bureaucracy masks the financial plutocrats; that impersonal
bureaucracy is the efficient enemy in a "Brave New World."
In our free-speech fight at the University of California, we have
come up against what may emerge as the greatest problem of our
nation —depersonalized, unresponsive bureaucracy. We have
encountered the organized status quo in Mississippi, but it is the
same in Berkeley. Here we find it impossible usually to meet with
anyone but secretaries. Beyond that, we find functionaries who
cannot make policy but can only hide behind the rules. We have
discovered total lack of response on the part of the policy makers.
To grasp a situation which is truly Kafkaesque, it is necessary to
understand the bureaucratic mentality. And we have learned quite a
bit about it this fall, more outside the classroom than in.
As bureaucrat, an administrator believes that nothing new happens.
He occupies an a-historical point of view. In September, to get the
attention of this bureaucracy which had issued arbitrary edicts
suppressing student political expression and refused to discuss its
action, we held a sit-in on the campus. We sat around a police car
and kept it immobilized for over thirty-two hours. At last, the
administrative bureaucracy agreed to negotiate. But instead, on the
following Monday, we discovered that a committee had been appointed,
in accordance with usual regulations, to resolve the dispute. Our
attempt to convince any of the administrators that an event had
occurred, that something new had happened, failed. They saw this
simply as something to be handled by normal university procedures.
The same is true of all bureaucracies. They begin as tools, means to
certain legitimate goals, and they end up feeding their own
existence. The conception that bureaucrats have is that history has
in fact come to an end. No events can occur now that the Second
World War is over which can change American society substantially.
We proceed by standard procedures as we are.
The most crucial problems facing the United States today are the
problem of automation and the problem of racial injustice. Most
people who will be put out of jobs by machines will not accept an
end to events, this historical plateau, as the point beyond which no
change occurs. Negroes will not accept an end to history here. All
of us must refuse to accept history's final judgment that in America
there is no place in society for people whose skins are dark. On
campus students are not about to accept it as fact that the
university has ceased evolving and is in its final state of
perfection, that students and faculty are respectively raw material
and employees, or that the university is to be autocratically run by
Here is the real contradiction: the bureaucrats hold history as
ended. As a result significant parts of the population both on
campus and off are dispossessed and these dispossessed are not about
to accept this a-historical point of view. It is out of this that
the conflict has occurred with the university bureaucracy and will
continue to occur until that bureaucracy becomes responsive or until
it is clear the university cannot function.
The things we are asking for in our civil-rights protests have a
deceptively quaint ring. We are asking for the due process of law.
We are asking for our actions to be judged by committees of our
peers. We are asking that regulations ought to be considered as
arrived at legitimately only from the consensus of the governed.
These phrases are all pretty old, but they are not being taken
seriously in America today, nor are they being taken seriously on
the Berkeley campus.
I have just come from a meeting with the Dean of Students. She
notified us that she was aware of certain violations of university
regulations by certain organizations. University friends of Student
Non-violent Coordinating Committee, which I represent, was one of
these. We tried to draw from her some statement on these great
principles, consent of the governed, jury of one's peers, due
process. The best she could do was to evade or to present the
administration party line. It is very hard to make any contact with
the human being who is behind these organizations.
The university is the place where people begin seriously to question
the conditions of their existence and raise the issue of whether
they can be committed to the society they have been born into. After
a long period of apathy during the fifties, students have begun not
only to question but, having arrived at answers, to act on those
answers. This is part of a growing understanding among many people
in America that history has not ended, that a better society is
possible, and that it is worth dying for.
This free-speech fight points up a fascinating aspect of
contemporary campus life. Students are permitted to talk all they
want so long as their speech has no consequences.
One conception of the university, suggested by a classical Christian
formulation, is that it be in the world but not of the world. The
conception of Clark Kerr by contrast is that the university is part
and parcel of this particular stage in the history of American
society; it stands to serve the need of American industry; it is a
factory that turns out a certain product needed by industry or
government. Because speech does often have consequences which might
alter this perversion of higher education, the university must put
itself in a position of censorship. It can permit two kinds of
speech, speech which encourages continuation of the status quo, and
speech which advocates changes in it so radical as to be irrelevant
in the foreseeable future. Someone may advocate radical change in
all aspects of American society, and this I am sure he can do with
impunity. But if someone advocates sit-ins to bring about changes in
discriminatory hiring practices, this cannot be permitted because it
goes against the status quo of which the university is a part. And
that is how the fight began here.'
The administration of the Berkeley campus has admitted that
external, extra-legal groups have pressured the university not to
permit students on campus to organize picket lines, not to permit on
campus any speech with consequences. And the bureaucracy went along.
Speech with consequences, speech in the area of civil rights, speech
which some might regard as illegal, must stop.
Many students here at the university, many people in society, are
wandering aimlessly about. Strangers in their own lives there is no
place for them. They are people who have not learned to compromise,
who for example have come to the university to learn to question, to
grow, to learn—all the standard things that sound like cliches
because no one takes them seriously. And they find at one point or
other that for them to become part of society, to become lawyers,
ministers, businessmen, people in government, that very often they
must compromise those principles which were most dear to them. They
must suppress the most creative impulses that they have; this is a
prior condition for being part of the system. The university is well
structured, well tooled, to turn out people with all the sharp edges
worn off, the well-rounded person. The university is well equipped
to produce that sort of person, and this means that the best among
the people who enter must for four years wander aimlessly much of
the time questioning why they are on campus at all, doubting whether
there is any point in what they are doing, and looking toward a very
bleak existence afterward in a game in which all of the rules have
been made up, which one cannot really amend.
It is a bleak scene, but it is all a lot of us have to look forward
to. Society provides no challenge. American society in the standard
conception it has of itself is simply no longer exciting. The most
exciting things going on in America today are movements to change
America. America is becoming ever more the utopia of sterilized,
automated contentment. The "futures" and "careers" for which
American students now prepare are for the most part intellectual and
moral wastelands. This chrome-plated consumers' paradise would have
us grow up to be well-behaved children. But an important minority of
men and women coming to the front today have shown that they will
die rather than be standardized, replaceable and irrelevant.
Mario Savio speech "An End to History"
2 Dec 1964