The Free Speech Movement
Chapter 4 from
A Journey Through Spirit and Revolution
(Beacon Press, Boston; 1997)
It's a sunlit morning in 1964. My
mother and I are traveling across the country on our way to Berkeley, and she is slowly
coming to terms with the departure of her only child for college. I'm floating in a
swimming pool somewhere in the Midwest, saying various syllables over and over, like
"Oregon" and "all." I am trying to lose my New York accent; like so
many immigrants, I am trying to remake myself.
Living in New York City, I looked
upon Berkeley as so many Americans have looked throughout history upon the West -- as an
escape from everything that defined my past. For me Berkeley was not only an excellent
school, and a place with a rich history of student activism; going to Berkeley meant
fleeing New York, my parents, the memories of four depressing high school years during
which I had few real friends. Most of all, I was fleeing from myself and from the large
one-hundred-and-eighty-pound body that encased me. California, a place I had never seen,
seemed a place of open space, infinite possibilities -- radicals, surfers, palm trees, the
Beach Boys, and not necessarily in that order. I was determined to enter this mythical
realm and to claim it as my own.
Looking back, I realize now that I
also wanted to free myself from being my mother's daughter. All during her life I felt in
the shadow of this beautiful, theatrical, extraordinary woman. Although she never said so,
my mother would have far preferred that I go to some fashionable college in the East,
preferably Radcliffe, but I knew deep down it would never be. Although no one, including
myself£ would admit it at the time, I was clearly the kind of applicant that gives
college administrators pause. Visibly overweight and wearing dark, oversized tent dresses,
with my hair short and shapeless, I was not the type to inspire confidence, despite an
energetic, even bubbly nature. And I was absolutely sure every interviewer could see
through my outer facade, into the dark, angst-filled, daydream-laden creature below who
was secretly spending two or three hours a day living out various historical and science
Many years later, having interviewed
dozens of young college students as potential baby-sitters, I realize that I was probably
exactly the kind of young woman I have occasionally rejected as too depressive or dour,
preferring instead those lovely, confident, smiling types with pastel sweaters and circle
pins, the ones who seem to know exactly where they are going and do not harbor dangerous
dreams. In the end, I was clearly fated to go to a college that was interested only in my
Going to Berkeley was my own attempt
-- which seemed feeble at the time -- to find a rich and interesting life of my own. And
it worked: for the next eight years, everywhere I went I found myself mysteriously at the
center of extraordinary events.
True, my Berkeley was not the only
one. It was a center of bohemianism, yet Ronald Reagan was the governor of the state when
I graduated, in 1968, and his signature is on my diploma. Berkeley had the largest number
of Nobel laureates and Peace Corps volunteers of any university, but also the largest
number of federal contracts for nuclear weapons research.
The 1968 yearbook portrays the
conventional Berkeley I did not know: sports teams and glee clubs, cheerleaders, rally
clubs, the campus newspaper, the humor magazine, a plethora of honor organizations, bands,
theatrical and music groups, but not a single mention of anyone I knew. The student
protests are relegated to one or two snapshots. The seven professors who inspired me are
neither listed nor photographed. None of my roommates are listed in the index, nor are
they to be found in the pages of class photos. All of my friends are missing. I am not
there either. It almost seems as if the Berkeley I knew was purposely rubbed out by the
official chroniclers of the time, its radical legacy denied. But it is also true that I
chose not to have my picture taken for the yearbook (it seemed a silly ritual) and I did
not attend my own graduation, something I now regret.
Still, coming to Berkeley in 1964
was like entering a fantasy of what the agora might have been like in ancient Athens
(forgetting for the moment that there were slaves in Athens and women were second-class
citizens, expected to stay indoors). Much of Berkeley's social life took place outside,
and except for the three-month rainy season, the sky seemed eternally blue, the sun was
nearly always shining, and the manicured lawns were watered daily. The older structures on
the campus, white buildings with Spanish terra-cotta tile roofs, glistened in the
sunlight. At times, as dusk approached and the sky darkened into an intense and vibrant
blue, the cedars and fir trees were tinged with a golden light and the entire campus
seemed bathed in radiance.
