During the recent crisis on the Berkeley campus, the favorite quotation among the cognoscenti was Marx’s aphorism that great historical events occur twice, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Two years ago, the Berkeley campus was shaken by a series of events culminating on December 2, 1964 with a mass sit-in by the students, followed by mass arrests. What might have been a tragedy was averted by the faculty resolutions of December 8, 1964 which recognized the fundamental political principles for which the students had contended. The faculty declared that there should be no University regulation of the content of speech or advocacy, and only such regulation of the time, place, and manner of political activity as was needed to prevent interference with normal University functions. The crisis had been over political rights and the faculty had responded with a constitutional solution.
When the old Administration was replaced, first by the interim regime of Martin Meyerson and then by the new administration of Roger Heyns, all of the auguries were favorable. In outlook the new Chancellor was liberal, and in action he was committed to the principle of consultation. He appointed to his staff several professors who were prominent in the struggle for the resolutions of December 8th. Unlike previous chancellors, he was not harassed by outside meddling, either from the state-wide university administration or from the Regents. During the past year, for example, President Kerr kept a prudent distance from Berkeley controversies.
November 30, 1966 Berkeley students again sat in; police were again called to the campus, and on December 2nd the students voted to strike against the University. Had 1964 really been farce and was 1966 to end as tragedy? Although there are coincidences in chronology between the events of 1964 and those of 1966, the settings differed in important ways. The crisis of 1964 extended over several months, thus allowing the contestants time to formulate fairly coherent positions. The crisis of 1966 erupted suddenly, catching all parties off-guard. This was most evident in the case of the faculty which, unprepared and without a position, was reduced to a promiscuous search for consensus. In 1964 the politics of the Free Speech Movement had a kind of radical purity: the students focused on political objectives and pursued them with an idealism similar to that of the heroic phase of the civil rights movement. In 1966 student political orientations had been shaped by the growth of “New Left” doctrines, by participation in the congressional campaign of Robert Scheer, by continuous protests against the Vietnam War, and by endless disputes with the Administration concerning political rights and due process on campus. Thus, in 1964 the students claimed “constitutional rights”; in 1966, they demanded “student power.” Also, between 1964 and 1966 the graduate teaching assistants organized into a trade union and many of them took a certain pride in their worker status. “The issue here,” explained the student president of the union during the crisis, “is working conditions. As long as the police are used in this way, we can’t work.” Along with the unionists another and more exotic element entered the movement: the cool and hippy culture of Telegraph Avenue with its distinctive blend of student and non-student styles. In 1964 the politicos had been impatient with and distrustful of the hippies; at the very end of the 1966 crisis Mario Savio, who had been the student leader of FSM in 1964 but was now a non-student leader of the new alliance, gave a benediction calling for a “coalition between student politicos and hippies.” Thus by 1966 a new culture had come into being, one which escapes the categories of the settlement of 1964.
OF ALL THE DIFFERENCES, the most striking was the difference in mood. In 1964 the campus had a wealth of idealism and hope; the FSM had been good-natured, ironical, and humorous. In the months before the present crisis, the campus was tired, humorless, and disillusioned, During and after the crisis it was, above all, fearful. Not only had internal battles taken their toll, but the outside world had become more menacing. Governor Reagan had made the Berkeley campus a major campaign issue and had promised to establish an investigating commission headed by John McCone, former director of the CIA.
If there is tragedy in the making, it will not be merely the result of what state politicians may do in the future, but of what the University has failed to do in the recent past. During the past two years, the campus has grown more and more distracted by political controversy. But the underlying causes are not being searched out. Until they are, political questions will continue to bedevil the campus, for all the worry and despair which arise from a fundamentally deranged community are being poured into the political arena. The behavior of faculty, students, and administrators reminds one of Santayana’s fanatic, who redoubles his energy as he loses sight of his goal.
This is not to say that there are no genuine questions concerning political activity on campus. It is only to say that those questions have assumed disproportionate significance. Nor is it to say that the principles of 1964 were incorrect or unimportant. They spoke to real needs, and subsequent events have shown that too many people, on and off the campus, never understood or accepted them. It is only to say that 1964 brought not a hopeful peace but an uneasy truce; not a solution of the basic moral and intellectual questions, but only an opportunity, thus far unused, and now rapidly disappearing, for facing those questions.
