News

Harvard Law School Makes Online Zero-L Course Free for All U.S. Law Schools Due to Coronavirus

News

For Kennedy School Fellows, Epstein-Linked Donors Present a Moral Dilemma

News

Tenants Grapple with High Rents and Local Turnover at Asana-Owned Properties

News

In April, Theft Surged as Cambridge Residents Stayed at Home

News

The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Philadelphia MedSchool Dismisses 3 Scientists

Jefferson Medical College Committee Finds Trio Loyal, But Then Discharges Them

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

On November 30, three faculty members were quietly and unceremoniously dismissed from Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College. They are given no reasons for the school's action except a written assurance that it was not because they were found subversive. Indeed, Jefferson's own hearings established the loyalty of all three. But they all had one thing in common: as students during the depths of the '30's, each had sought refuge in the Communist Party. And each had since left the party.

The three men are all prominent scientists. Robert J. Rutman, assistant professor of Biochemistry, had done secret atomic research at California during the war; Irving H. Wagman is an outstanding physiologist; and William H. Pearl man, associate professor of Biochemistry is one of the world's leading experts on hormones. Of the three, Rutman is the only one not definitely known to have abandoned Communism long before the 1950's.

The proceedings against the three followed an almost identical pattern. On June 17, 1953, each was summoned without prior notice and without counsel to appear before an ad hoc committee composed of the president of the college, Admiral J.L. Kauffman; the chairman of the board of trustees, P.E. Foerderer; the school's dean, Dr. George A. Bennet; and D. Hays Sollis-Cohen, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and member of the board.

Rutman's hearing was typical. At the beginning, Sollis-Cohen stated that the Pennsylvania Loyalty Act made it necessary to determine whether the college had any Communists or ex-Communists on the faculty.

The committee refused him permission to talk with his wife first, and pressed for answers. In fragments, the story developed. Rutman had joined the party to find a measure of security. Rutman said he quit several years ago: "I saw my duty and my loyalty to my country, and I thought my continuing in the Party would possibly involve disloyalty." Rutman would not, however, name any others who had been in the party with him. The committee insisted, with Dean Bennett saying that "the best way for us to tell that you have broken the party is to become an informant.

This was an informal session. At another, on June 22, Rutman said he knew no Jefferson teachers to be present Communists. Then, on August 5, he came before a newly-formed College Loyalty Committee whose membership included Sollis-Cohen, two other trustees, Dean Bennett, and Dr. Abraham Camtarow, chairman of biochemistry.

Formal Hearing

This time the hearing was formal. Rutman was sworn, and his testimony recorded by stenographers. He restated his earlier answers, then swore that he was not presently a member of the party or of any affiliated group, and repeated his reasons for joining and leaving Communism. Relterating that he knew of no present Communists at Jefferson Rutman again refused to give names. Approximately half of the five-hour hearing was devoted to the testimony of six character witnesses who asserted they believed Rutman to be a loyal citizen, and a person of honesty and integrity.

Similar Cases

The other two scientists came before the Loyalty Committee for similar hearings. Each would talk freely about himself, but would not name associates in the Party. Pearlman's attorney was later called back into the hearing room and told by Sollis-Cohen that while Jefferson wished to keep the interrogation within the college, if the professor persisted in his refusal to give names, he might be called upon to answer questions elsewhere.

The meaning of this threat became clear on November 13, when the Dean called the three into his office and handed them subpoenas to appear before Representative Velde's House Committee on Un-American Activities. Only Rutman was actually called, for the greatest doubt existed in his case.

Party Picnic?

Before the House committee, Rutman invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying about his Communist affiliations between January 1, 1947, and August 4, 152. He also refused to answer allegations that he had attended a picnic on September 7, 1952, sponsored by the West Philadelphia Civil Rights Congress.

Then, on November 30, the three were separately called to Dean Bennett's office, discharged, and directed to cease all experiments they were carrying on with grants from the U.S. Public Health Service. They were told to gather up all their property and leave at once. A few days later, the locks on their laboratories were changed.

The Dean refused to give any reason for the dismissal and refused to make known the findings of the Loyalty Committee. From the morning papers the three scientists learned, that they had been discharged "in the best interests of the insti-

tution." Six weeks later, each received a letter, signed by Jefferson's attorney, which said: "I can assure you that the decision... to terminate your service... was not based upon a finding that you were a subversive person as that term is defined in the Pennsylvania Loyalty Act."

Six months have now passed. None of the three has been able to find employment, for the taint of subversion is upon them despite the letter, which did not arrive until long after the case had left the public eye. Even Rutman's wife, a research assistant at the school, has been fired. Though there was no question of her loyalty, the scientist under whom she was working received a telephone call from the Public Health Service informing him that his Government funds would be suspended unless Mrs. Rutman were fired. Promptly, she was

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags