50 years of free speech

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Tom Kuykendall/Courtesy

The Daily Californian remains committed to documenting both the legacy of the Free Speech Movement and the continued activism of students and others in Berkeley. We urge our readers to engage with the campus activities this month and reflect on what our campus history means to you today as students, faculty, administration or simply as a member of the Berkeley community.

In 1964, the Daily Cal documented the student push to lift the ban on campus political activities, acknowledging the students’ rights to free speech and academic freedom. From September to November, we documented almost daily the events that transpired on campus — from negotiations to sit-ins to the effect the FSM had on Greek life and campus culture. Unlike many other local and national newspapers at the time, we did not engage in red-baiting in our articles and are often regarded as providing the most complete and accurate coverage of the movement.

Thirteen years after the Free Speech Movement, the Daily Cal filed a massive Freedom of Information Act request that uncovered the covert role the FBI played in spying on and undermining the FSM. Seth Rosenfeld, then a Daily Cal staffer and author of the articles in question, followed this work with decades more of FBI document research, exposing the range of influence that the bureau played on the Berkeley student movement.

coverandback FINAL.inddThrough continuing to engage with Free Speech Movement veterans and discuss the movement’s impact on campus, we’ve provided the most reliable institutional memory of the FSM. As the campus grew, the Daily Cal documented the shift to build the Free Speech Movement into our legacy. In 1997, the campus renamed the steps of Sproul Hall in honor of Free Speech Movement leader Mario Savio. In 1998, the campus received a large donation in order to build the Free Speech Movement Cafe and transition many student-protest archives onto computers. This change in perception illustrates a dramatic shift in the administration’s view of the movement.

But of course, such reconciliation with the Berkeley rebellion of 1964 does not signal an end to the tensions between campus and student protesters. Student protest at UC Berkeley is clearly not a museum piece but constitutes a living tradition.

Today’s Daily Cal editors and staffers, like our predecessors, have become engaged with the FSM’s history. Our new book, “Fifty Years of Free Speech: Perspectives on the Movement that Revolutionized Berkeley” is a retrospective look at the actions of students on the UC Berkeley campus during the seminal university protest movement of 1964. It includes first-hand accounts of the events and draws heavily from The Daily Californian’s archives to document the development of the movement.

Sproul Plaza remains an active center of free speech on campus. We hope students use this space freely — for activism, for performances, for announcements or simply for lunch. This is your campus.

Chloe Hunt is the editor in chief and president.

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