Over the past two years the truce was often strained, and on several occasions nearly broke down. Increasing numbers of students began to doubt the Administration’s loyalty to the principles of political freedom. Students felt that they were not given a fair voice in the formulation of the rules governing political activity. A year-long effort to revise the constitution of student government, so as to give it more autonomy, came to nothing when the new constitution was brusquely termed “illegal” by Administration spokesmen. At the request of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the University handed over the names of student political leaders without their knowledge and consent, and when an Oakland taxpayer sued the University to make those names available to any citizen, the University’s lawyer sided with the taxpayer in court. The Chancellor frequently expressed his disgust with the quality of the political meetings held in Sproul Plaza (symbolic home of 1964’s Free Speech Movement) and talked about removing the rallies to some less conspicuous corner of the campus. The Vietnam Day Committee and the Administration were constantly at loggerheads, and many students came to feel that the Administration hated the VDC’s doctrine and style more than it loved the principles of political freedom. A student who excoriated one of the deans in a letter to the student newspaper was threatened with punishment. These and similar events brought the students to the point where they had little trust in the bureaucracy.
THE RESOLUTIONS OF 1964 spawned a generation of pettifoggers who argued furiously over such matters as the precise size and location of tables, the distribution of literature, the regulation of parades, and the size of posters. As the issues grew more legalistic, the passions aroused grew more intense, and the disputants less capable of self-examination. For one antic moment in 1965, Berkeley was without a chancellor and the state-wide University without a president. Both resigned when a puckish demonstrator hoisted a banner bearing the terrible four-letter word. The demonstrator maintained that the Word stood for Freedom Under Clark Kerr, but everyone else insisted that the struggle was over rules and that there was nothing funny about it.
Gradually a certain mood and a certain political style began to dominate campus life. The mood was one of hostility and despair; the style one of confrontation. The two sides met as adversaries in a hopeless game, and, to a remarkable degree, both accepted the same definition of the rules of the game. Both sides agreed that the overall character of the contest was political, that the action took the form of a battle, with a winner and a loser, and that confrontation was the appropriate style of behavior.
Thus, the students theorized that they were confronting a “power structure” bound by strong and subtle links to the larger power structures of state and nation The objectives of the national power elite were empire abroad and the suppression of dissent at home. The University Administration’s target was “the student movement,” which stood for peace, civil rights, and radical social change. Hence, if the Administration won, the children of light lost. During the struggle every Administration move had to be probed for its “real” meanings. This view, obviously, made no allowance for mistakes, accidents, or common stupidity, let alone for good will.
The Administration had its own version of the power elite theory: in its view the University’s troubles were the work of a hard core of non-student agitators, plus a small number of student activists, who persistently abused the generous freedoms allowed on campus. Their goal was either to wreck the University or take it over. The “silent majority” of unpolitical students and a few hundred unrealistic faculty members had been duped by the agitators, thereby aggravating the Administration’s task.
Starting from these shared premises, relations between the combatants followed ritual patterns and ritual forensics. Each side was helplessly dependent on the other. Each could predict the other’s tactics. Trapped by theory, neither had the freedom to deal radically with the fundamental malaise of which the endless controversies over rules were only symptoms.
Thus, when the Administration proposed moving the Free Forum, with its mass rallies and raucous microphone, from Sproul Plaza to a less visible part of the campus, the students “knew” that this was another move to escalate the campaign against student dissent. The Chancellor predictably replied that the Forum in Sproul Plaza fostered “a style of speech that is often vicious in intent, dishonest, laced with slander and character assassination, indifferent to evidence and truth, contemptuous of disagreement, and often charged with hatred.” The microphone was “primarily an organizational weapon…. Its frequent use is coercive and its main target is the University itself.” The students responded that the Administration’s standard of style was all too clear: just as the administrators admired a desk free of clutter, so too they desired a campus free of dissident students.
THE ADMINISTRATION asserted that the mass rallies and agitation were making the campus “unstable,” even “ungovernable.” While retreating from its intention of moving the microphone, the Administration warned that “the days of doing business on this campus by coercion…are over.” The students agreed that the question was one of power, and that the microphone and the Forum were their essential weapons. They countered the Administration’s conception of power as the ability to enforce rules by demanding greater student participation in rule-making and adjudication. Inevitably, they raised the banner of “Student Power”—inevitable because authority had disappeared and only power mattered. Each side saw any action of the other as an “escalation” of the conflict, to which a “response” must be made.
