Chronology: On Strike! Shut it Down!
Terminology: As used during the strike and this chronology, "Third World" refers to people of "African, Asian, Latin American, and American Indian descent." It is often used interchangeably with "nonwhite."
Background: At the time of the strike, San Francisco State College (SFSC) was one of 18 California state colleges that granted Bachelors and Masters degrees.
During the 1950s, in response to demands from organized labor and social-justice voters, California promised a tuition-free public college education for all state high school graduates. The top 30% students were eligible to attend one of the seven Universities of California (UC), the top 70% were welcome at the 18 State Colleges, and all students could attend the large number of Junior Colleges (today, 'Community Colleges') that were funded by local rather than state taxes.
The promise of free college for all was immensely popular. But the state's tax system was heavily regressive with business, corporations, and the very wealthy paying far less than their fair share — and the great mass of non-wealthy voters were reaching the limit of their tolerance for constantly increasing property and sales taxes.
California political leaders had three options:
- They could abandon free college for all at the risk of angering voters
- They could raise taxes on business and the wealthy which would enrage big donors
- They could stealthy restrict the number of students eligible to attend the state-funded colleges.
They chose the latter.
In 1960 they adopted a new Master Plan for Higher Education that raised the UC eligibility bar from the top 30% of high school graduates to just the top 12.5% and the State College bar from the top 70% to only the top 33%. The bottom 66% was thus restricted to the Junior Colleges which the state did not fund. The plan also implemented 'tracking' in high schools to sort the students into academic or vocational tracks largely based on their race and class. The inevitable result was a sharp drop in the number of college admissions from predominantly nonwhite and lower-income high schools — schools that for generations local authorities had systematically starved of resources.
The philosophical assumption underlying the Master Plan was later articulated by Governor Ronald Reagan: "Publicly-supported higher education is not a right; it is a privilege." In essence, that meant a shift from free college for all to low-cost higher education becoming a perk of affluence and race.
Context: In the 1960s, SF State was often described as a 'streetcar college' because the great majority of its students were drawn from the local commute-distance area. Only 3% of SFSC students lived on campus. Many students arrived each day on the 19th Avenue 'M' streetcar line, others found parking in SFSC's massive multi-story parking garage.
At the time of the BSU/TWLF strike, more than half of 'Frisco's high school students were nonwhite, but less than 5% of SFSC's 18,000 students were third world — drastically down from the 12% it had been in 1960 when the Master Plan was implemented into law.
However, under the Master Plan, SFSC's student fees (tuition) remained so low as to be essentially 'free' — around $300 per year (equal to about $2600 in 2023). This meant that low-income students living at home could afford to attend. But the nonwhite, ghetto schools of the city's residentially-segregated system were under-funded and under-developed. And by the Master Plan's design, third world students were consistently guided into the nonacademic vocational-track and away from the academic college-track.
1962. Socially conscious student government.
The Associated Students (AS) is the campus student-government body. It is democratically elected each year by the students who pay its fees. Before the strike, the AS has significant control over roughly $300,000 in compulsory student fees (equal to about $3,000,000 in 2023 dollars). Beginning in 1962, socially-conscious candidates win effective political control of the AS and begin shifting attention and resources away from traditional campus boosterism and social events towards community-action and education-reform. Among other endeavors, the AS funds an Experimental College (EC) that encourages students to create their own courses (some of which later become accredited).
January 1964. The Black Student Union (BSU)
The AS recognizes the Negro Students Association (NSA) as an official on-campus student group. The NSA later evolves into the Black Student Union (BSU).
1964-1966. Student activism
Led by the BSU and inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, SFSC students — both nonwhite and white — begin agitating, mobilizing, and organizing around civil rights, Black Power, the Vietnam War & draft, women's equality, and student issues.
They also begin organizing AS-funded tutorial programs for ghetto high school students.
