Colorado Senate Feuds Defame Three Teachers

All articles copyright 1953 by The Harvard Crimson

An attempt to discredit the Governor of Colorado by claiming his state University harbored "Communistic, subversive professors" failed last March, but only after a month-long storm in that state's education and politics. Center of the controvery was the University of Colorado's top-secret report on "subversive" professors, which Governor Dan Thornton had ordered compiled but refused to make public.

Political enemies of Thornton, headed by State Senator Morton G. Wyatt, used information secretly obtained from the report to attack Thornton and his appointee, Colorado University President, Robert L. Stearns. After Stearns had declared there were no "subversives" on the University faculty, Wyatt named three on the libel-free halls of the State Senate, and demanded they be fired. The speech, branded by the Lieutenant-Governor as "nau-seating" led Thornton supporters to rush to the aid of the University, while supporters of civil liberties demanded that the two-year old report, compiled by former FBI agents, be either released or destroyed. Its six copies, however, still lie locked in a safe in the Governor's office.

The dispute was the year's most clear-cut example of use of the "Communists-in-education" issue in state political fights.

The 126 page report is supposed to include the names of at least eleven professors who are past or present members of organization on the Attorney-General's list of subversive organizations. One of them is reported to be Dr. David Hawkins, visiting Fellow in General Education at Harvard, who last week appeared before the Jenner Internal Security Subcommittee.

"Under Close Scrutiny"

On Feb. 14, Wyatt demanded the report be released. As a result, the Republican members of the state Board of Regents, at a special meeting with Wyatt, informed him (he said) that eight of these teachers had already left the University, but five or six others were being kept "under close scrutiny" by the Regents.

Stung by Wyatt's charge, President Stearns insisted that "every teacher now on the faculty had been cleared completely" of any suspicion of subversive leanings.

But that did not satisfy Wyatt. On March 14, in another libel-proof speech on the state Senate floor, he accused three professors of "Communistic, subversive activity." They were Morris E. Garnsey, an economics professor; John C. Livingston, an economics instructor; and Dr. Harl Douglass, director of the College of Education. Wyatt based his charge against Gurnsey on the fact that a student in Garnsey's class had told him Garnsey had said in private conversation, "we ought to change our form of government and try another." Each of the three denied the charge absolutely.

Wyatt's speech caused such a wave of popular resentment that the Senate Republican floor leader felt compelled to circulate a resolution repudiating his charges among his colleagues.

"I feel sick about this," the floor leader said.

Thornton claimed that, "Wyatt is besmirching the character of outstanding citizens without facts."

Burn Five of Six

Wyatt's behavior stirred new protests that the secrecy of the report made it possible for all sorts of gossip to be spread. A Colorado faculty committee, including three Deans, urged the Board of Regents to destroy it. The Denver Post recommended five of the copies be burned, and the sixth sent to the FBI for use in its own files "under statuary safeguards against improper use."

But Thornton and Stearns are keeping them locked in the safe. They claim they "must be kept secret for the protection of innocent as well as punishment of those guilty." Yet as long as it is hush-hush, every faculty member of Colorado University is subject to the same treatment Senator Wyatt dished out last March.