Students: When & Where to Speak

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"The students are restless," says University of California President Clark Kerr and he would beyond a doubt include Mario Savio. Born in New York city, Savio glided through high school at the top of a class of 1,200, spent two years in local colleges shopping for majors, then moved with his Sicilian-'immigrant parents to California and entered the university at Berkeley Soon was "disenchanted." He "drifted" into the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ("Snick") and last summer joined a Freedom School in McComb, Miss., to teach Negroes poetry history, math and genetics—"a good subject to show how black and white people are the same."

Back at Cal in September, Savio found a cause to his taste when the university forbade on-campus collections for political ends, including Snick. He also found, in himself, an almost Latin American eloquence (he used to stutter), a sense of demagoguery, and a neat flair for martyrdom. Savio dropped his classes and to lead a self-styled Free Speech Movement aimed at battering down the university's limits on out-of-classroom expression. His gifts were nicely matched by the university's habit of vacillating between concessions and crackdowns. By early last week F.S.M. had won most of the freedom a student can use, including political activity and fund raising. The university authorities held out only for the right to add its own punishment to any that courts might take against students for off-campus political demonstrations. To this, angry F.S.M. leaders cried, "Double jeopardy!"

Grandstand Play. At this stage of the dispute, President Kerr assembled the university in its huge open-air Greek Theater to announce that the administration would stand firm. Most students applauded, but to Savio, Kerr's position was "totally inacceptable," and the university was set up for a perfect grandstand play.

Suddenly Savio appeared from nowhere to grab the microphone. Before 13,000 astonished spectators, a campus policeman then grabbed Savio around the throat while another twisted his arm in a hammer lock. They dragged him away fighting, while a reporter thoughtfully held a microphone to his face. Minutes later, Savio was freed and when F.S.M. partisans yelled "We want Mario," he naturally had to be allowed to make his speech. It was really no speech at all, just a masterfully brief and low-keyed announcement of an F.S.M. rally.

Unnerved, the administration passed the hot potato to the faculty. Next day the Academic Senate, composed of all professors and deans, proposed a capitulation to F.S.M. on the double-jeopardy issue, and a policy that "the content of on-campus speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university. Off-campus student political activity shall not be subject to university regulation" "This is the best birthday present I ever had," chortled Savio, who had just turned 22 and he acknowledged that if the cops had not dragged him away from the mike, "we would have been dead."

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