September 1966. BSU funding
The BSU is granted program-oriented funds from the AS and assumes leadership of the ghetto tutorial programs. The BSU also engages in community empowerment activities such as tenant and welfare-rights organizing and support for the Delano grape strike.
Based in the AS-funded Experimental Collage, the BSU begins developing Black history, sociology, arts and culture, and courses.
November 1966. Conservative Republicans sweep California election
Riding the racist White Backlash, extremist Republicans dominate the California election by demonizing 'Black militants' and 'ungrateful college students,' and by stridently demanding 'Law and Order' (meaning suppression of protests against racism and the Vietnam War). Actor Ronald Reagan is swept into the Governor's mansion, Republicans take four of the remaining five statewide offices, flip 3 congressional seats, 5 state Senate seats, and seven Assembly seats.
Chronology: 1967. Call for a Black Studies Department
As the Civil Rights Movement evolves into the Black Power era, the number and quality of student-created Black Studies courses in the Experimental College steadily grows. The BSU begins to call for incorporation of a Black curriculum into existing academic departments — with an ultimate goal of a Black Studies Department controlled by and in the service of — the Black community.
The appointed Trustees who govern the 18 State Colleges are drawn from a corporate and political elite who have long ruled the state in their own interests. After the Republican election sweep of 1966, they grow increasingly hostile to student protests, demands for redress of racial grievances, and opposition to the Vietnam War which many of them have a financial interest in. For the Trustees, student-controlled courses that question their authority and expose their transgressions are anathema.
1967 Rising student militancy.
Nationwide, student activism in support of civil rights and Black Power, and in opposition to the Vietnam War are rapidly swelling. SFSC students are among the most engaged and militant.
With the Master Plan systematically reducing the number of third world students admitted to SFSC, the BSU adds a 'special admissions' program to their demand for an autonomous Black Studies Department.
The SFSC newspaper Daily Gater, is tightly controlled by the Journalism Department. Just like 'Frisco's commercial mass media, the Gater slants articles and takes editorial positions that nonwhite students view as blatantly racist. Confrontations and a brawl break out between BSU members and Gater staff.
In the Fall of 1967, thousands of young people, including a large contingent from SF State, battle the police and build barricades in the streets of Oakland during Stop the Draft Week. SDS mounts opposition to war-related SFSC programs such as the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), class rankings that are used to deny draft-deferments to male students, and on-campus military/CIA recruiting.
SFSC administrators promise the BSU a Black Studies Department, and Nathan Hare, a black sociologist from Howard University, is brought in to head it. A tentative special admissions program is also approved. SDS continues its campaign against the on-campus Air Force ROTC program. The student body passes a referendum calling for the removal of ROTC, but the faculty senate turns them down.
February, 1968. Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) Formed
Claiming that he's 'troublesome,' the History department dismisses professor Juan Martinez. He is the only Chicano member of the faculty. An alliance of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American students calling themselves the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) demands that he be retained, that more nonwhite students including Latinos and Asians be admitted to SFSC, and that 'Ethnic Studies' courses and programs related to their communities be created and funded. (In this context, 'ethnic' refers to racially-defined demographic groups in the United States who have endured a history of race-based persecution and discrimination.)
May 21, 1968. Nonviolent sit-in.
More than 400 students occupy corridors in the Administration Building to demand:
1. An end to Air Force ROTC on campus
2. Retention of recently dismissed Prof. Juan Martinez
3. Admission of 400 low-income, nonwhite students for the fall semester
4. Hiring of nine additional nonwhite faculty members.
Police clear the building and arrest 26 students for disobeying an officer. SFSC President Summerskill refuses to end the ROTC program, but he does agree to the three race-related demands.
Governor Reagan, the Trustees, Republican politicians, and conservative media all condemn and excoriate defiant 'Black militants' and 'ungrateful,' students. Echoing the White Backlash drumbeat of obedience to established authority and maintenance of the traditional racial order, they stridently demand a return to 'Law and Order.' Summerskill is forced out of office and he takes a new job overseas. His promises to third world students are not kept.
