"I went to a political rally yesterday. I saw a person who had his picture in
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.