The sterility of the shared premises became manifest in the self-contradictory aims announced by each side. Ever since 1964, the students had castigated the University for its bureaucratism, its maze of rules, and its intricate procedures. Now they were demanding additional rules, new procedures, and more machinery. Having first attacked the machine, the students next complicated its structure, and were now demanding a greater part in running it. No Administration theorist was able to see that here, proposed by the students themselves, was a “final solution” to the student question: administrators and students, working together, might construct a machine capable of swallowing 27,500 students forever.
The Administration caught itself in a different trap. A huge and complex campus necessarily looks to the Administration as the continuing center of energy and direction, especially when that campus must face profound tasks of reform within and hostility without. The faculty is incapable of sustained action. But instead of directing the energy and idealism generated by 1964 toward reconstruction, the Administration insisted that the primary problem was order. While faculty members and students pleaded for new directions, the Administration replied that it was so absorbed with the “fallout” from the Plaza that reform had to await the solution of the political problem. It seems never to have occurred to the Chancellor and his many assistants that they had formulated the problem in such a way that it could not be solved. Order, as they defined it, was unattainable. Short of a repudiation of the December 8th resolutions, which would have brought instant chaos, there was no conceivable way of exorcising the student activists, of preventing students and non-students from mingling, or of lessening the deep revulsion against the corruptness of American society and the horrors of Vietnam. The Administration’s deepest intellectual and moral failure was its failure to understand that it was directing an educational community. Its deepest psychological and political failure was lack of political foresight: it was willing to use force—even outside police force—to secure order, but it was silent as to how it would then gain the future trust, cooperation, and enthusiasm of those whom it had determined to pacify.
There was, then, a fatal logic in this politics of confrontation, in this academic reenactment of game theory. Once the premises were set, a showdown was inevitable; the more rationally each side acted out the shared premises, the more profoundly irrational would the final outcome be. All that was needed was a triggering event.
FOR SOME YEARS the Navy has been coming to campus to recruit future sailors. In early 1965, when the Navy set up a recruiting table, students picketed it. They also submitted a formal complaint to the Administration, asking why governmental agencies should enjoy privileges on campus not accorded to other non-student organizations. The Administration took no action.
On November 28, 1966, the Navy again set up a recruiting table in the lobby of the Student Union Building. The Executive Vice-Chancellor claims that elected student officers consented to the placing of the table, but the chief student officers have flatly contradicted this assertion, saying that in fact they had advised against it.
For two days the Navy quietly performed its duty, but the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were working too. They were planning an action which would simultaneously oppose the war in Vietnam and show the inequity in the Administration’s application of the rules governing the use of campus facilities by off-campus organizations. Their method was to set up a table for the dissemination of material opposed to the war and the draft. This table would be placed beside the Navy table, and it would be manned by a non-student. At the same time, students would form a picket around the Navy table.
On Wednesday morning, November 30th, the non-student (a lady member of an anti-draft organization) asked the Dean of Students for permission to set up her table. Her request was refused. Nonetheless, she returned to the Student Union Building and set up a table along-side the Navy’s with a sign offering “Alternatives to Military Service.” Shortly after noon, the SDS pickets arrived and formed their line.
Soon after the pickets came the police, and also the reporters and cameramen. The scene quickly attracted a fair-sized crowd, some sympathetic to the demonstration, some opposed, and some just curious.
At this point, a campus policeman told the anti-draft lady that she would have to leave. After a brief argument she agreed, and the police started to carry her table through the crowd. Many bystanders loudly protested the removal of the table, and several tried to grab it, making the police jerk it from their hands. Just then, a former football player shoved through the crowd, apparently in an attempt to clear a path for the police. Several students shouted at the football player to stop pushing people around. The football player turned, and, according to several witnesses, struck a student in the mouth. When the person who was struck lunged at his attacker, he was restrained and led away by policemen. The crowd grew resentful and apprehensive. In order to reduce confusion and the possibility of more violence and arrests, several students urged the crowd to sit down. Within moments, some seventy-five or one hundred people sat down around the Navy table, jamming the lobby of the Student Union. They began discussions about the arrest and about the Navy’s special privileges.
Around 1 P.M. some notables began to arrive, including the president of the student body, the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs, and Mario Savio, Berkeley’s most famous non-student. (Savio was denied re-admission to Berkeley for passing out leaflets on campus while not a student.)
The Vice-Chancellor told the demonstrators that he was willing to talk with the students, but not under coercion, and that unless the crowd dispersed he would declare the assembly unlawful. Campus policemen closed all entrances to the lower lobby of the Student Union building, permitting people to leave but not to enter. Three officers also barricaded the stairway leading to the main floor, preventing the persons in the main lobby from joining those in the lower lobby. The three officers were slowly being pushed down the stairs when the barricade broke and students poured into the lower lobby.