October 9, 1968. Black Studies proposal
A month into the Fall semester, SFSC Vice President Nathan Hare presents a proposal for a Black Studies program and department (see preliminary draft of April 29). The BSU demands that it be implemented.
Chronology: On Strike! Shut it Down!
October 22-November 1, 1968. Prof. Murray Suspended.
SFSC Prof. George Murray is a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. During a speech in Fresno he is alleged to have said, "... we are slaves and the only way to become free is to kill all the slave masters..." Disregarding the 1st Amendment to the Constitution and the principles of academic freedom, California State College Trustees order SFSC President Smith to reassign Murray to a non-teaching position — or fire him.
November 1, 1968. As ordered by the Trustees, President Smith suspends Prof. Murray.
November 4-5, 1968. Calls for student strike.
The Black Student Union (BSU) issues ten demands and threatens to strike if they are not met. In a speech to Black and third world students, former SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael places the demands for nonwhite admissions and ethnic studies in the broader context of Black liberation, Black Power, and anti-colonialism.
The Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) votes to support the BSU and adds five demands of their own bringing the total to 15 strike demands.
November 6, 1968. Strike! Strike! Strike!
On the afternoon of November 6, TWLF students march out of the auditorium chanting "On Strike! Shut it Down!" — commencing what turns out to be the longest and fiercest student strike in U.S. history. A large meeting of white students vote to support the strike and the BSU/TWLF demands.
Led by the BSU and TWLF, nonwhite and white students strike for 134 days in support of the 15 demands which focus on increased admission of nonwhite students, a Black Studies Department, a School of Ethnic Studies, and defense of unfairly treated nonwhite professors.
November 7-13, 1968. Confrontations with police.
Striking students picket the entrances to academic buildings. They hold daily noontime rallies at the free-speech, Speakers Platform on the main lawn, followed by boisterous parades through Humanities Building hallways. At times, some striking students disruptively enter classrooms to urge other students to support the strike.
SFSC President Smith summons the police. The cops — particularly the ruthless SFPD Tactical Squad — respond with the same brutal knock 'em the head and toss 'em in jail tactics they've used since 1960 to suppress civil rights protests and disperse Vietnam War demonstrations. Club-wielding police seem unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between student strikers and student bystanders. As the numbers and violence of the police increase, so too do the number of students and faculty supporting the strike, rising from an estimated 20% on the first day to almost half the daytime student body a week later.
In support of the TWLF demands and revulsion at brutal police repression, more than 40 faculty members form an Ad Hoc Faculty Committee. On Wednesday the 13th, they join the striking students on the picket lines and refuse to teach their classes until the student demands are addressed. On the opposite side, other faculty members oppose the strike by crossing the lines to hold regular class sessions. Many professors take a middle course of honoring the picket lines while meeting their obligations to students by holding class off campus in churches and homes. Arguments, debates and Academic Senate motions roil the faculty.
Among both students and faculty, support for the strike is strongest in the humanities departments and weakest in the athletics, business, and criminal justice (law-enforcement) departments. Support among science, engineering, and technology students and teachers is mixed.
November 13-14, 1968. Campus closed.
At noon on November 13, while a large strike support rally is underway at the Speakers Platform on the main lawn, the BSU holds a press conference outside their office in a nearby temporary building known as a 'hut.' The Tac-Squad suddenly appears. They club down and seize BSU leader Nesbit Crutchfield. Strike supporters from the rally rush to defend the BSU from assault and a wild melee erupts involving hundreds of cops and almost a thousand students.
SFSC President Smith is urged by the faculty to close the campus in the interest of public safety — which he does. The following day a large faculty meeting votes to "...suspend the educational facilities of the college immediately and indefinitely..."
November 18-20, 1968. Smith ordered to reopen the campus.
