What Was It Like to Attend Berkeley in the '60s?

09/10/2016 09:17 am ET Updated Sep 11, 2017

What was it like to attend Berkeley in the 60s? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Richard Muller, Professor Physics, UC Berkeley, on Quora:

Attending UC Berkeley in the 1960s was unbelievably educational. I arrived at Berkeley in September 1964, just in time for the Free Speech Movement. For several weeks I was a passive observer, although I sided with the students who had been (unfairly and unwisely, in my opinion) suspended. Then a friend, Richard Shavitz, called me and told me he was joining the sit-in at Sproul Hall. I went there too, and decided to be part of the sit-in. I expected to be arrested, and I was. The next morning the police "invaded" the building. I was arrested, dragged down the steps of Sproul (I vividly recall my main worry: that I would lose a shoe!), taken to the Oakland jail, and released on bail the next morning. I was ultimately convicted of trespassing, failure to disperse, and resisting arrest. This was the first of the large number of sit-ins that took place at major universities over the subsequent years.

The details comprise a rather long story. I learned a tremendous amount that I could never have learned academically (such as seeing the courage and leadership exercised by the leaders, many of whom had been on freedom-rides in the South, and had witnessed police brutality firsthand). Afterwards, I met a young woman who considered me to be a hero, and on September 3rd of this year we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. (Yes, we got married young!)

If you've seen the black and white photos taken inside Sproul during the sit-in, odds are that they were taken by me; very few taken by others ever became public. I attach one that shows the police charging up to the second floor in a (successful) attempt to take control of the window that was being used to supply food and information to those of us inside. For more photos, see my web page: Muller's Free Speech Photos.

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