Bungling Friend or Deliberate Enemy?
The issue is free speech.
Early this semester we were
confronted with administrative rulings drastically reducing political activity on campus.
The rights to solicit members, to collect funds, to advocate action in off-campus
projects, rights students have always had at Cal, were abolished by administrative fiat.
The rulings were the response of a single individual, Chancellor Strong, to rightwing
political pressure. They had absolutely no basis in law, reason, tradition, or general
Administration officials frustrated
all our attempts to explain that these rulings were unacceptable restrictions on our
freedom of speech. Rights unexercised are lost, so we finally disregarded the new
restrictions and continued normal campus political activity. In retaliation, the
administration singled out eight participating students and suspended them. When
Chancellor Strong ordered Jack Weinberg's arrest, our protest spontaneously grew to a
massive sit-in around the police car. Under the pressure of this demonstration, Clark Kerr
finally agreed to meet with student representatives, and thirty-three and one-half hours
after Jack's arrest an agreement was signed.
In order to understand the meaning
of that agreement, it is essential to consider the circumstances under which it was
reached. The administration had repeatedly announced to the press, even while the
negotiations were in progress, that it would not accede to the students' demands and that
it would not compromise on any aspect of the new restrictions. Our minimum demands were
that the eight suspended students be reinstated, that Jack immediately be released, and
that the administration meet with us to discuss the new rulings. The administration could
not meet our demands without losing face, we could not accept the new rulings and the
administration's punitive actions without betraying our commitment to free speech.
However, the situation of Friday evening was explosive. Hundreds of policemen, armed with
clubs, were ready to move in on the crowd of demonstrators and make mass arrests. An
agreement had to be reached.
Since the administration could not
lose face, the agreement had to be worded to allow intermediate agencies to make the
concessions we demanded. Thus the cases of the eight students were to be turned over to
the Student Conduct Committee of the Academic Senate and acted on within a week, Jack was
to be booked but then released, and a joint faculty-student- administration committee was
to be set up to review the new restrictions and make recommendations to the
administration. President Kerr assured us that he would consider carefully our
recommendations for members to sit on this committee and told us that we had to have some
trust in the administration.
Now, what has happened to this
agreement? The cases of the suspended students were supposed to be referred to the Student
Conduct Committee of the Academic Senate, but no such committee of the Academic Senate
exists. In fact, the cases were referred to a committee appointed by Chancellor Strong.
The duration of the suspensions was to be decided within a week. Almost two weeks have
passed and the students have not had a hearing before any committee at all. President Kerr
promised to consider student recommendations for the joint faculty-student-administration
committee, yet when the Free Speech Movement to contact him during the weekend with its
recommendations, he was consistently unavailable. Monday morning the names of the
committee members appeared in the newspapers.
President Kerr had demonstrated bad
faith even before this. As the students, in compliance with the agreement, dispersed from
around the police car, Kerr was holding a press conference. He smeared and red-baited the
entire Free Speech Movement. He said the students used "Communist tactics,"
whatever those are. Forty per cent of the leadership, Kerr said, were non-students (they
were, of course, students suspended by the administration). He even was quoted in the Examiner
of October 3 as saying that 49 per cent of the students "followed the Mao-Castro
President Kerr told us that we
should trust the administration. His statements and actions, from the moment the agreement
was signed, have betrayed our trust.
The agreement is broken, but our
demands remain. How can we achieve them now? It is ridiculous to think that an
administration-appointed committee, whose recommendations will finally be approved or
rejected by the administration, will upset the administration's rules. Why then has the
study committee been set up?
The answer is simple. Committees
mean delay, and delay, even for so short a time as until midterms, means the death of
large-scale student protest. Furthermore, because the joint committee has no power and is
ostensibly a neutral, objective body, it serves as a buffer between the students and the
administration. The recommendations of a committee two-thirds composed of administration
and faculty will be a compromise of our demands. The administration will then compromise
with this compromise. We cannot sit back and allow a third party, however neutral, to
negotiate in our behalf. We cannot settle for less than our full rights as citizens.
As long as we allow the
administration to maintain the initiative, any concessions to free speech will be a
dispensation, not a restoration of our rights. We therefore cannot afford to participate
in their committees, under their rules and their control.
The issue is free speech.