Gov. Reagan and other 'Law and Order' politicians demand that the campus be immediately reopened. Pleas by a large delegation of SFSC students and faculty are ignored by the college Trustees who order Smith to reopen the campus using whatever police force is necessary to break the strike. Some classes resume on Wednesday the 20th, but many are either canceled or moved off campus. Striking students continue to picket, defying police attempts to disperse them. The faculty calls for a college-wide Crisis Convocation to discuss and debate all of the issues.
November 20-27, 1968. Crisis Convocation.
From Wednesday the 20th through Friday the 22nd, the Crisis Convocation of discussions-debates between administrators, faculty, BSU/TWLF leaders, and student strikers takes place in the SFSC main auditorium. Simultaneously, the student strike, the Ad Hoc partial faculty work-stoppage, and class sessions taught by anti-strike faculty continue. On Monday the 25th and Tuesday the 26th, all classes are canceled for campus-wide student-faculty-administration departmental meetings to discuss the strike, the BSU/TWLF demands, and the use of police force on campus. Meanwhile Reagan and other right-wing politicians continue their media outrage campaign, demonizing 'Black militants' and 'unruly' student activists.
November 26-27, 1968. Smith out, Hayakawa in.
On November 26, the administration unilaterally suspends some striking students without due process. In response, the BSU/TWLF withdraws from the Convocation. President Smith resigns, citing his, "..inability to resolve issues amidst the various political pressures." The Trustees instantly appoint Prof. S.I. Hayakawa — a fierce opponent of the BSU/TWLF and the student strike — as the new acting-president. Hayakawa's first official act is to close the campus on Wednesday the 27th, a day early for the annual Thanksgiving Day long weekend.
December 2-12, 1968. Authoritarian Rule.
Reagan and the trustees instruct acting president Hayakawa to crack down on students who defy their authority. He is ordered to suppress the strike with massive police force — which he enthusiastically attempts to do.
On December 2, Hayakawa issues a Declaration of Emergency prohibiting student use of the free-speech Speakers Platform, threatening immediate suspension of any student who 'interferes' with classes or administrative processes, and commands all faculty to meet their classes in their assigned classrooms.
Students returning to campus after the Thanksgiving break find it occupied by more than 600 police armed with riot-control gear and long kendo-style battle-clubs. Students and faculty mount a massive morning picket line on the public sidewalk at the corner of Holloway and 19th Ave — the main campus entrance.
In a grandstanding stunt that greatly pleases conservative politicians and media, Hayakawa personally assaults students addressing picketers from the bed of a pickup truck and he disables their loudspeaker. This propels him to right-wing stardom and eventual election as a United States senator where his incompetence wins him the nickname 'Sleeping Sam.'
December 3, 1968. Bloody Tuesday
In violation of the First Amendment freedom-of-speech guarantee, Hayakawa and the police interpret nonviolent picketing outside of academic buildings and attempts to speak from the Speakers Platform as forms of 'interference' prohibited by his legally-dubious unilateral Declaration of Emergency. In what is later referred to as 'Bloody Tuesday,' hundreds of club-swinging cops attack a large rally held at the Speakers Platform. Students retaliate by throwing clods of earth, cafeteria coffee mugs, and whatever else they can find. Widespread police-student battles erupt across the campus. Hayakawa later boasts to reporters that it had been his, "most exciting day since my 10th birthday when I rode a roller coaster for the first time."
December 3, 1968. AFT Resolutions.
Unlike private-sector workers, in 1968 California state employees have no collective bargaining rights. They can be summarily fired for going on strike. At SFSC, a portion of professors are union members in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1352. Some graduate teaching assistants and student workers in the library are members of AFT Local 1928.
