LETTER FROM BERKELEY
By Calvin Trillin
Published originally in The New Yorker, March 13, 1965
March 3, 1965
ONE afternoon just after the spring semester began at the
University of California, I paused on my way to the Berkeley campus to make a tour of the
card tables that had been set up that day by student political organizations on the
Bancroft strip -- a wide brick sidewalk, outside the main entrance to the campus, that had
been the original battlefield of a free-speech controversy that embroiled and threatened
the university for the entire fall semester. There were half a dozen tables, lined up, as
usual, along the campus edge of the sidewalk, and hundreds of students were streaming past
them onto the campus. By the time I had crossed the sidewalk to the tables, standup
hawkers had presented me with a flyer announcing the picketing of Oakland restaurants by
the Congress of Racial Equality, a flyer asking for contributions to raise bail for some
earlier demonstrators from the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination, and a homemade
pamphlet called "Some Organizing Ideas: Excerpts from Idea Essay by Lee
Felsenstein." The table at one end of the line was sponsored by the Young Socialist
Alliance, an organization that is ordinarily referred to as Trotskyist, though few people
seem to know just what the implications of that position are in Berkeley, California, in
1965. The Y.S.A. table was being watched over rather casually by a collegiate-looking
young man in a blue blazer; he was reading a book, but would glance up occasionally at
students who stopped to look at his display, which included leaflets in Support of a local
City Council candidate, pamphlets introducing the Y.S.A., and a number of booklets on the
order of "Fidel Castro Denounces Bureaucracy and Sectarianism, Speech of March
The Y.S.A. table was separated from the table of Slate, a campus political party of
left wing but non-sectarian views, by a cardboard sign announcing that placards for the
CORE picketing of Oakland restaurants would be made on the steps of Sproul Hall, the
administration building, the following afternoon. A young man wearing a lapel button
reading "Free Oakland Now" was sitting behind the Slate table and calling out at
intervals that he was selling the "Slate Supplement," a student critique of the
university's courses. His table held not only a pile of "Slate Supplement"s but
also leaflets protesting discrimination in Oakland, a mailing list to be added to by those
interested in receiving Slate literature, a stack of pamphlets about Mississippi put out
by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and a pile of buttons that included two
varieties of the "One Man, One Vote" buttons produced by S.N.C.C., along with
several of the "Free Speech" buttons worn by supporters of Berkeley's Free
Speech Movement, a few "Free Oakland Now" buttons, and one button that said
A student stopped at the Slate table and, indicating a sign that
asked for contributions to the bail fund for the Ad Hoc Committee demonstrators, asked the
Slate representative, "Did you hear about the DuBois Club pulling out of the Ad Hoc
"That's not what happened at all," the Slate
representative replied. "The Ad Hoc Committee broke up. They're having a press
conference at one o'clock, and Mike Myerson's going to explain it."
"Do you expect me to believe any thing in the press?"
the student asked.
"It's their press conference," said the Slate man.
"Mike Myerson is the president of the Ad Hoc Committee."
"That doesn't make any difference," said the student,
and wandered off.
The DuBois Club had the table on the other side of Slate's. A
couple of students were looking over the literature available there -- mostly pamphlets
describing the DuBois Club, plus the various magazines of the American Communist Party --
while the young man in charge discussed the relative merits of two sociology courses with
a friend. At the table next to his, a representative of the California College Republican
Club was explaining to a passing student that that club was the only moderate Republican
club on campus, and, at the table beyond, the Independent Socialist Club was selling
"The Mind of Clark Kerr," a pamphlet criticizing the president of the
university, by the Independent Socialist Club's leader, Hal Draper, which had been one of
the popular pamphlets of the free- speech controversy. At the end of thc row, a girl
wearing a button that said "I Care" was sitting behind a table sponsored by the
Student Committee for Agricultural Labor arguing patiently with a young man who had
stopped by to offer his suggestions. "I think we have to concentrate on organization
at this stage," the girl was saying.
"No, no, no! " the young man exclaimed. "The thing
to do now is to picket the grocery stores. Then we sit in at the factories."
In addition to stacks of literature and a paper to be signed by
those interested in becoming members of the organization or receiving its mail, nearly
every one of the tables set up on the Bancroft strip has a pile of political buttons, the
sale of buttons having become a popular way to raise money for student organizations at
Berkeley. Students who want to protest against the House Un-American Activities Committee
-- and that seems to include most of the students who stop at the Bancroft strip -- can
usually buy a "Sack HUAC" button from the University Society of Libertarians or
a "HUAC Eccch!" button from the Bay Area Council for Democracy; some of them
already have a button that says "I Am Not Now Nor Have I Ever Been a Member of the
House Un-American Activities Committee." Another popular button says "A Free
University in a Free Society," and is sold by Students for a Democratic Society, an
organization affiliated with but often to the left of the League for Industrial Democracy,
and someone has attempted the succinct approach with a button that says simply "I am
an Enemy of the State." The Cal Conservatives for Political Action, who are
sufficiently outnumbered to find humor their most effective weapon, wear buttons that say
"I Am a Right Wing Extremist." During my stay in Berkeley, one of the most
popular new buttons has been one saying "Abolish the Regents." It is being sold
by Ed Rosenfeld, a young man with a shaggy beard who has been an active worker in the Free
Speech Movement. Rosenfeld ordinarily mans a table of his own, holding up a sign decorated
with covers of "The Regents" -- a pamphlet that the F.S.M. published during the
controversy in an attempt to show that the University Board of Regents represented
corporate wealth in the state rather than the people -- and shouting, "'Abolish the
Regents,' twenty-five cents!"
"Does this money go for political activity ? " a
prospective customer asked while I was standing at Rosenfeld's table.
"Clearly," said Rosenfeld, who was himself wearing a
"Get Out of Vietnam" button on one lapel and, on the other, the pin of the
National Liberation Front, which is also known as the Vietcong, though rarely in Berkeley.
"In this case, it will go to send a student to the Youth Festival in Algeria next
"Who is the student?" asked the customer.
"I am the student," Rosenfeld said.
The customer bought a button, and Rosenfeld continued his chant.
"'Abolish the Regents,' twenty five cents!" he called out. "Send your
favorite regent to Vietnam!"
WITH the start of the spring semester, the
leaders of the Free Speech Movement find themselves in a perhaps unexpected position --
that of revolutionaries whose revolution has succeeded. The F.S.M. headquarters -- a
casually furnished storefront office where businesslike girls carefully compile logs of
phone calls and cover the wall with messages written in marker pencil -- bears a startling
resemblance to the headquarters of the Council of Federated Organizations in Jackson,
Mississippi. But, unlike COFO workers, who still can't be sure that their civil-rights
campaign has made any significant change in conditions in Mississippi, F.S.M. workers need
only walk a block or two to witness unrestricted campus political activity of the kind
that was the goal of their movement, and, to anyone who has spent some time listening to
their reminiscences, the F.S.M. headquarters, which is a relatively recent acquisition,
seems to be a make-work echo of the days when the F.S.M. had a series of command posts,
with names like Strike Central and Press Central -- a system of walkie-talkies for
communication among its scouts on the campus -- and an emergency telephone number, called
Nexus, to be used when the regular number was busy. During the fall semester, the
free-speech controversy demanded the attention, and often the full-time participation, of
a large number of Berkeley students, administrators, and faculty members; it involved an
unprecedented use of mass action by students and two potentially disastrous confrontations
between hundreds of students and hundreds of policemen; and it eventually produced a
situation in which a distinguished university of twenty-seven thousand students nearly
came to a halt -- a situation that the chairman of the Emergency Executive Committee of
the Academic Senate called, with little disagreement from anybody who spent the fall in
Berkeley, "one of the critical episodes in American higher education." Those
events are in the past, however, and unless another issue involving free speech arises on
the campus -- or, as many F.S.M. adherents would put it, "unless the administration
commits another atrocity" -- quite a few of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement
are, in the words of one participant, "between movements."
