Free Speech

Free speech is indispensable to our society and is one of UC Berkeley’s most cherished values. It is both part of our legacy as the home of the Free Speech Movement as well as central to our academic mission.

History of the Free Speech Movement

Mario Savio in the Hearst Greek Theater. Bettina Aptheker is sitting behind Savio. Sidney Stapleton sitting in front.

The Free Speech Movement began in 1964 when UC Berkeley students protested the university’s restrictions on political activities on campus. Small sit-ins and demonstrations escalated into a series of large-scale rallies and protests demanding full constitutional rights on campus. This led to the university overturning policies that would restrict the content of speech or advocacy. Today, the Movement stands as a symbol of the importance of protecting and preserving free speech and academic freedom.

Notable people of the Free Speech Movement

“The Free Speech Movement was the first revolt of the 1960s to bring to a college campus the mass civil disobedience tactics pioneered in the civil rights movement. Those tactics, most notably the sit-in, would give students unprecedented leverage to make demands on university administrators, setting the stage for mass student protests against the Vietnam War.”
Robert Cohen, author of Freedom’s Orator

Keeping our community safe

Anti-war candlelight vigil on Sproul Plaza.

Our principles of community

Our principles of community are rooted in our mission and reflect our passion for critical inquiry, debate, discovery and innovation, and our deep commitment to contributing to a better world.

Chanting, sign-waving protesters rally on Sproul Plaza to protest a student conduct hearing for Roberto Hernandez. 9.30.2002

Student support

Our campus has served as a meeting point for extreme elements from opposing ends of the political spectrum and may also attract and involve those who espouse hateful rhetoric that runs counter to our values. If you need support, the campus has several resources.

Free Speech Movement sign under Sather Gate.

Faculty & Staff support

Employee Assistance provides no-cost confidential counseling and referral for UC Berkeley faculty, staff, visiting scholars and postdocs. It is also the employee assistance program for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“The public expression of many sharply divergent points of view is fundamental both to our democracy and to our mission as a university.”
Carol Christ, Chancellor

Free speech resources

Campus events policy

Our campus events policy enables student organizations and other groups to host a variety of events on campus to supplement and enrich our students’ educational experience.

Taking back our First Amendment

We are taking back our First Amendment by vigorously upholding our right to free speech but also vehemently condemning its use as a vehicle for hate, bigotry and oppression.

Speech & Belonging Resource Guide

The Speech & Belonging Resource Guide presents research-based evidence and perspectives on a range of free speech issues.

Free speech FAQ

Questions? Our Free Speech FAQ offers answers related to free speech on campus, the First Amendment, the right of student groups and controversial speakers and Berkeley’s commitment to community safety.