In response to 'Bloody Tuesday,' AFT members pass a series of resolutions that are, "...aimed at ending the violence on campus and initiating talks to satisfy the legitimate claims of minority students and faculty members." The resolutions declare that AFT will strike if any professor is suspended or dismissed for nonviolent freedom of speech activities; instruct AFT officers to seek immediate negotiations over grievances with the SFSC administration (including the TWLF demands); request strike support from the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council; and express unity with AFT locals at all other California state colleges.
December 4-8, 1968. Community Support for the Strike.
Arrests and police violence make it impossible to maintain the small 10-20 person picket lines at the entrances to academic buildings. In response, strikers turn to mass rallies and marches that are too large to be easily dispersed or hauled off to jail.
Prior to the strike, BSU and third world student volunteers had been working in local communities of color to provide educational tutoring services and race-conscious cultural programs to nonwhite children who were being denied a quality education by the public school system. As a result, there's a deep reservoir of support in ghetto neighborhoods for the strikers and their demands — particularly among nonwhite high school students. In the face of massive police repression, strike leaders call for community support.
On December 4th, Black civil-rights leader Cecil Williams of Glide Church, Black publisher and community leader Carleton Goodlett, Assemblymen Willie Brown (later Speaker of California Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco), and Berkeley City Councilman Ron Dellums (later Congressman) march on to the campus with members of the Black community to express their support for the strike at a (forbidden) mass rally at the free speech Speakers Platform. When police mass to assault them, Dr. Goodlett warns Hayakawa that "The Black community is not going to allow Black students to be isolated and attacked." Before the cops can initiate their attack, strikers and community supporters march off campus out to 19th Ave where they tie up auto and streetcar traffic to the annoyance of merchants at the nearby Stonestown Mall.
On the 5th, a second mass striker-community at the Speakers Platform rally is declared 'illegal' by Hayakawa. The cops attack with drawn guns and swinging clubs before anyone can retreat. Dr. Goodlett is arrested along with many students. Again the strikers flow on to 19th Ave where they block the street, with running cat-and-mouse skirmishes to foil the cops trying to arrest them.
On Saturday the 7th, thousands of strikers and community supporters rally at City Hall and then march to the S.F. Chronicle office to protest the news media's distorted and biased coverage of the strike.
December 9-12, 1968. Continuing Battles With Police.
Marches and the large mass picket lines continue to be attacked by the Tac-Squad and other police formations, some of whom are now mounted on horses so they can swing their clubs down on striking students like Cossacks of old. Arrest warrants are issued for some strike leaders. Police phalanxes attempt to arrest them by charging into crowds who defend themselves and the targeted leaders.
December 13, 1968. College closed one week early for Christmas vacation.
With the campus in turmoil and wracked by violent confrontations between police and students, with the AFT considering a strike to commence on Monday December 16, with another round of mass community support actions also scheduled for that day, and with local high schools now on Christmas break which means that a swarm of defiant Black and Brown teenagers might show up at SFSC to support the strike — Hayakawa orders the college to shut down for the holiday season one week early. All classes are suspended for three weeks until January 6th.
January 2, 1969. Hayakawa Decrees Again.
In yet another unilateral decree of dubious legality, Hayakawa declares that all "...rallies, parades, be-ins, hootenannies, hoedowns, shivarees, and all other public events likely to disturb the studious in their reading and reflection are hereby forbidden on the central campus." He further announces that no "unauthorized" persons will be allowed to set foot on campus (meaning nonwhite community leaders and supporters). He declares that picketing must be limited to the public sidewalks around the campus perimeter, and that all teachers must meet their classes on campus (meaning they must violate both the TWLF and AFT strikes and cross the picket lines at campus entrances).
January 6, 1969. Campus Reopens. AFT Goes Out on Strike..
Representing more than 300 of SFSC's 650+ faculty members, on Monday the 6th the AFT goes out on strike demanding written contracts that resolve the student demands and faculty grievances.
A huge student-faculty picket line at 19th and Holloway greets returning students. The campus is occupied by more than 600 riot-equipped police ready to pounce on anyone daring to defy Hayakawa's decrees by picketing, rallying, or simply articulating unauthorized thoughts on campus.
