The Daily Californian
Free Speech Movement veterans and historians comment on Milo Yiannopoulos free speech controversy
To the Editor:
As veterans and historians of the Free Speech Movement, we are writing to comment on the forthcoming visit to Berkeley of Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos is a bigot who comes to campus spouting vitriol so as to attract attention to himself. His modus operandi is to bait students of color, transgender students and anyone to the left of Donald Trump in the hopes of sparking a speaking ban or physical altercation so he can pose as a free speech martyr. His campus events are one long publicity stunt designed to present himself as a kind of hip, far right, youth folk hero — sort of Hitler Youth with cool sunglasses. “Look at me, I’m so rad, the PC police won’t let me speak on campus.” That’s his whole shtick in a nutshell, along with bigotry.
Banning him just plays into his hands politically, which is one reason why we were glad to see the UC administration refuse to adopt such a ban. True to form, however, Yiannopoulos and his Berkeley College Republican sponsors nonetheless put on their phony free speech martyrdom routine when the administration asked them to pay for security needed to ensure that the incendiary bigotry of their event does not end in bloodshed.
Berkeley’s free speech tradition, won through struggle — suspension, arrest, fines, jail time — by Free Speech Movement activists is far more important than Yiannopoulos, and it is that tradition’s endurance that concerns us. “The content of speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university”: That’s what the pivotal Dec. 8 resolution says, as adopted by the Berkeley faculty’s Academic Senate when it finally backed the FSM’s free speech demand in 1964. Under the terms of that resolution, even the worst kind of bigot, including Yiannopoulos, must be allowed to speak on campus. So the UC administration was acting in accord with those principles when it refused to ban Yiannopoulos.
We were thus disappointed that so many Berkeley faculty signed an open letter supporting such a ban and criticizing the UC administration for refusing to ban Yiannopoulos. The best way to battle his bigoted discourse is to critique and refute it. And really, that is not hard to do. Just have a look at his speeches, which are devoid of logic and humanity. For example, one of his speeches we read online finds him arguing against criticism of racial slavery in the U.S. since many societies had slavery, which is basically a kind of moral relativism for dummies. If even a 10th of the 100 or so faculty who signed those pro-ban open letters showed up to ask this bigot tough questions or held a teach-in about what’s wrong and unethical in his vitriol (and in the rest of the so called “alt right”), they could puncture his PR bubble instantly, avoid casting him in the role of free speech martyr and prove that the best cure for ignorant and hateful speech is speech that unmasks its illogic, cruelty and stupidity. At a time when we have a bigoted president taking office in the White House it seems especially important for universities to expose and refute bigoted speakers — banning them evades that responsibility.
We urge students to express their opposition to the bigotry of Yiannopoulos and all speakers on campus whose views are hateful, and to do so non-violently, in ways that do not prevent such speakers from making or completing their remarks. Those tempted to block access to or disrupt speeches by such reactionaries should resist that temptation and reflect on FSM leader Mario Savio’s criticism of the disruption of UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick’s speech at Berkeley in the Reagan era. Savio said that, for the sake of Berkeley’s “very precious” tradition of free speech, Kirkpatrick had to be accorded the right to speak. While conceding that her militaristic views might seem intolerable, Mario argued that “for our own good we need to find ways of tolerating what is almost intolerable.” Making a distinction between heckling (raising tough questions in a robust manner) and disruption (drowning out or in some other way preventing the speaker from completing her remarks), Savio urged protesters “to stay on this side of the line that separates heckling from disruption.” This would “prevent what she represents from crushing our liberties—which we can use … to oppose and I hope eliminate what she represents.”
Finally, this whole controversy leads us to call on the Berkeley College Republicans to reflect on their own approach to organizing. While you do have the right to sponsor hateful speakers, how does it serve the campus community, your classmates, or the party of Lincoln to do so?
Board of Directors,
Free Speech Movement Archives
Robert Cohen, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Steve Lustig, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack
July 29, 2015
Statement by the Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives:
As leaders and organizers of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and representatives of the FSM Archives, we are proud to take part in this Journey for Justice. We won, in Berkeley in 1964, the right to organize sit-ins and demonstrations without being sanctioned as students; we won recognition for teaching and research assistance as workers; and we won a deep sense that as individuals, even as students, even as workers, even in debt, marginalized, and far from the seats of power, we had worth, rights under the US Constitution, and the responsibility to exercise those rights and strengthen them. We drew inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, and that struggle is not over. We took as our own specific focus the maintenance of the right of free speech and assembly, organization and demonstration, free from prior restraint by fear of loss of standing or livelihood, and that struggle is not over either. As we move forward, the spirit of every movement veteran, the strength of every hand put on the freedom plow, is with us in the ongoing Journey for Justice.
A Statement of Concern from The Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives
April 4, 2015
To: NYU President John Sexton;
NYU President-designate Andrew Hamilton
The dictionary defines academic freedom as the "liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference."
On March 15, 2015, that freedom was squelched by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when it prevented NYU Professor Andrew Ross from boarding a flight from New York to Abu Dhabi, where he hoped to investigate local labor practices – including the reported exploitation of migrant workers contracted to build the university's campus in Abu Dhabi.
Though the UAE cited "security concerns" as the reason for the ban, it is evident that Professor Ross was barred from making this research trip because he has spoken openly of the role of Emirati and foreign employers in perpetuating the systemic abuses of workers in the Emirates and other Gulf states.
The board of the Free Speech Movement Archive condemns this violation of academic freedom and urges NYU's President to protest this violation and to demand the restoration of academic freedom as a condition for its continued participation in the operations of the Abu Dhabi campus.
As veterans and historians of Berkeley's historic Free Speech Movement, we know that the free exchange of ideas is a precious liberty that can only be won and preserved through struggle. Now is the time for NYU to show its commitment to that struggle and to freedom itself.
The Free Speech Movement Archives was founded by veterans of the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement. The FSM-A website has been cited in The Infography as one of the most excellent sources of information available for learning about "Social Movements of the 1960s."
This statement represents a majority consensus of the FSM Archives Board.
November 24, 2014
The Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives is in solidarity with UC state-wide protests against increased tuition fees. In raising tuition, the Regents are in direct violation of the Master Plan for Higher Education, the Donahoe Act, signed into law by Governor "Pat" Brown on April 27, 1960.
This standing law guarantees that tuition at the UC campuses will never be charged, in order to make higher education in the state accessible to all people. Whether the discriminatory charges are called tuition or fees, they violate the guiding principle of the law: that higher education ought to be available to all eligible California high school graduates regardless of their economic means.
We also call on the Governor and the State Legislature to live up to their responsibilities, as required by the CA Education Code, "to ensure that resources are provided" to permit all eligible students wishing to attend the University of California to do so, without demanding reductions in the quality of the UC education offered to them.
The Board of Directors of the Free Speech Movement Archives
Lee Felsenstein, Gar Smith, Anita Medal, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Jack Radey, Barbara Stack, Robert Cohen
September 16, 2014
Dear Chancellor Dirks,
The Free Speech Movement Archives and the Organizing Committee for the FSM 50th Anniversary would like to thank you for generously supporting our efforts to commemorate the Free Speech Movement and to keep the memory of those events alive. We look forward to seeing you at our reunion.
In the spirit of civil discourse, we would like to bring to your attention some history regarding the question of what the movement was about, what we won, and what it means for the campus today. In your email to the campus community on Friday, Sept. 5, you said, “The boundaries between protected speech and unprotected speech, between free speech and political advocacy, between debate and demagoguery… have never been fully settled.”
In fact, these questions were fully settled. On Dec. 8, 1964, the Berkeley Academic Senate adopted a resolution stating that “the content of speech or advocacy shall not be restricted by the University.” This resolution was then reinforced by the regents’ resolution on Dec. 14, 1964, which stated, “Henceforth University regulations will not go beyond the purview of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
In celebrating the half century that the campus has been “a symbol and embodiment” of the idea of free speech, you are proudly and properly acknowledging the outcome produced by the movement in the fall of 1964. But your statement seems to miss the central point. The struggle of the movement was all about the right to political advocacy on campus. The UC administration of that time insisted it would not permit on-campus speech on advocating student participation in off-campus demonstrations that might lead to arrests. The African-American Civil Rights Movement was then at its height, and students rejected these restrictions. This attempt to restrict our rights produced the Free Speech Movement.
It is precisely the right to speech on subjects that are divisive, controversial and capable of arousing strong feelings that we fought for in 1964. From the roof of the police car blockaded in Sproul Plaza, we heard a song written by UC graduate Malvina Reynolds — who earned a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. — that summed up our feelings toward the UC administration and others who were then trying to rein in the Civil Rights Movement. The song was titled “It Isn’t Nice.”