According to the best-known F.S.M. leader, an intense,
intellectually aggressive young man named Mario Savio, who was studying philosophy before
he became involved in the controversy, "All that's left is the trial -- legal and
political defense -- and making sure that the final rules on political activity are
acceptable. Then, as far as the F.S.M. goes, that's it; we disband." The trial he
referred to is that of some eight hundred students who were arrested, on the orders of the
governor of California, when they refused to leave Sproul Hall during the protest sit-in
that is generally considered to have been the climactic event of the controversy.
Political defense can be carried out through activities familiar to participants in mass
movements (during the first week of the new semester, the F.S.M. held a rally on "The
Berkeley Trials: Justice or Vengeance"), but legal defense is another matter. The
same students who, wearing blue jeans and singing hymns, had to be carried out of Sproul
Hall by the police have conscientiously presented themselves, in quiet, well- dressed
groups of fifty, in a makeshift courtroom in the auditorium of the Berkeley Veterans
Building to enter their pleas. (For making a comment to the judge about "shameless
hypocrisy" that would have been only a warmup for stronger language on the steps of
Sproul Hall, Savio was given a two-day jail sentence for contempt.) The defendants have
had to elect a Council of Twenty to deal with their staff of attorneys, who number at
least twenty themselves, and F.S.M. leaders have acknowledged, with some embarrassment,
that their movement, which once attacked the computer as the symbolic agent of its
followers' alienation and which adopted "Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate" as
one of its war cries, has lately been borrowing the university's I.B.M. machine to keep
track of all the people involved in its legal affairs.
Officially, the issues that divided the Free Speech Movement and
the university administration have not yet been completely settled. The Board of Regents,
which has final authority over Berkeley and the eight other campuses of the University of
California, still has a committee working to determine what its final policy on political
activity should be; the Berkeley chancellor's office has yet to announce permanent camps
regulations governing the precise times and places for holding the demonstrations that are
now allowed, and ways of holding them that will not interfere with education; and the
final point at issue between the administration and the F.S.M. -- whether the University
would discipline those who advocate or organize illegal actions on its campuses -- is
settled mainly by the willingness of both sides to interpret each other's ambiguous
statements with a minimum of conflict. However, there is so little disagreement left about
the basic changes made in university policy during the controversy that President Kerr,
who became the chief adversary of the F.S.M., has lately acknowledged in several speeches
that the rules in effect before this fall -- rules that prohibited students from planning,
soliciting for, or advocating off-campus causes on university property -- were of
The dispute actually arose over the sudden application of these
rules to the Bancroft strip -- where until last September they had been unenforced, in the
belief (or pretense) that the property belonged to the city -- but before it ended the
regents had officially removed such restrictions entirely. The Bancroft strip, where
thousands of students enter the busiest plaza of the campus every day, has remained the
area of greatest political activity, but now there is also a line of tables near the
fountain in front of the Student Union, a group of three buildings that stand on one side
of the plaza, and on the other side of the plaza political rallies are held on the steps
of Sproul Hall itself. Martin Meyerson, a social scientist who was formerly dean of the
College of Environmental Design and in January was appointed acting chancellor, has gained
wide confidence among students and faculty -- around the university the belief is
widespread that his appointment was one of the chief benefits to come out of the dispute
-- and he is considered quite unlikely to commit an atrocity. Under the regents' new
policy, the Berkeley campus is now operating peacefully, and, all in all, most people look
upon the free speech controversy as settled.
ANY revolution that takes place in a university
community is observed by a particularly large number of people with a natural tendency to
analyze such things, argue about their causes, and discuss their implications. The
free-speech controversy has dominated Berkeley conversation for so long that its major
events can be conjured up by phrases no more detailed than "The Police Car" (the
car was held immobile on the plaza and used as a speakers' platform for some thirty hours
on October 1st and 2nd by students protesting the attempt of campus police to use it to
remove Jack Weinberg, a former mathematics student who had been arrested while soliciting
for CORE in defiance of the regulations), "The Big Sit-In" (this was held two
months later to protest the university's belatedly announced intention of disciplining
four F.S.M. leaders for their roles in the episode of The Police Car, and resulted in the
Sproul Hall arrests), "The Strike" (it crippled the university for the two days
following The Big Sit- In ), "The Greek Theatre" (this was where the university
held a meeting that was meant to end the dispute but aggravated it instead when Savio went
to the microphone after the last speech and was dragged away by campus police), and
"The Faculty Resolution" (a resolution in which, by a vote of eight hundred and
twenty-four to a hundred and fifteen, the Academic Senate supported the F.S.M. position
that there should be virtually no university restriction on speech, and which --
psychologically, if not officially -- concluded the controversy in a victory for the
F.S.M.). Berkeley residents talk casually of documents with names like "The Pact of
October 2nd" (signed by Kerr and the F.S.M. leaders to end the episode of The Police
Car at a time when several hundred policemen were standing ready to disperse the crowd).
It is only when it comes to discussing committees that this kind of shorthand breaks down;
there were so many committees during the controversy -- committees trying to mediate,
committees assigned to investigate, committees hoping to recommend -- that even the most
careful historian is likely to have difficulty keeping them straight.
Beyond mere discussion, a university community can apply its
various disciplines to the situation at hand. While the controversy still raged, an
undergraduate sociology student was surveying those who had participated in the
surrounding of The Police Car, a group of graduate political-science students was
collecting data on such matters as the effectiveness of The Strike and the political
affiliations of the participants in The Big Sit-In, and the students in Sociology 105
(Introduction to Methods of Sociological Study) were taking a scientific sampling of
student opinion on a variety of issues related to the dispute. As the spring semester
begins, social scientists are still arguing about the nature of the F.S.M. as a mass
movement, historians are preparing studies of student protests and student radicalism, and
essays on free speech and the nature of a university are continuing to emerge from faculty
offices in blue ditto copies. A large foundation has been asked to support research for a
scholarly history of the entire affair, and meanwhile a book is being compiled from the
dozens of articles, studies, and documents already available; a study of the press
coverage of the controversy has been prepared for the Center for the Study of Democratic
Institutions, in Santa Barbara; F.S.M. leaders are compiling a book of their own views,
tentatively called "A Student Manifesto;" and a second committee appointed by
the regents has retained a staff of investigators to draw up a report on the underlying
causes of the disorder. In this atmosphere of earnest opinion-gathering, the F.S.M.
leaders, who in the past often emphasized the difficulty of communicating with authority,
recurrently find themselves assembled in the chancellor's office and propounding their
ideas on educational reform, or meeting with a polite, attentive education expert from the
Board of Regents and explaining just how much they despise the entire system.
One afternoon, while I was sitting with some adherents of the
F.S.M. on The Terrace, the outdoor section of the cafeteria in the Student Union, we were
joined by Mike Rossman, a member of the F.S.M. Steering Committee, and Jerome Byrne, a Los
Angeles lawyer who had been hired by the regents' committee to conduct its investigation
into causes. Rossman, a graduate student in mathematics, has been at Berkeley for a number
of years and has spent part of that time compiling a list of various infringements of
student freedom by the administration -- a list that was published during the fall as
"Administrative Pressure and Student Political Activity at the University of
California: A Preliminary Report" but is sometimes referred to as "Rossman's
Litany of Atrocities."
