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THE STATE

Famed Anarchist's Words Fuel Berkeley Flap

January 15, 2003|Carol Pogash and Stuart Silverstein | Special to The Times

Sixty-three years after her death, outspoken anarchist Emma Goldman struck a blow for freedom of speech Tuesday at UC Berkeley.

A campus spat erupted this week over the latest annual fund-raising letter for the Emma Goldman Papers Project at UC Berkeley, a research and publication effort launched in 1980.

University officials had refused to send out the letter's initial draft, which contained quotations by Goldman supporting free speech and opposing war. The officials said in an internal e-mail memo to project director Candace Falk that the quotations amounted to "a political statement about current U.S. politics that is inappropriate in an official university communication."

One passage in the controversial letter quoted Goldman as saying, "In the face of this approaching disaster, it behooves men and women not yet overcome by war madness to raise their voice of protest, to call the attention of the people to the crime and outrage which are about to be perpetrated on them."

The letter, written by Falk, also featured another Goldman quotation: "We shall soon be obliged to meet in cellars, or in darkened rooms with closed doors, and speak in whispers lest our next-door neighbors should hear that free-born citizens dare not speak in the open."

Falk acknowledged that the letter was making points critical of U.S. policy toward Iraq, but she defended it as an example of free expression.

On Tuesday, the New York Times disclosed the dispute, prompting UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl to issue a statement indicating that the university had erred.

He said the letter "was originally seen not as a free-speech issue, but as a question by the associate vice chancellor over what was appropriate in a fund-raising letter."

"I can understand how others might view it differently and, in retrospect, had we to do it over, we would have done it differently," Berdahl said.

The associate vice chancellor, Robert M. Price, could not be reached for comment.

A university spokeswoman, Marie Felde, said Berdahl now considers the matter resolved. His statement was embraced by Falk and the UC Berkeley administrator who has overseen the project since last fall: Charles B. Faulhaber, director of the Bancroft Library of rare books and special collections.

In fact, Faulhaber found a bright side to the brief flap.

He expressed hope that news coverage of the issue would spur needed donations.

"No publicity is bad publicity," he said.

He said he was confident that future fund-raising letters would not run into similar censorship.

Falk expressed gratitude for Berdahl's statement but said she still was uneasy about barriers to academic freedom.

The controversy involving Goldman's writings, Falk said, "helps us realize her words still resonate. It still takes courage to stand up" and speak freely.

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