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NDEA Loyalty Provisions Brought Fruitless Battle For Educators Since 1958


The recent revival of concern over the National Defense Education Act and its loyalty provisions is the latest chapter in an academic-political controversy that began with the passage of NDEA in August, 1958.

Led by President's Pusey's continued opposition to the loyalty provisions, the University has refused NDEA, loans since November 18, 1959. At that time the Corporation voted to reject $357,873 of Federal funds assigned to the University. President A. Whitney Griswold of Yale announced that day a similar withdrawal in protest.

A write-in campaign by students, subsequent withdrawals by other colleges, and further protests from college presidents failed to produce much sentiment in Congress this year to repeal the affidavit part of the program.


In 1958 when the government passed the NDEA, it recognized Washington's long-debated need to provide federal aid to private education. But because of the "loyalty oath" provision in the Act, another debate began--over an issue presumably long settled: private education without government interference.

(The loyalty oath provision, section 1001(f) of Title II of the Act, provides that to be eligible for grants, or for loans administered through their university, applicants must, first, disclaim membership in, belief in, or support of subversive organizations; and, second, affirm their allegiance to the United States and its Constitutional system.) For several reasons, most of them political, university lobbies have in the past two years concentrated on lifting the disclaimer affidavit from the Act, declaring the loyalty oath at least "positive."

For some, Section 1001(f) seemed legitimate; the United States government had endowed a generous loan and scholarship fund (up to $295,000,000 in four years), and stipulated that the grants were earmarked for students whose loyalties and beliefs generaly coincide with those of the benefactor. Others said that students--the academic community--should not be singled out as suspect and that the loyalty provisions were--in the words of Senator John F. Kennedy--"worse than futile." It did not prevent subversives from taking the money, but alienated the loyal.

Harvard First Accepts

To many educators, including President Pusey, the NDEA meant more than an aid-to-loyal-scholars-in-this-time-of-crisis grant; it represented to him and others a governmental recog- nition that higher education was generally worth subsidizing. Despite numerous demands that Harvard refuse to accept funds with a loyalty stigma, Pusey originally continued the University's participation in the NDEA program and stated that he "applauds the high motives which prompted Congress to pass the... Act." At the same time, he labeled the loyalty provision "odious."

Thus, the University clearly did not regard the Education Act in the 1958 beat-the-Russians spirit, of which the use of Defense in the title of the Act was a clear indication. The loyalty oath and disclaimer were debated in 1959 as a question of academic freedom because the NDEA had every potentiality of becoming the foundation and reference point for future governmental aid to education. The requirement it imposed upon the University and its students was felt to be objectionable both in itself and as a precedent that will influence the direction which future education aid bills might take.

Section 1001(f), and more particularly, the disclaimer affidavit, has caused the withdrawal from NDEA of many universities including Harvard, Yale, Princeton (one of the first), Haverford, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, Amherst, Antioch, Reed, and (most recently) Colby.

GSE Need

The Graduate School of Education, naturally, needed the NDEA funds the most (and, in addition, teachers receive a rebate from the loans), but only a slim majority supported Pusey in the Spring of 1959 when he chose to accept the funds while going on record in opposition to the loyalty provisions.

That summer, a bill for repeal of the oath and affidavit sponsored by Kennedy and Sen. Joseph S. Clark '55 (D.Pa.), failed to pass Congress, and Pusey soon decided that "going on record" was not enough. The academic community was criticized original for its negligent lobby that let the loyalty provisions pass through Congress unnoticed in 1958, and one year later universities had failed to make clear their opposition to the oath and5PRESIDENT PUSEY

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