“It isn’t nice to block the doorway. It isn’t nice to go to jail.
There are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once. You told us twice.
But if that is freedom’s price, we don’t mind.”
We note that the charge of “uncivility” was recently used by Chancellor Phyllis Wise of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to justify the discharge of professor Steven Salaita following controversial statements he posted on his Twitter account. For this reason, many read the call for civility in your letter as a potential threat to academic freedom and to freedom of speech.
We understand you have issued no regulation nor taken any steps to restrict political advocacy or “uncivil” speech on campus. Nonetheless, we are concerned that your call for “civility” may have — or already has had — a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech by UC Berkeley faculty and students. Therefore, we welcome your Sept. 12 message that you do not intend to limit or regulate speech on campus, and we ask that you take every opportunity, during this 50th-anniversary semester, to reaffirm the policy that — as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First and 14th Amendments — the content of speech or advocacy shall not be restricted by the university. We thank you for your email clarifying that you are fully committed to uphold and affirm the proud traditions established on campus 50 years ago.
The Board of Directors of the Free Speech Movement Archives and the 50th Anniversary Organizing Committee
Lee Felsenstein, Gar Smith, Anita Medal, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Jack Radey, Barbara Stack, Steve Lustig, Karen McLellan, Mike Smith, Dana MacDermott, Jack Weinberg and Margy Wilkinson
Sunday, November 13, 2011
An appeal to the UC administration to restore Berkeley’s free speech tradition
We the undersigned Free Speech Movement (FSM) veterans and historians remind the UC administration that the university’s emergence as a center of free political expression on campus began in 1964 when the Free Speech Movement’s free speech principles were adopted by the UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate in its historic Dec. 8 resolutions. Those resolutions affirmed the “content of free speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university.” The resolutions established that there would be no restrictions on campus political expression but only on “time, place and manner,” meaning protests cannot interfere with classes or interfere “with the normal functions of the university.” The administration’s unilateral ban on tents and on a peaceful encampment on the lawn alongside Sproul Hall (that neither interfered with classes nor prevented the “normal functions of the university”) clearly encroached on the free speech rights established by the Dec. 8 resolutions. In other words, the UC administration’s confrontational actions violated the university’s own free speech principles and policies, encroaching upon Berkeley’s historic free speech traditions.
This act of political repression threatens to return UC Berkeley to the pre-FSM era in which speech was freer off campus than on campus. Indeed, today there is greater free speech in New York’s Zucotti Park — where the dissident Occupy Wall Street encampment has been allowed to continue for months — than on the Berkeley campus. The fact that there is greater personal freedom in a park in Manhattan than on a public university campus in Berkeley should be a mark of shame for this administration. The fact that the UC administration chose to enforce its ban on a non-violent student encampment by inviting on to campus armed police and county sheriffs who violently attacked unarmed students is an affront to the very mission of the university.
We urge the University of California administration to cease and desist its violations of the Dec. 8 resolutions, to forswear and abandon all future use of police violence against law-abiding students and faculty, and to restore the campus to its historic free speech traditions.
— Bettina Aptheker, Robert Cohen, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander, Colleen Lye, Anita Medal, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack
Friday November 11, 2011
Statement on UC Police Violence from Veterans of the 1964 Free Speech Movement
Members of the Free Speech Movement Archives (www.FSM-A.com): Bettina Aptheker, Robby Cohen, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Lynne Hollander, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Jackie Goldberg and Barbara Stack
As veterans and historians of the 1964 Free Speech Movement that established the rights of students to freely express their concerns over critical social issues within the boundaries of the University of California's campus, we were shocked by the actions of campus police who seized banners from students peacefully demonstrating in Sproul Plaza and on the Sproul Steps.
We join Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington in demanding that the banners be returned and that University Administrators condemn this unconscionable police assault on Free Speech.
The University is a commons dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. It appears that the campus police are in need of remedial education concerning fundamental protections offered by the US Constitution -- including First Amendment rights to Free Speech and Free Assembly that were clearly recognized and enshrined on the UCB campus 47 years ago on these very steps.
We further condemn the actions of the armed police who beat and arrested students and faculty. We deplore the decision of University officials who, once again, opened the campus to armed and club-wielding Alameda County sheriffs. And we applaud the inspiring example of the students who bravely and nonviolently held their ground against police batons.