The letter below was written by an anthropology colleague of mine two years after the Free Speech Movement, addressed to the anthropology faculty. It is speaking to a political event other than the FSM, the specifics of which I can only guess from the context like everyone else, since there were so many events I was involved in that my memories are all stuck together like conglomerate rock. I include it, however, because it illustrates much about the student mood in the years following the FSM and especially how all of us activist anthropology students were beginning to engage in serious re-evaluations of our discipline. Both Pat McKim and I did end up staying or, in my case, returning to, our discipline and teaching it to other people, but, for both of us, only after dropping out to some degree, me more than Pat, I believe.
The letter comes down hard on the anthropology faculty, yet it should be said that Professor Gerald Berreman, my beloved senior and graduate advisor, was the very first UC faculty member on any campus to come out publicly against the Vietnam War. And, regarding the UC faculty in general, I have a memory I have not seen mentioned by any other FSM bustee that is definitely in their favor. It is as follows: All during my arrest experience, and I was the last bustee out of Sproul Hall and one of the last released from Santa Rita jail, I had no idea that anyone was going to bail me out. I expected to be in jail for a while.
In the early morning hours at Santa Rita, rumors began to circulate that they were driving released bustees to the gate and dumping them on the highway, miles and miles away from any town (Santa Rita jail was in the boonies) with no way to get home. I began to panic. It was 3 am. I had not yet learned to hitchhike. They did in fact bus us to the gate of the jail and we did in fact get out of the bus there, but as we approached the gate I saw what looked like miles of headlights along the side of the road disappearing into the distance. As I came down the steps of the bus, a woman was waiting for me with arms outstretched and I asked, “Who are you, who are all these cars?” She said, as I fell sobbing into her arms, “We’re the faculty. We’ve come to take you home.” I will never, ever forget that and cannot write or tell it without choking up, even now. So, there’s faculty and then there’s faculty, and sometimes we were mad at them and sometimes they came through with flying colors. But I was with Pat on this one.
Mimeographed copies were distributed around the department, photocopying not being as readily available to students as were mimeograph machines. The writer was one of my co-workers at the Lowie Museum and my guess is he used the museum’s machine. Unfortunately, mimeo copies fade and the first page of this one could not be made any clearer than it is. Therefore, I have keyed it in below the copy, typing directly from the barely readable original.
NOTE: For those folks seriously computer illiterate, like me, understand that you can get a better look at all the documents posted on this blog by double-clicking on them.
The letter: In response to the recent crisis on this campus have come two resolutions put forth by members of the Anthropology Department. I have affixed my signature to that statement signed by Professors Berreman, Benedict and Potter. However, it is with the resolution signed by eighteen of the faculty of this department that I wish to express–in terms more explicit than the minority statement–my extreme dissatisfaction.
The point expressed first in the statement, dealing with the “disruptive” effect of police on campus, is to be applauded–but with the left hand only, for there is no mention whatsoever of concern for anyone or anything, save “the academic atmosphere necessary for our [my emphasis] work….” There is no expression of concern for the students (and non-students) arrested for protesting the use, without student sanction, of student facilities by military recruiters.
In the next sentence, there is no indication of feeling that the presence of police was morally unjustified, but that it was simply “playing into the hands of irresponsible persons…seeking confrontation…” There cannot possibly be any chance of misinterpretation on my part, since the very next sentence underlines this attitude by calling the administration’s actions “an error of judgement.” This whole point of view is a gross insult to the intelligence of the students.
The last sentence of the statement asks the Chancellor (in most conciliatory terms) to repudiate “such hasty action” and expresses a hope of finding some means of obviating such occurrences in the future. Because of the opinions expressed earlier in the faculty resolution, I cannot but infer that this proposal is no more than a stereotyped expression (obviously directed at the students and not the Chancellor) of Reason and Moderation–and one whose sincerity, in view of the foregoing, is hardly beyond question.