The campus buildings were a mix of
classical, neoclassical, and beaux-arts structures competing with newer, concrete
abominations. The administration building, Sproul Hall, with its four huge Doric columns,
looked out on our agora, Sproul Plaza. At noon it often seemed that the entire population
of thirty thousand students would pour into the plaza. No stranger to crowds and large
city life, I found Berkeley an appropriate size -- like a Greek polis.
As an only child I had lived alone
most of my life, and unlike many students whose thirst for independence is symbolized by
the quest for their own apartment, I had no desire to live on my own. What I desperately
wanted was company. Living in a boarding house for young women, mostly freshmen, brought
the comfort of neighbors and friends -- an entry into an instant and easy community I had
never had. I privately exulted at this abundance of companionship.
I also secretly enjoyed the most
ghastly and shameful aspects of student orientation, watching the cheerleaders and
learning the school colors and songs and the silly traditions of the football team. Since
my New York high school didn't even have team sports and our senior prom had been canceled
for lack of interest, I looked on such things with the fascination of an alien
anthropologist or, at the very least, a tourist from another land, which perhaps I was.
Even those things that irked radical students the most and were the seeds from which
rebellion was already sprouting -- the machine-like quality of some of the education, the
huge lecture classes with eight hundred students, the small sections led by bored and
immature teaching assistants, the inadequate counseling, the invisibility of each person
among a student body of almost thirty thousand -- those things, at least at the beginning,
were liberating. "There is something wonderful about being able to lose oneself in a
crowd," I wrote to my mother two weeks after school began. "Knowing that no one
knows me . . . there is a beautiful feeling knowing that I am like a thousand normal
The part of campus life that quickly
became confusing was the dizzying array of choices. "This school is beginning to
overwhelm me," I wrote home only a week later.
"I want to try everything! But already I wonder if I am
taking too much? I guess I am in a weird mood because a girl who lives in this house just
had something akin to a nervous breakdown. I hear that this is a common enough occurrence
in college ... so it makes you wonder ... "So here's the question. 1. Logically, I
should enjoy my work. 2. I should do well enough so that if I want to continue in graduate
school it will be possible. 3. I should be able to participate in many of the wonderful
outside activities available. 4. I should enjoy myself to the utmost. But somehow, these
things do not seem compatible, unless I forget about #2, which I am never able to do. I
don't want to complain, but when you are assigned over one weekend 400 pages of reading
from Plato, Sophocles, Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer and modern political analysis, it's fair
to cry out, 'My God, give me a little time to do this, so that I can go folk dancing or go
to a movie.' there are so many choices each night -- a party, a meeting, a movie, or
realistically, getting some of this damn reading done."
I realize only now, reading these
letters from thirty years ago, that my mother's words had method and purpose. Like Auntie
Mame, she always tried to entice me away from the predictable, to help me see the larger
aspects of life:
October 4th, 1964
"Two letters from you! Joy,
joy.... They both made me chuckle and hold back a tear or two. The tear not being caused
by lonesomeness but by the picture of you weighted down by all those assignments, torn by
your newly discovered (finally and thank God) possibilities of having fun, and your sense
of guilt at not always plodding away at your assignments.
"So at the risk of being a
mother which I of course am, and a Jewish one at that, I want to talk out loud about just
this point. I have complete trust in your good sense, Margot, so that fun will always be
something truly enjoyable and not an extreme attempt to avoid your responsibilities to
your work. However the choice you will have to make is to be a good average student with
time to live life to the hilt, or an A student plodding away at the cost of missing the
real purpose of college which is to make life More and not Less meaningful. The purpose of
all those wonderful philosophers you are reading is to give you a sense of values to live
by, a way of saying, Yes to life and not No.
