It isn’t often that a great university suddenly goes smash, yet that is what happened to the Berkeley campus during the first week of last December. During that week the University of California (Berkeley), numbering 27,000 students, 12,000 faculty and non-academic employees, numerous research laboratories, institutes, old-fashioned classrooms, and boasting an annual budget of $60 million, suffered an almost total collapse. Campus authority vanished, academic routines were reduced to a shambles, and the prophesy of Mario Savio was fulfilled: the “machine” came to a “grinding halt.”
This brought to a climax a succession of events, each more astonishing than the one before, which had kept the University in a continuous ferment since mid-September. It is no surprise that those outside the University community have been unable to make sense of these events, for even the participants themselves often had trouble in understanding their own behavior. Many of the student demands and tactics seemed outlandish and more appropriate to Birmingham than to Berkeley. The responses of University officials wavered between treating the student movement as a Children’s Crusade, a Communist conspiracy, and “a civil rights panty raid” (as one administrator saw it). The most outlandish behavior, however, came neither from the students nor the myopic deans, but from those specifically charged with governing the institution. Supporting the seemingly invulnerable institution in its moment of crisis was a broad array of interested and powerful elements: the Governor and Board of Regents; interest groups which had long prospered from the services and needs of the University; and a suspicious and hostile public, misled by the local press into believing that agitators were destroying the University and moved by an urge to punish the young for their seeming lack of gratitude for all the advantages which a generous citizenry had given them. Yet, the authority of the University crumpled under the pressure of a few thousand students who had no other power than the moral courage to say “no” before the colossus and the tactical skill to say it at the right time and in unison.
Absurd it may have been, but it was not trivial. The events destroyed some illusions about contemporary education and disclosed the depths of the antagonism between a generation which has all but contracted out of the affluent society, and the perfect dehumanized expression of that society, the large-scale organization, which transmutes knowledge, energy, and money into technological miracles—the perfect artifact for multiplying change so as to drown out purpose. In a society which values growth and material power above all else, and which cannot comprehend why rebellion and discontent should flourish amidst plenty and opportunity, it was astonishing to observe the students making a moral protest in defense of traditional rights which their elders could not take seriously and in defense of the principles of a liberal education which their elders had mislaid somewhere among the many other functions of the “multiversity.” The crisis demonstrated that socially useful functions, no matter how competently performed, are no substitute for moral authority.
Had the students not succeeded in creating an instrument to convert their moral outrage into power, their protests would have died unheard. The Free Speech Movement came into existence during the first week in October, and from them on it enjoyed a near monopoly on the expression of protest. It attracted widespread support and enlisted the energies of thousands of students for the numerous tasks demanded by a political struggle. Although its wide support gave it a heterogeneous quality—stretching from the radical right to the radical left—its political style was uniquely expressive of the new generation. It was highly conscious of political and social issues; its language was radical and its tactics aggressive, but pervaded by a novel blend of moralism and impudence (“liberal” and “fink” were almost synonymous, “textbook” was made to sound like “pornography”). There is no doubt that there were devious motives among its leaders; that occasionally they became intoxicated by their sudden power and made noises as if they intended to smash the whole system; that here and there extreme leftists were to be found. Yet it would be a serious mistake to suggest, as other writers have, that the entire crisis was fabricated and dominated by subversives or riff-raff. It has been well established that most of the followers were intelligent students who were novices in political action. The sacrifices of many who were willing to place their careers on the line, the spontaneity of their indignation, the warm fellowship of their movement, and their unfailing good humor were too real to be explained by subterranean conspiracies. Those who believe that, by definition, a problem does not exist if it can be shown that radicals are somehow involved, are not about to acknowledge the dominating idealism of the movement. At bottom the unbelievers must fear that the situation is really worse than even the conspiracy theory suggests: if it is possible for so many—faculty and students alike—to be duped by so few, then the condition of one of the world’s greatest universities is more hopeless than even its critics charge.
