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After four years struggle to rid education of Communist influences, the Massachusetts House has passed a bill of unprecedented naivete and illogic. By holding every college president in the state responsible for the political life of his faculty. House bill 426 ignores the administrational structure of a college. In the first place, governing boards and trustees generally have the power to hire and fires professors. A college president, furthermore, does not have the authority of a court, nor should he have the responsibility of judging the character of members of his teaching staff.
Since a president would be under penalty of $1,000 to $3,000 for failing to fire anyone of his staff whom he suspects of seeking to overthrow the government by force, colleges would operate under an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Presidents would be wary of keeping outspoken radicals teaching under them, since the state shows an alarming tendency to give a loose interpretation of "overthrow by force and violence."
Massachusetts legislators, in their flair for publicity and recognition, continually forget that existing laws cover all acts of sedition. The federal Smith Act and the Massachusetts Prohibition of Anarchy law are completely adequate to prosecute actual offenders. Under these laws the jurisdiction and responsibility lies within the realm of an official court, not in the hands of one man.
Because this new bill has been "toned down," state house officials are optimistic of its passing the Senate. Although the evils and recklessness of the bill are obvious, Senators had better read it thoroughly. In their decision lies a good part of the future of Massachusetts education.
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