"Talking of philosophy, there
is something about Zen that just touches that. The business of so freeing the mind from
facts and pressures so that you have a state that they call emptying the mind, if I have
it right, and I may very well have only superficially understood it, by empty it really
means being sufficiently open and uncluttered so that you are sensitized to receive all
the things around you, be they people, activities or that highest of reactions to life --
the world of art.
"All of which, darling, leads
me to tell you your biggest problem is that which plagues imaginative people all their
lives -- CHOICES. You will have to decide of three equally exciting things which one to go
to, even if all three are equally intriguing -- after all you only have one ass. Also you
will have to decide that no one but yourself is pressuring you to be a top student. I only
want for your sake that you just get the necessary grades not to be kicked out, that's
all. I don't give a damn if you get one A. So my darling sit down and have a good talk
with yourself, and know that your mother loves you even if you fail every goddamn subject
-- I hope for your sake you don't. . . . But if college is pressuring people so they
crack, we had better say the hell with college and look into what is wrong. The purpose of
the humanities is to be able to live a rich, intellectual and emotional life, to be able
to embrace life in all its colors, joys and tragedies, but never to be so overburdened
that one's senses become deadened and unable to receive the gifts college offers in the
My mother echoed what many students
at Berkeley believed in 1964, but what is very hard for today's students to fathom in this
era of downsizing and burdensome student debt. The purpose of school was to enlarge
oneself, to discover the path to a rewarding and interesting life, to get a liberal
education and ponder the meaning of existence; it was only secondarily to get a career.
Although living well did not mean having the kinds of material possessions it does today,
America was prosperous. Jobs were available and we assumed that we could get them when the
time came. Tuition was low at Berkeley, even for out-of-state students; it was easy to
live cheaply, and students only paid back loans when they were able. Later, in the 1970s,
tuitions would rise, scholarships would be cut, and regulations governing loans would be
tightened, all of which would undercut student activism and force many to choose money
But we were a generation determined
to mine experience for its riches. And my mother, despite her own experiences during the
Depression -- experiences which made many other parents unable to accept their children's
seeming aimlessness -- was eager to hear about our artistic and philosophic journeys.
"I read The Stranger.
Absolutely absurd, fascinating. Do you think life has any meaning? JoAnne (one of my
roommates) and I have decided that it only does on a lower level: in other words,
individuals have no meaning at all in the larger universe -- we are just ants, or specks
of sand, meaningless in the grand scheme of things. However on the lower level, where we
make man the center, life has the meaning we give it. Perhaps we live because of an
instinct for survival, but once we have decided to live, life can have meaning, and can be
as wonderful, and beautiful as possible. But in order to live, we must forget about that
upper level where man and life and the earth and Bach and art are all meaningless, because
were we to keep our mind on that, it would be too painful."
"So you're head deep in the
meaning of it all and very much under the influence of the "Existentialists." I
think it is wonderful that you are questioning the meaning of it all. And I believe that
it is only because we are a tiny speck in the total universe that we can develop true
values and say, Yes to life for the short visit we humans are on this planet. How tragic
that so many waste it in the jungle of competition and petty shit level concerns.
"... Even I, a middle aged
woman, still examine the why, and it only makes me go into life more, wanting to extract
the most succulent juices from it.... If all we can know is our human condition then this
is what is most important, and only by realizing this, and how small we are in the total
cosmos do we realize the need for extending our hand to our fellow man who is just as
alone as we and needs to extend his hand in our direction as much as we his. So soul
search my darling, for when you stop you are sterile and dead."
Within my first weeks at Berkeley I was involved in a buzz
of activities in addition to my studies. I had gone to a fraternity party, had sat behind
a table for Students for a Democratic Society, had gone to a meeting of the W. E. B.
DuBois Club, had seen films by Eisenstein and Leni Riefenstahl.