After Rossman had mumbled some introductions and taken a seat,
Byrne, an angular, conservatively dressed man with a straightforward manner, said,
"I've just had a good talk with Mike, here, and I'd like to talk with all of you
"I'm very skeptical," said a graduate student in history
named Steve Weissman, who is also a member of the Steering Committee, and is usually given
credit for organizing The Strike.
'What I m trying to get is an idea of what you think about the
university," Byrne said. "I'm not interested in what happened during the fall.
Well, I'm interested, but that's not really the purpose of the study."
"Well, maybe we can talk about my skepticism sometime,"
"I was telling Mike that I have to go to an interview with
the press -- the Daily Cal," Byrne said, smiling. "I'm going to put in a notice
that I'll be in Pauley East at four tomorrow and that I'd be glad to hear from student
leaders, representatives of interested student groups, and representatives of various
shades of student opinion."
"That's the way not to have anybody there," said
"Oh. Mike didn't say anything about that," Byrne said.
"What should I say ? "
"Maybe 'all interested students.'"
"I was afraid we might get several thousand that way."
"There isn't any right way to say it," Rossman said,
"Well, I hope you'll come anyway," said Byrne.
After Byrne had left, Weissman remarked to Rossman, "I really
don't see the advantage of talking with somebody who's hired to make the report that the
people who hire him want to see."
"What's the difference?" Rossman said.
"The difference is that if we talk with them, they can make
the report saying they talked with Rossman and they talked with Weissman and this is what
they came up with."
"You know, you're not as smart as you think you are,"
Rossman said. "You don't know anything about the way these people operate. They're
obviously going to put that in whether they've talked with us or not."
AMONG Berkeley faculty members reflecting on the
events of the fall, there is often disagreement even on precisely what happened, but two
judgments seem almost universal. One is that the administration consistently mishandled
the situation -- first by its decision, apparently made under outside pressure, to enforce
the regulations on the Bancroft strip, then by its alternating positions of intransigence
and concession, and particularly by its decision to discipline the four F.S.M. leaders for
their roles at The Police Car, an incident that everybody had considered closed.
("Student movements run on martyrs," Jack Weinberg said later, and it is true
that the F.S.M. got mass support for direct action only at those times when the
administration was trying to pick off its leaders. ) The other judgment is that the
leaders of the Free Speech Movement were almost impossible to negotiate with --
"rude" and "inflexible" are the two words most often applied to them
-- and were quick to use almost any tactics that they considered "necessary ."
Those who supported The Faculty Resolution tend to look upon the behavior of the F.S.M.
leaders as understandable or irrelevant, and tend to believe that the students raised a
legitimate issue of free speech, in which their view was essentially the correct one.
Those in the minority that opposed it tend to argue that the issues were, to a large
extent, concocted -- or at least constantly inflated -- by the F.S.M. leaders, that their
use of mass action was based more on a desire to foment trouble or keep the dispute going
than on a sincere concern for free speech, and that the university was right in attempting
to maintain some control over what was said on its campuses. Deep disagreements still
exist among faculty members -- and the leaders of the majority feel some mild resentment
over the fact that virtually all articles on the situation by Berkeley professors have
been the work of men identified with views held by a minority of one in nine -- but
lingering bitterness over the dispute does not appear to be widespread.
Two months after the polarization of opinion that took place at
the height of the dispute, most faculty members seem to have returned to the more or less
neutral position they took early in the fall, and their differences now are often of tone
rather than of substance. At its regular meeting on the first day of the spring semester,
the Academic Senate seemed to be back to normal. In contrast with the nearly one thousand
members who had been present in December to vote on The Faculty Resolution, only about a
hundred people were scattered around the Senate auditorium. President Kerr was on hand to
answer questions, as he is from time to time, and the questions he was asked concerned
such problems as salaries and summer sessions. Arthur Ross, a professor of industrial
relations, who is the chairman of the Emergency Executive Committee, elected to act for
the Senate in matters growing out of the crisis, gave a relaxed report on committee
activities, and, addressing an audience that had been warned a few weeks earlier that
Berkeley was in danger of being transformed into a university of the Latin-American or
Asian type, he drew considerable laughter by starting off his report with three headlines
he had clipped from an English- language Japanese paper during a dispute at Keio
University, in Tokyo, over a fee increase: "Keio U. Authorities May Rap
Students," "All Keio Students Will Go On Strike from Tomorrow," and
"Keio U. Trustees to Review Fee Hike."
Part of the talk about Berkeley's becoming an Asian-style
university stemmed from the possibility that students might extend their demand to be
considered equal bargaining partners to such matters as educational policy and even
faculty appointments, and that they might apply direct-action tactics to this end. As the
controversy continued through the fall, the F.S.M. demands for unrestricted speech were
mixed with criticism of the university as an impersonal factory, criticism of faculty
members for "selling out" to governmental and industrial research projects
instead of accepting their responsibility as teachers, and criticism of the backwardness
of undergraduate education at Berkeley. Although practically nobody at Berkeley would deny
that the university has fallen behind in undergraduate education, even the most
sympathetic faculty allies of the F.S.M. would hardly consider sit-ins or boycotts the
logical agents of reform. Many professors believe, however, that the free-speech
controversy demonstrates the limitations as well as the strengths of such tactics, since
the mass support they required for success appeared to be present only when the opposition
looked inflexible and when the complaint was not only considered justified but also was
specific and dramatic. Complaints about undergraduate education are ordinarily not very
exciting, and there is also some question that many students are aware of the fact that
such complaints are justified. The Sociology 105 study -- which was conducted by the
class's instructor, Richard Somers, and is considered a fair sampling of student opinion
-- indicated that eighty-two per cent of Berkeley's undergraduates were either
"satisfied" or "very satisfied" with "courses, examinations,
professors, etc, at the university."
Whether or not the dispute reflected real dissatisfaction with
courses, it is having some effect on educational thinking at Berkeley. Acting Chancellor
Meyerson has been meeting with a group of F.S.M. students who are interested in education,
and they have occasionally been dismayed to find the chancellor's ideas on the subject
more radical than their own. "They're actually a bit timid when it comes to
education," Meyerson has told me. "I don't see why the size that everybody
complains about can't be used to our advantage. I don't see why a university this size
can't have a little St. John's, for people who think education is mastering a body of
knowledge. I don't see why we can't have a little Antioch, for people who want to work
part time, and perhaps even two kinds of engineering schools. People would have the
advantage of the facilities, the library, and the type of scholars who, for better or
worse, now seem to be attracted only to a large university, and they would be free to
transfer from one college to another." Meyerson acknowledges that there is a
considerable difference between proposing these ideas and having them adopted by the
faculty and the regents -- and also that at present any change is criticized by some
people as a concession to F.S.M. intimidation (an interpretation that the F.S.M. is always
happy to further) -- but he feels that the uproar has already made the path easier for
certain progressive plans that had been proposed before the controversy erupted. It has
also meant that faculty members are now often engaged in conversations about how they can
devote more time to their students, that several departments are hearing the ideas of
students on the departmental programs, and that the Academic Senate is investigating,
among other things, methods by which departments might rate teachers so that teaching
would get more consideration, relative to research, than it does now in recommendations
Among the students, the most definite educational idea to have
emerged from the controversy -- actually, it emerged from some makeshift classes held in
Sproul Hall during the sit-in -- is something called the Free University of California,
which would operate parallel with the regular university and would use graduate teaching
assistants as volunteer instructors. According to Weissman, one of its early proponents,
the Free University "could teach classes that the university doesn't teach -- the
history of civil disobedience, for instance -- or hold sections to hear a different point
of view from the one given in the lecture -- when lecturers set up a Marxist straw man to
knock down and then say they're objective, for example -- or do research projects in
subjects like the power structure of Oakland, or the organization of the university
itself." Some classes of this sort have already been held, but it is not yet certain
whether the energy that launched the Free University and related projects during the
controversy will last. Other expressions of that energy were a Teaching Assistants Union,
a Graduate Coordinating Committee, and an Undergraduate Association; in the heat of
controversy, the F.S.M. even supported seven candidates (all successful) for the regular
student government, the Senate of the Associated Students of the University of California,
an organization that F.S.M. leaders customarily speak of as "sandbox
government." As F.S.M. adherents might put it, "some of these structures may
prove to be viable," while others probably will not, but unquestionably students all
over the country have a better chance of being heard, through one channel or another, than
they had last fall. Since the Berkeley controversy, many universities have been reviewing
their administrative policies in respect to students, and the University of California is,
of course, among them. Meyerson and his staff have been meeting with pastors of student
religious clubs, for instance, who would like to see the regents' strict interpretation of
the separation of Church and State eased enough to permit a Department of Religion, or at
least the use of university facilities for special services.
