During the first week of October 1964, several hundred students at the University of California at Berkeley surrounded a police car for thirty-two hours. In the back of the car sat student activist and Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) president Jack Weinberg, who had been arrested for violating campus policy against political advocacy (Cohen 1). The standoff between students and police and administration authorities heralded the beginning of the FSM, which would eventually result in mass student arrests and civil disobedience. It would also result in a previously unimaginable coalition of privileged students adopting the civil disobedience tactics, just like minority groups, to ensure their basic constitutional rights.
In 1964, before the FSM erupted on the campus, Berkeley was a renowned center for research in the humanities and social and natural sciences (Heirich 14). University president Clark Kerr envisioned the university as a prestigious research institution free from political controversy (Ruhaak 1). He therefore supported the administration policy - to limit political speech on campus - that would lead to the FSM. In furtherance of Kerr's aims, the school recruited many well-known scholars as teachers, with the enticement of strong research opportunities balanced by a reduced teaching load (Heirich 14). The result was that many tenured Berkeley professors taught few classes and were often absent from the school for research purposes.