Sigmund Diamond's interest in university FBI relations is more than an academic pursuit. Diamond himself was a victim of McCarthy lever at Harvard, at the hands of no less than McGeorge Bundy--who was then dean of the Faculty and who later went on to become national security advisor under President John F. Kennedy '40.
Diamond's troubles stemmed from his affiliation with the Communist Party beginning in 1941 Two years later at the age of 23. Diamond moved from Baltimore, where he was born, to work for the United Automobile Workers in Detroit, where he stayed until 1949.
A few years after World War II ended. Diamond decided to leave the Communist Party, mistakenly thinking that he could safely leave it behind him.
Diamond went into academia and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in history in 1953. He stayed on for a year as a post-doctoral fellow, then was offered the position of Dean of Special Students by Bundy.
"That's when the whole thing blew up." Diamond remembered recently. "He called me into his office and asked me if there was anything about my history that might embarass Harvard."
According to an article Diamond wrote for the New York Review of Books in 1977, Bundy taped the whole meeting, as did President Nathan M. Pusey '28 at a subsequent meeting. Diamond, realizing that Bundy knew about his Communist past, told him of his involvement that had ended years before.
Then Bundy asked him whether he would talk about his past with "civic authorities." Diamond replied that he would discuss his own involvement with the FBI, but he would not tell the FBI about others. "But that wasn't good enough. So I didn't get the job," Diamond said.
Diamond recalled that a lot of friends tried to intercede on his behalf--including David S. Landes, then a Columbia University assistant professor, and now a professor at Harvard But all appeals failed, and Diamond had to look for other employment.
Yet, as other McCarthy-era victims, he could not find work in academia or elsewhere for a year and a hall after the incident. He supported himself doing private research for others during that time, until Columbia offered him a position, where he remains today as a professor of sociology and history.
Diamond has written numerous articles on the subject of relations between universities and unions on the one hand and the security agencies on the other.
Included in this wide array of research is work on the relationship between the FBI and Harvard, which Diamond believes was quite close on the basis of documents he has obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. One such document- a memo from a Boston official to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover--reads: "It is noted that as a result of [half line deleted] on this date, arrangements have been completed for a most cooperative and understanding association between the Bureau and Harvard University."
Yet Diamond has been partially thwarted in his research by rules limiting access to university documents from the McCarthy period. He has been engaged in a running dispute with Harvard officials over the University's rule barring access to Corporation records for fifty years after their deposit.
Diamond says, however, that he has no particular axe to grind with Harvard. The New York Review of Books article was the only one in which he discussed his own experiences in the McCarthy period.
What are the university-FBI relations like today? "It's hard to say," according to Diamond. "That information is very secret, and I've been having a hard time even finding out about relations 30 years ago."