subcommittee met at 2 p. m., pursuant to recess, in room 318 of the
Senate Office Building, Senator William E. Jenner (chairman of the
Present : Senators Jenner, Watkins,
Hendrickson, Welker, McCarran, Smith, and Johnston.
Present also: Robert Morris, subcommittee
counsel ; and Benjamin Mandel, director of research.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order.
Dr. Gideonse, will you stand up and be sworn
Do you swear the testimony you will give in
this hearing will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, so help you God?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I do.
The CHAIRMAN. You may be
TESTIMONY OF HARRY D.
GIDEONSE, PRESIDENT OF BROOKLYN COLLEGE, NEW YORK CITY, N. Y.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you state your full name to
Dr. GIDEONSE. Harry D. Gideonse.
The CHAIRMAN. What is your profession?
Dr. GIDEONSE. President of Brooklyn College of
the city of New York.
The CHAIRMAN. Where do you reside?
Dr. GIDEONSE. In Great Neck, Long Island.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Morris, you may proceed with
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, what do you do at
the present time?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I didn't get that question.
Mr. MORRIS. What is your present occupation,
Dr. GIDEONSE. President of Brooklyn College.
Mr. MORRIS. For how long have you been
president of Brooklyn College?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Almost 14 years.
Mr. MORRIS. Could you give us a short sketch
of your educational background? In other words, let us know what
degrees you have, from what universities you obtained those degrees,
and generally qualify yourself as an authority in the field of
Dr. GIDEONSE. I did my undergraduate work at
Columbia, an my graduate work there as well as at the University of
I taught in Barnard College, Columbia College,
and then after my, graduate work was finished, at Rutgers University,
the University of Chicago, and I was a professor of economics and
chairman of the department of economics and sociology at Barnard
College when I was appointed, in 1939, president of Brooklyn College.
Mr. MORRIS. I see. What degrees do you hold,
Dr. GIDEONSE. B. S. and M. A. from Columbia ;
a degree known as Diplome des Hautes Etudes Internationales, from the
University of Geneva. That was the thesis degree, and a number of
honorary degrees if you are interested in them.
Mr. MORRIS. I see.
Have you been engaged in generalized
educational activities outside your position as president of Brooklyn
College in the last 14, years? Will you give us a brief sketch of what
you have done?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I have been very much concerned
about civil rights; and I am chairman of the board of the Woodrow
Wilson Foundation, or have. been. I have in a civil rights capacity
been chairman of the board of the Willkie Memorial Building, which is
the headquarters, of course, of a large number of those agencies. In
that capacity', I suppose I am something like the landlord.
I have been an officer and a founder of
Freedom House. I have been chairman of a number of committees, one on
liberal education of the Association of American Colleges.
I suppose that answers your question.
Mr. MORRIS. Yes. You also are the president of
Brooklyn College, from which university seven members of the faculty
have been called to appear before this Internal Security Subcommittee,
is that right, Doctor?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir.
Mr. MORRIS. Will you tell us in general about
the work of the seven professors who have been brought down here to
appear before the Internal Security Subcommittee? Did you know, for
instance, that they were coming down, that they had been subpenaed?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, I think I knew it of all,
because the staff of this Senate committee has been very careful in
preparing and checking with regard to cases of that sort, in part with
me and my office.
Mr. MORRIS. Have you followed the proceedings
here? Have you followed the work of the subcommittee?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, I have followed it quite
Mr. MORRIS. When you knew that a particular
professor or member of the faculty from your university appeared, did
you send for a transcript of the hearings?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right.
Mr. MORRIS. I wonder if you would tell the
committee what steps you have taken when you have come to know that a
particular member of your faculty has invoked his privilege against
incrimination before this Internal Security Subcommittee?
Dr. GIDEONSE. The question is a very broad
one. I would like to go into the background a little.
In general, of course, the suspending of a
teacher under the State tenure law in New York State requires all the
provisions of the State tenure law and of the bylaws of the board of
higher education. That means that there have to be specific charges,
trial committees, and so on. But these particular cases are special
because they fall under the charter of the city of New York, article
903, which for a long time now—I think the first case of that sort goes
back to 1941, as far as the board of higher education is concerned—has
been held to mean in court interpretation that a witness who, as an
officer of the city of New York, pleads self-incrimination as an excuse
for not answering questions about what he does in his official
capacity, has automatically by that very plea, as he spoke those words,
discharged himself. In other words, that clause has been held to be
self-executing. So all that happens under that particular provision is
that after a survey of the transcript has made it clear that that is
the kind of testimony that really was given, that testimony is
recognized as a fact that took place in the light of the prevailing law.
In other words, the dismissal is really
recognized as having taken place when the testimony was offered; and
all these men knew that, because they had all been warned of that
before they went down.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, how have Communists
attempted to infiltrate your faculty during the time that you have been
president of Brooklyn College?
Senator SMITH. Before we proceed with that,
Mr. Chairman, should you not inquire if this witness objects to having
this proceeding televised? I do not believe you did.
The CHAIRMAN. I did not inquire in this public
hearing, but, Dr. Gideonse, you have no objection to this proceeding
being televised or your picture being taken?
Dr. GIDEONSE. No. It is all right.
Mr. MORRIS. Before I repeat that question, Dr.
Gideonse, this is not the first legislative inquiry into subversion
among your faculty that you have experienced; is that right?
Dr. GIDEONSE. No, sir. Right after my
appointment, things broke loose in New York State and City, and I
therefore am in some ways an experienced veteran in these matters.
Mr. MORRIS. I see. Will you tell us what
happened on this other occasion that you alluded to in your answer?
Dr. GIDEONSE. May I go into the history of it
just a little bit?