Order was soon restored, and the discussions continued. The demonstrators agreed to disperse if the anti-draft table were permitted to remain, if no charges were pressed against the student who had been led away by the police, and if no disciplinary actions were taken against the demonstrators. The Vice-Chancellor agreed to let the table remain if the student manned it, but he said that he could not promise amnesty for the demonstrators, and that the case of the arrested student was out of his hands. Further discussion produced no agreement. The Vice-Chancellor declared the assembly unlawful and left. The demonstrators stayed.
While all this was going on downstairs, a crowd of several thousands had formed outside the building and in its main lobby. A degree of organization and leadership emerged among the demonstrators. The talk turned to “student power,” the sins of Administration, and the failures of the faculty. “Happy Birthday” was sung for Mario’s year-old son, and when the Navy left about 4 P.M., the demonstrators gave them a hearty “Anchors Aweigh.”
Shortly before 6 P.M., some twenty or thirty off-campus police entered the locked building. The demonstrators inside had no way of knowing the policemen’s intention: did they intend to arrest only a few, or were they going to carry everyone away, in a reenactment of 1964? The police, holding warrants signed by the Executive Vice-Chancellor, arrested six persons, all non-students, on charges of trespassing and creating a public nuisance. Chaos threatened when the police attempted to drag the first person from the crowd of seated protestors. Some persons shrieked in alarm. Others shouted abusively at the officers, and pulled at their arms and legs, getting hit and kicked in return. The other arrests were accomplished without incident. None of the six resisted. Among those arrested were Savio and Jerry Rubin, local leader of the VDC.
ADMINISTRATION SPOKESMAN have offered a very different account of these events. The Executive Vice-Chancellor was reported in the student newspaper as saying that the six were arrested because they played “the key role” in the sit-in. In an official statement to the faculty and staff, he said that “the demonstration today was initiated and led by non-students in direct defiance of University regulations.” On the other hand, three faculty eye-witnesses, in a signed document, have reported that “none of the six seemed involved as initiators,” that one of the six did not speak throughout the demonstration, and that “two others participated minimally if at all.” When confronted with these statements, one of the Chancellor’s assistants said that the Administration had put up with “eighteen months of activists blackmail” before moving against the non-students. The Chancellor himself, addressing the Academic Senate, stated that the whole thing began when “non-students attempted in violation of our rules to set up a table…” He referred to other recent “provocations,” and concluded that “we are dealing, then, not with a single incident but with a chronic condition.”
These Administration statements overlooked certain critical distinctions among the groups of people involved in the early stages of the disturbance: (1) the non-student who set up the anti-war table but was not arrested; (2) the students who, after seeing one of their number struck, sat in; and (3) the six arrested non-students, who, by no account, initiated or organized the demonstration. It appears that the Administration, acting on its “outside agitator” theory, was out to get these people, even if that meant calling police onto the campus and committing a possible injustice against individuals.
As the police van moved away, another violent encounter took place. Hundreds of students jammed the street around the van. They were swept aside by a phalanx of policemen. Many persons were shoved and clubbed, some severely. Three students were arrested for interfering with the police.
The Student Union Building was now unlocked, and the demonstrators outside were able to join those inside. They began a marathon mass meeting. By 10 P.M. the crowd had grown to around three thousand, jammed into a large ball-room. Many speakers stressed the futility of trying to negotiate reasonably with the Administration over questions of political activity. The Executive Vice Chancellor appeared for about a half hour to answer questions. The hostile audience clearly considered his statements to be evasive or even false, and he was loudly hooted. Savio, who had returned after posting bail, was the last speaker of the evening. He recounted the unsuccessful efforts of individuals to gain due process during the last two years, and described a student strike as the “least disruptive way of pressuring the Administration.” At 1 A.M. the students voted, nearly unanimously, to strike. The campus community was offered coffee and rebellion for breakfast.
The next day (December 2nd, two years to the day after the mass sit-in and arrests of 1964) a rally of about eight thousand confirmed the decision and accepted the demands of the strike: that police must never be called on campus to “solve” political problems; no disciplinary action against participants; off-campus individuals and non-commercial groups should have privileges on campus equal to those enjoyed by governmental agencies; disciplinary hearings must in the future be open and conducted according to the canons of due process; discussions must begin toward the creation of effective student representation on rule-making bodies. The Teaching Assistants’ union, the student government, and (later) the student newspaper all supported the strike. Chancellor Heyns, who had been away, returned to an embattled campus.