President Kerr believes that no matter what good may come out of
reappraisals undertaken at the University of California as a result of the controversy, it
can never compensate for the damage the controversy did. It is now thought that the
university has avoided investigation by the state legislature, partly because the regents
have appointed their own investigating committee, and that the House Un-American
Activities Committee will probably be dissuaded from visiting the Bay Area this spring --
a visit that would be very likely to bring on the largest demonstrations of recent times.
Still, according to President Kerr, the damage done to the university in respect to
fund-raising, appropriations, and the maintenance of good relations with the legislature
and the alumni may continue for years. The position of many of the alumni was expressed by
the editor of the alumni magazine, the California Monthly, when he wrote in last month's
issue, "Frankly, I am very concerned about the future of our university." There
is no doubt that strong disapproval of the F.S.M. existed all through the state -- ranging
from condemnation of its activities as part of a Communist plot to mere headshaking over
the use of civil- disobedience tactics against a university -- and the gulf between the
university's thinking and that of its constituency was certainly widened. At the same time
that the Academic Senate was voting in favor of the F.S.M. position and professors were
expressing their alarm over the administration's use of police to end The Big Sit-In,
polls in the state showed that three-quarters of the population held an unfavorable view
of the F.S.M., and letters to the university supported the administration's disciplinary
action twenty to one. Posted at the F.S.M. office, where a policeman is almost
automatically looked upon as brutal until he is proved otherwise, is a clipping from the
Berkeley Daily Gazette announcing a police appreciation campaign sponsored by the Berkeley
Exchange Club and entitled "Mr. Policeman -- We Love You."
Among the Berkeley faculty members, concern over the harm that the
F.S.M. victory might do the university has, naturally, been expressed with most force by
those who supported the minority position in the Academic Senate, but even those who were
strong supporters of The Faculty Resolution and continue to maintain that it was both
right and necessary seem to have some lingering apprehension about the outcome of the
free-speech controversy. Some of the faculty members are concerned about having condoned
tactics that they ordinarily feel should not be encouraged anywhere -- particularly in a
university -- and they worry about the effect not only on the student body but also on
their own faith in the efficacy of proper procedures. "The trouble is, the F.S.M.
tactics work," says a professor who was an active supporter of the F.S.M. "It
does make you wonder when time and time again you advise them against doing something
outside the democratic processes we're used to and time and time again they do it and win
their point that way." Faculty members often compare the free-speech controversy to
their own fight with the regents a dozen years ago over the demand that teachers sign a
loyalty oath -- a fight that was carried on for a year but ended with all but a handful of
the faculty's signing the oath. "During the oath fight, the faculty should have just
said, 'No oath or we close the university,"' Savio has told me. "It's not very
easy to hire strikebreakers to teach university courses. They either didn't know what
power they had or weren't the kind of people who were disposed to use it."
There is also some concern over the possibility that the
controversy increased the tendency of a large number of University of California students
to emphasize the political at the expense of the academic, and over the undeniable fact
that the position eventually supported by the faculty -- one that would have the
university leave it to the civil authorities to judge the legality of its students'
political advocacy or political action -- is a severe break with the tradition of the
university as a sanctuary that should be left to take care of its own problems. Chancellor
Meyerson, who voted with the majority, has said, "What we did in some ways rearranges
the idea of what a university is for. It gives tlp the old idea of in loco parentis,
and I think we realize that it's a two-way street. It used to be that a sheriff would call
a dean to come down and pick up one of his undergraduates who was drunk and let him handle
the punishment any way he thought best. But this kind of approach just isn't suitable for,
say, a huge civil-rights demonstration. Of course, that means we can't ask to be a
sanctuary from the local police, but, in practice, we were no longer a sanctuary anyway. I
think academic people are apprehensive by nature. It is a big change, and the apprehension
is certainly present. But I'm fairly optimistic."
Altogether, the faculty seems to share Meyerson's optimism. In
fact, some of its members believe that the crisis itself, as well as what came out of it,
was beneficial. According to Dr. Harvey Powelson, the head of the university psychiatric
clinic -- a facility that ordinarily treats between eight and ten per cent of the student
population -- the number of new admissions to the clinic, which had been steadily rising
semester by semester, declined for the first time in ten years. As the spring semester
begins, Powelson is waiting for a rebound, and nobody expects the present burst of
interest in student-faculty relationships to be permanent, but most faculty members,
despite their concern over one point or another, fee! that the long-range results of the
crisis may be helpful. "I don't go along with the idea of trying to paste this
over," Joseph Tussman, the chairman of the Philosophy Department, says. "I think
if we have disaffected students we ought to be thankful we know about it, and go about
finding out why they're disaffected. I think if there's a better way of organizing the
university we ought to look for it. I think it's possible to look at this as a symptomatic
breakout that may have prevented a real disaster."
THOSE who are concerned with the university's
community relations are not looking forward to a peaceful spring. Two days after students
made CORE placards on the steps of Sproul Hall, they were carrying them around the Sea
Wolf restaurant, on Jack London Square -- a posh restaurant in an expensive new
entertainment area on the Oakland waterfront. CORE was picketing the Sea Wolf as the
beginning of a drive to force the hiring of more Negroes by restaurants in Oakland, and in
its opening demonstration some hundred and fifty people greeted the Sea Wolf's dinner
patrons by shaking their placards and responding "Must go!" to a cheerleader's
cries of "Jim Crow" or "Segregation" or -- particularly as a customer
was just about to enter -- "White bigot."
Civil-rights groups were the ones most directly affected by last
fall's crackdown on political organizing -- in the view of F.S.M. leaders, this was a
matter of conscious design on the part of the authorities -- and are the ones likely to
take most advantage of the present freedom. Civil rights seems to he the one issue that
has a strong appeal for a great number of students, but it is not difficult to organize
demonstrations on other issues in Berkeley. As it happened, the opening day of the spring
semester was the day after the first American retaliatory bombing raid on North Vietnam,
and plans were quickly made for a protest rally that very noon on the steps of Sproul
Hall. In the morning, I had a talk with Bettina Aptheker, a member of the F.S.M. Steering
Committee, who was wearing a "Sack HUAC" button on one side of her collar and a
DuBois Club button on the other. As a representative of the DuBois Club -- whose members
ordinarily acknowledge that it is Communist, though they prefer to use the word
"Marxist," in order to avoid giving the impression that it is under Communist
Party discipline -- and as the daughter of Herbert Aptheker, a Communist historian, Miss
Aptheker was occasionally cited by local newspapers during the dispute as proof that
Communists were fanning the flames of revolt, hut it is generally agreed on the campus
that she was in fact a moderating influence on the Steering Committee. When I asked Miss
Aptheker how the rally on Vietnam was being organized, she said, "We happened to be
having a DuBois Club meeting last night, and I got a call from a member of the San
Francisco Women for Peace that they and the S.F. State DuBois Club were going to have a
demonstration against the bombing at the Federal Building this afternoon. We thought we'd
have a rally on Sproul steps at noon to try to get people, so I called Art Goldberg to see
if thc steps were available, since he's in Slate and usually knows about those things, and
he said Slate had been planning a speech by David McReynolds, of the War Resisters League,
on the steps today, so I asked him if we could combine meetings. Then we both got second
calls -- Art from the May 2nd Movement, which had invited Fred Jerome, of the Progressive
Labor Movement, to town, and I from the Campus Women for Peace. It was O.K. with me for
Jerome to speak, and Art asked if my father was in town, and the DuBois Club decided it
would be a good idea to have him speak. We're going to meet at eleven o'clock at the
fountain to make final arrangements."