But even if my analysis of the resolution is correct–and I believe it is–what could possibly have prompted its acceptance by so many? It would seem unbelievable that, in view of the administration’s repression of student political activity in the past two years, intelligent and world-renowned scholars could possibly interpret the events of Nov. 30 (and after) as being the work of “irresponsible persons…seeking a confrontation.”
Or is it so incredible? The resolution, as shown before, expresses nothing but a selfish concern for Order on the part of the signers. It furthermore betrays a lack of concern for their students. But (and Sociologists be damned) this is not the point which dismays me. Rather, it is that it betrays a lack of human concern and human commitment to the problems which face us all today. It is a lack bred, I feel, by a total commitment to a world of sterile academic research, where value judgements are worthless because all values are Relative; where no view of human culture which cannot double as an analytical tool is acceptable. Is it not ironic that it calls itself the Study of Man?
You may think my rhetoric extreme, but ours are terrible times–times which demand not only commitment to reason, but also and equally to passion. I realize that this letter is less reasonable than passionate, and that is my intention. But your resolution reflects neither reason nor passion. Instead, it documents no more than a failure of nerve.
The notes written on the back of my copy of Pat’s letter are an indication that more students than myself were keenly interested. I have no recollection who Vincent Jones is, but the other two notes show I was passing my copy around and people were wondering what the faculty would do.
Part of our sentencing process involved the requirement that we write the judge letters explaining our role in the FSM sit-in and why we participated. Our lawyers explained to us that here was an opportunity to lighten our individual sentences by saying, essentially, that we were duped by the Communists and didn’t know any better and were sorry. A handful of people actually did that, or there were rumors they did, but everyone I knew wrote a letter similar to the one I wrote, shown below. Through a current FSM organization, I was contacted some years ago by the office of Malcolm Bernstein and asked if I wanted a copy of my letter. I was absolutely thrilled to see it after all those years and have to say I would not take back a single word.
Like most FSMers, I was convicted of trespassing in a pubic place and failure to disperse when ordered to do so, but not, in spite of going limp, resisting arrest. I was fined $300 and I think that’s all that happened to me. I don’t remember probation, maybe there was six months probation. Three hundred dollars for me in those days (and, actually, now) was a huge financial burden. Since I was sentenced in the summertime, I happened to be working full-time at the Lowie Museum and was thus eligible to borrow from the campus credit union.
On my loan application, for “purpose of the loan”, I wrote, “pay my FSM fine.” I made two payments. When I went to make the third I was told that there was no record of my ever having taken out a loan at the credit union and no one would take my money. I have no explanation for that and have pondered it for decades. I thought at first some anonymous person had paid off the loan for me, but if that had happened, they would have had a record of it and told me. There was no record. This being a time long before computers were commonplace, and me having worked in umpteen offices as a clerk-typist, I now suspect that someone working at the credit union, maybe a student clerk, was sympatico and cooked the books to make my loan disappear. I have no other explanation, but that one certainly fits the times.
Sometime between 1965 and l967, when I worked at the museum, I received there, addressed to me personally, the threatening letter below. Several other museum workers were also FSM bustees, but I don’t know of any of them receiving such a letter. Again, I have no explanation. The Minutemen, well, they are still around, Google them. Again, I have keyed the letter in below, since it is too old to be made any more readable.
The letter: Dear Comrade, It has come to our attention that in the past you have made unpatriotic statements. You have also participated in certain activities which are deemed detrimental to the preservation of our Republic. Should you have reason to regret your nefarious activities, now is the time to stand up and deny the unpleasant (?) foul deeds you have committed. Kindest regards, Minutemen of America.
Following are the letters written to me by my attorney (there were many attorneys, we were assigned to them in groups). I include the envelope to further authenticate the historical value of the letters. They have been broken into pieces in order to blow them up and there is much overlap between the pieces.
Sorry, can’t find page 3.