Liveblog: Free Speech Panel in PAC discusses free speech movement
A panel moderated by Palo Alto High School junior Noor Navaid at Flex today in the Performing Arts Center features former Paly Student Body President and current Supervisor Joe Simitian, former Campanile journalist and current journalist with Embarcadero Media Chris Kenrick, and Palo Alto City Historian Steve Staiger.
The panel commemorates the official opening of Paly’s new digital journalism archive, an online compilation of Paly journalism dating back to 1895.
Stay tuned for live updates from the panel.
Paly librarian Rachel Kellerman is introducing junior Charlotte Kadifa, who has been a driving force in creating the archive.
“I want students to know that we have a voice; we can use it,” Paly junior Charlotte Kadifa said.
“We want to inspire students to speak up for themselves and speak up for others,” Kadifa said.
“The 50s was the decade that changed Palo Alto more than any other,” Palo Alto City Historian Steve Staiger said.
“1967 was the Summer of Love in the Bay Area, but by 1967, the peace and love were mostly gone,” Staiger said.
There were many issues with violent protests and in one case, a sit-in at Stanford Hospital lead to the injuries of several police officers.
“It’s impossible to overstate the influence the war had on our life at Paly,” former Campanile journalist Chris Kenrick said.
“Every Paly boy was required to register for the draft by the age of 18.”
There is a list of approximately 45 young men from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Los Altos who passed away fighting in the Vietnam War.
The Radical Student Union (RSU) was fighting in a militant style with very little respect in order to gain more power for student voices at Paly.
“Although The Campanile was a school sanctioned newspaper, we had a lot of freedom in our editorial content,” Kenrick said.
Many unnamed informants, including the principal of Paly at that time, were giving information about students who might be in the RSU and their families to the FBI. This allowed for the FBI to track many Paly students.
“Students here were complaining about a host of injustices on campus,” Supervisor Joe Simitian said.
“This was a time of tremendous transition,” Simitian said. “We arrived just in time for the Environmental Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Anti-War Movement. We were here just long enough to usher in a new decade altogether.”
In the 1960’s Paly had both a Student Court and a Board of Wellness. The BOW ticketed students who got in trouble, and all ticketed students then had to stand in front of the Student Court. “I decided I wanted to be a student lawyer,” Simitian said. “I had to take the student bar exam, which I passed.”
“How much were we pretending we had real power? Quite a bit. I thought that was disingenuous. I supported the effort to abolish Student Body Government,” Simitian said.
The panel will now transition into audience questions.
“Don’t underestimate or give away your power. You have more power than you think you do. Your voice gives you power if you choose to use it and if you become practiced and effective in the way you use it,” Simitian said.
“The archive is a source of material that documents the past, sometimes not in the way the historians want it preserved. It can be a newspaper clipping, it can be a city posting, it can be a flyer advertising a certain event,” Staiger said.
“The Palo Alto High School Chris and I went to was not as racially diverse as Palo Alto High School today but it was much more economically diverse,” Simitian said.
“The critical, absolute essential nature of press is of a free and independent press nationally, locally, at the school level, at any country or city that aspires to any level of fairness or freedom,” Kenrick said.
“While the form is changing and the business models are changing, it has never been more important that you [journalists] do what you do, especially at the student level,” Simitian said. “Be fearless but be fair.”
The panel has now concluded.