FSM-A \ Free Speech Movement Archives FSM-A

The Beginning of the FSM


What Happened Before the FSM
Prior Student Movements
What led to the FSM?
SLATE Archives website
SLATE and Due Process
Civil Rights Movement

The "United Front" becomes the "Free Speech Movement"

David Goines, The Free Speech Movement, Ten Speed Press, 1993

10/3/1964 Meeting

Mario Savio: I had the feeling that “FSM” was suggested by Jack. There were a lot of possibilities. But we wanted the initials to be something like “fln” which was easy to say.  Not something like “urm,” which sounded kind of “earthy.” “University Rights Movement” was OK, but not “urm.” It’s a great name, but there’s a certain kind of humor floating around in “urm” that isn’t appropriate to the Free Speech Movement. 

Bob Starobin: The name “FSM” was proposed by Jack Weinberg. Another name was “Students for Civil Liberties.” I favored Jack’s suggestion because it was something that could be written on the walls, like in Paris or Algiers. The name was adopted by a margin of one vote.  The mood of this first meeting, at Art Goldberg’s place, was naive and with no conception of the struggle we were entering. Nobody had any idea that this was going to last for very long.

6/28/2019 via phone to Barbara Stack: John Sutake remembers that Brad Cleaveland moved and he seconded a motion to adopt the name “Free Speech Movement” at a late-night meeting in Art Goldberg’s living room on College Avenue. Many had fallen asleep and Brad asked John to second his motion and they woke up the others, the motion passed, and then everyone went back to sleep.


But the institutional provocations and student organizing began earlier:

Several Other Chronologies

Chronology of Events
Three Months of Crisis - Part One
From the U.C. Berkeley alumnii magazine
California Monthly
February, 1965

September 10 [1964]

     A letter authored by "a former student" and distributed with the Slate Supplement Report called for an "open, fierce and thoroughgoing rebellion" on the Berkeley campus. Although the letter did not relate specifically to the "free speech issue," it sounded the rallying cry for subsequent events:

   The University does not deserve a response of loyalty and allegiance from you. There is only one proper response to Berkeley from undergraduates: that you ORGANIZE AND SPLIT THIS CAMPUS WIDE OPEN! . . .

   "Go to the top. Make your demands to the Regents. If they refuse to give you an audience: start a program of agitation, petitioning, rallies, etc., in which the final resort will be CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. In the long run, there is the possibility that you will find it necessary to perform civil disobedience at a couple of major University public ceremonies . . ."

September 15

     The Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination -- led by former Berkeley student and Slate founder Michael Myerson and by Tracy Sims, leader of the Palace Hotel demonstrations -- announced plans to picket the Oakland Tribune for the third Friday in a row, and held a noon rally at the Bancroft and Telegraph entrance to the Berkeley campus.

September 16

1. Presidents or chairmen and advisers of all student organizations received a letter from Dean of Students Katherine A. Towle, dated Sept. 14, announcing that, effective Sept. 21, tables would no longer be permitted in the 26-foot strip of University property at the Bancroft and Telegraph entrance, and that advocative literature and activities on off-campus political issues also would be prohibited:

A facultyChronology points to event in June, 1964


June     During Republican National Convention, according to San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Dec. 1964, charges are made by Goldwater supporters that Scranton supporters are illegally recruiting student volunteers on campus.

4 Sept  Picketing of Oakland Tribune by Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination, which recruits support on Berkeley campus

Precursor to the FSM, September 17, 1964 Petition Online Archive of California

Petition given to Dean Towle
Sept. 17, 1964

We are students-American students--who believe in the right and duty to hold, relate, and advocate positions and actions that reflect our desire to promote a continually improving world. The University especially is under a moral obligation to insure that full discussions of the important ideas and issues affecting our society and world continue.

But to discuss is not enough. The democratic process is one of carrying into action the ideas and issues freely aired in free discussion. Free speech means not only freedom to discuss issues in abstract intellectual terms, but means freedom to advocate actions based on such discussion.

The intersection at Bancroft and Telegraph represents the most frequently travelled area near the campus. And because each of us taken seriously this obligation to be informed participants in our society--and not armchair intellectuals--we feel that this location alone guarantees not only our right to speak, but to be heard! It is a valueless right to have free speech if our corresponding rights to reach people with our ideas and to advocate action on them are not protected.

All of us subscribe to Chancellor Strong's statement that "The University is no ivory tower shut away from the world, and from the needs and problems of society." To eliminate the use of Bancroft and Telegraph is to shut this University up in an ivory tower. It is to limit the freedom of ideas which is necessary to produce truly educated citizens of a democratic society.

We believe that the continued use of the Bancroft and Telegraph privileges will cause Chancellor Strong's goals of "exposure to critical questions and search for knowledge" to be furthered.

And, therefore, we respectfully submit for consideration as policy the following:

1. Tables for the student organizations at Bancroft and Telegraph will be named at all times.
2. The organizations shall provide their own tables and chairs; no University property shall be borrowed.
3. There shall be no more than one table in front of each pillar and one at each side of the entrance way. No tables shall be placed in front of the entrance posts.
4. No posters shall be attached to posts of pillars. Posters shall be attached to tables only.
5. We shall take every effort to see that provisions 1-4 are carried out and shall publish such rules and distribute them to the various student organizations.
6. The tables at Bancroft and Telegraph may be used to distribute literature advocating action on current issues with the understanding that the student organizations do not represent the University of California--thus these organizations will not use the name of the University and will disassociate themselves from the University as an institution.
7. Donations may be accepted at the tables.

Campus Core
University Society of Individualists
Du Bois Club of Berkeley
Young People's Socialist League
University Young Republicans
University Young Democrats
Young Socialist Alliance
Campus Women for Peace
Youth for Goldwater
Student Committee for Travel to Cuba
Student Committee for "No on Prop. 14." (Students for Fair Housing)
University Friends of SNCC
Students for Democratic Society
College Young Republicans
Committee for Independent Political Action
Youth Committee Against Prop. 14
Independent Socialist Club