Mr. MORRIS. I wish you would, very fully, Dr.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Brooklyn College, of course, is
a very young college and a huge college. It has grown, I think, more
rapidly in a short period of time than any other comparable institution
in the United States. It was founded in 1930. That, of course, is the
first year of the depression, and I think it is an important thing to
keep in mind. It was founded without a campus and without buildings,
and as the enrollment grew by leaps and bounds, overflowing the river
from City College and Hunter College, the sister colleges also operated
by the city of New York, the college was housed in office buildings, in
lofts, here and there in downtown Brooklyn.
Since the budget was very bad in those days,
all this rapid growth, the homogeneity of a campus, was also
accompanied by the hiring of a very large number of teachers at
extraordinary low salaries, many
of them tutors, at $1,200 a year. All of this, of course, has a bearing
upon the situation that I found when I was appointed.
We had then just moved into a beautiful new
campus, new grounds, but we had a situation on our hands that was
clearly one of sharp infiltration by various camouflaged units of the
The moment I arrived at the campus, it was
clear that a problem was in my hands. The reception by that particular
group had been unfriendly before I had accepted the offer. As a matter
of fact, I knew that the Teachers' Union, which was then quite a force,
and had, I believe, something like 130 members on the Brooklyn College
faculty, had protested to the board of higher education the report of
my appointment. Since the board had made friendly assurances to them,
or so I was told, I wanted to make it very plain indeed, so there
would, be no misunderstanding, that those friendly assurances were
misplaced ; and, therefore, before the appointment was approved by,..
the board, I made it very clear to the members of the board with
whom I negotiated that if they had the understanding that I was going
to live in peace with the Teachers' Union, they were quite mistaken;
that I knew their record, was very familiar with their background, to
be in more or less continuous war with them, and if that displeased the
board we had better not go through with the appointment...
I was told by both Dr. Carman and Dr. Tead on
behalf of the board that they were not. concerned with that at all;
that they were convinced that would handle those things in an
appropriate professional manner, and that they would back whatever I
encountered and found necessary to do.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, may I break in
there? You said you were acquainted with the record of the Teachers'
Union at that time.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes.
Mr. MORRIS. I wonder if you would explain. Had
any. public action been taken against the Teachers' Union by any
Dr. GIDEONSE. I don't recall any public
investigations, but I am reasonably alert to what goes on in my own
profession, and I remembered John Dewey's activities in connection with
the Teachers' Union, and the remarkable leadership and the courage with
which he persisted in that leadership in exposing the Communist
infiltration. That must have been at least 2 years before I went to the
Mr. MORRIS. You went there in 1938; is that
Dr. GIDEONSE. 1939. And then there was another
big scrap in New York City in which Dr. Lefkowitz was one of the
leaders, and that certainly made the newspapers with plenty of detail
for anyone who really wanted to inform himself.
In these matters, it is my experience that
reiteration to the point of nausea is required until the people wake up
to the fact of what is going on. I might therefore have had the
background, but I am sure that in 1939 when I came to Brooklyn, a very
large number of perfectly honorable teachers who had no ideological
affiliations with the Communist Party at all, were members of the
Teachers' Union. One of the very great benefits of the Rapp-Coudert
investigation was that that particular committee came equipped with
legal talents, with a budget that made it possible to hire
investigators, so it could dig
underneath and bring out some of the facts with regard, first, to the
Teachers' Union and its conduct and behavior, and also the kind of
conspiratorial conduct that is characteristic of the Communist nucleus
of that organization.
Mr. MORRIS. In other words, Dr. Gideonse, your
original assessment of the political nature of the Teachers Union was
borne out by the subsequent events, particularly by the record of the
Rapp-Coudert committee, whose activities you have just now mentioned;
is that right?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir. More than that, the
benefit of pitiless publicity, to use Woodrow Wilson's phrase, was well
illustrated, because I think in that period in Brooklyn, the enrollment
of the Teachers Union dropped from something like 130-odd—of course, I
am going now on what I hear; they don't give me their membership
figures—to less than 30. Of course, the difference is the group that
was naive and had been led by the nose and now saw in the testimony
what kind of an organization this was.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, at that time the
Rapp-Coudert committee testimony brought out that certain members of
your faculty were in fact members of the Communist Party; is that right?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right, in my
administrative and private judgment, but was not right in the sense
that they proved it with enough legal validity so that I could act on
Mr. MORRIS. I see. In other words, at that
time, as I recall, Dr. Gideonse, there was a member of your staff who
admitted in sworn testimony that he had been a member of the Communist
Party, and proceeded to relate the names of others who had been in the
same unit of the Communist Party with him?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right.
Mr. MORRIS. That is Professor Grebanier, as I
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right.
Mr. MORRIS. Could you tell us what
administrative difficulties you personally encountered in the face of
that testimony ?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is a long story. You mean
with regard to my discharge of my official responsibility?
Mr. MORRIS. You have indicated that in your
personal opinion you felt that the evidence was sufficiently probative,
but legally you were not able to take any action. I thought that was
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right. Now that I see
what you mean by the question, let me again revert to the fact that I
am, as a public administrator, not like a private-college president,
who has much more discretion and leeway. I am under the bylaws of the
board of higher education, and I am under the State-tenure law, the
most rigorous protection of academic tenure anywhere in the United
States, public and private colleges included. In order to act on a case
of what, in this case, would really be perjury, and certainly therefore
is conduct unbecoming a teacher—irrespective of whether party
membership was legal or not, it was perjury, and that I don't think
there will be any quarrel about at all—one would need, so my legal
advisers told me, at least 2 witnesses, not 1—that the court procedure
and precedent showed that these cases were otherwise thrown out, and
then one had, of course, that whole situation to go through all over
again; or 1 witness and significant corroborative evidence.