Throughout the rest of the week the strike and mass rallies continued. Groups of faculty met frequently to discuss the issues and prepare for the forthcoming meeting of the Academic Senate. The Chancellor declared himself opposed to the strike and refused to meet with representatives of the strikers.
The strike itself was well organized, but there are no reliable estimates concerning its effectiveness. Although there are a marvelous range and variety of political groups on the Berkeley campus, there was little factionalism or doctrinal infighting apparent in the conduct of the strike. For some time now most campus political groups have united in a loose confederal structure, called the Council of Campus Organizations, for the purpose of doing battle with the Administration over issues concerning the legitimacy of the rules governing political activity. Hence, the many organizations participating in the strike had a pre-established system of discussion and communication. Perhaps the two most powerful new forces on the campus political scene are the Teaching Assistants Union and the Free University of Berkeley. The former has a membership of about four hundred graduate teaching assistants, and is affiliated with the AFT. The union voted to strike, supported it to the end, and supplied many of its leaders. The Free University is a “counter-institution” offering courses in everything from psychedelics and modern painting to Marxism and the theory and practice of imperialism. Some 250 persons are in some sense enrolled in the Free University, and some of the strike’s leaders are closely associated with it. The strikers quickly elected an executive committee and a negotiating committee, proving once again that Berkeley students have a trained capacity for political organization and action. They can produce a manifesto and arrange a demonstration at a moment’s notice. Many of the students have become impressive political speakers and tacticians. While the campus Administration intones the language of community, it is the students who have been actually building community among themselves. Although there are student leaders, there is no permanent clique which can manipulate the students. The movement waxes and wanes, leaders come and go, as the situation changes. When the right conditions appear, thousands of students with a shared orientation can be mobilized within hours. If the Administration tries to destroy this community by chopping off its head, it may find itself battling a Hydra.
THE SENATE MEETING of December 5th opened with an address by the Chancellor. He reaffirmed his opposition to the strike, rejected amnesty for rule violators, called the rules “fair and equitable,” argued that present hearing procedures met “the highest standards of judicial fairness,” and asked for confidence from the faculty. The Senate debated and approved by a vote of 795 to 28, with 143 abstentions, a compromise, omnibus resolution. On the one hand, the Senate called for an end to the strike and affirmed “confidence in the Chancellor’s leadership.” On the other hand, it urged amnesty for students who had violated rules during the course of the strike. The Senate declared that tactics of “mass coercion” and the use of external police, except in extreme emergency, were both inappropriate to a university. The resolution also asked that new avenues be explored for increasing student participation in rule-making and enforcement, and called for a faculty-student commission “to consider new modes of governance and self-regulation in the University.”
UNLIKE DECEMBER, 1964, no one was enthusiastic about the result. Many faculty members wanted a more outspoken condemnation of the decision to bring the police on campus. A smaller number was disappointed that the Senate had not even discussed the matter of the arrest of the six non-students. A near majority, sick of the turmoil and persuaded that it had been caused by a few trouble-makers, narrowly failed to pass a “hard” resolution supporting the Chancellor without reservation. No one spoke in defense of the students. Only a few dared to challenge the official theory that a small band of subversives had caused the trouble. None dared to say openly what many had declared privately, that the Administration’s decision to call in the police was more than a mistake: it was a crime. The fragile compromise in the resolutions caused the faculty liberals to abstain from vigorous debate for fear that the resolutions would be mutilated by amendments. Consequently, the speeches were made by the faculty conservatives and many were harsh. One compared the Berkeley demonstrators to the Nazi students who had driven the non-Nazi professors from Germany. Another member finished his long speech by declaring in exasperation that he didn’t want to hear any more arguments, only a vote of confidence in defense of order and authority. Thus the liberal faculty left the meeting frustrated by their silence and uncertain of their achievement; the conservatives left fulfilled by their rhetoric but somewhat resentful of the result.
It is doubtful that the Chancellor was pleased by resolutions which coupled police action with the student strike and condemned both; nor could the faculty declaration for amnesty be viewed by him as other than a rebuff. The students interpreted the resolution as final evidence of faculty unreliability. “The faculty cannot solve our problems,” declared a student manifesto. “They did not choose to implement the December 8 Resolution, and [they have] demonstrated their inability to deal…with the educational ills of the University.” Thus the faculty managed to disappoint itself, the Administration, and the students.
