Sip a Latte...and Chew Over Campus History at New Free Speech Movement Cafe
By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Thirty-six years ago, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to get campus administrators and free speech activists together in one room.
But at the dedication of the new Free Speech Movement CafÈ last Thursday, these former adversaries were shaking hands, patting backs and applauding each other at every turn.
"Ironic doesn't even begin to describe this event," joked Lynne Hollander, widow of Free Speech Movement leader Mario Savio. "When did we become respectable?"
The cafÈ, located in the southwest corner of Moffitt Library, was built to honor the landmark struggle nearly 40 years ago that guaranteed free speech at Berkeley.
Construction of the cafÈ was funded by a gift from Berkeley alumnus Stephen Silberstein. In addition to serving beverages, salads and sandwiches, the cafÈ includes permanent and rotating exhibits around the theme of free speech.
The space quickly lived up to its name-sake during the dedication as an uninvited "guest" stormed the microphone and demanded that the university serve only organic food. His outburst was met with enthusiastic applause.
This kind of expression was not possible in 1964, when students were barred from advocating political causes.
On Oct. 1 of that year, campus police arrested Jack Weinberg, 24, for setting up an unauthorized table in Sproul Plaza on behalf of The Congress on Racial Equality. For 32 hours, students blocked the police car with Weinberg inside, while Savio and others climbed atop it to deliver speeches defending the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
Three months of unprecedented activism followed, culminating in a student strike and sit-in Dec. 2. Police and law-enforcement officials arrested nearly 800 protesters -- the largest mass arrest in California history.
In the days following, Berkeley faculty voted -- 824 in favor and 115 opposed -- to drop university restrictions on speech.
Because of this legacy, today's students are encouraged and expected to involve themselves in complex and diverse issues and conversations, said Patrick Campbell, ASUC president.
Bettina Aptdeker, a member of the Free Speech Movement Steering Committee, hopes to see the cafÈ full of "animated discussion, newspapers, leaflets and spontaneous announcements."
Add extremely alert students to that list -- hyper-caffeinated espresso, Awake tea, energy drinks, cola with extra caffeine and even caffeinated water are among the jitter-inducing beverages included on the menu.
Cafe hours are 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday. During finals, the cafe will be open 24 hours.