Fight on California Oath Continues

Copyright, 1950, by the Editors of the Harvard CRIMSON.

On this and the following six pages, the CRIMSON presents its second annual survey of academic freedom.

When we printed our first survey in May, 1949, it covered 12 pages and described 40 cases in 19 states and the District of Columbia. This year we have found 32 cases. They deal with the dismissal of professors, the banning of speakers, anti-"subversive" committees, legislative actions, textbook checks, and loyalty oaths.

Some of last year's incidents have died or been resolved in one way or another. Some have developed and their effects continue; we have attempted to pick them up where the first survey stopped. Twenty-six of this year's incidents are largely new, with most of their action occurring since last May.

We have investigated every case of alleged abrogation of academic freedom brought to our attention; they often have been far from clear-out. In gathering our material, we have tried to contact all the principals concerned. When this was not possible, we have printed public statements on both sides of the issue and have refrained from any interpretation.

The Board of Regents of the University of California will meet in Los Angeles on Friday to consider the dismissal of 412 employees and faculty members who have refused to sign the new non-Communist affidavit.

This action comes as the culmination of a year long struggle between the Regents, who believe they have a duty to "... continue to safeguard the freedom of the university against ruthless, fanatical, and subversive minorities in the body politic such as the Communist Party," and the faculty, which believes that its " ... own screening methods are more effective than any loyalty oath. Fellow travelers, far more dangerous than admitted Communists, are kept out or kicked out by this screening."

This controversy--as to which group, the Regents or the faculty, should determine teacher qualifications--raged from June 12, 1949 until April 21 of this year. On the first date the Regents established an oath of non-adherence to any "subversive" organizations: the oath was later revised under pressure of faculty protests. Then in February, 1950, the Regents voted that employees on the eight California campuses must either "sign or resign" by April 30. This ultimatum unified faculty indignation against the oath order so solidly that the Regents were forced to compromise their position on April 21 by agreeing to an Alumni committee proposal acceptable to most of the faculty. Under this proposal the oath is not separately administered but is an affirmation included in each new contract of employment; the affirmation is essentially the same as the old oaths of non-membership in "any organization which advocates the overthrow of the government by force or violence."

Only a small faction has persistently resisted the idea of any oath at all. It is this group of 412 employees, including 42 full professors and 27 associate professors, which now faces dismissal for refusal to sign the latest proposal which the other 9507 employees have already accepted.

The position of the 412 has been stated as: "Academic freedom means freedom of teachers and students to examine all theories in the light of the facts with complete assurance that no particular ideas are politically required or politically forbidden. A political test for academic employment forbids by decree the reaching of certain conclusions."

Warren Opposes Oath

Throughout the controversy many persons have also questioned the constitutionality of the oath, including Governor Earl Warren, who sided with the faculty in opposing the Regents' oath. All employees of the university had already taken the regular oath of allegiance required of state employees by the state constitution. This oath includes the clause: "And no other oath, declaration, or test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust."

Dr. Monroe E. Deutsch, vice president and provost emeritus, has said: "As Governor Warren and others have pointed out, the oath would at once be taken by Communists without a word of protest. It is argued then, when their membership in the party is disclosed, they can be dismissed for perjury. It is, however, my understanding that the Regents would in any event, without further ado, dismiss any known Communist. What then is the need or value of the oath?"

Deutsch's second point seems to be supported by at least one and perhaps two dismissals during the past year. A teaching assistant at Berkeley campus--Irving Daniel Fox--was dismissed following an open hearing of the Regents, who found he did "not meet the minimum requirements for membership on the faculty." He had signed the oath required by the Regents. The other dismissal, of a woman who played piano for women's physical education classes at UCLA, was based on the charge that she had violated a university regulation against nepotism; her sister also was employed by the university. However, she had earlier been charged with being a Communist by Senator Jack B. Tenney of the California Senate.

It was Senator Tenney who created much of the atmosphere leading up to the entire loyalty oath controversy. During the Spring of 1949 Tenney had submitted five loyalty oath bills to the California legislature. These and twelve other pieces of similar legislation were the products of Senator Tenney's state committee on un-American activities. Among other things, they would have made it a misdemeanor "to teach any system or plan of government except the American system upon any state school property or to inculcate preference in the mind of any pupil for any such system."

Robert Gordon Sproul, president of the University of California, has denied that any such "outside pressure" as the Tenney proposals brought about the special oath. All of Tenney's 17 bills were defeated, but the Board of Regents came out with its own loyalty oath on June 12, 1949. Immediately, the faculty, led by Dr. Peter H. Odegard, chairman of the Department of Political Science on the Berkeley campus, protested.

But on the same day, Dr. George Pettitt, assistant to President Sproul, stated: "We don't like the idea of oaths--nobody does--but, on the face of the cold-war hysteria we are now experiencing, something had to be done. We feel the public is entitled to know how the Regents and the faculty feel about the question of loyalty."

Two days later the faculty made its feelings on the question of loyalty known during a three-hour closed meeting of the Academic Senate--the governing body of all faculty members with tenure. The 500 professors said they had no objection to declaring their "loyalty and zeal," but voted a resolution urging the Regents to eliminate or change the loyalty oath. President Sproul told the meeting that he would be glad to work with a faculty committee on suggesting changes to the next meeting of the Regents.

When the Regents did meet on June 24, they agreed to revise the oath. The original oath, to be taken only by the 4,000 faculty and administrative officers on the eight campuses, stated:

"I do not believe in and am not a member of, nor do I support any party or organization that believes, in, advocates or teaches the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or by any illegal unconstitutional methods."

The revised oath, to be taken not only by the faculty and administrative officers but by all other employees of the university as well, stated:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of my office according to the best of my ability; that I am not a member of the Communist party or under any oath or a party to any agreement or under any commitment that is in conflict with my obligation under this oath."

