500 Area Professors Request Removal of B.U.'s President

More than 500 faculty members from colleges and universities in the Boston area, including at least 60 from Harvard, have signed a letter asking for the removal of Boston University (B.U.) president John R. Silber.

The letter is a response to Silber's attempts to fire five tenured professors for alleged violation of contract agreements because they refused to cross a picket line earlier this year.

Charging that "the revocation of tenure on these trivial grounds can be understood in no other way but as an attack on fundamental traditions of academic freedom," the letter claims that Silber's policies jeopardize academic freedom everywhere.

Signers pledged not to assist B.U. in usual administrative functions such as evaluating applicants for positions at the university until the situation is resolved, Salvador E. Luria, an Institute professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), who wrote the letter, said yesterday.

Copies of the letter were circulated at Harvard, M.I.T., Tufts, Wellesley, Boston College, Northeastern and the University of Massachusetts at Boston, but letters of support have been received from Williams, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and other universities, Luria added.


"I expected some support, but nothing of this order. I am very pleased and a bit surprised at the response," Fritz Ringer, one of the threatened B.U. professors, said.

The five professors refused to cross a picket line of secretaries and library staffers at the beginning of the year. All of the professors, however, held classes off campus or allowed other professors to handle the courses.

Laurence H. Tribe '62, professor of Law and one of the Harvard signatories, said, "I think it's important to express my sense that academic freedom has been violated, particularly since I consider myself something of a friend of President Silber. I didn't think friendship should stand in the way."

Itsy Bitsy

"Part of the whole tradition of tenure is that it is deprived only for very great offenses. Here Silber is trying to fire for what he himself called a 'symbolic sympathy strike'," Hilary Putnam, Pearson Professor of Modern Mathematics and Mathematical Logic, another signer, said.

"If he can get away with that, it will be an attack on every professor not just in the U.S., but in the world," Putnam added.

In addition to the proposed firings, the letter cited a number of other "violations of civil liberties" by Silber, including censorship of the student newspaper and radio stations, and the witholding of merit increases from faculty members who spoke out against him.

Silber survived an attempt by a majority of faculty members and deans to oust him in the spring of 1976.

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