By noon, when McReynolds was starting to speak into a microphone
that had been set up on the steps of Sproul Hall and two young men were climbing Up one of
the pillars to tie on a sign saying "Withdraw Troops from Vietnam," hundreds of
students had gathered in the plaza. The method of attracting a crowd to a Sproul Hall
rally is to begin speaking and try to catch the attention of some of the thousands of
students passing through the plaza in the middle of the day. The crowd in the plaza during
tile Vietnam rally was always in three parts -- a group of enthusiastic supporters sitting
on benches near the microphone, a much larger group of students standing silently in the
plaza, apparently having stopped to find out what the speakers had to say, and passing
waves of students who paid little attention to the noise from the steps. At the height of
the rally, perhaps two thousand students were listening, but half a dozen more speakers
had been added at the eleven o'clock meeting, and by the time the last of them came to the
microphone, at about one o'clock, most of the students had drifted away. The loudest
applause of the day greeted a declaration by McReynolds that all young men should refuse
to register for the draft until the war in Vietnam had been ended. In general, however,
there was little difference in the response to the various speakers, even though they
ranged from a non-Communist pacifist (McReynolds) to a representative of the Progressive
Labor Movement (Jerome), which ordinarily supports Peking's position, and the leader of
the Berkeley chapter of the May 2nd Movement (Dents Mosgofian), a group that was named for
a demonstration against the Vietnam war last May 2nd and that includes P.L.M. members
among its leaders. (According to a statement in its newspaper, the May 2nd Movement is
open "to everyone interested and determined to actively participate in a peace
movement that is conscious of the duplicity and guilt of the American government in its
actions against peace throughout the world.")
The following day, the same microphone reappeared on Sproul Hall
steps, and a few minutes before noon a blond girl stepped up to it and said, "End the
war in Vietnam by winning it! End the war in Vietnam by winning it! Rally here at noon!
Win the war in Vietnam! " The rally was sponsored by the Cal Conservatives for
Political Action, which presented three speakers and attracted a crowd of two or three
hundred, some of them hecklers. Some of the students who didn't stop to listen to the
Vietnam speeches were on their way into the Student Union to hear Herbert Aptheker speak
in one if its auditoriums on "The Civil Rights Movement in the United States and
Socialism." Others gave their attention to the line of tables in front of the
fountain, where a young man behind a sign that said "Students Against a Numbered
Society" was selling "Legalize Marijuana" buttons for twenty-five cents
("mostly to pay the rent"), two members of Students Against Nazi Amnesty were
collecting signatures for a petition protesting the statute of limitations on war crimes
in Germany, the University Society of Libertarians was selling "Sack HUAC"
buttons, and a representative of the May 2nd Movement was distributing a pamphlet entitled
"A Message to the People of the United States from Ho Chi Minh."
NEAR the end of the first week of the new
semester, Jerome Byrne held his meeting in Pauley East -- one of the auditoriums in the
Student Union -- to introduce his staff, ask for questions and suggestions, and explain
that his purpose was "to investigate the basic causes of unrest in the total
university, with particular reference to the events this fall here, and to make
recommendations of changes that might be advisable to the regents." The auditorium
contained an audience of about fifty, including Savio and several other F.S.M. leaders.
One of the first questions came from Savio. Upon being recognized by Byrne, he said,
"Yeah. Well, you're going to write some kind of report or reports, but with no final
authority on whether they're published or not. Our experience with objective reports would
indicate that the organization it's done for decides when to publish or if, and this calls
into question the wisdom of doing the report in the first place."
Byrne admitted that the report would be the property of the
regents, to be published only if they desired it to be, but he went on to state
emphatically that neither he nor his staff had any interest in doing anything but a
completely honest investigation.
"It seems to me there's a real problem," Savio said.
"Let's say the people you interview want changes in the Board of Regents -- maybe
that they be chosen differently, or no political appointments, or composed of scholars or
artists or musicians. Obviously, these objections won't be considered seriously."
Bryne again declared his intention of writing an impartial report,
and then, in answer to a question from another student, said he would indeed feel morally
obligated to object publicly if the regents published his report in edited form.
"What if part of what you did was released?" asked
Savio. "What would you do then ?"
"That's a problem I hadn't come to," Byrne admitted,
smiling. "I knew you people were brilliant."
Many of the questions put to Byrne reflected a belief that
"the university is never interested in what people are complaining about but just how
to keep them from complaining" -- a statement that Weissman is widely quoted as
having made at the end of the dispute -- and Byrne insisted several times that he was
determined to investigate the basic problems of the university. For forty- five minutes,
he accepted suggestions on how to avoid fulfilling Savio's prediction that the
investigation would be "a methodological disaster" and answered questions on
such matters as how he chose his staff, what his connection with the regents might have
been to lead to his selection, and why he would refuse to publish excerpts from the
investigation in the university paper every week as a way of letting the public know what
was being discovered.
"There's a limited time," Byrne said in response to the
last question. "If we want to do this in two and a half or three months, I don't want
to be in the position of having to put out press releases."
A few questions later, one of the students asked, "If you put
out press releases and somebody edited them, would you feel morally obligated to object?
"I certainly would," said Byrne.
THE Free Speech Movement was originally formed in
the early fall by a decision to unite all the groups that had a stake in using the
Bancroft strip for political activity, whether they were interested in distributing
pamphlets for the Young Socialist Alliance or in recruiting students to ring doorbells for
Barry Goldwater. It is now agreed in Berkeley that the F.S.M. eventually had the
participation of a large number of the university's outstanding students -- not to mention
many of the ex-students, part- time students, and non-students who make up what is
sometimes called the Hidden Community in Berkeley -- and that although it had the almost
constant opposition of the student newspaper and the student government, it attracted wide
support within the student population. The Sociology 105 poll indicates that two-thirds of
the Berkeley students approved of the F.S.M.'s goals and one-third of them approved of
both its goals and its methods. It is also agreed that despite the presence of a
representative of Students for Goldwater among the twelve members of F.S.M.'s Steering
Committee, the committee was considerably more radical than most of its supporters.
Although radicalism during the controversy was more a matter of tactics than of political
beliefs, a good deal of attention was given to the left-wing politics of those who led the
F.S.M. There was wide circulation of a statement, credited to President Kerr, that forty
per cent of the F.S.M.'s members were Maoists or Castroites -- he later denied having made
such a statement -- and wide discussion, some of it in a humorous key, of the exotic
political beliefs of some of those involved. "I'd considered my views rather far to
the left until I went to an F.S.M. meeting after Kerr's statement," I was told by an
English girl doing graduate work. "Some speaker was saying that it was actually Kerr
who was using Maoist tactics. The conservatives -- the Young Democrats, for instance --
were applauding, but then some people started booing. They were angry at what they
considered a slur on Mao." In actuality, the only Steering Committee member who has
been known, on occasion, to refer to himself as a Maoist is Art Goldberg, a large,
amiable, sleepy-looking young man from Los Angeles, and his commitment to Peking is not
taken very seriously, despite such gestures as carrying a sign at the CORE picketing which
said "Racism Is a Pacer Tiger."
