Last Saturday, my Little Brother, Edwin, his mom, and I went to San Francisco State for their Sneak Preview Open House. Edwin has been accepted at SF State but has not yet decided to go there so this was a good chance for him to see the lay of the land. I had taken two psychology classes at SF State, in 1966, so I considered myself somewhat of an expert. Well, I, at least, knew how to find the University, but, it turns out that is about all I knew.
Surprisingly, much has changed since 1966. It is much larger – I think, at least it feels larger than I remember – with an enrollment of about 25,000 and there are a lot of new buildings including a stunning new library.
What else has changed is the general tenor. When I went there – using the term went there in the very loosest sense – San Francisco was the center of the counter culture movement. Cal Berkeley especially, but also SF State were major engines of change. This was the time when protesting students were firehosed on the stairs of San Francisco City Hall for protesting HUAC1 hearings; this was the time of the start of the Free Speech Movement – about a year after Mario Savio was arrested for saying fuck in public – this was two years before the Summer of Love in the Height Ashbury. This was one year after – as the official history of SF State says, brags really – that the Psychology Department’s Psychedelic Research Institute is inaugurated to test the creative power of LSD. Subjects are asked to bring with them professional projects on which they’ve been working; while taking LSD under the auspices of the Institute, one man solves a major design problem of Stanford’s linear accelerator, and another subject manages to complete a set of plans for a shopping center that he’d been commissioned to design.
As an aside. Less than a year before I took those two psychology classes, I had been a sergeant in the United States Army. I don’t remember it being much of a culture shock. End aside.
I want to say that San Francisco State is a more conservative place now, but, in many important ways, it really isn’t. The world has changed. What was radical then is pretty average now. I hope that Edwin decides to go to SF State, it has a great past that it looks like it is building on.
1 House Un-American Activities Committee.