With its enrollment of more than 30,000 students, CCNY is the largest of New York's four municipally operated colleges. At the head of College's five schools is Dr. Buell G. Gallagher. The president, who has a reputation a liberal and as a foe of racial and religious tolerance, has also been identified with complete academic freedom.
Currently there are six student newspapers on widespread campuses of CCNY, all of which are subsidized by the college. The semi- Observation Post is one of two newspapers put out by day students at the uptown . Its editor-in-chief since February of year has been Peter Steinberg, 19, who is reputation a leader of liberal causes.
For more than a month now, Steinberg and have been engaged in a dispute over "Communist and "Marxist" leanings in paper's columns. The controversy broke into the press on September 21, when Galla- charged that "Communist-oriented students" controlled the Observation Post.
His criticism was based principally on an appearing last May in the final issue the academic year, and on articles in the first September issue. Gallagher said that the May editorial, entitled "Wrap-up," openly and urgently called for "the revival of the class struggle between students and faculty along Marxist lines." The September issue, he charged, distorted his views by omitting mention of his support of the Southern student sit-ins while over-emphasing his opposition to CCNY students' anti-Civil Defense demonstrations.
The "Wrap-up" editorial took issue with Gallagher's contention, expressed in an open letter to the student body, that a "class struggle" did not exist at CCNY. The editorial dealt with conflicts between the college administration and certain segments of the student body. Specifically, the editorial supported sit-ins, called for student government reorganization, and defended 300 students who refused to take part in Civil Defense drills.
At several press conferences and in an interview with the CRIMSON, Steinberg has vigorously defended his editorial against Gallagher's accusations. "Every objective observer," he has insisted, agree that the article "was certainly not" written with a Marxist slant. It merely called attention to conflicts which were "a fact."
One week after Gallagher first leveled his accusations, the Observation Post accused him of slander, declared that it was investigating the possibilities of legal action, and called for an immediate and open meeting of the general faculty to discuss the president's charges and to censure him. In an open letter, the editors of the paper asked whether their stands on student government, sit-ins, and Civil Defense were to be called Communist.
Gallagher countered by declaring that he also supported the editors' position on the three issues, but objected to the manner of presentation. Repeating his earlier accusations, he said that his charges were based on the way articles were selected for publication.
Last week the controversy became more heated. Gallagher charged for the first time that Steinberg is a "Communist sympathizer." He said that the Observation Post had been "captured" by a "small disciplined group" of Marxist-oriented students. Citing Steinberg's activities in connection with the two Communist-run World Youth Festivals, which the editor attended in 1957 and 1959 (and wrote approvingly of), the president declared that the editor's college career has "indicated a clear and unvarying pattern of activity .. sympathetic to Communism."
In reply, Steinberg called the president's accusations "intellectually dishonest," and declared that he was not a Communist or a Communist sympathizer. He admitted Gallagher's right to object to the Observation Post's presentation of articles, but questioned his "right to use smear tactics as he has." He said that he was aware of the "Communist domination" of the youth festivals, but that they were "excellent mediums for students to get together" and that they "offered greater possibilities for peace."
During the McCarthy era Gallagher expressed himself as an advocate of complete intellectual freedom, and has said that "no man should be put in jeopardy for holding an opinion; that is the meaning of academic freedom." And it must be noted, to Gallagher's credit, that freedom of the press is not threatened here, as it has often been at Brooklyn College, where editors have resigned or been removed five times in the past three years. Gallagher has disclaimed any intention of disciplining the editors, and has eschewed censorship.
How valid are Gallagher's accusations? While it is doubtful that Steinberg's alleged Marxist prejudices have significantly influenced the Observation Post's editorial and news policies (a nine-student board decides policy), it does appear that the editor has demonstrated some Leftist sympathies. On the other hand, Gallagher's criticisms of the May editorial and of the September articles seem rather flimsy.
Nevertheless, in disclaiming censorship for the newspaper and discipline for the editors, Gallagher has set a good example for the administrators of other city and state-operated colleges.