Last November 20 promised to be a memorable day for the University of California. Down in Palo Alto the varsity football team would be playing in the 68th annual Big Game against its old rival, Stanford. Back home in Berkeley there was to be the Vietnam Day parade in protest against the lighting in southeast Asia. Seventy-eight thousand spectators showed up at Stanford Stadium to watch the Big Game, and the television crews and reporters and photographers were on hand for the parade in Berkeley.
Neither event was a rip-roaring success. The Golden Bears lost a squeaker to the favored Indians 9-7. After a promising start, the parade disintegrated into a feckless picnic at Oakland's deFremery Park and looked more like an outing of displaced Iowans than a militant challenge to U.S. foreign policy.
In terms of student participation, the Big Game scored a lopsided victory over the parade. The Cal rooting section that day contained 8,638 noisy, balloon-waving students, not counting the 118-piece marching band, and at least another couple of thousand were scattered with their families and friends elsewhere around Stanford Stadium. According to the best estimates, a mere 2,500 students showed up for the protest parade. It is anybody's guess what happened to the university's other 14,000 students, but maybe they stayed home to study or just took a walk on Tightwad Hill to enjoy the view.
Yet for most people who have ever heard of the University of California, it was the students in the parade who personified the atmosphere of the Berkeley campus. Thanks largely to the nationwide publicity given such demonstrations, the Cal student emerges as a sort of scrofulous beatnik affecting sandals and a moth-eaten beard and bearing a sign denouncing the American Way of Life. Not since Dink Stover strutted in his turtleneck sweater with the big Y on the front has a college type been so clearly engraved on the public mind as the shaggy student of protest at Berkeley.
January 3, 1966
Everybody has violent opinions about him. A lot of California taxpayers claim he is abusing his free education and want to send him home or put him to work. The more hard-nosed Berkeley alumni think he ought to be turned over some authority's knee and spanked like a naughty child. Lucius Beebe, a millionaire dandy from Boston who now writes a weekly column of bombast in the San Francisco Chronicle, would like to see the Hell's Angels motorcycle hoodlums turned loose on the Cal students to beat them up with their bicycle chains and brass knuckles. Charles McCabe, a kind of city-room sociologist who also writes for the Chronicle, would license a lot of saloons in Berkeley on the theory that drunks lack the energy to cause trouble. W. H. Cowley, a professor of higher education at Stanford, suggests the historical solution of moving the university somewhere else.
One thing is clear from all this: the Cal student, whoever he may be, bugs his elders. Which is just the way he likes it. If one had the temerity to pick a single point on which most Cal students agree, it would have to be that his elders bug him. Or, to put it another way, his elders represent the Establishment, and the Establishment bugs him. If you want to see him breathe fire and brimstone, get him talking about his obsessions—"Happy TV-land" or "Big Daddy Johnson" or suburbia with swimming pools. Last year, at the peak of the Free Speech Movement demonstrations that rocked Berkeley for months, there was a rampant cry: "Never trust anyone over 30." That would still serve as a good working slogan for the prevailing attitude on this fascinating, enormous and extraordinarily active campus.
The wonder of it is that a student body as large as Berkeley's 27,000 has any personality at all. In recent years it has grown to the point that its president refers to it as a "multiversity." Along with Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Caltech, the University of California at Berkeley is regarded by the nation's brightest high school students as one of the five most desirable colleges in the U.S. Unless a California high school student ranks in the upper 12½% scholastically, he may as well forget about applying for Berkeley. (He can always try for one of the university's seven other general campuses, which admitted an additional 50,000 students this year.) A student from one of the 49 other states or 100 foreign countries that send students to Cal must be even brighter than those who come from within the state. In other words, a Cal student is something special to start with. And he knows it.
John Rodgers, the sports editor of The Daily Californian, was ruminating on just this subject a few weeks ago, and he tried to describe what it is that separates the Cal student from most of the other undergraduates around the country. Rodgers, who is bright-eyed and youthful-looking even for a college senior, is in a better position than most to know, for he comes from Rantoul, Ill., near Urbana, the site of the University of Illinois. Having won scholarships to both Illinois and Cal, he chose to take the much longer trip all the way to Berkeley for the very reason on which he was trying to place his finger.
"At Illinois and most of those big midwestern and southern campuses," John Rodgers was saying, "you have what I would call the ex-Joe College type, the guy who drinks beer and pretends to be drunk on Friday night and walks around the campus in a sweater with the varsity letter on it. At Cal you might say we have the new Joe College. He is a much better-rounded individual. He is interested in politics and athletics and the academic life, and he tries to blend all three into their proper perspective. Diversity, you might say, is the Cal ideal."
