Appendix D: The Removal of the Communist Speaker Ban - fall 1964

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     In 1951 the University formalized a ban on all American Communist speakers. The ban was one result of the political repression of the McCarthy era. Not until the Summer of 1963, however, was the ban finally lifted by the Regents. In the increasingly liberal atmosphere of the University campuses after 1960 many protests against this ban were made. Nevertheless, the Regents did not act on this issue until faced with a lawsuit involving the relationship between University policies and Constitutional guarantees. The activity which was to become the focus of the Speaker Ban controversy began on the Riverside campus early in the Spring of 1962. Declare, a student political party at Riverside, arranged for a panel discussion involving both right-wing Republicans and Communists. Declare members, at the time they were arranging the panel, knew of the University ruling banning Communist speakers, but they did not think that an institution devoted to the search for truth would enforce it. But the University did. As a test case, Declare, with the advice of the ACLU, scheduled a debate between Dorothy Healey, a prominent Communist, and conservative Republican Loyd Wright, which the Administration again refused to permit. (The information in this paragraph is taken from a report in the Liberal Democrat, August 1962, pp. 10-11.)

     A hearing by the Riverside Superior Court took place in May 1962. Declare attorneys contended that the regulation was in violation of the fourteenth amendment. The Declare case was defeated and litigation was continued in appeal to the State Supreme Court. (Ibid.)

     The Spring semester of 1962 also saw a variety of protests of the Speaker Ban on the Berkeley campus, which were given impetus by the Riverside suit. In February 1962 Dorothy Healy spoke to students off-campus at the Hillel Foundation (D.C., 2/15/62). On February 27, the Executive Committee of the ASUC passed a resolution, by a vote of 13-1, requesting the President to lift the ban on Communist speakers, in accord with "the ideal of a free and open forum on the University campus for expression of all points of view." (ExCom Minutes, 2/27/62.) On May 15 ExCom reaffirmed its position. Also in May, a protest rally was held in Dwinelle Plaza (D.C. May 16) A survey of students undertaken by a Sociology class revealed that by an overwhelming majority -- 79% to 18% -- the students polled believed that Communists should be allowed to speak on campus. On June 20, a petition was presented to the Regents, requesting them to remove "the censorship power over off-campus accordance with...the 'Open Forum Policy' " This petition received 4,748 signatures from members of the University community at four campuses; 2556 of these came from the Berkeley campus. (Letter from Bob Phillips to Edwin Pauley, June 20, 1962.)

     What was the Administration's reaction to these protests? There is no doubt that many members of the Administration supported removal of the ban. The attitude of the Regents was seen as the chief obstacle to change. Repeatedly, members of the Administration expressed the fear that some of the liberties of the Open Forum would be endangered by lifting the ban. On May 17, 1962 Alex Sherriffs was quoted in the Daily Cal as having said on two occasions, "If the University is compelled to have all speakers, it won't have any speakers." Officially, however, the Administration maintained the validity of its position. Almost a year later, Sherriffs claimed at a public meeting that in the event the ban was lifted, Communist Party members would wish to speak here to undermine the University by virtue of the criticism that would be brought upon it for letting them speak. ("Report on the Discussion between the SCLU Discussion Committee and the Berkeley Campus Administration...", April 1963, p. 5.) At the same meeting, Chancellor Strong admitted that the ban was "not consistent" with the Open Forum policy. He said, however, that prudence required that the ban be retained.

     No action was taken on the ban for over a year after the protests of 1962. The Riverside suit had received its first defeat in May, but the possibility of bringing it to the State Supreme Court remained. Little was heard on the issue from any quarter; the pending court case had pre-empted the field of protest. In February 1963 the regulation continued to be strictly enforced. Herbert Apthecker was not permitted to speak on an academic subject before the History Department on campus.

     In the Spring of 1963, Administrative discussion of the issue became more frequent. It had become apparent that the lawsuit was to be decisive. The suit was filed finally in April, and Kerr stated that some of the Regents were waiting to see the results of the Riverside case before making a decision. (D.C., April 22) Chancellor Strong said that if the courts determined that Communists would have to be permitted if any off-campus speakers were permitted, the rules authorizing the presentation of off-campus speakers might be revised. ("Report on the Discussion...", p. 5)

     Then, on May 14, the ACLU dropped the Riverside suit. One of their lawyers explained: "We felt the presence of the suit might cause the University Regents to defer action until after the question was settled in court." (D.C. May 15.) What caused this sudden change after a legal struggle lasting over a year? It was true that the ACLU had acted to avoid delay. A few days before this announcement, Richard Unwin, one of the students at Riverside who were parties to the test case, had received a telephone call from lawyers of the Southern California ACLU. They informed him that "they had conferred with Dr. Kerr and that, pending withdrawal of the suit, he would indeed lift the ban." (Statement by Mr. Unwin.) On June 21, the Regents issued a statement approving a new policy on off-campus speakers. As Chancellor Strong had predicted two months earlier, there were other revisions in addition to the simple one allowing "any off-campus speaker to... speak on a campus of the University." The presence of a tenured faculty member was now required at meetings with off-campus speakers whenever the Chancellor considered it appropriate.

     The paragraph introducing the new policy statement read as follows: "The Regents of the University of California have confidence in the students of the University and in their judgement in properly evaluating any and all beliefs and ideologies that may be expressed in University facilities by off-campus speakers. This is in the best American tradition." ("U.C. Policies Relating To Students..", Sept.1963) The Regents had not expressed this confidence when they were petitioned to do so by students and faculty. They had not displayed this confidence by yielding to moral suasion. Only later, when certain students were on the verge of success in taking legal means to gain redress, did the Regents find confidence in the students and their judgement.


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