The specific naming of the Communist party as persona non grata at the University of California was a change in the oath, but actually nothing new so far as the university was concerned. As far back as October 11, 1940 the Board of Regents had passed a resolution excluding members of the Communist Party from employment by the university.

Probe Causes Tension

During the month of June and through the summer of 1949 the House un-American Activities Committee began an investigation in Washington which added to the uneasiness of University of California administrators and which was to lead to the dismissal of the teaching fellow already mentioned. An admitted former Communist testified that he had been active in "... trying to infiltrate all scientific research at the University of California" during the war when the atomic radiation laboratory on the Berkeley campus was a vital part of the then completely secret Manhattan project.

Irving David Fox, one of the scientists charged by witnesses with having been a member of the "Communist cell" at Berkeley in 1943, still taught at California. When called before the House Committee on September 27, 1949, on advice of counsel he refused to answer questions concerning his past political affiliations. However, when summoned before a meeting of the university Board of Regents on December 16 he told the Regents that though he had been interested in Communism during the 1930's and early 1940's and had attended Communist Party educational meetings in 1942 he had never become a member of the Communist Party. After a few minutes in executive session the Regents informed Fox that he had been dismissed from the University of California because he did not meet "the minimum requirements for membership on the faculty." No further reason was ever given nor did the Regents ever define the phrase "minimum requirements for membership." Fox had signed the loyalty oath required by the Regents. (Fox's dismissal is also covered else-where in this survey.)

The manner in which the Board of Regents dismissed Fox increased faculty opposition to control of educational policies by the Regents. However, by February 24 of this year 86.5 percent of the 4,000 faculty had taken the oath, but the remaining 13.5 percent were intransigent in their refusal to swear to any oath other than the regular oath of allegiance for state employees. On that date, after a three-hour closed session with Governor Warren presiding, the Regents voted 12 to 6 (with six members absent) that if any employee did not sign the oath by April 30, his "connections with the university would have been severed."

This decision came to be known as the "sign--or else" ultimatum, and served to unite the faculty still more strongly against the Regents; even some of those faculty members who had already signed the oath began to take an active part in the opposition.

Dispute Intensifies

The division between faculty and Regents seemed to have been made almost irreconcilable by the ultimatum. Joel H. Hildebrand, dean of the College of Chemistry and a member of the four man committee of the Academic Senate which had been advising the Regents on the oath, said, "No conceivable damage to the university at the hands of the hypothetical Communists among us could have equaled the damage resulting from the unrest, ill-will and suspicion engendered by this series of events." He later remarked, "If there are Communists among us they are lying so low they at least do not constitute a menace."

Regent John Francis Neylan, San Francisco attorney who voted for the oath and ultimatum, stated that the whole issue could be reduced to the question "shall the Regents accord to each card-carrying Communist the confidence, the respect, and the privileges accorded to the distinguished scholars who have made the university a great seat of learning?" but an authorized spokesman for the Academic Senate made it clear that the faculty did not want Communists on the faculty. "We have patiently tried to settle this bugaboo of repudiation, but Regent Neylan has been unwilling to listen," Professor Malcolm Davisson stated, and Professor Wendell M. Stanley, Nobel prize-winning bio-chemist remarked, "Anyone who accepts dictates from Moscow has no more chance of getting on with the faculty here than Mickey Mouse."

Faculty Bars Communists

The issue continued to be that of the Faculty opposed to control of educational policies by the Regents--not, for the most part, opposition to the loyalty oath as an abridgment of academic freedom. Earlier, the four-man committee of the Academic Senate had suggested to the Board of Regents that instead of signing the oath, the employees might simply affirm university regulation 5 which "prohibits the employment of persons whose commitments or obligations to any organization, Communist or other, prejudice impartial scholarship and the free pursuit of truth." On March 23 a poll of the faculty revealed that it had voted 1,025 to 268 against employing Communists on the faculty. Regents chairman Edward A. Dickson stated: "The result is of national significance. It is the first time that the faculty of any great university has gone formally on record as sup- porting a policy of outlawing subversive teachers and influences.

But the faculty on the same poll and by an almost similar vote had rejected the Regents special non-Communist oath. Opposition continued to grow against the Regents "sign--or else" ultimatum. Even the student body assembled in the Greek amphitheater on the Berkeley campus for a mass protest meeting.

Finally on April 21, the showdown came. The Regents voted 21 to 1 to accept a compromise proposal drafted by the Council of the California Alumni Association. Instead of signing the special oath required by the Regents, university employees would now sign with their new contracts the statement:

"Having taken the constitutional oath of office required of public officials of the State of California, I hereby formally acknowledge my acceptance of the position and salary named, and also state that I am not a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which advocates the overthrow of the government by force or violence and that I have no commitments in conflict with my responsibilities with respect to impartial scholarship and free pursuit of truth. I understand that the foregoing statement is a condition of my employment and a consideration of payment of my salary."

Regent Lawrence Mario Giannini, president of the Bank of America, was the lone dissenting vote. He had declared that if the Regents' oath were rescinded "I'm sure that the flags will fly in the Kremlin." Giannini tendered his resignation, saying, "I cannot bring myself to compromise with Communism in any way... (the new plan) is a masterpiece of compromise... I hope it will be effective, but I doubt it... if it is not I'll be glad to organize 20th century vigilantes to uncover Communism."

412 Fail to Sign

The Regents set May 15 as the deadline for filing the new affidavits. At that time all but 412 of the 9,919 letters sent out had been returned with the loyalty statements sworn to. The next action will come this Friday when the Regents meet to consider whether or not to dismiss those 412 who have refused to sign the affidavit