A few days later John Rodgers wrote a column replying to a San Francisco sportswriter who complained that Cal students refuse to support their football team. "We have both the rah-rahs and the other," Rodgers argued, "and both groups have their far extremes, but the majority of Cal students fall right in the middle....
"I went to a political rally yesterday. I saw a person who had his picture in Newsweek holding a picket sign protesting the war in Vietnam. The first thing he talked about was the Oregon game, and then he told me that he was going to the Big Game instead of the VDC [for Vietnam Day Committee] march.
"Just walking around campus you hear people talking about everything from the draft to the water polo games. Maybe you're right. Cal students can't be stirred up. There is too much going on in the world to limit yourself to thinking solely about next week's football game. But then, when Saturday rolls around, the Cal student forgets about the world for three hours as he cheers the Bears on to what he hopes will be a victory."
Needless to say, those who follow the middle road with John Rodgers scarcely fit the Berkeley stereotype. They are that vast and voiceless majority that attends classes, washes behind the ears, studies hard, sends out the laundry once a week and hopes to get a degree. Yet it is toleration of the extremes, particularly the extreme left, that best reveals the private Berkeleyan behind the public image.
There is a plaza about the size of a football field at the southern end of the Berkeley campus. On one side are the steps and terraces leading up to stately Sproul Hall, the neo-classic home of Berkeley's administration. Across the plaza is the brand-new $5 million glass-redwood-and-concrete home of the Student Union. At the north end of the plaza, standing like goalposts, are the pillars of Sather Gate, once the southern entrance to the campus and traditionally the forum for campus protest. At its other end the plaza opens out onto the streets and shops of the city of Berkeley. In the middle of the plaza at any noontime is the most glorious accumulation of nuts and cranks and zealots and oddballs ever to rub shoulders since Central Casting was in flower.
Name your cause and you can find someone sitting at a table alongside Sather Gate ready to sell you a 25¢ button supporting it. Legalized abortion, conservatives against extremism, Students for Democratic Action, the committee to support the Delano grape-pickers' strike, the committee to overthrow Castro, the committee to save Castro, the Ella Fitzgerald concert, the Peace Corps recruiters, blood donors for the Viet Cong, blood donors for South Vietnam—they are all there, and more. Up on the steps leading to Sproul Hall is a microphone, and someone is shouting into it, haranguing the passers-by on how to avoid the draft or what is wrong with the university's chancellor or whom to vote for in the next campus election. Students and professors and stray dogs and Nobel Prizewinners and delivery boys and all the other human paraphernalia of one of the world's largest and most distinguished universities are hurrying through the plaza on their appointed rounds. Some stop to listen. Some remain to argue. It is a little like standing in the middle of a television store with all the demonstration models tuned to different stations and the volume on full blast.
The lifeblood of this enthralling presidium is the New Left. When they were shouting about the Spanish Loyalists and the migratory farm workers in the Central Valley, they were called Red Hots, but now they are the New Left. They come, of course, in all shapes and sizes, but as a general rule they favor sandals over shoes, overage Army field jackets and chin whiskers in serious need of attention. Some of them have their hair cut like Prince Valiant of the comic strips. The girls prefer loose T shirts of indeterminate hue and slacks in which the contours are trying to break for freedom. If it is at all possible, they will be coiffed like Joan Baez, their heroine. If, male or female, they wear an Indian blanket over their shoulders like a poncho, they are a special breed called ethniks. An ethnik feels that one's clothes should be made by oneself and only from organic materials as preparation for the post-Bomb era, when man will have to revert to the basic products of nature. All these intriguing people have convinced themselves that they are living in a world of perpetual gloom and rain.
More than a year ago the misguided dean of students tried to clear the plaza of all these types and, before the dust had settled, the university had a new dean and a new chancellor and even President Clark Kerr resigned for a while. That was the time of the now famous Free Speech Movement and, to the surprise and alarm of practically the entire state of California, it was discovered that a sizable portion of Berkeley's 27,000 students and 1,800 faculty members sympathized with FSM. Shock waves from FSM radiated to just about every campus in the U.S. At a recent student gathering in Madison, Wis., Peggy Krause, the editor of The Daily Californian, was told that nowadays when the students at Podunk U. want a new drinking fountain, all they have to do is shout, "Remember Berkeley!" In a rather inspired analogy, Jerry Goldstein, the president of the university's Associated Students, said: "We thought we were like little children in the family car strapped into one of those little chairs and 'driving' with a toy steering wheel. Then we realized that we had our hands on the bigger wheel that actually steers the car."
