Fight on California Oath Continues

Copyright, 1950, by the Editors of the Harvard CRIMSON.

On this and the following six pages, the CRIMSON presents its second annual survey of academic freedom.

When we printed our first survey in May, 1949, it covered 12 pages and described 40 cases in 19 states and the District of Columbia. This year we have found 32 cases. They deal with the dismissal of professors, the banning of speakers, anti-"subversive" committees, legislative actions, textbook checks, and loyalty oaths.

Some of last year's incidents have died or been resolved in one way or another. Some have developed and their effects continue; we have attempted to pick them up where the first survey stopped. Twenty-six of this year's incidents are largely new, with most of their action occurring since last May.

We have investigated every case of alleged abrogation of academic freedom brought to our attention; they often have been far from clear-out. In gathering our material, we have tried to contact all the principals concerned. When this was not possible, we have printed public statements on both sides of the issue and have refrained from any interpretation.

The Board of Regents of the University of California will meet in Los Angeles on Friday to consider the dismissal of 412 employees and faculty members who have refused to sign the new non-Communist affidavit.


This action comes as the culmination of a year long struggle between the Regents, who believe they have a duty to "... continue to safeguard the freedom of the university against ruthless, fanatical, and subversive minorities in the body politic such as the Communist Party," and the faculty, which believes that its " ... own screening methods are more effective than any loyalty oath. Fellow travelers, far more dangerous than admitted Communists, are kept out or kicked out by this screening."

This controversy--as to which group, the Regents or the faculty, should determine teacher qualifications--raged from June 12, 1949 until April 21 of this year. On the first date the Regents established an oath of non-adherence to any "subversive" organizations: the oath was later revised under pressure of faculty protests. Then in February, 1950, the Regents voted that employees on the eight California campuses must either "sign or resign" by April 30. This ultimatum unified faculty indignation against the oath order so solidly that the Regents were forced to compromise their position on April 21 by agreeing to an Alumni committee proposal acceptable to most of the faculty. Under this proposal the oath is not separately administered but is an affirmation included in each new contract of employment; the affirmation is essentially the same as the old oaths of non-membership in "any organization which advocates the overthrow of the government by force or violence."

Only a small faction has persistently resisted the idea of any oath at all. It is this group of 412 employees, including 42 full professors and 27 associate professors, which now faces dismissal for refusal to sign the latest proposal which the other 9507 employees have already accepted.

The position of the 412 has been stated as: "Academic freedom means freedom of teachers and students to examine all theories in the light of the facts with complete assurance that no particular ideas are politically required or politically forbidden. A political test for academic employment forbids by decree the reaching of certain conclusions."

Warren Opposes Oath

Throughout the controversy many persons have also questioned the constitutionality of the oath, including Governor Earl Warren, who sided with the faculty in opposing the Regents' oath. All employees of the university had already taken the regular oath of allegiance required of state employees by the state constitution. This oath includes the clause: "And no other oath, declaration, or test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust."

Dr. Monroe E. Deutsch, vice president and provost emeritus, has said: "As Governor Warren and others have pointed out, the oath would at once be taken by Communists without a word of protest. It is argued then, when their membership in the party is disclosed, they can be dismissed for perjury. It is, however, my understanding that the Regents would in any event, without further ado, dismiss any known Communist. What then is the need or value of the oath?"

Deutsch's second point seems to be supported by at least one and perhaps two dismissals during the past year. A teaching assistant at Berkeley campus--Irving Daniel Fox--was dismissed following an open hearing of the Regents, who found he did "not meet the minimum requirements for membership on the faculty." He had signed the oath required by the Regents. The other dismissal, of a woman who played piano for women's physical education classes at UCLA, was based on the charge that she had violated a university regulation against nepotism; her sister also was employed by the university. However, she had earlier been charged with being a Communist by Senator Jack B. Tenney of the California Senate.

It was Senator Tenney who created much of the atmosphere leading up to the entire loyalty oath controversy. During the Spring of 1949 Tenney had submitted five loyalty oath bills to the California legislature. These and twelve other pieces of similar legislation were the products of Senator Tenney's state committee on un-American activities. Among other things, they would have made it a misdemeanor "to teach any system or plan of government except the American system upon any state school property or to inculcate preference in the mind of any pupil for any such system."

Robert Gordon Sproul, president of the University of California, has denied that any such "outside pressure" as the Tenney proposals brought about the special oath. All of Tenney's 17 bills were defeated, but the Board of Regents came out with its own loyalty oath on June 12, 1949. Immediately, the faculty, led by Dr. Peter H. Odegard, chairman of the Department of Political Science on the Berkeley campus, protested.