Savio's usual reply to remarks about left-wing influence in the
F.S.M. was the statement that its Executive Committee, consisting of fifty members,
included only four "revolutionary Socialists" -- a figure he arrived at by
adding the two representatives of the Young Socialist Alliance to the two from the DuBois
Club. Savio now acknowledges that the figure was irrelevant, since membership in an
organization with a revolutionary ideology was no measure of tactical radicalism within
the F.S.M.; moreover, it was so far from encompassing all those who considered themselves
revolutionary Socialists that he was later approached by a number of people who wanted to
know why they had been left out of the count. The Berkeley campus has organizations
representing just about all forms of Socialist ideology, and it is possible to hear
references to people who are "rather fond of the Togliatti deviation" or are
"hung up on democratic centralism." But student radicalism at Berkeley cannot be
interpreted as if it were composed of the kind of disciplined ideological warring factions
that dominated the radicalism of the thirties. It is believed in some quarters that the
organizations themselves are less disciplined and less ideological than those of the past.
What is far more important is that the tone of student radicalism at Berkeley is set not
by the old ideological groups but by people whose approach is sufficiently different from
that of the thirties that they have come to think of themselves as embracing a New
Radicalism. New Radicals don't ordinarily use the term, but they constantly stress that
they have a new approach to radical politics and it was this approach that dominated the
Steering Committee of the Free Speech Movement. Most F.S.M. leaders make no attempt to
disguise their deep alienation from American society, but they regard allegiance to any
specific alternative as utopian, divisive, immobilizing, and -- perhaps most significant
-- not their "style." The word "style" is widely used among the New
Radicals -- most of whom are indeed admirers of Fidel Castro, often because of his style
-- and in giving reasons for their avoidance of the old radical organizations they are as
likely to cite distaste for the style of their jargon and theoretical debate as disgust
with the futility of what Savio has called "spending hours trying to invent a motto
that makes you different from other sects." While part of this preference for
dissociation is undoubtedly a desire to avoid tarnished labels, the New Radicals
consciously avoid in their own activities the automatic condemnation of Communists --
"pathological anti- Stalinism," in their phrase -- that has come to characterize
the non-Communist left in the United States during the Cold War, and they count it as one
of the accomplishments of the F.S.M. that the DuBois Club could be represented on the
Steering Committee without any more objection than was made.
In place of ideology, the New Radicals tend to rely on action.
"The word 'existential' is used a lot," Jack Weinberg told me. Weinberg, who is
twenty-four, is a full-time unpaid activist; he wears a droopy mustache and work clothes,
and in the pictures taken during his imprisonment in The Police Car he somehow managed to
resemble both Sacco and Vanzetti. "You could call it an affirmation of self," he
went on. "Just because we can't see what the end might be doesn't mean we're going to
sit here. It's a matter of screaming. We have to justify everything in terms of the act
itself. The trouble with being ideologically oriented is that it's immobilizing; you have
to justify all kinds of things in terms of the ideology. We're really problem-oriented.
Utopia is too far away to worry about. F.S.M. had a limited goal, but look what happened.
Look at the effect it could have on educational policy and student activism across the
country. Who could have planned that ?"
Although Savio is considered the most moralistic of the New
Radicals, all of them explain their conclusion that America is "sick" or
"evil" at least partly in moral terms -- emphasizing that American society is
not what it claims to be, that it engages in sham and hypocrisy, that those in control are
not concerned with "telling it like it is" (a phrase borrowed from the S.N.C.C.
workers in Mississippi). The New Radicals ordinarily share the views of the far left on
foreign affairs, but more orthodox leftists are sometimes dismayed to find Savio and
Weissman, for instance, apparently more concerned with the idea that the American
government is being hypocritical about why it is fighting in Vietnam than with the idea
that the United States is engaging in an "imperialistic colonial war." Suzanne
Goldberg, a graduate student in philosophy from New York, who is a member of the F.S.M.
Steering Committee, has explained this moral tone by saying, "It's really a strange
kind of naivete. What we learned in grammar school about democracy and freedom nobody
takes seriously, but we do. We really believe it. It's impossible to grapple with the
problem of the structure of the whole world, but you try to do something about the
immediate things you see that bother you and are within your reach."
Because of this approach, the New Radicals often engage in a kind
of ad-hoc activism directed at specific problems whose solutions are no more than the
stated goals of American democracy -- free speech, the right to vote, the right to fair
employment and housing. Obviously, it is in the field of civil rights that the most
inconsistency is to be found between what the American structure says it is and what it
is, and often the New Radicals work in Mississippi with S.N.C.C., as Savio did last
summer, or work with some of the more radical CORE chapters or with ad- hoc committees on
such projects as rent strikes and sit-ins over hiring policy, or organizing ghetto
communities. Since they take the position of demanding only what society claims to be
giving in the first place, they tend to be contemptuous of gradualism or of compromise in
negotiations. "We ask for what we should get, not for what we could get," Miss
Goldberg says. Their techniques are often extra-legal, and they save their ultimate
contempt for people who express agreement with their goals but not with their methods.
"'Liberal' is a dirty word here," Weinberg told me. "Liberalism is a trap.
It's the impotence of having principles that make you opposed to something and other
principles that keep you from doing anything about it." New Radicals ordinarily have
little faith that anything can be accomplished by the "Liberal Establishment."
Any mention of the American Communist Party is usually greeted with the scornful remark
that the Party backed Lyndon Johnson in the last election, and the same kind of criticism
is made of the DuBois Club -- which, one of its members admitted to me half
apologetically, "does believe in cooperation with non-Socialist groups." At
Berkeley, where a number of the students are the children of Communists and other radicals
of the thirties -- they are often called "red-diaper babies" -- a conversation
about a member of the DuBois Club sometimes sounds like the sort of conversation that is
held at other state universities about people who felt compelled to join Sigma Chi because
of a family tradition. The one organization whose style seems to be almost universally
respected among the New Radicals is S.N.C.C.; its project in Mississippi is admired for
its moral tone, for its patient organizing of impoverished Negroes, for its activism, and
for its frequent refusal to accept the advice of liberals.
One evening, I asked Savio for a description of the New
Radicalism, and he said, "Certain words are more useful. Maybe they're a bit too
theatrical. Words like 'moral protest,' 'existential revolt,' 'alienation' -- as opposed
to 'class conflict' or 'forces of proletarian revolution.' We're talking about the same
objective reality, but it's a question of being more tentative. I don't know if all our
problems would vanish if we had a state monopoly on production and distribution. I don't
have a Utopia in mind. I know it has to be a good deal more egalitarian than it is now.
Maybe the classic Marxist models and the classic Adam Smith models don't apply anymore.
There are a lot of people who have enough to eat who are incredibly resentful, because
their lives are meaningless. They're psychologically dispossessed. There's a feeling that
they have nothing to do; the bureaucracy runs itself. Why are we so alienated? I would say
for three reasons: depersonalization, hypocrisy, and the unearned privilege that comes
with great wealth. The country's forms aren't so bad, if we would take them seriously, if
somebody were willing to say the Emperor had no clothes. The worst thing about the society
is that it lies to itself. Look at the last election. The two subjects that were not
issues in the campaign were Vietnam and civil rights. What's the choice? What can you do
in a situation like that? Oh, add to the good words 'anti-bureaucratic tendency.' American
radicals are traditionally anarchistic, and that tendency is very strong here."