The next day the Board of Regents met in emergency session. Regent Edwin Pauley, who had declared that “if people on the payroll can’t understand their conditions of employment they shouldn’t be there, and I’m for getting rid of them,” introduced a resolution calling for retroactive punishment of striking Teaching Assistants and faculty. It was defeated and a substitute was passed which supported the Chancellor, refrained from punishing the students, and condemned the “interference” of “outsiders.” “The Regents support all necessary action to preserve order on all campuses of the University.” Separating the student strikers from their supporters among the Teaching Assistants and faculty, the Regents produced the only unequivocal action of the week, a resolution which radically redefined the nature of acadamic freedom and tenure. Henceforth “University personnel…who participate in any strike or otherwise fail to meet their assigned duties, in an effort to disrupt University administration, teaching, or research, will thereby be subject to termination of their employment…, denial of re-employment, or the imposition of other appropriate sanctions.” Obviously, the Regents had sown the seeds of future controversy.
MEANWHILE the politicians of the state were angrily demanding that the striking faculty and Teaching Assistants be dismissed. The Governor-elect warned the students to “obey the prescribed rules or get out…The people of California…have a right to lay down rules and a code of conduct for those who accept that gift [of public education].” The President pro tem of the Senate advised Reagan that all that the University needed was “a new president and some regents with more guts than liberalism.” The Speaker of the Assembly, and sometime Chubb Fellow of Yale, who had gotten his investigating committee from the 1964 crisis, made his usual statesmanlike suggestion: instead of appointing a new commission, the Governor should appoint the former CIA head to the Board of Regents. As of this writing, a bill has been introduced into the state legislature which would drastically reduce the powers of the Regents and place the University under closer legislative control.
The strike dragged to a close that evening and a haggard faculty and student body prepared for finals. In their last mass meeting, the students found a measure of joy and humor—graces sadly lacking this time. Half the joy was relief: they had been naughty, but hadn’t gotten spanked too hard, at least not yet. There also emerged at the rally a spontaneous coalition between the hippies and the political activists. While the Teaching Assistants, like good trade unionists, sang “Solidarity Forever” in one room, the hippy-activist coalition sang “The yellow Submarine” in another, and promised that next term they would “blow the Administration’s mind.” Instead of resorting to such “square” tactics as strikes and sit-ins, they might clog the machine, mock its logic, and drive its operators out of their minds by such tactics as flooding the deans with thousands of petitions, misplacing their identity cards, returning books to the wrong libraries, flocking to the student medical clinic for all manner of psychosomatic complaints, and wearing masks to class. It is impossible to anticipate how the Chancellor will respond to that escalation.
IT IS DOUBTFUL whether the strike settled anything. Surely it added to the legacy of bitterness and anxiety. Perhaps it provided the jolt needed to start the University on the work of self-examination which it has so far shirked. More likely, Berkeley will enter an era of strong solutions—an obsession with total control, possibly a purge of dissident elements. That way may bring peace, but it will be the peace of intellectual and moral torpor.
The only hope for the University lies in replacing the narrow and fatal premises which have produced the present impasse with others more appropriate to the general social situation in which the University now stands. That social situation is one that can be called revolutionary in the sense that while the forces of change gather momentum, the society cannot find the appropriate response either in thought or act.
The troubles which beset American society are unprecedented and paradoxical. Stated broadly, our condition is one of widespread affluence, rising social expectations, scientific and technological dynamism, extensive welfare programs, and a high degree of formal democracy. In spite of all this, there is pervasive contempt for the very system which has given its members more comfort and leisure than any society in history. There is in this progressive, tolerant, and literate society a frightening lack of intelligent loyalty and spontaneous affection for the system. Above all, there lurks the fear that behind the greatest concentration of economic, scientific, and military power in history there is a moral weakness so thoroughgoing that when the society faces a substantive problem, such as racial discrimination, its cities are thrown into turmoil, or when it becomes embroiled in a foreign policy misadventure, its political creativity is limited to throwing increasing military might against a small country in a cause whose hopelessness rises in direct ration to the violence employed.
Historically, revolutions have been occasions for attempting something new in the political world: a new vision of society, a new concept of authority, a new ideal of freedom or justice. We are accustomed to think of revolutions as arising out of poverty and injustice, exacerbated by the governing class’s refusal to “modernize”—France of 1789, Russia of 1917, China of 1945. But the revolution brewing in America, this richest and most advanced of societies, is different. It is nourished by a sense of failure rather than hope. Our physical success is accompanied by spiritual despair. America is proving that modern man can create dazzingly powerful and rich societies in which the rate of change is so intense that men cannot endure it, let alone master it. The paradox of our revolutionary condition, then, is the existence of despair, disaffection, and contempt within a society that is prosperous, progressive, and democratic.
