THE ASUC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND THE KERR DIRECTIVES
[This report is based on information in
ASUC ExCom minutes (10/59-4/60) and issues of the Daily Californian (5/60-10/60)]
On October 23, 1959. President Clark Kerr
issued three directives concerning (1) rules governing the student governments of the
various campuses, (2) the rules and requirements which student organizations must follow
to be recognized by the University, and (3) rules governing the use of University
facilities. According to Dean of Students William Shepard, the Kerr Directives codified
existing policy, clarifying the limits of the authority of student government. The
Directives (Daily Cal., 4/29/60 ". . . are a basic part of a
decentralization and a transfer of authority from the President of the University to the
Chancellors and Provosts of the various campuses." These directives were drawn up
without consulting the student body, and, because they prohibited ExCom from action, are
an unwarranted restriction of the role of the student body in the larger community.
SLATE sent representatives to ExCom
(10/29/59) to voice support for any protest against the President's Directives which ExCom
might make, and ExCom did draft a letter of protest which President Kerr acknowledged
(11/9/59) and answered with some amplification to the effect that the Directives were,
after all, reasonable.
In the November 10th meeting of ExCom, Dean
Shepard ruled that ExCom could take a stand on issues of national and international
concern as part of ASUC's participation in NSA as long as the issues involve student
activities (Dean Shepard admitted at the time that he was unfamiliar with NSA). Section 5
of the Directives was clarified: freedom of the press to take a stand on all issues as
long as no claim of representing the University or student body was made was extended not
only to the Daily Californian but to all campus publications.
On November 17, in ExCom, a motion to set up
a Committee on Directives Clarification was defeated; fears that more clarification would
result in more restrictions were voiced. A letter was drafted to be sent to all U. C.
campuses. This letter disassociated the ASUC from SLATE activities and took a firm stand
against "rebellion" (picketing against the Kerr Directives, demonstrating,
On December 8th, ExCom respectfully requested
"further modification of the Directives in regard to the regulation of student
government." The ExCom felt that student government should have the opportunity to
take positions on off-campus issues, making no claim, as the Academic Freedoms Committee
suggested, to represent the entire student body opinion. This request was submitted in
response to a statement from President Kerr which specified, among other clarifications of
the Directives, that ". . . student organizations can take positions on off-campus
issues if they don't act in the name of the University or as a representative of the
student body as a whole." Because these student organizations are voluntary in
membership and exercise no administrative authority for the University, they are not under
the same restrictions as the student gov't.
On Feb. 9th, ExCom recognized a resolution
passed by the Executive Council of the NSA which called the Kerr Directives a direct
restriction of the freedom of ideas. ExCom resolved to inform NSA of the President's
recent clarifications of the Directives. The question of whether ExCom was permitted to
take a stand on Hungarian student atrocities was raised. Dean Shepard said that ExCom
could take a stand.
In the ExCom meeting of March 1, 1960, two
motions were introduced seeking to alter ExCom procedure in accordance with the spirit of
the Kerr Directives. First, protest letters were to record both the abstaining and
dissenting votes as well as the members' reasons for voting if the voters so desired.
Second, all matters not directly affecting this campus or its students should be
considered by ExCom for a maximum of 20 minutes. (This motion was defeated.)
A motion introduced March 22 and passed on
March 29th directed the establishment of an ad hoc Committee of Students against Racial
Discrimination, which would collect funds for Southern students' legal and emergency food
expenses. Dean Shepard agreed with the concept but ruled that the motion would have to be
reworded to meet the requirements of the Kerr Directives. (ExCom obliged). Dean Shepard
also warned that according to the Directives funds could not be solicited on campus,
though they could be solicited off campus. Also, communications to Congress would have to
be approved by the President.
On May 3rd, ExCom passed a motion which
directed the establishment of an ASUC Student Forum to debate issues of importance,
including off-campus issues not directly pertaining to students per se. At the
same meeting, ExCom took its first decisive stand on an off-campus issue which violated
the Kerr Directives: the Koch case. Leo Koch, a professor at the University of Illinois,
was dismissed in April 1960 after a letter of his, advocating the practice of premarital
sexual relations by mature adults, appeared on the editorial page of the Daily Illinois,
the student newspaper of the University of Illinois. ExCom sent a letter to the
administration of the University of Illinois protesting the dismissal of Koch as a
violation of academic freedom of expression. ExCom's action was labeled by Dean Shepard a
"direct violation of the Kerr Directives" (Daily Cal May 4 '60).