People here who try to define the New Radicalism in traditional
terms usually say it resembles anarcho-syndicalism more than anything else, since it is
characterized by a belief that laws and regulations have to be justified and by a dislike
for centralized bureaucracy. The ideological radical who has been closest to the radical
student leaders at Berkeley is Hal Draper, a long-time Socialist editor, in his fifties,
who now works in the university library. Draper's Independent Socialist Club, according to
its statement of principles, stands for "a Socialist policy which is completely
independent of and opposed to both of the reactionary systems of exploitation of man by
man which now divide the world: capitalism and Communism." In discussions with the
New Radicals, Draper often argues that however much they insist on avoiding labels, their
views amount to what in any other country would be called Left-Wing Socialism. But
although Weinberg belonged for a time to Draper's Independent Socialist Club (it has many
members in common with CORE), and although Weissman has said that Draper's ideas come
closer to making sense to him than those of any other ideologist, the New Radicals insist
that programs and theories cannot express their style, and they deny that this leaves them
with nothing but negativism. "I think the student activist movement does offer new
ideas," I was told by Martin Roysher, a polite, articulate, scholarly-looking
sophomore from southern California, who transferred to Berkeley from Princeton because he
wanted more political activity. "When the structure is challenged, the response may
not often be exactly what we want, but it's helpful. Take the wide range of student
demonstrations -- sit-ins, rent strikes, organizing the communities. They definitely bring
about changes in the power structure. It doesn't take the students very long to realize
that the structure is pretty corrupt when it has to bring in the cops."
Many Berkeley people who are well acquainted with the Free Speech
Movement say that the most "political" -- and some say the most influential --
of the F.S.M. leaders is Steve Weissman, a twenty-five-year-old graduate student from
Tampa who has red hair and a pointed red beard and usually dresses in Ivy League style.
Weissman told me he had considered becoming a full-time organizer for Students for a
Democratic Society this semester but had decided to continue studying history instead.
"I think we are arriving at a philosophy," he said. "There aren't many
people, but it is a new voice. I think it represents the thinking of a lot more people,
and thirty per cent of the student body bought our style. It's exemplified by S.N.C.C. in
Mississippi; about the only other people working full time are forty or fifty Students for
a Democratic Society people in the slum-organization projects. Politically, there's a
feeling that while other groups may be necessary sometimes, there's no use celebrating
coalitions. You take a direct line outside the normal arena and force the liberals to make
a choice. What we're against is consensus politics -- the idea of finding out what the
regents will give before you ask for it. That's one thing. Something we're for is certain
values for the future -- a kind of democratic participation, letting people have some
control over their lives, the way S.N.C.C. is organizing people in the Freedom Democratic
Party right at the ward level, or the way students are asking for participation in the
university, or the way we're trying to get poor people involved in the war on poverty,
instead of just professors. In a way, the people we're closest to are the Populists, or
the narodniki -- the intellectuals in Russia who went out and worked with the
peasants. Sure, we see connections from different issues. Our values are radical. We don't
automatically accept the value of institutions, and we admit going beyond the normal
American equality, because we include economic equality. We do accept the Socialist
criticism of American capitalism, but that doesn't mean we buy any particular
I asked Weissman about the charge sometimes made that many of the
New Radicals have so profound a distaste for the society that the immediate goal of their
action is less important to them than fomenting trouble or demonstrating the sickness of
the society or, as some critics at Berkeley have asserted, attempting to undermine faith
in the democratic processes.
"You're not naive enough not to realize that there's a grain
of truth in that," Weissman said. "And I'm willing to grant that our alienation
is deep enough so that we underrate the possibility of channels sometimes. But the
conspiracy theory really comes down to Red-baiting or bed-baiting; it's either an attempt
to make people think it's all a Communist plot or some Freudian theory that we're all just
revolting against our parents. The criticism that it's a conspiracy would be valid only if
we didn't make any progress toward our ostensible goals, and I don't think they can show
any place where we haven't."
I suggested to Weissman that one reason for the conspiracy theory
might be that there appears to be a gap between what one professor has called
"working for liberal goals with radical methods" and changing the structure of
"It bothered me for a while that the end of radical politics
seems to be increasing the welfare state," Weissman said. "Breaking down of
hiring-policy rights with demonstrations just means some kind of federal fair-employment
agency. Well, some changes are made and we're doing what has to be done. Maybe we're
developing constituencies; that's more than the ideologists are doing. Maybe it means that
the people are there to make a revolution if we ever decide that's what's needed."
It is generally agreed at Berkeley that the membership of the
ideological clubs is more than matched by the students who fall roughly into the category
of New Radicals. It is the New Radicalism, rather than the old, that comes near to
expressing some of the dissatisfaction felt by students who would not consider themselves
radicals, and it was the New Radicalism that led to the Free Speech Movement. Some
professors were disturbed by what they felt was a tone of near anti-intellectualism in the
F.S.M., and this seems closely related to the New Radicals' tendency to emphasize action
at the expense of theorizing, to explain themselves in moral rather than intellectual
terms, to stress political rights rather than academic disciplines, and to insist that an
issue is more important than an institution. Critics of the New Radicals have said that
their style works best against liberals -- who have a respect for institutions and for
channels, and who also have a distaste for meeting mass action with force -- and it is
true that liberals seem to have extraordinary difficulty in communicating with them, or,
to use a phrase often heard in Berkeley, "tuning in on them." For many
observers, one of the ironies of the controversy lay in the fact that the chief villain
was Clark Kerr, a man of widely praised liberal accomplishments, who had himself been
given an award for liberalizing the regulations concerning free speech at the University
of California, and who had himself -- in a series of Godkin lectures at Harvard, later
published as "The Uses of the University" -- pointed out the elements of the
modern American "multiversity" that would cause alienation and perhaps revolt
among the students. But the F.S.M. leaders seemed not at all surprised to find Kerr their
bitterest opponent, for without some special effort at understanding a liberal would find
that many of his tenets were handicaps in dealing with the New Radicals. A liberal's faith
that wrongs can eventually be adjusted within the democratic processes is treated with
contempt by people who believe the ends of channels to be tokenism or hypocrisy; the
argument that a noisy free-speech controversy would serve the ends of rightwing opponents
of the university is of no concern to people who have no great faith in institutions and
consider such thinking the worst kind of "consensus politics." The style of the
New Radicals is not to avoid controversy by compromise but to keep a controversy going
until they have won their point. In December, Weissman told a gathering of graduate
students that if Kerr had managed to carry the day at The Greek Theatre with a rousing
speech, he would have taken the platform and used whatever oratory might have been
necessary "to break the thing open again." He has told me that if the university
had not itself broken the thing open again the week before The Greek Theatre by its
disciplinary action against four of the F.S.M. leaders, the students would have acquired a
print of "Un Chant d'Amour" -- a Genet film that had been banned as obscene from
a student film series that week -- set up a portable projector and loudspeaker, and shown
the film on the wall of Sproul Hall.
Although the campus is now comparatively peaceful, President Kerr
is concerned about how a university is to handle people who, for instance, equate any
compromise in negotiations with selling out. According to a young philosophy professor
named John Searle, who has probably been the faculty member closest to the F.S.M., the
problem should be stated another way. "The militants were forced into the leadership
of the F.S.M. because of the intransigence of the administration on an issue on which they
were clearly in the wrong," Searle says. "Of course these people are
absolutists. They are radicals. They perform a useful function in society as gadflies, but
they have no loyalty to the structure, and once you've forced the population to adopt them
as leaders, you have trouble. The problem is not how to handle them. The problem is how
not to get in a position where a mass movement has to turn to them for leadership."
THE only writer who was quoted consistently by
the Free Speech Movement during the fall was Paul Goodman, a critic of American education
who has long maintained that American college students are regimented rather than
educated, and who said in a New York rally backing the F.S.M. that "at present in the
United States, students -- middle-class youth -- are the major exploited class."
