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With the announcement by the University last week that Dr. Walsh and Dr. Sweezy had been given two year "concluding reappointments" as Instructors in Economics, the familiar outcry of academic intolerance of advanced views and interference with academic liberty was bound to arise. Considering their popularity, and ability some outcry is not surprising but the tumult and shouting, and all the familiar paraphernalia of petitions, protest meetings, and probing committees designed to make them martyrs can only work intense hardship on the two men.
Two things in the main, are responsible for the tempest in the teapot. First is their well known political views. But "concluding appointments" are given daily to men in all fields, when crowded departments hold out no chances for them to rise to professorial rank. There is no reflection on the abilities of Dr. Walsh and Dr. Sweezy. The Economics Department is unique in that the great percentage of its professorial chairs are held by comparatively young men, and, as professorships are permanent appointments, no future is held out for the large number of instructors now rising in the field.
It is definitely against University policy to keep a man on in a temporary position longer than six or eight years. The wisdom of this policy may be open to question. But it is certainly fairer to give the man two years in which to better his position elsewhere. The Economics Department which has charge of promotions has twice passed over these two instructors and promoted others, because it felt that, while Sweezy and Walsh were concededly popular and excellent teachers, they were likely, on the basis of their record of scholarship to remain stationary in their academic standing. Whether the Administration's theory of productive scholarship as the principal basis for judging a man is a wise and proper one presents an entirely different question. The only point at issue here is whether the two men were dismissed because of their political views, and it seems eminently clear that their political views did not have anything to do with the matter whatever. It is only because their views are known that the furore arose.
In this particular case, it is understood that the Economics Department, because it feared the adverse publicity that might result, went ahead and recommended Walsh and Sweezey for the regular three year appointments. However, it is thought that the Administration definitely opposed making a special case out of the two men merely because their views were known, and stepped in to request that the usual procedure, that of giving concluding appointments, be followed in this case as in all others.
The second reason that the matter has been kept in the public eye is because the University issued an ill timed and impolitic statement declaring that the decision was reached solely on the grounds of "teaching capacity and scholarly ability". Although the University's record is practically perfect in placing men whose appointments have been concluded in other institutions this statement may very possibly make it hard for Walsh and Sweezy to obtain teaching positions in other institutions. Their appointments were ended because of the crowded Economic Department. "Teaching capacity" had little to do with the case.
It is well to remember that the worst possible thing for the two men in question is the all too familiar routing of petitions, and investigations, and martyr creation. Nothing could make it harder for Walsh and Sweezy, than to have this storm of protest over a perfectly routine matter, and the sooner they put a quietus on the whole affair and the sooner the University issues a much needed clarification of its true position, the better it will be for all concerned.
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