Governor Reagan and State College system Chancellor Glenn Dumke proclaim that under California law professors who are absent from their teaching duties for five days without permission are assumed to have resigned (in other words, they will be summarily fired).
January 8, 1968. Legal Assault. Rebellion Spreads
Even though Hayakawa has no legal jurisdiction over the public sidewalks and streets that surround the campus, police use trumped up pretexts to justify violently assaulting sidewalk picket lines to enforce his emergency decrees. Governor Reagan orders the state to stop paying professors who are either on strike or teaching their classes off-campus. This is the first day of the 1969 legislative session, and 25 'campus-crackdown' bills are introduced by Republicans to criminalize protests on college campuses.
In San Francisco, a conservative judge issues an injunction prohibiting the AFT strike on the grounds that public employees have no right to strike. A grinning Hayakawa assures the press that: "The striking faculty will be fired in a few days and my new disciplinary procedures will dispense with the dissident students."
At San Jose State College, a quarter of the faculty go on strike in support of demands similar to those of the SF State AFT strike. At San Fernando Valley State College in Los Angeles County, TWLF and white students protest in support of the SFSC strike and for similar demands on their campus. Over the course of two days, 320 of them are arrested and their rebellion is crushed.
January 10, 1969. AFT Defies Injunction and Reagan
Friday the 10th is the fifth day of the faculty strike. In defiance of both the anti-strike injunction and the five-days missed classes and you'll be fired edict, roughly 300 AFT professors remain on the picket line. The AFT parent union threatens a general, state-wide strike by grade-school teachers if the AFT professors are terminated. A large majority of SFSC faculty (both strikers and non-strikers) refuse to sign Hayakawa's 'loyalty oath' stating that they had been obediently teaching their classes. Twenty-two SFSC department heads refuse to report who has not been teaching classes on campus. As a result, Hayakawa's administrators have insufficient data to base dismissals on. At the end of the day, no professors have been arrested for violating the injunction or fired for striking.
January 13-March 20, 1969. Contest of Will
Hayakawa's emergency decrees — enforced by a massive police occupation — prevent on-campus speech and action. The student and faculty strikes are locked into a battle of determination and endurance. Striking students and professors boycott classes and picket on 19th Ave. Many classes have no teacher. In classes that do meet, only a portion of students attend. Class-by-class survey counts report only 35-40% of classes are meeting and attendance at those classes generally ranges from 40-60%. Overall daytime student body attendance is less than one-quarter of normal.
January 13-14, 1969. Picking Off TWLF Leaders
A judge issues arrest warrants against TWLF leaders for various offenses against Law & Order. The Tac-Squad violently attacks the 19th Avenue picket line to seize them. Punitive bail amounts are set.
Mid-January, 1969. San Jose State AFT Strike Crushed
The State College Trustees suppress the small AFT faculty strike at SJSC by singling out 26 professors and summarily firing them under the five-day rule. An attempt by the state-wide AFT to support the fired teachers fails. The threat to the SF State striking faculty is now clear.
January 21, 1968. TWLF Strike at U.C. Berkeley
Across the bay from San Francisco State, a newly-formed Third World Liberation Front alliance at the University of California Berkeley (UCB) launch their own student strike in solidarity with SF State and for their own Third World College. Their strike lasts almost two months and endures the same sort of police violence and right-wing political demonization as that faced by the students in 'Frisco.
January 21, 1968. State College Trustees Inch Towards a Settlement
Public and private meetings between the Trustees and corporate/political leaders to discuss educational issues and the state college system are frequent and substantive. But on January 21st, the Trustees refuse to meet with nonwhite community leaders from San Francisco to discuss the SF State TWLF demands.