In contrast, my "Introduction
to Government" course was decidedly at odds with the budding ferment around me. In
the early 1960's, most political scientists in the United States -- men like Wildavsky,
Greenstein, Dahl, Polsby, and McCloskey -- believed that American democracy worked only
because most Americans were apathetic. Most Americans, we were told in readings for the
course, did not care and did not participate in political activities; they placed their
dreams and hopes in the private sector instead. The authors argued that this apathy toward
the political prevented extremes and promoted stability. (Why, if Americans truly cared
about politics, these experts assured us, our country would be as politically unstable as
Italy!) When I asked the professor to suggest readings that took a different view, I was
told that there were none. Confused and angry, I began to look for other authorities.
Outside the classroom, politics was
the breath of life. Standing around the political tables set up in the plaza, students
were talking about politics and philosophy, gesturing, shouting each other down. Clusters
of students discussed events and ideas for hours. Groups would form and dissipate and form
again. Here politics was seen as a life-and-death struggle, and argument was ecstasy.
Caring intensely was not only good, but would surely change the world for the better.
While politics bid for my soul,
another model, totally at war with the active political life, also beckoned. Gilbert Rose,
a teaching assistant in ancient Greek, was enticing me into the classical world. One day
Rose put the first three lines of the Odyssey on the blackboard and then, layer by layer
as if he were peeling an onion, he uncovered strata of hidden meaning, until we were awed
by the mysterious nature of the Greek language in the same way a person is awed when they
cut an apple horizontally and see inside, for the first time, the hidden pentagram or
star. Rose was a model totally at odds with the image of activism at Berkeley. He would
sit in his home, surrounded by walls of books, contentedly poring over ancient Greek
texts, while his wife sat at her desk quietly studying Anglo-Saxon. I wondered if they
were outside the main energy of our era or if they were investigating the only questions
anyone would find interesting a hundred or a thousand years from now.
while the myths and gods of the past were calling to me, the call of the present was
stronger. The Free Speech Movement had just begun when I arrived at Berkeley in the fall
of 1964, although it would be another month before there was an organization with that
name. Earlier, in the summer, students from Berkeley had organized demonstrations at the
Republican National Convention in support of liberal Republican William Scranton and
against Barry Goldwater, the convention's ultimate nominee. It's still unclear whether
conservatives actually put pressure on the university, or whether the university, worried
about its budget and needing to appease its conservative board of regents, simply felt the
need to discourage student political activity. Whatever the reason, on September 14,
shortly before classes began, a dean notified off-campus organizations that all student
political activity was henceforth prohibited on campus.
When I was growing up in the fifties
my family possessed two recordings that came to symbolize for me the fight for political
freedom. The first was The Investigator, a devastating satire about Senator
Joseph McCarthy, in which he dies in a plane crash and goes to heaven. After passing
through the pearly gates with barely a question asked, he decides that heaven is too lax
and convenes a committee of inquisitors, witch-hunters, and hanging judges from across
history, to interrogate the population of heaven. One by one he deports every freethinker
to hell: Thomas Jefferson, James Joyce, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Wagner, Socrates,
Beethoven,John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx. Each notable has a hearing and says his most
stirring words in defense of liberty. As a teenager I would listen to this record and pace
around the living room, pretending I was these famous men, mouthing their speeches.
In the end, Joseph McCarthy causes
such a mess in the other world that God and Satan both throw up their hands and agree that
Joe is ruining both of their realms, so they send him back to earth.
The other recording I listened to
over and over was The Sounds of Protest, a documentary about the House UnAmerican
Activities Committee Hearings in 1960, in San Francisco, and the protests against them.
