On January 20th, 1967, Clark Kerr was fired as President of the University of California by the UC Board of Regents. Kerr’s firing was many years in the making, dating back to then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover efforts to persuade Kerr to crack down hard on Berkeley students involved in the 1964 Free Speech Movement. Unable to get Kerr act more forcefully against students, Hoover turned to rising conservative politician, Ronald Reagan for support. Reagan’s election in November of 1966 was fueled, in part, by his rhetoric that painted the University of California-Berkeley as being overrun by counterculture activists and students. as he noted at the time, he was running to “clean up the mess in Berkeley.”
Kerr had been the chief architect of the master plan that guided California public higher education for four decades (and is still a national model.)
Kerr’s firing symbolized a key aspect of the counterculture in the lead up to the Summer of Love: it inspired a powerful backlash in California (and beyond) on the Right. Reagan rose to power, in many ways, running against the public activism, values and beliefs of the counterculture that would be manifested during the Summer of Love. It would characterize Reagan’s rise to National power over the next 15 years after Kerr’s firing. Kerr, meanwhile, was appointed to head the influential Carnegie Commission on Higher Education from 1967-73 and its successor, the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education, until 1979.
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