Berkeley is the perfect example of the kind of university which a democratic and progressive society might be expected to produce. Its faculty is distinguished, its students highly selected, and its facilities superb. Like the society around it, the University is dynamic and growing, and it can claim excellence in science and professional training. Despite these achievements, it is a university whose administrators find ungovernable, whose educational leaders find unreformable, and whose students find unliveable. For two years its life has been marked by an enervating anxiety and hostility which cannot be dismissed as a “failure in communication.” The melancholy truth is that there is little to communicate because there is no widely shared understanding about the meaning and purpose of the institution. Lacking the unifying force which flows spontaneously from common understandings, the system is held together by a bureaucratic organization whose weakness is exposed whenever it is directly challenged.
THIS IS PARTLY THE RESULT of Berkeley’s legacy as a public university, a legacy which contrasts with the traditional idea informing the ancient public universities of Europe, as well as the private universities and colleges of this country.
The striking difference between the traditional university and the modern public university is best seen in the small place assigned to administration in the former. The older university could flourish with a “housekeeper” administration because of one basic presupposition: that a genuine and autonomous community of scholars existed to be served. The modern public university, however, was born in a state of dependence on the outside society, and in most instances, the administration was created first. It never had the chance to become a community. Its survival depended upon public support and administrative power, not on the moral and intellectual fellowship of its members.
The public university adheres to a conception of knowledge which differs greatly from that of its ancestors. The knowledge it produces must be useful to the social and economic interests of an expanding society. At Berkeley, there are installations, institutes, and laboratories in which trained experts develop knowledge in such fields as naval medicine, sanitary engineering, space science, marine food resources, traffic engineering, forest products, nuclear weapons, mining, and range management. The demand for all these services is strong and growing. But it goes without saying that there is no irresistible demand that the university preserve the knowledge and experience of the past or encourage reflection on the intangibles of the good life. The old idea of the university as a community of conversants has been pushed aside by the Baconian vision of knowledge as power. But practicality has not by itself created the ideal of knowledge which now threatens all universities, public or private. The notorious concern of most faculties with publication and research is directly related to the requirement that a scholar be “original.” He must turn up novelties of fact or theory, and his novelties must pay off, either because they are practical or because they “generate” further research. Knowledge is no longer associated with wisdom, or with the fruits of contemplation or rediscovery. It is not guided by reflection, but fired by the hope of a “breakthrough.” This conception of knowledge brings a new pace to academic life: the researcher is forever racing to the frontiers where the future beckons. He must continuously invent new concepts, models, and techniques. The greatest sin lies not in being trivial, but in appearing old-fashioned.
At Berkeley these concerns amount to an obsession. It is virtually official doctrine that the ruthless pursuit of productivity is the key to Berkeley’s rapid rise to a position where it is no longer just “another state university,” but can compare with such renowned institutions as Harvard.
THE ASSUMPTION that a university is a place where knowledge is “pursued” and “cumulated” seems harmless enough until its effects are considered. This approach entails destruction of and contempt for the old, and for the fuddy-duddies who profess it. The perfect illustration of the new spirit is the popularity of Whitehead’s battle cry among social scientists: “A science which hesitates to forget its founders is lost.” Forgetting and destroying are necessary preconditions for productivity: he travels fastest who travels lightest; he travels lightest who sheds civility, tradition, and care for the common culture of the intellect.
The new conception of knowledge produces human casualties as well. In departments throughout Berkeley there are endless macabre discussions, amounting to ritual murder, about the older professors left stranded alongside the mainstream of research. Young men are ready, but the old men are protected by tenure. The curiosity is that the superannuated professor is probably in his thirties.
The competitive ethos of the modern research-oriented university has created “dysfunctional” or “deviant” human types, to use the current idiom. These are, lamentably, the very types which were “functional” in the traditional university. Foremost among them is the teacher. The teacher who is threatened is not the one who loves to be surrounded by admiring undergraduates and who makes a cult of non-writing, but rather the one who naively believes that teaching and research can be creatively combined, But, as an academic member of the Berkeley Administration responsible for promoting educational reform has said, “A professor’s bread is buttered by his relationships within his field, and they are established by research. You don’t get an international reputation for giving a great course at Berkeley.” Nor need the academic face a Kierkegaardian choice between teaching and research, Numerous agencies are eager to pay for the professor’s “released time” from the classroom so that he can pursue his research free from the distractions of teaching. In some fields, it is tacitly agreed that the professors who carry normal teaching loads are those whose research is not so valuable as to justify their giving full time to it.