Three thousand people picketed the committee's hearings at City Hall. With few exceptions,
only those friendly to the committee were allowed inside, and demonstrations outside
became tense. On May 13, 1960, suddenly, without warning, police used fire hoses on the
demonstrators and dragged them down the stairs, the spines of the protesters bumping on
every slippery step. I was mesmerized as I listened to the speeches of those who were
subpoenaed by HUAC. They argued that they were unable to confront their accusers, that
they were being defamed and pilloried not for what they had done, but simply for what they
believed. The speakers were stirring and courageous: "If you think I am going to
cooperate with this collection of Judases, with these men who sit there in violation of
the U.S. Constitution. If you think I am going to cooperate in any way, you are
insane."  Even more mesmerizing were the civil rights songs of the students and
their chants and screams as police turned on the hoses and the students linked arms and
were dragged down the stairs. Sixty-four people were arrested; more than thirty of them
were Berkeley students.
Having already taken part in many
political activities in New York City, I thought the right to political advocacy seemed
obvious, and I was soon handing out leaflets, attending rallies, and sitting behind tables
filled with political literature -- activities that were forbidden under the new campus
In the beginning, the Free Speech
Movement focused exclusively on campus free speech, but eventually it went much further:
it demanded that students be treated like citizens, subject to regulation only by the
courts. I embraced that goal since I had become enraged at California's paternalism within
days of my arrival. (When my mother and I tried to enter a San Francisco cabaret to see a
show we were told that since drinks were available and the drinking age was twenty-one I
was too young to attend, even though a parent was accompanying me. I was livid. In those
days the drinking age in New York was eighteen, and I was accustomed to being treated as
Later, the Free Speech Movement also
mounted a blistering critique of the university as a "knowledge factory" turning
out corporate drones for industry. In 1964, with a student body of nearly thirty thousand,
resources at Berkeley were strained; it was easy for students to feel they were being
pressed out like so many pieces of sausage. And this idea of the university as a factory
that would train bureaucrats, engineers, and politicians to keep the establishment going
seemed the absolute antithesis of any real quest for knowledge. (It still does.) Twenty
years later, Michael Rossman, one of the theoreticians of the FSM, would bring an audience
of Berkeley students to hysterical laughter by framing the FSM critique this way: "We
were being prepped to run the society for the students at Harvard and Yale, who were being
prepped to own it."
But even if the student argument
made intellectual sense to me, I felt anything but alienated. I was out on my own. I
floated through my first semester, did well in everything, and even defended the large
lecture format in letters home. "Are your classes as formidable as everyone I meet
thinks?" queried my ever-vigilant mother, who worried about "classes of five
hundred and more where you are fortunate if you get a glimpse of your professor once
during the semester." "Remember," she advised me, "it will be the
intimate connections and contacts with stimulating people on the faculty through whom the
important part of your academic life will have real meaning. I'd hate for you to be
swallowed up in a mass of bigness and impersonalness."
I was quick to reassure her.
"It's really a myth about how terrible these large lecture classes are," I wrote
home. "If you have a really great professor his classes will be stimulating, no
matter how many students are in the class." I felt a new sense of freedom and an
almost Edenic sense of bliss, and it was a bit hard to see myself as the soulless IBM card
depicted in FSM leaflets.
The Free Speech Movement was also
deeply influenced by the civil rights movement. In the early 1960S, Berkeley students had
begun to picket local Kress and Woolworth stores in protest of their discriminatory hiring
practices, in actions very similar to the protests I had joined in New York during high
school. By 1964, students were joining civil rights protests at Lucky supermarkets, Mel's
Drive-in, and the Sheraton Palace Hotel, and many of these businesses subsequently changed
Then came the Mississippi Summer
Project of 1964, in which almost a thousand students went south to register black voters
and set up "Freedom Schools" to teach the history of the struggle for civil
rights. The death of three civil rights workers brought the world's attention to
Mississippi. Between thirty and sixty students from Berkeley traveled to that state that
summer, and they returned to the campus, according to Mario Savio, the Free Speech
Movement's most eloquent speaker, as different people. When Savio himself returned to
Berkeley from the South he said that civil rights was not only the most interesting thing
that was going on in America, it was the most "unsullied" thing. 