After it was over, FSM left one indelible impression on the rest of the country: the Berkeley student was that beatnik with the sign. Which is like saying that all Englishmen resemble Arthur Treacher. The guy with the beard is really just a Berkeley caricature. Very few people around the campus can tell you exactly who he is, how many of him there are and whether he is even registered as a student. The point is that it really doesn't matter. Whoever the beatnik may be, he has become as much a landmark of the Berkeley campus as the 307-foot campanile that has towered over it for 50 years.
The beatnik image has become a cause of serious frustration for those more conventional types at one end of the Berkeley spectrum. "There can be no doubt that we have felt some repercussions in our recruiting," laments Pete Newell, the renowned basketball coach who is now Cal's athletic director. "But the extent of it is hard to tell. Our freshman football team this year is a good one, and the coaches feel they will get as much varsity material off this one as any in the last five or six years. I think the parents are beginning to realize that only a small segment of the campus was involved in the riots but, still, we could have done better if we didn't have this problem. After all, the registration for the freshman class was off some 600 or 700 this year, and probably much of that was due to the bad publicity about the FSM riots."
On the other hand, an extraordinary athlete like Forrest Beaty of Glendale, Calif. might have gone somewhere else if he had not been attracted by the intellectual ferment on the Berkeley campus. Beaty is a quarter-miler who ran second in the NCAA last year (Cal finished fourth in team points), and he was a kick-return specialist on this year's varsity football team. A powerfully built 190-pounder, he is an outstanding student who talks more like a sociologist than an athlete.
"Life at Cal for an athlete," Beaty will tell you, "is fairly simple compared with the way it is for most of the other people who come to Berkeley. This place is big and foreboding when you arrive, but athletes already have a readymade identity, and they are welcomed by the traditional parts of the community, such as the fraternities. But some kids arrive unnoticed, and they don't have any place to go in the social structure. They were not particularly active when they were in high school, and they become anti-Greek when they aren't rushed for a fraternity. They don't have the background to get into student government, they don't have the enthusiasm for rallies and all those spirit activities, so about the only place they can find to hang their hats is with the liberal groups.
"These types have to find a new identity, and the identity becomes more secure when the guy grows a beard and assumes the appearance of the intellectual and the protest groups. The beard is just the outward part of the syndrome, something to call attention to themselves and who they are. It isn't fair to condemn them. Their ideals are probably higher than most people's.
"During the big protest activities like the FSM last year," Beaty goes on, "there was a certain amount of antagonism toward the protesters among the athletes. Some wanted to solve the problem in the conventional athletic way—that is, with brute force, because that is their weapon, and their intellectual skills are not always too sharp. But there wasn't as much of this as you might think. After all, the whole world is getting smarter, so why shouldn't athletes?"
As a matter of fact, it would be pretty hard to argue that the Berkeley image has had any effect at all on sports at Cal. Last year at the very height of the rallies the average attendance at home football games was 51,000. Even more significant than this is the interest in the somewhat esoteric sports that are getting to be considered the province of the intellectual, such as track and gymnastics and boxing and crew and Rugby, in all of which Cal did exceptionally well. Last spring's Rugby team was probably the best ever developed in the U.S. On an Australian tour it won five games, lost two and tied two, and the Australian sportswriters were flabbergasted at its ability.
The way it adds up, the modern Cal student is as enthusiastic as he ever was about conventional activities that serve a purpose for him, but he wants to make up his mind for himself. John Rodgers said: "If your parents or President Johnson or the university authorities tell you to do something, you just don't do it automatically anymore. At Cal you learn to ask why." Rodgers cites the weekend of the Washington game last fall as an example of the dichotomy of the Berkeley mind. On the Friday night before the game some 7,000 marched in a Vietnam protest parade; only about 3,500 showed up for the football rally. The next day only 2,000 turned out to protest Vietnam, but there were 35,000 (some 10,000 of them students) at the game. An interest in both sports and politics is not necessarily incompatible.
Jerry Goldstein thinks that the hard core of the protest groups at Berkeley probably numbers between 500 and 1,000. Many of these actually are students or part-time students, but at least a couple of hundred have no connection with the university and never did have. Nobody seems to have a very clear idea where they came from, although one version is that they migrated to the outskirts of the campus when the San Francisco police moved the beatniks out of the North Beach coffeehouses several years ago. It often takes an exceedingly well-trained eye to separate the students in the New Left from the professional activists who have lately arrived to nibble at the fringes of campus life; the students lean toward the conventional ethnik styles, while the professionals like to walk around the campus with books under their arms, and occasionally they even audit classes. Nevertheless, you could waste a lot of time trying to find a registered student among the Vietnam Day Committee leadership or just about any of the other non-campus political causes. As Peggy Krause explains, "Running something like FSM or VDC is a full-time job. You couldn't do it and study too."