With regard to three of these gentlemen, we
had significant corroborative evidence. Charges were preferred. It is
very interesting and significant that the kind of conspiratorial
conduct that. we have in these cases, they all have the same lawyer.
The lawyer presumably knows that these are the cases on which we had a
little more than the others. Therefore, a marginal witness could
perhaps stand up as a strong witness in a case where there was
corroborative evidence, and then perhaps he could be used on the other
cases. These three men, under the discipline that the party imposes,
all resigned when the charges were published. They never used their
legal rights to a trial, which was held out to them and in which they
could have had their own lawyer. They just resigned when the charges
were published. Therefore, we did not have the chance to go through the
test of the witness, you see, under strong conditions; and that, of
course, weakened the likelihood of using him under more marginal cases.
Anyway, under legal advice, we did not go
through with the others.
There are additional problems, if you are
interested in those. The moment you have in that set of circumstances,
which is now history, a witness who does cooperate, you have on the
part of the party and its machine an organized campaign to make life
unpleasant for that witness, most extraordinary and to me very
instructive. I had not imagined anything like that would be possible,
but one actually had to protect the witness by the machinery of the
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, some of those
professors and members of your faculty who were involved in the
investigation by New York State in 1941, have subsequently been brought
before our committee, have they not?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right.
Mr. MORRIS. This time, rather than deny the
charges—which I believe these people did at that time, did they not?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Right.
Mr. MORRIS. Suppose you tell us what they did.
I have here clip pings in front of me, one from the New York Times of
January 4. 1941, headed, "Five Professors Deny Communist Links." Among
the five are Dr. Harry Slochower, Murray Young, and Dr. Frederic Ewen.
They are some of the people listed in this particular article Those
professors and members of your faculty have been called before this
committee and, instead of denying, they invoked their constitutional
privilege against incrimination.
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right.
Mr. MORRIS. So the situation here before our
committee is a bit different from the one that New York State
experienced in 1941. Do you have any reason why there was a different
attitude taken by these different professors?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I faced that particular question
finally, officially when the last two were suspended, because there
began to be a feeling on the part of some of my associates that
suspending them just under article 903 of the city charter had the
appearance of acting on a men technicality.
Mr. MORRIS. In other words, now in addition to
having—previously I think you described it that you were satisfied in
your own mind with the proof that had been adduced against these
people, but still you had no effective legal remedy.
Dr: GIDEONSE. That is right.
Mr. MORRIS. Now you have an effective legal
remedy, and you would like to do something more, all in the interest of
safeguarding what may be someone's personal rights or liberties ?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right. Also in the
interests of making it plausible that the college administration, and
behind it the Board, were acting on grounds that were not just
superficial little technical pretenses. The difficulty with that, of
course, is that one gets beyond the evidence known to the general
public, although one may be within the evidence known to oneself. I
therefore, in this last case, issued a statement of about a page and a
half in which I wanted to give some background as the reasons that
played a role in making use of the technicality.
Mr. MORRIS. Will you read that into the record
Dr. GIDEONSE. I would love to do so, but I
want to tell you before I read it that I had the typical New York State
difficulties with this statement. I was even told by one of the press
services, after they had had it read to them, that in their judgment,
under some legal decisions in New York, this was a statement that would
expose the press service to financial damages, and so forth. That is
why they didn't run it. That gives you a picture. You know, perhaps, of
the feature of the food decision in New York State, and of the
difficulties a public administrator is under when you are handling this
kind of material.
Mr. MORRIS. You realize, Dr. Gideonse, you
will have no such difficulty here, because privilege adheres to your
Dr. GIDEONSE. The statement was issued,
anyway, and I told these gentlemen I would be very glad to have a legal
test of the matter. I feel very sure that the evidence is available.
These teachers were questioned by the Internal
Security Subcommittee of the United States Senate on February 24, 1953,
and I—that is, the president of the college—have examined the
transcript of the hearings. There is nothing new about the operation of
section 903 of the New York City Charter. As far back as May 12, 1941,
it was established in a similar case that a teacher who, on grounds of
self-incrimination, refuses to answer questions regarding his official
conduct has himself terminated his employment by his refusal to
testify. This provision of the charter, in other words, is
self-executing. These are in my judgment clearly cases of the same
type, in which the college administration—and ultimately the board of
higher education—simply recognizes the facts of the case in the light
of the governing law.
These cases do not involve issues of academic
freedom or freedom of thought. Twelve years ago both these men swore in
the Rapp-Coudert hearings that they were not members of the
Communist Party. If they had now admitted that they were members of the
party, they would have raised a basic issue about their testimony
before the Rapp-Coudert committee. If they had repeated their previous
testimony, they could foresee that testimony now available to the
Senate subcommittee would make charges of perjury unavoidable. They
therefore chose to appeal to the fifth amendment with a smokescreen of
language designed to make their action appear as a defense of freedom
and democracy rather than a carefully planned avoidance of perjury
These are not issues of freedom or of legal
technicalities. Wholly apart from the provisions of the city charter
and from the flagrant disregard of the Board's specific instructions to
cooperate with the legislative committee, this is clearly a matter of
unprofessional conduct or, in the language of the governing statute, of
"conduct unbecoming a teacher." The basic issue in such cases is not
even concerned with the question of the wisdom or the legality of
retaining or appointing teachers who are members of the Communist
Party. It can be stated in the simple language I used at the time of
the Rapp-Coudert investi-
gation, that is to say : Can teachers be trusted in a public and
professional capacity if they perjure themselves—irrespective of
whether they are Republicans, Democrats, or Communists? The principle
can be regarded as well established. The only thing that is new
at this time is the evidence that is becoming available as the result
of the subcommittee's activities.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, therefore it has
been apparent to you that Communists have attempted to infiltrate your
faculty during the time that you have been president of Brooklyn
Dr. GIDEONSE. A more correct statement would
be that they certainly had infiltrated it before I was appointed, and
that I had to deal with the problem that resulted. As far as I know,
efforts to introduce new members of the party in the last few years
have been very infrequent. I can think of only two, and they were
stopped. It is possible there were some cases so well concealed that :I
know nothing about them.