For the students and former students
who would lead the FSM, their civil rights work provided a sense of morality, purpose,
meaning, and community. They returned from Mississippi, and from work in the Bay Area,
with a belief that confrontation often succeeds in bringing about needed change. They also
brought with them skills they'd gained -- experience in civil disobedience and knowledge
of how to confront recalcitrant authorities.
September 28, the ban on political activity had become so divisive that all classes
stopped at 11:00A.M. for an address to all students by President Clark Kerr and Chancellor
Edward Strong Chancellor Strong was introducing new student officers and giving his views
on the controversy -- words that seemed turgid and bland. All the while, about four
hundred students paraded through the aisles carrying signs: "Vote for X
(Censored)" and "Ban the Ban." To many of us in the audience, the
protesters, unlike the speakers, seemed to radiate life.
On September 30, five students were
cited by campus police for sitting at "illegal" tables. After being told to come
to the dean's office, they entered the administration building, Sproul Hall, surrounded by
three hundred supporters, an event which developed into the first FSM sit-in. The five
students, along with three other leaders of the protests, were suspended.
The next day the protesters
determined to test the rules again.Jack Weinberg brought a huge door onto the campus, to
create a table for the civil rights organization CORE. The demonstrators set up their
tables right in front of Sproul Hall. Weinberg was told he was violating university
regulations, and just as lunchtime crowds began to gather he began to give a passionate
speech about the "knowledge factory" but was arrested before he finished. Using
a tactic from civil rights demonstrations in the South, he went limp and was carried to a
police car. Students, now gathering in the hundreds, soon to be thousands, spontaneously
began to shout "Sit down!" and soon hundreds were sitting down in front of and
behind the police car. (Weinberg would sit in that surrounded police car for some
Like many students, I wandered over
to Sproul Plaza for the noon rally and arrived just after the arrest took place. It was
extraordinary to see this police car immobile, surrounded by a growing crowd. As time
passed, students, faculty, clergy, and members of the community began to climb on top of
the car to make speeches to the throng, while underneath, Jack Weinberg, this
intense-looking young man with dark tousled hair and a dark mustache, his brow furrowed,
his eyes blazing, sat calmly next to a policeman, seem
As a freshman in my first semester,
I felt too timid to make a speech, although I thought of several as I listened; I felt
excited by the growing sense of community among the protesters. It seemed ridiculous that
Weinberg had been arrested for sitting behind a table covered with civil rights
literature, something I had been doing myself just days before. It seemed easy and
appropriate to sit down on the ground with the other students. I felt almost no fear,
perhaps because the police car, usually such a powerful symbol of authority, seemed tiny
and helpless in the face of our growing numbers.
As we sat around the car, blocking
its movement, preventing this arrest from occurring, I felt a sense of exhilaration. But
there were moments of fear and terror as we wondered what action the authorities would
take. Most of the protesters had never participated in any political demonstration before.
Many cried or laughed, or were uncertain what to do. We had turned the world upside down,
stopped the machinery of the state. There was a feeling of instant community and internal
power. We had no name for the power that we felt. Years later, spiritual feminists would
call it "evoking power-from-within."
At the height of the demonstration
some three thousand people gathered in the plaza. Ministers called for peace, fraternity
boys threw rotten eggs, and the students sitting around the car sang, talked, and passed
out food and cigarettes. I remember that after many hours someone finally gave Jack
Weinberg a coke bottle to pee in.
Bettina Aptheker, in a book on the
student rebellion, writes that while the demonstration was motivated by principle,
something more than a principle was needed to "evoke such a display of courage."
"There was a shared, if not yet
articulated sentiment that the authority of the university itself had to be challenged;
that many things about it were wrong: that the world stood on its head, that everything
was upside down and inside out; and that somehow, somebody, everybody had to straighten it
out before we all died for no plausible reason -- just as we all seemed to be living for
no plausible purpose. There is no other way to explain the presence of that quaking, still
joyful, mass of people, clinging to each other." 
