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Media Advisory: UC Berkeley commemorates Free Speech Movement's 50th

By Gretchen Kell

ATTENTION: General assignment and higher education reporters, editors, photographers, broadcast producers

WHAT: This fall, the University of California, Berkeley, is marking the 50 th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement with several dozen special classes, an experiential program for students built around the biography of movement leader Mario Savio, sing-ins and a political poetry reading, a film series, panel discussions and lectures, a reunion of activists, an Oct. 1 rally on Sproul Plaza, concerts and more.

The movement began in 1964 when UC Berkeley students protested a ban on on-campus political advocacy and demanded their right to free speech and academic freedom. The non-violent civil disobedience tactics at UC Berkeley, pioneered by the civil rights movement, led to the introduction of reforms on many other university campuses that made freedom of speech more consistent with how it is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The Free Speech Movement also set the national stage for mass student protests against the Vietnam War.

WHEN: Events span the entire fall semester and can be found on UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement website under the “Events” tab. Highlights include:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 23: A Free Speech All-Campus Sing-In on Sproul Plaza at 5 p.m. followed by a lecture, “Can Students Change the World? Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s,” by Robert Cohen, a New York University professor and author of “Freedom’s Orator,” which incoming students are reading as part of the campus’s On the Same Page program . Cohen is teaching at UC Berkeley this semester.
  • Friday-Sunday, Sept. 26-28: A Free Speech Movement 50 th anniversary reunion. Veterans and friends of the movement will reunite for panel discussions, social events, debates and conversations.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 1: Anniversary rally on Sproul Plaza with Free Speech Movement veteran speakers including Lynne Hollander Savio, Bettina Aptheker and Jack Weinberg, along with Dolores Huerta, labor organizer and immigrant and women’s rights advocate.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 29: Conversation with Dr. Bassem Youssef , a champion for free speech in Egypt, moderated by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, at Zellerbach Hall. Youssef is the host of Al-Bernameg (“The Program”), a satirical news show recently taken off the air by Egyptian authorities. In 2013, he was named one of the 100 influential people in the world by TIME magazine.

NOTE: UC Berkeleyfaculty, staff members and students are available for interviews about the movement and its legacy on campus today and throughout the world. For assistance, please contact Gretchen Kell in UC Berkeley’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs, at and (510) 642-3136 or (510) 410-7769 (cell).