The controversy began on September 14, 1964, when Dean Katherine Towle announced that existing University regulations prohibiting advocacy of political causes or candidates, signing of members, and collection of funds by student organizations at the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph Avenues would be "strictly enforced." One student set up a table in defiance of this ban and was arrested. However, a group of students surrounded the car in which the student was to be transported and staged a sit-in which continued until the charges against that student were dropped. About a month later, the university brought charges against the students who organized the sit-in, resulting in an even larger student protest that all but shut down the university. The center of the protest was Sproul Hall, the campus administration building which protesters took over in a massive sit-in. The sit-in ended on December 3 that year when police arrested over 800 students at Berkeley.
After much disturbance, the University officials slowly backed down. By January 3, 1965, the new acting chancellor, Martin Meyerson, established provisional rules for political activity on the Berkeley campus designating the Sproul Hall steps an open discussion area during certain hours of the day and permitting tables. Today, Sproul Hall and the surrounding Sproul Plaza are active locations for protests, marches, and other controversies involving free speech.