The moment was what the author (and
Witch) Starhawk would call magic: "the art of liberation, the act that releases the
mysteries, that ruptures the fabric of our beliefs and lets us look into the heart of deep
space where dwell the immeasurable, life-generating powers."  It was unplanned and
spontaneous, and the thousands of students who sat around this symbol of external
authority, of the state, could not help but be affected and could not help but begin to
think that their cause was more than a simple fight for free speech, that it encompassed a
battle to change the nature of power and authority.
In the end, with almost a thousand
police amassed on the campus and protesters negotiating with the administration, an
agreement was worked out. Students would end the demonstration: Weinberg would be booked
and released and the university would not press charges. The cases of the suspended
students would go before the student conduct committee of the Academic Senate, and a
committee of students, faculty, and administration, including leaders of the
demonstration, would meet to discuss all aspects of political behavior on the campus and
make recommendations to the administration.
Perhaps it was an oversight, perhaps it was a trick, but
there was no student conduct committee of the Academic Senate; instead, the cases
were brought before a committee appointed by the chancellor, which was unacceptable to the
student protesters and fueled our paranoia. Negotiations and rallies resumed. It was at
this point that the Free Speech Movement adopted its name and really began to organize,
creating a steering committee, an executive committee with representatives from all
interested campus political groups, and various centers for press, communication, work,
and legal affairs. The FSM published a newsletter, and it put out two different recordings
(including a very funny Christmas spoof, "Free Speech Carols ) as well as more
serious papers attacking the university's paternalistic ideology, arguing that students
were citizens and that political expression on campus could only be governed by the United
States Constitution and the courts.
Negotiations with the administration
had been lengthy and nonproductive and students were debating whether to engage in new
confrontations. The FSM steering committee, led by civil rights organizers, took the more
radical position, but although the steering committee made many of the day-to-day
decisions, most issues had to be brought before the larger executive committee. A group of
moderates led by a leader of the Young Democrats tried to pack an executive committee
meeting with a half dozen inactive organizations, so that the moderate position -- a vote
against renewed civil disobedience -- would win out.
"I am now on the Executive
Committee of the Free Speech Movement," I wrote home. I was representing a college
civil liberties organization that didn't seem to do much of anything, and that I had never
heard of. I had been asked to represent this group by a leader of the Young Democrats.
When I had been invited to represent this group it had felt wonderful, but I soon realized
that I was being used. When I realized that I was siding with the radicals over the issue
of renewed protests but had been placed on the executive committee in order to support the
moderate position, I left before the vote.
On Monday, November 9, the FSM and
eight other off-campus organizations set up tables in front of the main steps of Sproul
Hall. Seventy-five people, including me, had their names taken by various administration
officials. On November l0, we all received letters and were asked to appear at the dean's
"Don't Worry, Mom," I
wrote in mid-November,
"it looks as though everything will be fine. I still don't
know what will exactly happen to us, but it looks as if it will be nothing more than a
reprimand or social probation which is no more than a warning. I met with one of the deans
and she was a lovely woman. She asked me no questions about my FSM involvement and only
wanted to know if there were any individual circumstances that made my case different from
the rest -- in other words was I unwillingly involved. I said, "no." She asked
me how I was doing in school, how I liked "Cal" and even said that if I was
aware of the responsibilities I was taking, then "more power to you." Some of
the other deans had intimidated students. Anyway, the past
week has been terribly exciting. We have constantly set up tables and the administration
has done nothing. How many can they cite, after all? There have been rumors about police,
but so far nothing. "
Eventually the seventy-five cited
students were sent letters of formal reprimand. We were warned that future violations
would subject us to more serious discipline.