The many issues raised during these chaotic months can be classified under two broad headings. First, there were political and constitutional issues centering around whether the University should place any but the most minimal restrictions upon the exercise of political rights by students on campus, and whether the University should restrain and discipline political acts or advocacy performed on the campus but leading to illegal acts off the campus (e.g., a political rally called on campus to organize an illegal sit-in at a hotel). Historically, the Administration had based its highly restrictive policies on a provision of the state constitution requiring that “The University shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom in the appointment of its Regents and in the administration of its affairs.” This became the justification for prohibiting political advocacy and activity on campus, for defining what activities were political, and for denying the use of campus facilities for organizing off-campus political actions. The policy of the Administration was determined primarily by the desire to prevent the involvement of the University in public controversy.
The students’ general contention was that they should have the same political rights on campus that they enjoyed as citizens off the campus, and that determinations of the legality of off-campus actions should be reserved exclusively to the courts. In addition, the students argued that the constitutional provision upon which the Administration relied was intended to prevent the University itself from becoming involved in politics, and to prevent the governors of the University from applying political criteria in the conduct of University affairs, but was not intended to deny students the right to engage in political action not involving the name of the University. Finally, the students argued that the Administration had been highly arbitrary in the day-to-day application of its rules.
An overwhelming majority of the faculty was gradually persuaded that the student argument was generally correct. As early as October 13th, the faculty had affirmed its support for “maximum freedom for student political activity” and on December 8th formally resolved that there should be only minimal regulations on the form of political speech and action on campus, no University controls on the content of expression, and no University sanctions on the off-campus political activities of its students.
The second broad range of issues related to the University itself. The gross size and population of the campus, the numerous research and service functions carried on, its intimate connections with outside interests have transformed the old categories of “teacher” and “academic community” into “researcher” and “multiversity” or “knowledge factory” (the last phrases are those of its President). Unlike many private institutions, Berkeley’s character was not established by a founder or given shape by a religious sect determined to bring piety and learning to a rude society. Ungraced by traditions, its graduates lack a distinctive stamp. Above all, identities are hard to come by and definitions difficult to pronounce when an institution is determined to gear its life and growth to the needs of an ever-expanding society, or at least to the needs of society’s most powerful and clamorous parts. In The Uses of the University, President Clark Kerr writes that the multiversity has “no prophet to proclaim its vision; no guardian to protect its sanctity.” The clear implication is that the multiversity dare not risk self-definition. It must remain “as confused as possible for the sake of the preservation of the whole uneasy balance” among the interests and pressures that make up its environment. If it is the multiversity’s nature not to have a nature, there is comfort in knowing that it is “an imperative…. rooted in the logic of history.” The beauty of an imperative is that it provides a “justification” for virtually anything, including the mish-mash of activities that have found a home in the multiversity.
Kerr’s realization that the condition of the multiversity’s existence is also the source of its weakness imports an element of desperation into his analysis. His use of industrial metaphors disguises the inherent anarchy of the multiversity system. There is a touch of melancholy in his conclusion that “the task is to keep this lawlessness within reasonable bounds.” In the end the university is reduced to being a puppet, twitching to stimuli it cannot control, powerless to set its own direction. “The process cannot be stopped. The results cannot be foreseen. It remains to adapt.”
If one is startled by this confession of drift by the head of the enterprise, how much more unprepared one is for his cynicism. The university is characterized as “a mechanism held together by administrative rules and powered by money.” The faculty is “a series of individual…entrepreneurs held together by a common grievance over parking.” For all their sprightliness, these epigrams sag—melancholy testimony that the realist is second to none in his illusions. Their author is the same man who early in the crisis denied that a “freedom of speech issue” existed and who, after the faculty voted overwhelmingly to eliminate restrictions on the content of expression, demeaned the motives of that distinguished body by attributing its action to petty jealousy towards the other campuses in the system.
An examination of the pattern of events shows how great is the distance and how difficult the communication between those who make the multiversity’s rules and those who must live by them.
