Free Speech Movement veterans, historians respond to the Occupy Cal events

Protesters filled Sproul Plaza Wednesday afternoon for the Nov. 9 Day of Action.
Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Protesters filled Sproul Plaza Wednesday afternoon for the Nov. 9 Day of Action.

An appeal to the UC administration to restore Berkeley’s free speech tradition

We the undersigned Free Speech Movement (FSM) veterans and historians remind the UC administration that the university’s emergence as a center of free political expression on campus began in 1964 when the Free Speech Movement’s free speech principles were adopted by the UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate in its historic Dec. 8 resolutions. Those resolutions affirmed the “content of free speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university.” The resolutions established that there would be no restrictions on campus political expression but only on “time, place and manner,” meaning protests cannot interfere with classes or interfere “with the normal functions of the university.” The administration’s unilateral ban on tents and on a peaceful encampment on the lawn alongside Sproul Hall  (that neither interfered with classes nor prevented the “normal functions of the university”) clearly encroached on the free speech rights established by the Dec. 8 resolutions. In other words, the UC administration’s confrontational actions violated the university’s own free speech principles and policies, encroaching upon Berkeley’s historic free speech traditions.

This act of political repression threatens to return UC Berkeley to the pre-FSM era in which speech was freer off campus than on campus. Indeed, today there is greater free speech in New York’s Zucotti Park — where the dissident Occupy Wall Street encampment has been allowed to continue for months — than on the Berkeley campus. The fact that there is greater personal freedom in a park in Manhattan than on a public university campus in Berkeley should be a mark of shame for this administration. The fact that the UC administration chose to enforce its ban on a non-violent student encampment by inviting on to campus armed police and county sheriffs who violently attacked unarmed students is an affront to the very mission of the university.

We urge the University of California administration to cease and desist its violations of the Dec. 8 resolutions, to forswear and abandon all future use of police violence against law-abiding students and faculty, and to restore the campus to its historic free speech traditions.

— Bettina Aptheker, Robert Cohen,  Susan Druding, Barbara Garson,  Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander, Colleen Lye, Anita Medal, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack, Lee Felsenstein (more names may be added)