They are, however, under pressure from parents and liberal voters. The following day, they appoint a five man committee to begin strike-resolution 'discussions' with the SF State AFT. They avoid using the term 'negotiations' because that might imply recognition of the union and its right to strike — and thereby draw the fury of Governor Reagan and right-wing zealots.
January 23, 1969. Mass Bust
With the strike now in its 11th week fatigue is setting in, the picket lines have dwindled from 3000 to 300 and faculty strikers are facing dismissal. TWLF leaders call for a mass rally on campus to defy Hayakawa's decrees and restore energy and morale. Close to a thousand students bypass the police and surge on to campus where they rally at the Speakers Platform. The cops order them to disperse. Half of the strikers evade arrest and retreat to the picket lines around the campus perimeter, but 457 are arrested on misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace, failure to disperse, and unlawful assembly.
January 31, 1968. Fall Semester Ends
In order to preserve their student standing, both the TWLF and the AFT urge striking students to register, enroll in classes, and show up for the first session of the Spring semester in order not to be automatically dropped — including classes whose professors are on strike.
February 24, 1969. AFT Strike Settlement
Having crushed the small AFT faculty strike at San Jose State, the State College Trustees move to end the stronger AFT strike at SFSC. Negotiators representing the Trustees, Hayakawa, the AFT, and the San Francisco Labor Council come to agreement to settle the AFT strike. The agreement provides a better grievance procedure, some progress on work load issues, and a 'no-retaliation' guarantee for striking professors. But it contains no provisions related to the TWLF strike demands. The Trustees vote to accept the agreement.
Many AFT members oppose the settlement because it ignores the student strike and provides few tangible gains for the faculty. Intense pressure to accept it is brought to bear. If they reject the agreement, Hayakawa and the Trustees threaten to fire them. Worse, the Labor Council threatens to withdraw strike sanction. On Sunday the 26th, AFT members fiercely debate the issue. TWLF leaders tell them that the decision is theirs and that they will respect it either way. The vote to reluctantly sign the agreement to end the faculty strike is close.
On Monday the 27th, a group of 80 or so professors continue to strike in support of the TWLF. Most of them had been part of the Ad Hoc Committee of faculty strike supporters that had formed in back in December. They are warned that if they continue they will be fired. TWLF leaders urge them to return to the classroom and continue fighting for the issues from the inside rather than being dismissed and barred from campus. By Wednesday, March 1, the faculty strike is over.
February 29, 1969.
Black Studies Department Chair Nathan Hare and English instructor George Murray are not rehired for the following year — in essence they are fired. The strike continues.
March, 1969. Strike Under Siege
Though student strikers continue to boycott classes, 731 of them have been arrested and face trial — some with multiple cases. All on-campus picketing, protesting, and free speech has been suppressed by the police and Hayakawa's 'kangaroo court' is suspending striking students without any pretense of due process. The number of strikers walking the picket lines has steadily declined from thousands in early January to a few hundred in March. Disgusted and alienated by the Trustees, Hayakawa, and the cops, an unknown number of strikers choose not to register for the Spring semester and to seek their education and future elsewhere.
March 20, 1969. BSU/TWLF Strike Settlement
After 134 days on strike and several failed attempts to settle it, negotiations with the SF State administration over the BSU/TWLF's 15 demands result in an agreement that is signed on March 20.
The agreement establishes a degree-granting School of Ethnic Studies (the first in the United States) and a formal Black Studies Department (also a first) with staffing and student admission to be on a non-discriminatory basis. It contains provisions aimed at increasing the overall numbers of nonwhite students admitted to SF State, setting a Fall-1969 target of raising the percentage of third world students at the college from 5% to roughly 25%.
But the agreement does not include reinstatement of professors Nathan Hare or George Murray. Nor does it meet the demands for third world & Black control (or even influence) over the School of Ethnic Studies or the Black Studies Department.
March 21, 1969. Classes Resume
Student picket lines come down, the police are withdrawn from campus, and classes resume.