Mr. MORRIS. So you took a very strong position
back in 1941 against the activities of the Communists who were on your
faculty and the Teachers' Union in general. The Teachers' Union, you
said, at its peak amounted to about 130 members, which membership was
reduced after that particular inquiry.
Did the Communists do anything? Did they
retaliate in any way against your deportment at that time?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Almost from the very beginning,
and since they had very considerable influence in some of the key
activities on the campus, including the student newspaper, which is one
of their favorite sources of infiltration, a rather unpleasant
atmosphere in that respect prevailed for quite a while. At the time of
the Rapp-Coudert hearings, they picketed my home.
Mr. MORRIS. Would you tell us about that
Dr. GIDEONSE. Oh, this was done at regular
hours, several days, a typical picket line, wearing masks. I had the
impression that these weren't students at all. It was supposed to be a
student picket line. It looked more like regular party ringers they
picked up somewhere in Manhattan.
Mr. MORRIS. You mean the people in the picket
line wore masks?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That was to suggest, of course,
as the Communist Party always does, that these issues were about
something other than communism. I don't know of a single campaign out
in the open for the Communist Party. They always tie in with some issue
that happens to give some concern to other people, to see if they can't
make something out of it in the way of recruiting activity.
Mr. MORRIS. At that point, Dr. Gideonse, what
issue did they use at that time?
Dr. GIDEONE. The issue that they were using at
that time was the argument that my speeches—I happened to be something
of a specialist in international relations—were manifestly a support of
Mr. Roosevelt's warlike policy, and that therefore I was a warmonger,
and the whole Republican investigation of the colleges was concerned
with warmongering, and therefore they wore gas masks, you see, to
emphasize the fact that this was really a pacifist demonstration of
peace-loving people. This, therefore, must have been before June 22,
you see, because then, of course, the line changed and it would require
Mr. MORRIS. Did the gas masks serve a double
purpose, do you think? Did it conceal the identity of the picketers as
well as giving this extraneous element to the performance?
Dr. GIDEONSE. It might certainly be read that
way. On the other hand, anonymity is rather easy to achieve in our very
large urban institutions. You must remember that right now, Brooklyn
College has some 21,000 people who use the campus every day. So it is
not necessary to wear a mask not to be recognized.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, there have been
newspaper accounts of the fact that your home was bombarded with
telephone calls, and your wife received phone calls, and you did. Are
those news accounts generally true?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes. They definitely did to us
what the party very often does when it has that kind of an issue on its
hands. That is, they try to wear down the man or woman who is at the
center of the resistance, and that consists, for instance, of making
your telephone useless to you, or calling you up at all hours of the
night so that the next morning you will be weary and perhaps will lose
your temper on some occasion, and that, of course, would give them a
new issue. It is a very well-known—they call it a "telephone picket."
It included, incidentally, sending telegrams,
one of which was rather shocking to my wife because it arrived when I
was not at home, which announced a death in the family. All sorts of
techniques with which to demoralize or undermine the resilience of the
Mr. MORRIS. Was the American Student Union
active in this performance?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes; they were very active in
it, and very much a part of the agitation, because one of the very
first things that we had to cope with in those days was the close
relationship between the Teachers' Union leadership and the American
Student Union so-called leadership. Those organizations dovetailed, and
they acted more or less on the same purposes.
That is part of the strategy of the party, of course. The party always,
it seems to me, builds up a new agency when the old one has been
completely exposed. Then no innocents joined it any longer, so it
becomes useless, and a new innocent front, or transmission belt,
whatever the language is, is set up whose purpose appears to be
different from the old one, so that naive and innocent people can be
induced to join it by the selection of some issue that they happen to
be interested in. That might be an issue of some racial problem, or
some war-and-peace problem, or a question of student fees, or what have
Then, of course, you have gradually to expose
that group again as really operated by the same inner circle. That is
what makes it so difficult in the beginning to handle the new front,
because the new front is deliberately set up to be enticing to innocent
people, and in the early period, therefore, very many people are
members of that new front who are completely innocent, because it would
not serve their purpose if they weren't.
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Gideonse, do you consider
that educators should consider themselves a self-sufficient community,
or should they feel a deep sense of responsibility to the parents of
the country in an hour of grave crisis ? I would like your opinion on
Dr.,GIDEONSE. I think, Senator, that the
question answers itself, although I would like to make a distinction.