On November 20 there was a large
march of several thousand students. Everyone wore dresses or suits and ties. Looking at a
picture of that demonstration, like looking at early pictures of the Beatles, reminds me
how positively "straight" we looked, even at Berkeley, at the end of 1964. The
styles that would give the decade its look were still a few years away. We would not have
recognized ourselves a mere four years later
Soon after this, the University of
California Board of Regents passed resolutions that students be required to obey state and
community laws, and that political activities would be permitted in certain campus
facilities, as long as they were legal. Four days later the administration announced new
rules allowing organizations to get permits and set up tables. Students could solicit
donations and advocate political action. Many believed the university had given as much as
it could, and that the FSM was dead, having won a partial victory. But the movement, led
by its civil rights activists, now understood that its primary demand was that only the
courts of law could judge the content of speech and impose punishment. Achieving that goal
seemed as elusive as ever.
The Free Speech Movement was at war
with a notion that was central to the thinking of many of Berkeley's faculty, and even
some of its students, that the university was a place outside of space and time, with
different rules from those of the society at large. Many university administrators
couldn't honestly understand why students would want to give up the loving hand of
paternalistic parents for the colder, harder justice of the outside world. English
professor Charles Muscatine has said that the FSM revolutionized the idea of what a
university was by overturning the medieval notion that the university was a special place,
an ivory tower insulated from the rest of the world: "What the students achieved ...
[was] a redefinition of the campus as the polls, or civic home of the students.... They
forced that idea upon us, and it turned out to be right." 
By November the university had
agreed to all of the FSM's demands except one: control of the decisions that affected our
lives. There was a new notion of politics in the air -- it wasn't about voting or
political parties, but, in the words of the Port Huron Statement of the Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS), politics was all "those social decisions determining
the quality and direction of... life."  But this idea was subtle and difficult, it
was not an idea that thousands would go to jail for. I am convinced -- and so are many
others -- that the movement would have died, or have been doomed as a weak minority effort
if, at the end of November, the administration hadn't made a huge mistake.
On November 27 and 28, out of the
blue, four students -- Mario Savio, Art Goldberg, Brian Turner, and Jackie Goldberg --
received letters from the administration. They were ordered to attend hearings before an
administrative committee for illegal activities back in October, when thousands had
surrounded the police car. When these letters became public, almost every student involved
in the FSM felt personally betrayed. And when the movement demanded these charges be
dropped, arguing that only the courts could regulate the content of speech and that this
demand be met by noon on December 2, the stage was set for the extraordinary events that
At a huge demonstration in front of
Sproul Hall, thousands of students heard Mario Savio, the charismatic spokesperson of the
Free Speech Movement, give his famous "operation of the machine" speech. I found
his words so powerful that thirty years later I still have most of them committed to
We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed. We
asked the following: if President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of
the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to
that effect? And the answer we received -- from a well-meaning liberal -- was the
following: he said, "Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement
publicly in Opposition to his board of directors?" That's the answer! I ask you to
consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and
if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I'll tell you something: the faculty are a
bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw materials that
don't mean to have any process upon us, don't mean to be made into any product, don't mean
to end up being bought by some clients of the University: be they the government, be they
industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so
odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even tacitly take
part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the
levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate
to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine
will be prevented from working at all! 
How strange to think of these words
today, when the idea of the university as handmaiden to industry and government is once
again unquestioned. But as I stood in the plaza, hearing those words, they came to
symbolize for me the life of freedom and joy and mystery I was seeking and I found myself
moved to tears.
Part 2 of this Chapter by
Margo Adler is HERE
 The Sounds of Protest. LP record produced by the
political organization SLATE, 1960.
 David Lance Goines. The Free Speech Movement (Berkeley,
Calif.: Ten Speed Press. 1993). 93-94
 Bettina Aptheker, The Academic Rebellion in the United
States (Secaucus, NJ.: The Citadel Press. 1972),157-58.
 Starhawk, Truth or Dare (San Francisco Harper &
Row, 1987), 6.
 Goines, op. cit., 188.
 Students for a Democratic Society. Port Huron Statement.
second printing, December 1964, p. 7.
 Goines, op. cit./em>, 361.
Copyright © 1997 by Margot Adler.
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