ExCom was ordered by University Chancellor
Glen T. Seaborg to rescind the letter protesting Koch's dismissal. Vice Chancellor Alex C.
Sherrifs, speaking for Chancellor Seaborg and himself, threatened possible "drastic
changes in student government if ExCom refused to rescind its letter (Daily Cal May 6,
1960). In an editorial in the May 9th edition, the Daily Californian announced that
"The Chancellor's office also indicated that ExCom, in the future, would not be
allowed to take a stand on such issues as discrimination in Berkeley housing, and might
not be able to take a stand on academic freedom at the University of California. (The
Chancellor's office said it had to do some checking on this particular issue because it
might be within the realm of student interest.)" In support of the administration,
ExCom member Steve Pace filed a complaint charging ExCom with "misconduct of
office." This case was dismissed by the ASUC Judicial Committee. A second complaint
on the basis of Art. III, sec. 4 of the ASUC Constitution was also dismissed.
ExCom refused to rescind its action in the
Koch case and sent a letter reaffirming its opposition to the Kerr Directives to President
Kerr. The letter requested a meeting with the President and the Chancellor to discuss the
Directives. Acknowledging this letter, Chancellor Seaborg wrote to ASUC President Dave
Armor: "Since the Executive Committee of the Associated Students of the University of
California, Berkeley, in its Action of May 3, 1960 exceeded the limits of its authority, I
hereby declare this action null and void and am so informing the President of the
University of Illinois by carbon copy of this letter."
President Kerr issued a statement to the
effect that students wishing to take stands on off-campus issues should do so through
voluntary associations or organizations only. Concurrently, President Kerr issued a
statement to the effect that students demonstrating against HUAC were acting outside the
sphere of the University and in no way represented the University (Daily Cal May 16,
In a surprise private meeting reported in the
May 19th 1960 editorial of the Daily Cal, ExCom threatened to dismiss the Daily Cal
editor-elect, managing editor-elect, city editor-elect and assistant editor-elect because
of an editorial policy emphasizing off-campus issues rather than ASUC activity news.
The June 22, 1960 issue of the Daily Cal
announced that: "The Board of Regents last month authorized President Clark Kerr to
end compulsory membership in the ASUC and make the Association voluntary if he felt such
an act necessary." The Student Affairs Committee had embarked on a study of the
question of voluntary vs. compulsory membership in the ASUC. The Daily Cal editorial
speculated that voluntary membership would lead to the extinction of the ASUC. By August
3, 1960, however, the Student Affairs Committee had recommended that the ASUC retain its
compulsory membership, and the ASUC embarked on major plans for reorganization.
The Summer Conference (1960) of the NSA
resolved that students rather than University administration should determine the scope of
student government and asked for a modification of the Kerr Directives.
President Kerr then issued a clarification of
the Directives to the effect that ExCom members could take stands on off-campus issues as
individuals but not as official representatives of student government. At the same time,
President Kerr announced that a new amendment to the regulations on student government
divested the chief campus officer of the authority to allow student government to take
stands on off-campus issues with his prior consent. Previous to this amendment, the
possibility existed that an off-campus issue might arise on which student opinion was
united to the extent that ExCom could speak for the entire student body with the
permission of the chief campus officer. The new amendment nullified this possibility. ASUC
President George Link declared that the Kerr Directives Controversy was now over.
On Oct. 14, 1960, the Daily Cal reported that
Dean Shepard "stated that his rulings on the status of an issue (i.e. whether ExCom
could or could not take a stand on it) are now based on whether or not that issue is
pertinent to the role of ExCom as administrator of the activities program." By Oct.
19, 1960, ExCom had approved an amendment to the rules of procedure providing that motions
requiring a disclaimer (i.e. motions on issues on which ExCom could not take an official
position) were to be placed last on the agenda of new business. However, a motion to refer
off-campus issues to the Student Forum if one third of ExCom's voting membership so moved
-- Sue Ann Hartley