The controversy opened on an appropriate note. On September 14, the Administration blandly announced that a narrow strip of land at the entrance to the campus was really University property and not, as previously assumed, the property of the city (uncertain as to its own identity the multiversity has never been sure where it ends and the world begins). This strip had been the locus of student political activity. Since it was assumed to lie outside the campus, University regulations restricting political activity did not apply. Without consulting the students, the Administration closed off the main outlet for political energies, claiming at first that these activities interfered with pedestrian traffic, but later reaffirming its position that “University facilities may not, of course, be used to support or advocate off-campus political or social action.”
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.
Two additional resolutions were passed. One created an Emergency Executive Committee to act for the faculty in further matters arising out of the crisis, and the other called for a committee to study the question of how the faculty might make itself more effective in the general governance of the University. The importance of these changes was quickly demonstrated, for the next encounter took place elsewhere, at the December 18 meeting of the Board of Regents.
The Regents have final power in almost every area of University affairs. Usually their meetings deal with ordinary matters of University business, but this was to be no ordinary meeting. More like a summit conference, it was surrounded by an atmosphere of urgency and intense public concern. What occurred is not easy to reconstruct, because part of the meeting was secret; what was decided is not entirely clear because of the muddled language of the public statement issued later. It seems that the Regents have finally recognized the 1st and 14th Amendments, and that henceforth students will be allowed maximum political freedom on the campus. It is clear that students may now use campus facilities for organizing off-campus actions. However, the Regents continued to balk at the use of campus facilities for mounting illegal off-campus actions, and hence reserved authority to discipline students in such matters. The Regents also refused to devolve upon the faculty final authority over student disciplinary cases in political questions.
Despite the face-saving vagueness of their formulations, the Regents had come far since September. Their allusion to the 1st and 14th Amendments was a tacit confession that most University rules affecting speech and action were unconstitutional, and their decision not to punish the arrested students raised the hope that eventually they would relinquish jurisdiction over cases where off-campus actions turn out to be illegal. Moreover, in announcing their willingness to consult with students and faculty to improve campus rules, the Regents recognized what the faculty had sensed earlier: students must be viewed as participating members of the academic community.
This summary of the Regents’ action does not convey the fact that bloody fighting took place behind the scenes. There is little doubt that Kerr had persuaded the Regents to accept the broad direction of the faculty proposals and to leave undisturbed the amnesty agreement of December 7th. It is equally clear that the Chancellor had fought for his life by taking a “hard line” on both the question of rules and amnesty. He lost and shortly thereafter was replaced by a new acting chancellor. Once again Kerr had demonstrated his extraordinary political abilities. He had averted a calamitous showdown by persuading the Regents to alter the rules, but he had also neutralized to some degree the bid for autonomy implicit in the Berkeley resolutions. This he accomplished by his time-honored tactic of employing the machinery of the state-wide system, and the envies of Berkeley represented in it, to condemn local solutions and quell assertions of local autonomy. He acquiesced to the fact that Berkeley’s Chancellor had lost all credit, but later, when it became apparent that the new Chancellor was attracting growing enthusiasm, Kerr gratuitiously reminded the campus that the old Chancellor was “just tired and wanted to get away,” but that he would “most likely” return.
As matters now stand, the faculty and students have gained most of the objectives contained in the December 8th resolutions. Assuming that good sense prevails among the parties, that the few zealots in the legislature do not persist in their announced aim of firing masses of students and faculty, and that the impending trial of the sit-ins does not reopen old wounds, the prospects for honorable peace are good. But peace is not necessarily the same as normality, for the events of the first semester cut too deep to permit a restoration of the old ways. A university is in the process of being redefined. Its President has recently proclaimed that “The primary responsibility of the university is the education of its students. A second major responsibility is research…” (a draft of the University’s ten-year program made last fall had no mention of “primary” emphasis upon education). But the basic element in all redefinitions is the new breed of students who have appeared on the Berkeley campus.
