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A Special Supplement: Berkeley and the Fate of the Multiversity

The students immediately formed a united front, ranging from Goldwaterites to Socialists, to urge the restoration of a free speech area and the modification of the rules. The Chancellor then issued a “clarification,” the first of a long series that came to follow a familiar pattern of concession and contradiction, giving an over-all impression of weakness. The students were allowed to use the steps of the administration building, Sproul Hall, as a free speech area and to man tables on “the strip,” but not for political purposes. The students proceeded to ignore this last restriction, and the Administration to ignore the violations. Tables were set up and political speeches given in forbidden areas. Again the Chancellor gave ground and permitted students to support candidates in the November elections and to take stands on state propositions. This gave something to everybody: the students might oppose an amendment repealing the state fair housing law, while the University could continue its efforts for an educational bond issue. Characteristically, the Chancellor followed these concessions with a show of firmness which he then undercut by his own actions. He stated on September 28 that the matter was “closed,” but then had his deans select eight students, including three leaders, from among hundreds who claimed to have violated the regulations. The eight were suspended “indefinitely”—a penalty unknown to University rules.

This led to the first great blow-up: On October 1 a large rally formed in front of Sproul Hall. A police car taking to jail a person charged with manning a table unlawfully was surrounded and stranded in a sea of students. Mario Savio, considerately barefoot, mounted the car and harangued the crowd. Two hundred students then entered Sproul for a sit-in. Faculty efforts at mediation were blocked by the Chancellor’s stubborn insistence that regulations and disciplinary measures were not negotiable. As the tension continued into the next day, a faculty group by-passed the Chancellor and persuaded President Kerr of the need for compromise. This began the gradual eclipse of the Chancellor by the President, thus underscoring the fact that each campus of the multiversity lacks autonomy and is headed only by an expendable functionary, suitably called “the chief campus officer.” An agreement was reached with Kerr, but not before he had summoned five hundred police and threatened to have them disperse the crowd unless an agreement was reached. The students agreed to halt the demonstrations and in return the University agreed to restore the privileges of certain suspended groups, to submit the cases of the eight to a committee of the Academic Senate, to drop its charges against the man encapsulated in the police car, and to establish a committee of faculty, students, and administrators to study the rules.

The agreement was a disaster. Neither Administration nor students acquitted themselves with honor. The Chancellor appointed ten of the twelve members of the tripartite committee without seeking recommendations from either students or faculty. He also assigned the cases of the eight to a committee of his own choosing, not to one appointed by the Academic Senate. In response to protests, Kerr again intervened to retrieve the situation. The cases of the eight were transferred to a committee established by the Senate. This committee, after hearings, recommended that six of the students be reinstated immediately. A sixweek suspension was recommended for the other two. The committee’s report was also highly critical of the Administration’s procedures. The Chancellor announced that he would not respond to these recommendations until the following month.

Meanwhile, the tripartite committee foundered. The truculence of the FSM representatives, combined with the refusal of the Administration’s spokesmen to surrender disciplinary powers over “illegal” advocacy, created an impasse. The FSM resumed the manning of tables. The Chancellor then dissolved the tripartite committee on the grounds that the students had violated the agreement of October 2nd. From November 9th to November 20th, the students continued to violate the regulations while the Administration enforced them selectively, now citing seventy students for infractions. now ignoring massive violations.

On November 20th the Board of Regents, highest authority in the entire university system, met. The Board is wondrously representative of the genius of the multiversity. It would be difficult to design a more attractive target for students nurtured on the C. Wright Mills doctrine of the conservative power elite. It is composed mainly of high politicians, wealthy financiers, industrialists and businessmen, and the remarkable Max Rafferty. Kerr persuaded the Board to overturn its prohibition against all oncampus political activity and advocacy, although the ban against “illegal advocacy” was retained. The Board’s quid pro quo was a recommendation that students who had violated the rules during the past three months should be disciplined. It also dealt with the cases of the eight students and recommended reinstatement of the whole group but refused to expunge the charges against them.

The Regents nearly restored peace. The FSM was badly split; a sit-in in Sproul on November 23rd was called off after a few hours, indicating that the remaining area of controversy was too limited to be inflammatory. Just when most faculty and students were resuming normal routines, the Chancellor restored chaos by a master stroke of stupidity, bad timing, and injustice. He sent letters to four students, including three top leaders of FSM, informing them that the University intended to bring charges for actions committed eight weeks earlier. By reopening a matter which everyone had assumed to be closed, he, with one blow, revived FSM, outraged the faculty, and focused the question in its starkest terms: how is it possible to justify an authority so grossly insensitive to the spirit of an academic institution?

