>Free Speech Movement at UC-Berkeley a legacy echoed by many > >November 14, 2000 > >By Gretchen Adelson >Daily Californian >U. California-Berkeley > >(U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif. -- Protest, activism, >demonstration -- for the past several decades, many people >have associated University of California at Berkeley with >these words. > >The Free Speech Movement, which engulfed the campus from the >fall of 1964 to the spring of 1965, was undoubtedly a >precipitating factor of the political activism that would >characterize the city and the university for years to come. > >Led by legendary figures such as Mario Savio and Jack >Weinberg, the movement was just the beginning of a wave of >revolutionary protests that swept college campuses >throughout the nation during the 1960s. More than 30 years >later, many still consider the events that took place at UC >Berkeley to be the cornerstones of the movement toward >political activism that highlighted the 1960s and changed >college campus life perpetually. > >On Sept. 16, 1964, presidents and chairs of student >organizations received the infamous letter from Dean >Katherine Towle stating that, effective Sept. 21, >information and registration tables would no longer be >permitted on the 26-foot strip at Bancroft Way and Telegraph >Avenue. Furthermore, the university banned literature and >activities concerning off-campus political action. The >letter provoked the outrage of UC Berkeley students and, >many believe, set off the movement. > >"From the beginning of the increase of student activism, the >administration sought ways to contain it and diminish it," >says Michael Rossman, who was a graduate student at the time >and currently edits a Web site that archives the movement. >"It was about a six-year history of curtailment of what >students could do on campus." > >The political activism that invaded UC Berkeley in the late >1950s was, according to Rossman, a reaction to the United >States' civil rights movement. Rossman insists that the >administration's actions, especially banning tables, were in >reaction to students' support for civil rights. > >Lynne Hollander Savio, Mario Savio's widow, says she >considers civil rights a driving force for the movement. > >"A lot of the spirit of the Free Speech Movement came from >the fact that people were really committed to the civil >rights movement," says Savio, now a librarian. "The passion >that was there (in the free speech movement) that was fought >for these rights on campus (originated) because people were >very passionate about the civil rights movement -- people >felt very strongly about it." > >Students demonstrated this passion on the first day of >classes, Sept. 21, 1964 when they gathered at Sproul Hall >for the movement's first rally. > >Earlier that day, Towle met with representatives from >various student groups and allowed them to set up a >regulated number of tables and to pass out informative but >not provocative literature. > >These new regulations were violated, however, on Sept. 30 >when five students set up tables at Sather Gate. >Administrators requested the students appear for >disciplinary action that same day. > >Led by Mario Savio, Art Goldberg and Sandor Fuchs and more >than 500 students manned the second floor balcony of Sproul >Hall for the movement's first sit-in. > >Protesters did not leave until 2:40 a.m. on Oct. 1, when >they agreed to disassemble. > >At a noon rally that day, students again set up tables at >Sather Gate and at the steps of Sproul Hall. Jack Weinberg, >a representative of Campus Congress of Racial Equality, >refused to leave his table or identify himself. Police >arrested Weinberg and dragged him into a car that had been >driven onto campus, an action that outraged many of the >protesters. > >"That was a major mistake -- what could have inflamed people >more?" Savio says. "They could have had a policeman write a >citation, but to drive a police car onto campus was not >really prudent." > >Students sat down around the police car and prevented it >from leaving campus. Several hundred turned into several >thousand and, amid this act of protest, a student named >Mario Savio emerged as the leader of the Free Speech >Movement. Savio, a sophomore philosophy major at the time, >took his shoes off, climbed on top of the police car, and, >in an emphatic speech, addressed more than 2,000 students. > >Fellow students of Mario Savio remember today his moral >integrity and overall trustworthiness. > >"He had an extremely keen moral sense -- a sense of right >and wrong that was really on target," Savio says. "People >knew they could trust him." > >Weinberg and the thousands of students surrounding him >stayed put for 32 hours. After negotiations between student >representatives and administration officials, both parties >finally reached a settlement -- student demonstrators were >to desist illegal activity, a committee representing >students, faculty and administration would be established, >and charges against Weinberg would be