Silence at Wayne
Once again the red scare has gotten the better of an American university. This time, Wayne University has automatically suspended a student who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. By doing so, Wayne has taken upon itself to decide that a student is guilty of subversive activities--even before any charge was made.
Lorraine Faxon Meisener was summoned by the Committee as a surprise witness in its investigation of communist influences in the Detroit area. She was asked if her real purpose in applying for a passport last summer was to attend the Communist Youth Festival. She stood on her constitutional rights in refusing to answer both this question and whether she was a communist. The committee brought no specific charges against her.
But immediately the president of Wayne suspended the Wayne junior on the grounds that refusal to answer was admission of guilt. The president has nobly granted her a hearing to review the case. But the damage has been done. The president has employed extra legal authority in taking action, he has denied the student her constitutional rights, and he has ruled that silence is guilt.
Any indictment of possible subversion should be made by the Committee after thorough investigation of the case. It is not the function of a college administrator to act against a student merely because that student is associated with something that may be damaging for the university. By intervening, Wayne University has indicated that it believes the student is guilty when Wayne has neither the facts nor the right to make such a judgement.