Two days later, on December 2nd, nearly eight hundred students filed into Sproul Hall for the climactic sit-in. The next day Governor Brown called in six hundred police to clear the students from the building and hustle them off to jail. The faculty rallied to the students: cars were provided to return them from jail and a bail fund was set up and quickly over-subscribed. While all this was going on, the graduate students had organized a strike which successfully halted most classes for two days. The students had fulfilled their vow: the machine was stopped.

Up to this point, the faculty as a body had remained relatively detached, though a few individuals had occasionally been involved in the controversy. But now the collapse of authority and the sight of nearly six hundred armed policemen shocked the faculty into the recognition that it alone was left to pick up the pieces. For a time, the faculty forgot its lust for research, its shameful neglect of teaching, its acquiescence in the bureaucratization of the University. Setting aside the ethos of power and growth, the faculty stirred to ancestral memories of the ideal of a community of scholars bound together in the spirit of friendly persuasion and pledged to truth rather than abundance. It had been clear all along that while the students’ protests were directed against the Administration, their entreaties were directed to the faculty, but it took a shattering experience to restore the faculty memories of fellowship with the students. Now that its collective conscience was awakened, the faculty found the energy and vision necessary for the task of reconstruction. A few writers have attributed subsequent faculty actions to hysteria. It is puzzling why men should find it necessary to deny the faculty its finest hour, and to equate decisiveness with panic, moral impulse with fear.

One line of faculty action was in response to the impotence of the Chancellor whose withdrawal and increasing isolation left the campus leaderless. A committee of departmental chairmen was formed to impress upon the President the gravity of the situation. After exhausting negotiations, the chairmen wrung from the President and a group of Regents a promise not to add University punishment to court sentences of the sit-ins. It is symbolic that the chairmen’s group and the Regents never talked face-to-face. University rules forbid faculty members from making direct approaches to the Regents; hence the two parties were closeted in separate rooms of an airport motel and the President plied between them.

The amnesty was a necessary precondition for resolving the crisis, but the Kerr-Chairmen Agreement was silent on the fundamental questions of political freedom which the students had been raising. That silence provoked outbursts of protest when the President and a distinguished faculty member presented the terms of the armistice to the campus community assembled in the Greek Theater. Moreover, their rhetoric of affluence and order revealed a fatal ignorance of the yearnings and commitments of the present generation of students. (“Today we decide whether we shall move ahead productively and in peace…This community has been divided not so much on ends as on means…We must seek added funds…We must face external investigations…We must face…a transition from the extensive growth of the past century to the intensive growth of the indefinite future—for growth must never stop.”)

The second line of faculty action proved more successful. It led directly to the resolutions of December 8 which asserted that the rights demanded by the students could not be denied by a university. Moreover, it created the first stirrings of a faculty attempt to reform the multiversity. The success of this second attack grew out of a fusion of discontent and shame. That a university had resorted to force against its students seemed an absolute confirmation of the ineptitude and moral bankruptcy of the system. It was widely believed, therefore, that the Chancellor must go. Also fresh in the minds of the faculty were the recent and shameful handling of a case involving academic freedom and the arbitrary decision to revise the entire pattern of University life (“year-round operation” of “the plant,” the President described it).

Throughout November several groups of faculty members had been formulating proposals to meet the problem of student political activities, but the events of December 2nd generated the passion necessary to unite the faculty. On December 4 an impromptu faculty meeting was called and the discussion there disclosed a deep sentiment among the vast majority for policies that would set no limits upon the content of expression and only such minimal restraints upon the forms of expression as were necessary to the performance of ordinary University functions. The faculty was also becoming persuaded that the intricate legal questions surrounding “illegal” speech and “conspiracy” were not the proper business of any university authority.

On December 8 these sentiments, now refined in the form of resolutions, were brought before the Academic Senate and passed by a vote of 824-115. The resolutions provided that: (1) only the “time, place, and manner” of on-campus political activity should be regulated to “prevent interference with the normal functions of the University”; (2) the content of speech was not to be restricted; (3) off-campus political activities should not be subject to University regulations; (4) disciplinary questions arising out of the minimal regulations in (1) should be handled by a faculty committee, i.e., the Administration was not to touch such matters.

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