Where you are dealing with graduate schools, professional schools,
there the faculties have students who are adults, who are presumably
able to take care of themselves, discriminating what kind of propaganda
is thrown at them. But if we are talking about colleges, junior
colleges, the overwhelming majority of the students are below 21. The
faculty is obviously in the position that we technically describe as in
loco parentis, that is, we take the place of parents while the students
are entrusted to us. In a period in which it is unfortunately true that
a very large number of families and a very large number of churches no
longer have any hold on young people, it means that the college's
responsibility is enlarged to the extent to which these other agencies
no longer play that role, and the responsibility is to my mind today
rather terrifying. It certainly is a very real responsibility. It is
our job to see to it that these youngsters in our charge are
safeguarded from spurious and scurrilous and camouflaged contact the
way we would do in our own home. I can't see any argument about that at
The CHAIRMAN. I take it, then, that it is your
opinion that the schools and colleges of the United States play a vital
part in the world-wide struggle against communism and totalitarianism?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. What part would you say they
Dr. GIDEONSE. I am a very enthusiastic member
of my own profession, and I should say that I think their role is
probably more important even in this cold war stage on the verge of hot
war than the, Armed Forces themselves, because that kind of conflict is
perhaps decided in a sense by armament, but, after all, armament
doesn't mean very much if there is no purpose and will behind it. The
colleges, concerned as they are with the top drawer of talent for the
country—2,500,0000 in college right now in the United States—are
obviously either consciously or unconsciously a very important part in
clarifying national will and purpose. If this is a struggle, in the
end, about ideas—I like to call it a struggle for the soul of men
because that is what it seems to me to be—then clarifying national
ideas of self and what our purpose is, is vital. Then the Communists
are right in making so much of trying to confuse the colleges, too,
because they know that, too, and they try to confuse the clarity of
national thinking by their infiltration.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Smith, do you have any
Senator SMITH. Yes, I have 2 or 3.
Doctor, I judge from what you said that you
have followed fairly well the hearings of this subcommittee on the
educational situation. I also judge that you are familiar, from what
you said a moment ago, with the Rapp-Coudert committee in New York
State. Is it your feeling that the work of that committee and the work
of this committee has been such that you felt you could cooperate with
those committees, and that the work was really worth while insofar as
not only the welfare of the particular group of people in the country,
but the country at large: that you felt it was really worth while and
that you could cooperate with the endeavor of this Senate committee?
Dr. GIDEONSE. As a matter of fact, Senator,
when the Rapp-Coudert committee was set up, I was enthusiastic about
having it set up, be-
cause it was perfectly clear to me that the nature of the kind of thing
we were then coping with was then so badly understood by even the
members of my own staff, not to speak of the general public, that one
needed the kind of investigational talent, legal and other talent, in
order to dig underneath and give evidence of the kind of concealed and
camouflaged conduct that was involved. The average college teacher is
inclined to think that the other fellow is just as honest and as simple
as he is, and that he is going to be honorable. My experience has been
that when you put this particular assignment in the hands of a faculty
committee, where I think it belongs if you could assume that they were
minded to dig in the way it requires, the faculty will ask some
questions, and if they get answers they will assume that the man who
answers is honest, and then if they have a little doubt, they do what
they did in my case. They say, "Will you put those answers in writing?"
Then a document is produced in which the answers are put in writing,
and that is filed away. That is sup-posed to be the end of it.
Of course, the Rapp-Coudert investigation, and
now latterly some of the things that you have put on the books, have
proved that those replies in writing were utterly and completely
invalid, and therefore I welcomed having a body that would have the
kind of talent at its disposal which the faculty committee does not,
that would take this other-than-professional conduct—because that is
what we are talking about—and expose it for what it is. I have the same
feeling with regard to this committee. Your committee has been, as far
as I am concerned, very helpful to us at Brooklyn College, because you
have helped us to remove some of the lags of that residue of 1939-40
that we had with ourselves all that time, which we couldn't do anything
about under the law. Now you have supplied the evidence that made it
possible to do it.
May I add something to that beyond that
Senator SMITH. Yes. Go ahead.
Dr. GIDEONSE. I think one of the reasons why
there is such a flurry in some circles about the operation of this
committee is that there is so little understanding of the nature of the
job done. Senator Jenner made a statement sometime in February—I
secured a copy of it just this afternoon, but I had read it—on February
24, a statement on the purpose of this committee. I had really to go to
work to get the text of that, because the newspapers didn't carry very
much of that. It was not flamboyant. It did not have anything to do
with witnesses. It was a statement of purpose.
I have watched your hearings, and I have read
this statement of purpose. I find them completely in accord with one
another, and I think if there were some varied reiteration of this
statement of purpose so that it would be understood that your committee
there said that you are not interested in anything that is negative to
academic freedom—that, as a matter of fact, you are interested in
protecting academic freedom; you are not interested in taking away the
responsibility for the local policing of the institutions throughout
the country–in fact, you are interested only in putting on the books
here testimony, and I am using my language now, restating it, testimony
about conspiratorial conduct, and you are then leaving it to the local
institution—which the Senator even described as the first line of
both in its faculty and in its board, to judge, to evaluate that
testimony and to act on it. You. went out of your way. to say that you
have no interest in doing anything about the content or the method of
teaching in the local institutions. You are not interfering with that.
You are concerned with this conspiratorial evidence and putting it on
the books, and leaving it to the local authorities to judge.
I know from my experience with our witnesses
that you have made it a practice in every case to sift this evidence in
private hearings before it comes to the public. You even warned me
about the naming of people that might not have had that benefit before
this public session started. I know from my own experience, too, that
you have always allowed everyone who wanted it to have a lawyer in the
private session as well as in the public one, if he wanted to have it.
I think if all of that were clearly understood
throughout the country, that the overwhelming majority of people
interested in the schools and colleges would say there is absolutely no
objection to that whatsoever. It is only because it is misunderstood.
You have this lunatic fringe on the left, to
use the Roosevelt term, and you have another one on the right. They are
both thoroughly propagandized, and they don't see what is going on in
the middle. This is something going down the main line right in the
middle. It is just a matter of putting evidence of unprofessional
conduct on the books for evaluation by the local authorities. I think
it would help if this committee reiterated that on several occasions.
