to all eligible California high school graduates regardless of their economic means.

 We also call on the Governor and the State Legislature to live up to their responsibilities, as required by the CA Education Code, "to ensure that resources are provided" to permit all eligible students  wishing to attend the University of California to do so, without demanding reductions in the quality of the UC education offered to them.

Signed,

The Board of Directors of the Free Speech Movement Archives

Lee Felsenstein, Gar Smith, Anita Medal, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Jack Radey, Barbara Stack, Robert Cohen

 

September 16, 2014

Dear Chancellor Dirks,

The Free Speech Movement Archives and the Organizing Committee for the FSM 50th Anniversary would like to thank you for generously supporting our efforts to commemorate the Free Speech Movement and to keep the memory of those events alive. We look forward to seeing you at our reunion.

In the spirit of civil discourse, we would like to bring to your attention some history regarding the question of what the movement was about, what we won, and what it means for the campus today. In your email to the campus community on Friday, Sept. 5, you said, “The boundaries between protected speech and unprotected speech, between free speech and political advocacy, between debate and demagoguery… have never been fully settled.”

In fact, these questions were fully settled. On Dec. 8, 1964, the Berkeley Academic Senate adopted a resolution stating that “the content of speech or advocacy shall not be restricted by the University.” This resolution was then reinforced by the regents’ resolution on Dec. 14, 1964, which stated, “Henceforth University regulations will not go beyond the purview of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”

In celebrating the half century that the campus has been “a symbol and embodiment” of the idea of free speech, you are proudly and properly acknowledging the outcome produced by the movement in the fall of 1964. But your statement seems to miss the central point. The struggle of the movement was all about the right to political advocacy on campus. The UC administration of that time insisted it would not permit on-campus speech on advocating student participation in off-campus demonstrations that might lead to arrests. The African-American Civil Rights Movement was then at its height, and students rejected these restrictions. This attempt to restrict our rights produced the Free Speech Movement.

It is precisely the right to speech on subjects that are divisive, controversial and capable of arousing strong feelings that we fought for in 1964. From the roof of the police car blockaded in Sproul Plaza, we heard a song written by UC graduate Malvina Reynolds — who earned a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. — that summed up our feelings toward the UC administration and others who were then trying to rein in the Civil Rights Movement. The song was titled “It Isn’t Nice.”

“It isn’t nice to block the doorway. It isn’t nice to go to jail.

There are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.

It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,

You told us once. You told us twice.

But if that is freedom’s price, we don’t mind.”

We note that the charge of “uncivility” was recently used by Chancellor Phyllis Wise of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to justify the discharge of professor Steven Salaita following controversial statements he posted on his Twitter account. For this reason, many read the call for civility in your letter as a potential threat to academic freedom and to freedom of speech.

We understand you have issued no regulation nor taken any steps to restrict political advocacy or “uncivil” speech on campus. Nonetheless, we are concerned that your call for “civility” may have — or already has had — a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech by UC Berkeley faculty and students. Therefore, we welcome your Sept. 12 message that you do not intend to limit or regulate speech on campus, and we ask that you take every opportunity, during this 50th-anniversary semester, to reaffirm the policy that — as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First and 14th Amendments — the content of speech or advocacy shall not be restricted by the university. We thank you for your email clarifying that you are fully committed to uphold and affirm the proud traditions established on campus 50 years ago.

Signed,

The Board of Directors of the Free Speech Movement Archives and the 50th Anniversary Organizing Committee

Lee Felsenstein, Gar Smith, Anita Medal, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Jack Radey, Barbara Stack, Steve Lustig, Karen McLellan, Mike Smith, Dana MacDermott, Jack Weinberg and Margy Wilkinson

 

Sunday, November 13, 2011
An appeal to the UC administration to restore Berkeley’s free speech tradition

We the undersigned Free Speech Movement (FSM) veterans and historians remind the UC administration that the university’s emergence as a center of free political expression on campus began in 1964 when the Free Speech Movement’s free speech principles were adopted by the UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate in its historic Dec. 8 resolutions. Those resolutions affirmed the “content of free speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university.” The resolutions established that there would be no restrictions on campus political expression but only on “time, place and manner,” meaning protests cannot interfere with classes or interfere “with the normal functions of the university.” The administration’s unilateral ban on tents and on a peaceful encampment on the lawn alongside Sproul Hall (that neither interfered with classes nor prevented the “normal functions of the university”) clearly encroached on the free speech rights established by the Dec. 8 resolutions. In other words, the UC administration’s confrontational actions violated the university’s own free speech principles and policies, encroaching upon Berkeley’s historic free speech traditions.

This act of political repression threatens to return UC Berkeley to the pre-FSM era in which speech was freer off campus than on campus. Indeed, today there is greater free speech in New York’s Zucotti Park — where the dissident Occupy Wall Street encampment has been allowed to continue for months — than on the Berkeley campus. The fact that there is greater personal freedom in a park in Manhattan than on a public university campus in Berkeley should be a mark of shame for this administration. The fact that the UC administration chose to enforce its ban on a non-violent student encampment by inviting on to campus armed police and county sheriffs who violently attacked unarmed students is an affront to the very mission of the university.

We urge the University of California administration to cease and desist its violations of the Dec. 8 resolutions, to forswear and abandon all future use of police violence against law-abiding students and faculty, and to restore the campus to its historic free speech traditions.

— Bettina Aptheker, Robert Cohen, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander, Colleen Lye, Anita Medal, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack

 

Friday November 11, 2011
Statement on UC Police Violence from Veterans of the 1964 Free Speech Movement
Members of the Free Speech Movement Archives (www.FSM-A.com): Bettina Aptheker, Robby Cohen, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Lynne Hollander, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Jackie Goldberg and Barbara Stack

As veterans and historians of the 1964 Free Speech Movement that established the rights of students to freely express their concerns over critical social issues within the boundaries of the University of California's campus, we were shocked by the actions of campus police who seized banners from students peacefully demonstrating in Sproul Plaza and on the Sproul Steps.

We join Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington in demanding that the banners be returned and that University Administrators condemn this unconscionable police assault on Free Speech.

The University is a commons dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. It appears that the campus police are in need of remedial education concerning fundamental protections offered by the US Constitution -- including First Amendment rights to Free Speech and Free Assembly that were clearly recognized and enshrined on the UCB campus 47 years ago on these very steps.

We further condemn the actions of the armed police who beat and arrested students and faculty. We deplore the decision of University officials who, once again, opened the campus to armed and club-wielding Alameda County sheriffs. And we applaud the inspiring example of the students who bravely and nonviolently held their ground against police batons.