Backing up the hard core of protest, according to Goldstein's estimates, are from 2,000 to 4,000 real students, a great many of them from the campus graduate schools, "who will protest if they think the cause is a good one." Another 5,000 to 10,000 students are sympathetic but too busy to attend the rallies. The Vietnam parade might have attracted two to three times as many students as it did if, on the day before the November 20 parade, a federal judge in San Francisco had not issued an injunction restraining the city of Oakland from stopping the parade at the Berkeley border. Thousands who might have marched to insist on their right to march stayed home or went to the football game instead. The average Cal student is much too confused about Vietnam to get really worked up about it. And, anyway, protesting can get tiresome after a binge like last year's FSM riots, which many considered were somehow really important.
Now that a more sensible and understanding administration has taken the steam out of the FSM cause, the spirit of protest at Berkeley is settling into a kind of lackadaisical rut. Recently, when an undergraduate from New York named Bettina Aptheker, whose father is among this country's most celebrated Communists, publicly announced that she, too, was a member of the Communist Party, the publicity caused a vast, one-day, campus-wide yawn. Many students seem to feel that Communism is a bogey of their parents' generation and has no application to today's problems. After making her confession in a letter to The Daily Californian, Bettina took over the microphone on the steps of Sproul Hall the following noon to proclaim that the university was a "dull, stifling, conforming" institution. Several hundred passers-by stopped to listen—and passed on by.
Yet it is the Bettina Apthekers who catch the ear of the outside world. A day or two after her confession, one of the most celebrated trial lawyers in San Francisco was complaining bitterly about "those goddam Commies over there." This man is a second-generation Californian who took his bachelor's degree at Harvard and his law degree at Berkeley a generation ago, and this fall his daughter announced that she would like to enter Berkeley as a freshman. "I told her," said the lawyer, "that she could go to any college she could get into and I would pay for it, but if she went to Cal she would damn well have to work her own way."
The Bettina Apthekers and the New Left and the beatniks create the public image, but the more typical Cal student is a far subtler creature—and far more interesting. He looks down on what he calls the "surfers" of USC and "UC Disneyland," which is his name for his less fortunate brethren at UCLA. "Alabama and Ohio State and those places are just football," he says with undisguised scorn. "Of course, you have to respect Stanford, because it is almost as high as we are academically. In the Midwest everyone looks up to Michigan; that's where the teach-ins started." His point is that the modern Cal student is "more involved." He no longer has time for the collegiate clichés of the past.
Forrest Beaty, as an example, did not bother to join a fraternity, yet he is one of the most prestigious athletes on the Cal campus and president of the Big C Society of varsity lettermen. "Today's students are more individualistic than they used to be," Beaty explains. "They have less need for artificial social institutions." He points out that for the last few years Cal's 44 fraternities have been having trouble filling their quotas, and this year one of them gave up the ghost. "Once a tradition starts to die," Beaty says, "it dies fast. The death knell is sounding for a lot of traditions around here."
Terence Busch, a senior who is the son of Actress Teresa Wright and Author Niven Busch, joined a fraternity as a freshman but soon moved out to take an off-campus apartment of his own. Although Terry Busch's father went to Princeton and raised him in comfort on a ranch in central California, Terry has rejected the life of the Establishment at Berkeley. He is looking for something more challenging. "Students have more serious ideas about education here," he explains. "It used to be that you were a pariah if you rejected things like fraternities, but now it's all right. You can do it now, and all they call you is a clean liberal. You accept the values of the left but not necessarily the appearance or the exhibitionism." Terry wears sandals instead of loafers, and he does not go for the white socks that denote a Greek, but his khaki trousers and his sports shirts get to the laundry frequently.
In Terry Busch's mind the liberal left represents the important difference between life at Berkeley and that of the routine American campus. "If you don't have the radical element, you don't get interested and involved," he will tell you. "Those other campuses are just not aware." You will not find Terry Busch in the vanguard of a parade, but his sympathies will generally be with those who are.
"The people here are students. That's what's not generally realized," said Peggy Krause. "We want to go back to studying for a while. Protests are very educational and all that, and you learn a lot by taking part, but we have all the education we need on that subject right now."
Saying which, Peggy went to work editing a drama review. "You try to write about too many people in here," she told the young critic who was standing by. "Write about fewer people and say more about each one. People like to get involved in the lives of other people."