Senator SMITH. Doctor, I judge from what you
have said up to now that you do not see any reason why the really sane
and level-headed members of the teaching profession should not
cooperate with this committee, and that they need have no fear of
encroachment upon academic freedom, so-called. Is that your feeling
today, after what you have observed about the committee's activities?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. I suppose you have noticed, as
I have, that there is a tendency on the part of some well-meaning
teachers who do not know the background of some of the movements around
them immediately to rush to the defense of any teacher who may be at
all involved in one of these hearings. Do you know any reason why the
teaching profession should not be willing to cooperate with us by the
setting up of some body of their own, a committee, to work with us and
help us to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in order
that we might present always fairly, suggestions that come to us with
respect to deviation from loyalty of any member of the teaching
Dr. GIDEONSE. The only reason that I know for
not doing that is an incomplete understanding, which is still very
widespread, not only of the nature of what you are doing but of the
nature of the problem itself. I think one has to keep in mind, Senator,
that what we are talking about, this very real evidence of a measure of
infiltration in some places, is something that is, after all, not
characteristic of the overwhelming. majority of American colleges. We
have a House committee report on the AYD, for instance, that would be
Senator SMITH. That is American Youth for
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is the Youth for Democracy
report. That is as good evidence as I know of the extent to which that
Communist transmission belt has successfully penetrated. As I remember
it, it enumerated at the time 60 chapters in 14 States, and 18,000
members. That, as far as I am concerned, is 60 chapters and 18,000
members too much, but that is what it was.
The number of colleges in the country is about 1,200. Sixty chapters is
5 percent. To be sure, they would be in the main, roughly speaking,
larger and rather important colleges. That would be true. But 5
percent. Eighteen thousand is less than 1 percent of the total
enrollment in the undergraduate colleges at the time.
It pays to look at that, because we are
dealing with something that 90 percent—in terms of my arithmetic a
moment ago, 95 percent—of American colleges don't know much about. They
therefore hear, "American Youth for Democracy." "American" is a good
word, "youth" is, and "democracy" is. It takes them a long while to
realize that all three of the words are lies: that it isn't American;
that it isn't youth—they are graybeards of the ideological sort, Union
Square; and that "democracy" means totalitarian. It takes a long time
for it to percolate. The average professor has experience which makes
him a little shy of controlling anybody's thinking. The academic
profession, after all, has dealt with efforts to curb critical thought,
to curb the unconventional and the unpopular. He knows that that very
often is just an effort to repress freedom of thought. He easily
confuses what is a deliberate effort to undercut freedom of thought
with what looks like an effort to stop liberals from having their
age-old right to think liberal thoughts.
Senator SMITH. Did you read Dr. Jones'
statement of policy, the president of Rutgers University?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I did, sir.
Senator SMITH. I thought he made it quite
clear, and I wondered if you agreed with him, that there is a
difference between an attempt to suppress freedom of thought and to
hold a man responsible for his overt activities.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir. I would say, sir, if I
thought this committee was concerned with being critical of people who
thought unpopular thoughts or concerned with the repression in general
of the essential function of colleges and universities, and that is to
maintain themselves as centers of independent thought, I would be the
first to be very critical, indeed, of this committee; and if I had an
idea that my board was trying to fire some teacher for that, it would
have to accept my resignation before it could act on the dismissals.
A college president does that, I would say, if
he is worth his salt at all, pretty much the whole year around, defends
teachers for saying and doing and thinking things that he would not say
or do or think himself. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. That
is the traditional formula. It also is the tolerance of the occasional
jackass; and the jackass even has the privilege of thinking that you
If you do not do that, you will find that your
own privileges will very soon be restricted.
But that is not the case, and what we have to
clarify in this particular issue is that here is a group that kidnaps
our vocabulary, walks off with our sacred words, "freedom,"
"democracy," "rights," and so on, and then pours into that particular
vocabulary totalitarianism, lying, untruth, perjury, whatever it is
that you can get away with.
They are not a minority standing up for their rights. They never even
pretend to have the courage to admit that they are what they are.
Senator SMITH. Doctor, do you feel that the
work of this committee has been helpful to you in eliminating communism
from your faculty and from your campus?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I would say, unqualifiedly,
Senator SMITH. Have you suspended or did you
suspend all the members of your faculty who refused to answer the
questions of the committee?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I believe in every single case
we did that, Senator.
Mr. MORRIS. The seven faculty members who have
appeared here are Harry Slochower, Sara Riedman, Melba Phillips,
Frederick Ewen, Murray Young, Elton Gustafson, and Joseph Bressler.
They are the seven members of your faculty who have appeared before
this Internal Security Subcommittee.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir. Each and every one of
those is one of the oldtimers that goes back to the Rapp-Coudert days.
Mr. MORRIS. Doctor, some of those have denied
to you and to various authorities, have they not, that they have ever
been members of the Communist Party? Are you acquainted with that?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir.
Mr. MORRIS. The newspaper clipping that I
alluded to before makes mention of the fact that Dr. Ewen and other
members of the faculty submitted affidavits. Part of the affidavit
I am not a Communist or member of the
Communist Party, and I have never been engaged in any subversive
activities at Brooklyn College or elsewhere.
Do you find it is the practice of these people
to deny when they are talking to you in their conversations, when you
question them about their activities, or even in this case in
affidavits, their Communist Party affiliations?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I admit the theoretical
possibility of meeting an honest Communist some day, but I have never
met one yet. They are all, in my experience, invariably and on
principle liars, willing to perjure themselves if they are in trouble.