Three days after the Vietnam protest rally, Goodman became the first speaker invited by
the Free University to address a rally on the steps of Sproul Hall -- although, as it
turned out, the rally had to be moved to the lower plaza of the Student Union, because the
Free University had neglected to reserve the steps of Sproul Hall, and the Cal
Conservatives for Political Action, who had reserved them, for a man named Jay Field to
lecture on the dangers of Communism in Hawaii, were unwilling to move their meeting. As
the Conservatives were setting up their sign -- which said in one corner "Labor
Extorted," a reference to the "Labor Donated" notice that usually appears
on the literature of the F.S.M. -- the area near the fountain across the plaza was
unusually active. Tables had been set up by the Students Against Nazi Amnesty, CORE, and
the F.S.M., which was selling long-playing records of speeches and songs heard during the
controversy. Nearby, Savio and Ed Rosenfeld were arguing about the value of sitting in at
the office of the local United States Attorney to protest the federal government's failure
to see to it that Negroes were registered to vote in Selma, Alabama. Art Goldberg entered
the plaza carrying two cardboard boxes of F.S.M. records, and after he had deposited them
on the F.S.M. table he approached the girl who was in charge of Goodman's schedule, to ask
about the possibility of Goodman's making a statement on Vietnam, there having been
several more retaliatory bombing raids since the protest rally.
"He's talking about the student in society," she
"Vietnam is the student in society," said Goldberg.
"The student should be in the streets about it."
"Look, he's made one of the best statements about
Vietnam," she said.
"I know he's good on Vietnam," Goldberg said.
"Not just good," she said.
"He should be good out loud," Goldberg said. "Let
him say it."
At the CORE table, where students were picking up leaflets about
the next week's picketing in Jack London Square -- an event that CORE leaders realized
would have to compete with a demonstration on Vietnam -- Jack Weinberg had been asked by
one of the Students Against Nazi Amnesty to sign the club's petition.
"I usually sign all petitions, but I'm kind of hung up on
this issue," Weinberg said, and walked over to discuss the German statute of
limitations with two or three other students.
On the steps of the Student Union, under a sign that read
"Wear White: Cal vs. Oregon Feb 12, Cal vs. Oregon State Feb 13 at Harmon Gym,"
Denis Mosgofian, of the May 2nd Movement, was holding a meeting of students who had
volunteered to serve as monitors for a march to the Berkeley Selective Service Board which
was to follow the Goodman speech. He handed out orange crepe-paper armbands to the
monitors and held up a hand-drawn map to show them the line of march. "What we do
depends on the turnout," he said. "We'll definitely picket, but if there are
five hundred or a thousand people and there's militancy, maybe we'll sit in."
A student had been walking around and around the plaza with a sign
announcing the Goodman speech, and by noon, as the university bell tower began its midday
concert, several thousand students had gathered in the lower plaza. As the first
Conservative speaker began to talk on Sproul Hall steps about the right of minorities as
well as majorities to free speech, Weinberg signed the petition against Nazi amnesty, and
then he and the rest of the crowd around the fountain made their way to the lower plaza.
Goodman was introduced by Mario Savio. "This platform seems
very official," began Savio, who had first come to attention by speaking from the top
of a police car. "Tie it up like this: Mr. Goodman wrote a book, 'Growing Up Absurd.'
The situation we find ourselves in today punctuates the title. There's a war going on in
Vietnam. Eight hundred people got arrested here for trying to secure rights that were
supposedly secured almost two hundred years ago. Now we stand in lines signing up for
courses where we'll write papers that should never have been written, read books that
should never have been read, hear lectures that should never have been given. Sometimes
you want to strike out at these absurd things. Sometimes you don't think you can do
anything about it. Sometimes you want to strike out even if it's not doing anything. I
want to tell you about two instances of striking out today, even if they're both somewhat
quixotic in nature. At four-thirty tomorrow, at the Federal Building in San Francisco,
there will be a demonstration against the war in Vietnam. Even the Senate is now thinking
about this, but while they're deciding people are dying. Cars leave from Bancroft and Dana
from three-thirty to four. Right after this meeting, there's another meeting about Vietnam
here, and after that a march to the Berkeley recruiting station, again perhaps with a
Goodman, after noting that Savio had given him the gloomiest
introduction he had ever received, talked about the relation of the university to society,
saying that he agreed with Kerr's observation that the university and the community had
become more and more interrelated, but stressing the point that the university should be a
leader rather than a servant of the community, with faculties speaking out as faculties on
such matters as censorship cases, progressive legislation, and the cultural level of the
society. The students listened attentively, and laughed when Goodman, applying his
argument to the F.S.M., said, "You had a Free Speech Movement last fall, and I was
rather astonished, considering the number of intelligent people who were involved, at the
modest level of ideology." Goodman went on, "If that kind of movement grows --
and it's not important whether it has the same name -- you have to find out what
university students can give to society that others can't give."
After Goodman had finished -- to enthusiastic applause -- the
chairman reminded the audience that meetings of the Free University would be held in the
various departments during the next week. Then a representative of the campus Friends of
S.N.C.C. announced a meeting at which the club would "discuss some ways -- all ways
-- to put pressure on the government to do something in Alabama," and Denis Mosgofian
came forward to direct the march on the Berkeley draft board. "We, the students, have
a responsibility," Mosgofian said. "It's the same kind of responsibility we had
last semester. It's quite clear nuclear war is in the offing. I don't even know if we'll
be here Monday.... We of the May 2nd Movement, along with the DuBois Club, the Y.S.A., and
other clubs interested in peace, are going to march to the Selective Service office to
present our demands: one, that the United States get out of Vietnam, and, two, that we
will refuse under all conditions to fight."
Weissman took the microphone to announce that Goodman had agreed
to join the march, and said, "I think it's vital that we show that we want those
troops to get out of Vietnam and into Selma." A line had already formed on the
Bancroft strip, led by three young men carrying a banner that said "Get Out of
Vietnam." As the crowd poured out of the lower plaza, it.seemed huge, but as it filed
down Bancroft Way -- with Mosgofian and his monitors hastily straightening ranks and
directing traffic -- it quickly thinned out, and when the line reached the draft board,
about two blocks away, it contained only about two hundred people. Goodman had dropped out
to go to lunch, but Weissman was still in the front ranks, and about halfway down the line
Savio and Suzanne Goldberg were walking together, accompanied by a young man who was
simultaneously playing a guitar and blowing a harmonica. The draft board occupied a corner
storefront office that had windows on both streets. On one window somebody had whitewashed
the legend "No War." The pickets marched past the office and circled the block
-- a route that took them along the main business street of Berkeley.
"'Stop Johnson's Dirty War'!" a middle-aged shopper said
to her companion, reading the placard carried by Suzanne Goldberg. "They should talk
about being dirty!"
When the pickets returned to the draft board, they formed an
orderly line that curved around the corner and was kept moving by monitors stationed a few
yards up each street. At the corner, Mosgofian, who had decided against a sit-in, was
holding a long scroll -- a declaration that he intended to present to the woman in charge
of the draft board -- and the draft-age males in the demonstration were stepping up to
sign their names to it in marker pencil. Mosgofian eventually shouted that he had a
hundred and eight signatures, but some of the demonstrators didn't seem to be paying much
attention. Savio and Miss Goldberg passed the corner laughing and chatting. A few yards
away, Steve Weissman, walking with Marty Roysher, was discussing the effect that a war
might have on the civil-rights movement.
Copyright © 1965, 1998 by Calvin Trillin. This work may not
be reproduced in any medium which is sold, subject to access fee, or supported by
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