Although, as veterans of the Free Speech Movement, we are gratified that at least one UC Berkeley ambassador sees its importance as a defining moment in campus history, we are writing to correct the errors that this ambassador makes in describing the Free Speech Movement on campus tours. The Free Speech Movement was a nonviolent protest against the campus’s closing down of the one place on campus (the Bancroft Way-Telegraph Avenue strip) where students were allowed to advocate for political causes, pass out literature, recruit members and raise money for political and social action. It was motivated largely by concerns about civil rights, not about the Vietnam War, which was still not on the radar of most Americans. There was no chaining of doors to any building — that was an event that happened years later — and no keeping the chancellor from his office. After a semester of fruitless negotiations, the struggle culminated in a massive sit-in at Sproul Hall, the arrests of almost 800 students and a faculty vote supporting the student demands. The resulting rules still prevail on campus: The campus shall make no regulations restricting the content of speech or advocacy, and the time, place and manner of political activities shall be regulated only so far as to prevent interference with the normal functioning of the campus.Our hope is that both those who train campus tour guides — and the guides themselves — will prepare by studying the history of the Free Speech Movement so as to give those who tour the campus an accurate account of this event and its importance in the struggle for a freer campus and a society free of racism. We would be happy to meet with UC Berkeley ambassadors to help them better understand this history.
Lynne Hollander Savio, Bettina Aptheker, Jack Radey, Anita Medal, and Steve Lustig were arrested during the FSM sit-in and are currently on the Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives.