SI Vault
Alfred Wright
January 03, 1966
The hawkers of protest have made the University of California at Berkeley a symbol of campus unrest. Far more typical are the students whose interests embrace both education and revolt, both football and Vietnam. They make Cal exciting and stimulating
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January 03, 1966

To The Big Game And To The Barricades

The hawkers of protest have made the University of California at Berkeley a symbol of campus unrest. Far more typical are the students whose interests embrace both education and revolt, both football and Vietnam. They make Cal exciting and stimulating

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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.

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 12�% 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....

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