dropped. > >Perhaps the hallmark of the movement took place on Dec. 2, >when more than 1,000 demonstrators packed four floors of >Sproul Hall for a rally. As students began to occupy the >building, Mario Savio addressed demonstrators with the >movement's most celebrated speech. > >"There comes a time when the operation of the machine >becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you >can't take part," he said. "And you've got to indicate to >the people who run it, to the people that own it, that >unless you're free, the machines will be prevented from >working at all." > >More than 800 students remained in Sproul Hall that night. >At 3:05 a.m., Chancellor Edward Strong urged the >demonstrators to leave, and at 3:45 a.m. Gov. Edmund Brown >announced that he had dispatched 635 policemen to the scene. >For the next 12 hours approximately 814 demonstrators were >arrested and taken to local jails. It was the biggest mass >arrest in U.S. history to that point. > >"It was pretty dramatic to be there looking inside," says >Reggie Zelnik, a UC Berkeley history professor who watched >the mass arrests of Dec. 3. > >A group of faculty members collected contributions and >bailed out many of the student demonstrators. > >"The faculty as a general body didn't come to fully support >the free speech movement until hundreds of faculty went to >Santa Rita Jail to drive their best students home -- it took >that kind of drama," Rossman says. "The faculty had come >very belatedly to support us in civil liberties." > > >From the beginning of the movement, only a portion of >faculty members supported the students who were fighting for >it. > >John Searle, a UC Berkeley philosophy professor, was an >assistant professor at the time and says that for some time >he was alone in supporting the movement. > >"At the very beginning there were almost no faculty members >sympathetic to the Free Speech Movement," Searle says. "As I >recall I was the only regular tenured faculty member to >support the FSM in the early days." > >Searle says the movement gained more and more faculty >support as the administration grew more unreasonable. > >Zelnik recounts that the movement drew more faculty support >in late November, when administrators retroactively >disciplined leaders for actions they made in September. > >"The feeling that the administration made so many mistakes >in handing the situation led to change in faculty >sentiment," Zelnik says. > >In negotiations made during the night of Dec. 2, faculty >members decided to establish an Academic Senate committee to >which students could appeal the administration's actions. On >Dec. 7, approximately 16,000 students, faculty members and >staff gathered in the Greek Theater for a convocation. Once >the meeting was adjourned, Mario Savio stepped on the stage >in order to make an announcement but was immediately removed >by police. > >"It was the most naked display of police power," says Savio. >"It was just a question of power." > >After much protest from students and faculty members, Mario >Savio was released and allowed to speak. > >On Dec. 8, the Academic Senate voted in favor of a >five-point proposal against control of student speech and >political advocacy. > >Savio recalls a sentiment of victory and euphoria after the >students' demands were supported. > >"The sentiment after was that 'we are fantastic -- we have >won a great victory,'" she says. "We thought we could now >reform the whole world." > >Although the UC Board of Regents did not initially accept >the Academic Senate's proposal, by January, the new acting >chancellor, Martin Meyerson, permitted tables and assigned >Sproul Hall steps as an area for open discussion. > >The movement toward free speech certainly did not end in the >spring of 1965, however. Protest of the Vietnam War followed >that spring, and an increase in activism and demonstration >encompassed UC Berkeley and innumerable other college >campuses for the rest of the decade. The movement was only >the beginning of a larger trend of protest and activism that >many believe changed university life for good. > >"Nationally it made a tremendous difference -- it was the >end of a certain conception of the relationship between the >university and students," says Searle. "Up until that point >the general attitude was that the university was a >sub-parent. This was an important step in removing that." > >Searle points out that many universities nationwide imitated >UC Berkeley's movement. > >"The great secret of the Free Speech Movement was not that >we had some special secret for doing it but that that it >could be done," Searle says. > >Elizabeth Stevens, a librarian at the Bancroft Library, is >reminded of the movement whenever she encounters activism >today. > >"The fact that you can go down to Sproul Plaza and can see >about anybody give their two cents worth is a direct result >of the FSM," she says. "It's become an important event that >people identify with when they think of Berkeley."
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