A professor who takes part in labor or political quarrels may find himself "no longer of use to his university" because "the element of responsibility" which "here comes in, overlies his rights to free action as an individual citizen," according to an ominous opinion recently expressed by "The Yale Alumni Weekly".
Nothing can be more viciously undermining to freedom of thought than an attempt to stifile the opinions of some of the world's greatest minds. It is every citizen's privilege and duty to take an interest in national affairs. If connection with a university deprives a citizen of his rights, then our great ideals of personal freedom and tolerant education are a miserable sham.
The editorial in question, "Unrest at the Universities," continues to say, that when a teacher of a university becomes involved in a labor or political quarrel, he "brings the university into the limelight with himself", and publicity presents himself as an "agitator".
A university need not squirm because one of its professors publicly opposes the pet policy of seedy politicians who immodestly call themselves statesmen. A radical, wild-eyed communist does not enhance the reputation of his Alma Mater, but on the other hand the timid scholar who buries himself and his wisdom in dusky library stacks likewise does little in this direction. Professors who state their candid opinions clearly and back them up with sensible arguments certainly are not "agitators".
As the "Yale Alumni Weekly" pointed out, they must realize that violence is undesirable as well as harmful to themselves and their universities. However, business and labor have long derided scholars for retiring in the shades of their musty archives; they have felt the need for expert opinion which conservative scholars are qualified to furnish. Social, religious, and political problems have begged for their respected attention. Now that there finally is a stimulus to this desired action in the form of the Cambridge Union of University Teachers, it must not be discouraged by threatening professors with severance of connection.
The purpose of real education is destroyed if hampered by limitations and taboos. When the full discussion of any problem is prohibited, liberal education becomes a dismal mockery.