If the teacher is “dysfunctional,” the student is worse. To the jet-age frontiersman he is a distraction and an anomaly, except when he is an apprentice researcher. Most graduate students present few problems, for they have been “socialized” and can even instruct their seniors in the art of grantsmanship. Those undergraduates and graduates who are left outside the system and who feel hurt and betrayed have formulated their own counter-idea of knowledge. Against the professionalism of the insiders, they proclaim the primacy of passion, subjectivity, and openness. Knowledge which is not obviously related to their immediate personal needs and situation is irrelevant. To be relevant, knowledge must speak now to their needs. The ancient values of detachment and disinterested inquiry are seen as evasions of responsibility; or, worse, as typifying the vice of “objectivism” which transforms thought and feeling into alienated objects and serves as an ideological figleaf for a corrupt establishment.
IT WOULD BE A FOOLISH MAN who, given the complex problems confronting the modern university, would claim to have a new constitution in his pocket. Nevertheless, certain things are clear. If something of the traditional idea of the university is to be salvaged, there must be a revitalization of a common culture and a lessening of the centrifugal tendencies of specialization. It must be recognized that the pursuit of knowledge can take forms incompatible with the unique cultural and educational character of the university. This is not to say that the university should turn away from new modes of knowledge and inquiry and lovingly cultivate all that is precious and old. A creative tension between tradition and innovation should be the guiding principle.
It has become clear that the University of California is no longer viable in its present form. The whole vast statewide complex, with its centralized bureaucratic apparatus of control, should be decentralized toward something like a “Commonwealth of Campuses” model, but it is unlikely that this will happen. Two years ago, a committee appointed by the Regents proposed that the statewide system be devolved into a looser alliance of largely autonomous campuses. After creating a brief sensation, the report was conveniently forgotten. The best hope for the future lies in devising ways to reintegrate faculty and students around smaller structures which are allowed genuine powers of decision-making and broad opportunities for educational experiments. If smaller communities are to be established, there must be serious open-minded discussion of the possibilities of student participation in a far broader range of university matters than hitherto.
AT THIS MOMENT, the Academic Senate is considering a concrete proposal to establish a student-faculty commission to explore ways of improving “the participation of students in the formulation of educational policies, including measures for the improvement of teaching.” The proposal lays special emphasis on the need to develop “patterns of student-faculty cooperation” at the departmental level.
These proposals move in the direction recently suggested by President Kerr. In a newspaper interview of a month ago, he described Berkeley’s steps toward educational reform as “somewhat too conservative.” He also said that “the University of California had the most restrictive policies [regarding political activity] of any university I’ve ever known about, outside a dictatorship.” He also declared “that this is a generation that wants to participate” and “there ought to be 100, or 1,000 opportunities” for it to do so.
In contrast, too many faculty members have resisted trying to understand the contemporary student and have indulged themselves, instead, in grotesque analogies between Berkeley and Latin American-style universities or Nazi youth movements. These spectral analogies, like the outside agitator theory, are appeals to fear and rest upon the belief that men can be frightened into order.
Today’s student finds himself in a world of complexity and change, of exciting possibilities and ominous threats, of uncertain landmarks for personal conduct and all too certain prescriptions for success in the straight world. He sees a world whose promise is constantly violated by destruction, discrimination, and cruelty. In an older and simpler age he would have entered the university with greater confidence and stability, for many institutions would have helped prepare him for adulthood. But family, church, neighborhood, and school have now declined in effectiveness and where they once contributed to his confidence, they now reinforce his uncertainty. Consequently, the student is led to demand more from his university experience than ever before. Such students embarrass the university for the same reason that Kierkegaard embarrassed Christendom: by the purity of their demands. They want the university to be a place where education and knowledge are pursued out of love for the pursuit itself. They are in revolt against all that is remote and impersonal in human relations. They want an educational community whose members will look at each other, not one in which relationships are defined by rules and treated as simple problems of order and compliance. Because they take the democratic ideal seriously, they want a voice in the decisions which shape their lives. It is these students who provide hope.
Opportunities for creative change still exist at Berkeley, but the problems are profound, reflecting as they do the sickness of our society and the disaffection of a whole generation. This time the campus must face the future with a fuller appreciation of the radical nature of the reforms needed.
February 9, 1967