Mr. MORRIS. Doctor, what I was trying to bring
out was, have they in fact denied to you being members of the Communist
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, several of those people
Mr. MORRIS. And yet when they appear before a
properly constituted tribunal such as this Senate Internal Security
Subcommittee, they have invoked their privilege under the fifth
amendment rather than put a denial on the record.
Dr. GIDEONSE. I can tell you about one of
these colleagues in some detail.
Mr. MORRIS. Will you do that, please?
Dr. GIDEONSE. He was a gentleman that I
thought probably had an affiliation in terms of what we knew about him
in the Rapp-Coudert days, and a faculty committee also had some
suspicion about this. He was a good scholar, and with his students an
The time came when he was ready for promotion
in terms of a comparison with other colleagues. Of course, the issue
arose, since you can't prove these doubts, should we not waive them?
Which is truly a very effective argument, and certainly in line with
the old American tradition that you must be proved innocent until--et
cetera. So a
faculty committee was set up to look into the merits of the case, and
in that case the faculty committee did a very thorough job for a
faculty committee that cannot do an investigation of the FBI sort. They
came to the conclusion, after much heart-searching, that this story
about this man was probably untrue, but they had these doubts. So they
made him write out, with his signature under it, very solemnly, all the
things that he had told the committee about never having been and not
now being a member of the party, and that was signed.
Then he was called a couple of years later—and
we promoted him, by the way.
Mr. MORRIS. Are you going to name this man for
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes. You have him.
Mr. MORRIS. Which one is that?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is Professor Slochower.
When this particular gentleman was called, he
came in to get advice from me, and I told him, "I don't see that you
have a problem. You have told the faculty committee and you have told
me that you were not and never have been. We have that from you in
writing. You assured all your colleagues. You have led them all to
believe that. All you have to do is go and tell that committee just
exactly what you have told us and what we have in writing from you."
His reply to me was, "If I do that there, they
will prove perjury on me."
That gives you a picture of the kind of morale
that we are dealing with. These are not issues that are worthy of being
considered by anyone who is really professionally interested in
academic freedom. This is the academic gutter.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Welker?
Senator WELKER. Dr. Gideonse, based upon your
experience as an educator, you know, as a matter of fact, that only a
small percentage of the teaching profession are members now or have
ever been members of the Communist Party ?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir.
Senator WELKER. So, based upon that
assumption, Doctor, and based upon your experience as an educator, I
want you to tell us why the Communists have made such an active move
and active effort to get into the school system throughout our land ?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I would say there are two main
reasons that I can see. One is that since the Communist Party is
obviously an instrument of a foreign power, Soviet Russia—I don't think
anyone has any illusions about that any more today—they are interested
in demoralizing our youth, because it would presumably be, in terms of
a conflict with Soviet Russia, of Russian interest to have a relatively
demoralized American youth. Anything you could therefore do on the
American campus to make American youngsters feel doubtful about the
sincerity of our profession, our belief in freedom and democracy and
equality, and so one, would help to demoralize American youngsters, and
therefore America, in terms of world conflict.
Secondly, the more obvious one, that I think
it is pretty clear that by the time someone has become 30 years old,
his sales resistance to the sort of thing the Communist Party has to
peddle has considerably increased. It is the late teenager—the maximum
recruiting period is probably around 19 or 20—who is at the peak of his
tation. In other words, they get them when they are at their best You
wouldn't want young people who didn't make mistakes of that sort, as a
matter of fact. That is the time when they are gushing with
enthusiastic devotion to something that is not immediately practical;
not immediately vocational. That is the period when you have a maximum
chance of inducing them to fall for the big, bold slogans that they
always hold out as part of the merchandising.
Not at that stage do they tell them what they
are really interested in. That comes later if they last in the party.
I think those are the 2 main reasons.
Senator WELKER. I appreciate that very much,
Doctor, you realize that every member of this
committee is a member of the bar in different jurisdictions in the
United States, and as such they have taken oaths to champion the cause
of the defenseless and the oppressed. I am particularly interested in
your remarks which favored some of the activity, and I think most of
the activity, of this committee.
Doctor, may I ask you this, then: What program
could you suggest to us as a committee that would help us as a
congressional committee to counteract communism which is penetrating
and influencing our young, faculty members in some instances, in our
universities and schools throughout this land?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I appreciate your asking that
question, and I would like to answer apart from some of the things that
I have said already, Senator, with regard to repeating and reiterating
and clarifying the purpose of the committee, because I think that is
one of the important things to get across to the country.
Senator WELKER. I am certain that that is
right, Doctor, and I would like to hear your testimony again on that.
Dr. GIDEONSE. The first part, then, would be
to get that across: that you are not interested in any way diminishing
the vital importance of the tradition of academic freedom. You are
interested in making it clear that there is a certain kind of
conspiratorial conduct which has nothing to do with freedom, which
itself is subversive of freedom, and you are making evidence about that
Then the second thing, I should think—here I
am venturing very much, but if I were sitting where you are sitting,
doing what you are doing, I think I would take the statement of
principles—and I brought it along, hoping that you might ask me a
question of this sort—the statement of principles on academic freedom
of 1940 of the American Association of University Professors. This is
the statement that they print from time to time in their bulletin. This
is the statement that has the agreement of the Association of American
Colleges. That is the top 700 colleges of the country. It has the
agreement of the Association of American Law Schools and, of course,
some, I think, 40,000 members of the academic teaching profession in
the American Association of University Professors. I reread it again
the other day from the standpoint of your committee.. It seems to me
there isn't a word in the statement that you are in conflict with.