Published accounts of the student movement have radically distorted its character. Some of these accounts have been almost delusional in quality. There is, for example, Professor Lewis Feuer’s denial that there were any genuine issues at stake and his claim that very few genuine students were involved in the controversy. He attributes the uprising to the powers of a handful of crackpots, political extremists, drug addicts, and sexual libertines—most of them, thank God, not students at all, but spoiled personalities, tormented members of that underground Berkeley community of lumpen-intellectuals—who managed to dupe thousands of innocent and true students into believing that there were real issues, thereby capturing the everpresent hostility of the young against their elders and mobilizing it into a “generational uprising.” Less imaginative men than Feuer have characterized the movement as the subversive work of leftist plotters. In this view, the campus will not find peace until it surgically removes these diseased members from the student body politic.
Another way to avoid the challenge of understanding is to concentrate all attention upon one aspect of the reality, and then to interpret that reality in very narrow categories. Specifically, this approach characterizes the behavior and tactics of the students as riotous and irresponsible, and condemns them as illegal, thereby foreclosing the issues. Some of the students’ actions were illegal, but that still leaves open the questions of whether they were necessary and morally justified. Furthermore, and contrary to the impression spread by the mass media, the students were not tempestuous and violent. With few exceptions, they behaved with dignity and restraint.
All of these accounts dissolve the real problem into a vapor of fantasies congenial to the commentator. None of them recognizes that there were real students asserting real grievances within an institutional setting that had in fact become pathological. As President Kerr himself noted, the students have been “restless” for some time. An adequate account must take a serious look at the sources of that restlessness.
For some time now, the students, especially the undergraduates, have felt themselves to be an alien presence within the multiversity, an “Other Academia” analogous to the “Other America,” illfed, ill-housed and ill-clothed not in the material sense, but in the intellectual and spiritual senses. As the multiversity has climbed to higher and higher peaks of research productivity, material riches, and bureaucratic complexity, the students have fallen into deeper and deeper abysses of hostility and estrangement. The students’ own favorite word for their condition is “alienation,” by which they mean a number of things, and especially a sense of not being valued members of a genuine intellectual and moral community. Their feeling is grounded in reality.
The architects of the multiversity simply have not solved the problem of how to build an institution which not only produces knowledge and knowledgeable people with useful skills, but which also enriches and enlightens the lives of its students—informing them with the values of the intellect, preparing them to serve as the guardians of society’s intellectual honesty and political health, arming them with the vision by which society seeks its own better future. It is the performance of these latter tasks that distinguishes a genuine educational community from a mere research factory and training institution. Hence, as Harold Taylor has said, “the mark of a true university is whether or not it takes its students seriously.”
By any reasonable standard, the multiversity has not taken its students seriously. At Berkeley, the educational environment of the undergraduate is bleak. He is confronted throughout his entire first two years with indifferent advising, endless bureaucratic routines, gigantic lecture courses, and a deadening succession of textbook assignments, and bluebook examinations testing his grasp of bits and pieces of knowledge. All too often the difference between the last two years of a student’s education and the first two is chronological rather than qualitative. It is possible to take a B.A. at Berkeley and never talk with a professor. To many of the students, the whole system seems a perversion of an educational community into a factory designed for the mass processing of men into machines. The image is a bit excessive, to be sure, but like any good caricature this one distorts reality in order to clarify it. A great many faculty members have acknowledged the essential justice of the students’ case against the multiversity, and have confessed their own not-so-small contribution to the malaise. Faculty conversation at Berkeley is now haunted by remorseful allusions to the bleak realities of student life.
The reality seems all the bleaker by contrast with the glowing expectations which students are now bringing to the university. Young people today are conditioned from the earliest age to see “education” as the magic key to all the delectable things. They come to college in search, not merely of knowledge, but of salvation. College is the real thing, they are told, and when the real thing turns out to look a lot like the sham they left behind, they are understandably distressed.
It costs relatively little money to attend the University of California, but unlike most other state universities, California has high admission standards. The freshmen class is selected from the top 10 per cent of high school seniors. This means that not only are the students of high average intelligence, but that they also have worked hard and kept “clean” throughout their high school years. Furthermore, Cal students, like all others, bring with them to college youth’s natural exuberance, but relatively little of this energy is drained off through the customary and “safe” channels of sports, organized social life, and seasonal bacchanals. Most of the energy finds other outlets.