But the trials of more than 700 students and supporters arrested during the strike continue to clog the courts for months. Most of them either plead guilty to some lesser offense or are convicted on nonviolent misdemeanor charges related to protesting. Sentences for nonviolent, free-speech related offenses range from fines to 30-180 days in county jail plus probation. The very few students arrested and convicted of minor violence (resisting arrest, breaking a window, throwing a rock, etc) are sentenced even more harshly. It is clear to everyone that the real crime they are being punished for is political defiance of status-quo, white-supremacy authority.
See Insanity in the Courts for information on the politically-motivated trials and sentences of SF State strikers.
The strike wins increased admissions of third world students. The strike also forces establishment of a Black Studies Department and a College of Ethnic Studies. These two significant victories are achieved against fierce opposition from powerful political and economic forces. But political and economic control over SFSC, the CES, and the Black Studies department remains in the hands of the administrators and politicians who opposed both the TWLF demands and — even more so — their call for education to serve the interests of nonwhite and poor communities.The BSU leaders who had played a key role in developing the curriculum and fighting for it during the strike were effectively barred from any role in its implementation. As BSU member Ramona Tascoe would aptly put it many years later, "We birthed the baby, and it was taken away from us as soon as it was out of the womb." In the words of historian Martha Biondi, the Third World perspective that had guided the strikers "encouraged African Americans to see themselves as part of a global majority rather than an American minority." As the anti-imperialist politics implicit in this stance was lost, the department would eventually morph into Africana Studies. — Peter Shapiro, Third World Strike at San Francisco state and its Legacy 2022.
2023: Five Decades Later
California State University System (CSU): Today, with more than 450,000 students, more than 55,000 faculty and staff, and 23 campuses plus additional facilities, the state-wide CSU system is the largest doctoral-degree granting public university system in the world. As of 2022, 68% of CSU students are nonwhite (16% Asian, 4% Black, 48% Latino, and less than 1% Native American). Those percentages roughly parallel the state population as a whole though whites are somewhat over-represented and Blacks are somewhat under-represented.
San Francisco State University (SFSU) Today, with 26,000 students and 1900 faculty, the SFSU student body is 84% nonwhite compared to the 5% it was in 1968. Though out-of-area students are more numerous than they were in 1968, it is still mostly a commuter school and the student body echoes 'Frisco and Bay Area demographics. Latinos are now 39% of SFSU students, Asians 27%, whites 16%, and Blacks 6% (roughly double the 3% of 1968).
College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU (CES): Today, CES at SFSU is still the only full-fledged College of Ethnic Studies in the country. The CES includes five degree-granting academic departments: Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Latina/Latino Studies, and Race and Resistance Studies. More than 6000 of SFSU's 26,000 students (23%), take one or more of the 350 CES courses taught by 40 tenured or tenure-track faculty.
The CES attracts nonwhite and white students from around the nation and around the world. In academic circles, it is a factor contributing to SFSU's prestige. But it remains chronically under-funded and largely staffed by adjunct, non-tenured faculty who work with lower pay, fewer benefits, and less job security then tenured professors. In 2018, students had to mount a hunger strike to preserve faculty positions that were on the budget chopping block.
California Faculty Association (CFA): In 1978, a decade after the SF State Strike, California state employees finally won the legal right to form unions, collectively bargain with the agencies that employ them, and to go on strike if necessary. Today, the CFA represents 29,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, and other academic-employees of the state university system. The CFA is affiliated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 1983) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
For more information:
San Francisco State, Peter Shapiro & Bill Barlow. April 1969
Third World Strike at San Francisco State and its Legacy by strike-veteran Peter Shapiro. 2022
Web Links: San Francisco State College Strike
Books: Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) student protests & strikes
California State University System (CSU)
San Francisco State University (SFSU)
College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU (CES)
CES: Our History
California Faculty Association (CFA)
Copyright © Bruce Hartford 2023.