Most of the students live in private accommodations, and their private lives do seem quite experimental and free—though not as orgiastic as the fevered imaginations of some professors and deans would suggest. More importantly, over the past decade the students have become increasingly serious—about themselves, their studies, and their society. But there is still a lot of energy left, and at Berkeley, unlike most other American colleges, a good bit of this is poured into political and social causes. For example, Berkeley in particular, and the San Francisco Bay Area in general, have sent more young people to the South in the struggle for racial justice than any other place except New York. The word has gone out: things are happening at Berkeley. This reputation acts as a magnet, drawing young people with activist yearnings from all over the nation to Berkeley. The events of last semester, with all the publicity they gained, will increase this magnetic attraction—a thought horrifying enough to bring a dean to consider resigning his post.
Beyond the immediate attractions of a lively campus, many students today, especially those in the humanities and social sciences, are aware of the shortcomings of their society and are passionately looking for authentic values to replace what they perceive as the phony slogans and spiritual tawdriness of so much of the public rhetoric and action of our time. Few of them come to college with an ideology, nor do they seek one while there. Rather, theirs is an ethic of sincerity and personal encounter. They take ideals seriously, and are quick to detect evasion, posturing, and doublethink. If their conception of the educational process is somewhat romantic and wooly—tending to equate the exchange of impressions and sentiments with learning, impatient with discipline, and inclined to rush off after a dozen exciting novelties at once—it is still more attractive than the emphasis on utility and training favored in the multiversity establishment. The latter is a bleakness of spirit, closed and immobile; while the former is a plenitude of spirit, open and vital. Such students constitute a university’s most valuable resource, and it is a delight and a privilege to teach them. There were a great many such students, graduate as well as undergraduate, involved in the happenings at Berkeley. Given all the loose talk about student “riots” and “radicals,” it is necessary to emphasize this point.
There were radicals among the leadership of the FSM, but there is no evidence to indicate that the movement’s leaders were the slaves of ideologies that blinded them to reality, or led them into attempts to subvert the true purposes of their mass following—which, to say it again, were freedom of political expression and educational reform. Furthermore, the vast majority of the students shared the goals of the FSM, and a near majority also supported their directaction tactics. The “radicalism” of this mass following consisted in little more than devotion to some traditional principles which their elders had taught them, plus that impatience with the conservatism of the old which the young ought to have. Radical ideology, then, mattered little in the events at Berkeley. What mattered far more was a clear-eyed and courageous response to concrete, felt injustices.
There were no riots. Save for the incident of the “captured” police car, the mass rallies, sit-ins, and the student strike were all conducted with admirable dignity and calm. There were a few scattered episodes of excessive behavior by individuals under extreme stress. There were many intemperate words. Many University rules and a few state laws were broken.
All of this is regrettable, but understandable, and not unjustifiable. These students were acting in a situation where, time and again, officials refused to listen to them, behaved whimsically and punitively, and altogether gave the impression that the student cause was without justice. The students responded with the only methods that could make the Administration listen, and many of them showed a clearer appreciation than their elders of the moral burdens involved in the use of pressure tactics within an academic setting. What happened at Berkeley cannot be understood as the delinquent outbursts of fanatics and ungrateful rebels. These students broke the rules and the law in an agonizing effort to compel an Administration which, by its unwillingness to listen to their just claims and to treat them as participating members of a community of the intellect, inevitably brought about its own moral downfall and forfeited its claim to willing obedience. To many of the students, such conduct left no alternative but direct action.
The events of the past semester have not cast a foreboding shadow over the future of education at Berkeley. It is clear to many of us here that the students reminded us of some basic values that were disappearing in the thoughtless rush for the future. Very much of what they did had to be done before anyone would listen. The result is, at this moment, a climate of respect and concern that offers more promise than has been present in a long time that the future of this University can be a noble one.
March 11, 1965