You could, I think—I don't want you to say
"yes" to this now; you wouldn't, I think—but I think you might submit
this to your counsel and deliberate on it, and I think you would find
that it would be possible to say that this committee is based on those
principles. We are interested in what the American colleges said they
were interested in when they adopted this on behalf of all the boards
of trustees and were interested in what these 40,000 members of the
American Association of University Professors are interested in. But we
would like to have you notice that the key things concerning the
business we have before us here are not provided for in this document.
That is to say, there is nothing in this document about restraints on
freedom by organizations that teachers have joined themselves. All the
things that are in the traditional statement of academic freedom are
concerned with restraints imposed by college presidents, boards of
trustees, wicked materialistic interests of one sort or another.
Nothing is said about restraints of freedom imposed by organizations
that members of the staff join on their own initiative. That is the
problem you are concerned with. That is a problem that is not covered
in this statement.
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Gideonse, how long is that
Dr. GIDEONSE. It is the 1940 statement of
principles. It is about two pages of print, and then it is followed by
the 1925 statement of principles which is incorporated, which is
another page and a half.
The CHAIRMAN. I would like at this time to
make that a part of the record of this committee, and I am going to ask
our counsel to examine it and report to the committee what his
interpretation of it is, whether or not it fits in with our ideals and
(The material referred to follows:)
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND TENURE
STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES, 19401
EDITORIAL NOTE—Statement of principles
concerning academic freedom and tenure formulated by representatives of
the Association of American Colleges and of the American Association of
University Professors and agreed upon at a joint conference on November
8, 1940. This statement was endorsed by the Association of American
Colleges at its Annual Meeting on January 9, 1941, and is to be
presented for endorsement to the Annual Meeting of the American
Association of University Professors in December 1941.
The purpose of this statement is to promote
public understanding and support of academic freedom and tenure and
agreement upon procedures to assure them in colleges and universities.
Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and
not to further the interest of either the individual teacher2
or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free
search for truth and its free exposition.
1934 representatives of the American Association of University
Professors and of the Association of American Colleges have met in
joint conferences to discuss the problems and principles of academic
freedom and tenure. At a joint conference in March 1936 it was agreed
that the two Associations should undertake the task of formulating a
new statement of principles on academic freedom and tenure which should
ultimately replace the 1925 conference statement. Pursuant to this
agreement three such joint conferences were held on October 4, 1937,
January 22, 1938, and October 17-18, 1938. At the October 1938
conference a statement of principles was agreed upon. This statement
was endorsed by the Annual Meeting of the American Association of
University Professors on December 28, 1938, and has subsequently been
known as the 1938 statement of principles. The statement with several
amendments was endorsed by the Annual Meeting of the Association of
American Colleges on January 11, 1940. These amendments by the
Association of American colleges made another joint conference of
representatives of the two Associations necessary. Such a conference
was held in Washington, D. C., on November 8, 1940. At this conference
a consensus was again reached and the 1940 statement agreed upon. The
only real difference between the 1940 statement and the 1938 statement
is in the length of the probationary periods. set forth as representing
"acceptable academic practice." The probationary periods agreed upon in
the 1940 statement are one year longer than in the 1938 statement.
Please note the section of the 1940 statement under the heading
"Academic Tenure (a) (2), and compare with same section in the 1938
statement (February 1940 Bulletin, pp. 49–51).
2 The word "teacher" as
used in this document is understood to include
the investigator who is attached to an academic institution without
Academic freedom is essential to these
purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research
is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its
teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the
teacher 2 in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It
carries with it duties correlative with rights.
Tenure is a means to certain ends;
specifically; (1) :Freedom of teaching and research and of extra-mural
activities, and (2) A sufficient degree of economic security to make
the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and
economic security, hence tenure, are indispensable to the success of an
institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to
(a) The teacher is entitled to full freedom in
research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate
performance of his other academic duties; but research for pecuniary
return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of
(b) The teacher is entitled to freedom in the
classroom in discussing his subject, but he should be careful not to
introduce into his teaching controversial matter which has no relation
to his subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or
other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at
the time of the appointment.
(c) The college or university teacher is a
citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an
educational institution. When he speaks or writes as a citizen, he
should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but his
special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a man
of learning and an educational officer, he should remember that the
public may judge his profession and his institution by his utterances.
Hence he should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate
restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should
make every effort to indicate that he is not an institutional spokesman.
(a) After the expiration of a probationary
period teachers or investigators should have permanent or continuous
tenure, and their services should be terminated only for adequate
cause, except in the case of retirement for age or under extraordinary
circumstances because of financial exigencies.
In the interpretation of this principle it is
understood that the following represents acceptable academic practice:
(1) The precise terms and conditions of every
appointment should be stated in writing and be in the possession of
both institution and teacher before the appointment is consummated.
(2) Beginning with appointment to the rank of
full-time instructor or a higher rank, the probationary period should
not exceed seven years, including within this period full-time service
in all institutions of higher education ; but subject to the proviso
that when, after a term of probationary service of more than three
years in one or more institutions, a teacher is called to another
institution it may be agreed in writing that his new appointment is for
a probationary period of not more than four years, even though thereby
the person's total probationary period in the academic profession is
extended beyond the normal maximum of seven years. Notice should be
given at least one year prior to the expiration of the probationary
period, if the teacher is not to be continued in service after the
expiration of that period.
(3) During the probationary period a teacher
should have the academic freedom that all other members of the faculty
(4) Termination for cause of a continuous
appointment, or the dismissal for cause of a teacher previous to the
expiration of a term appointment, should, if possible, be considered by
both a faculty committee and the governing board of the institution. In
all cases where the facts are in dispute, the accused teacher should be
informed before the hearing in writing of the charges against him and
should have the opportunity to be heard in his own defense by all
bodies that pass judgment upon his case. He should be permitted to have
with him an adviser of his own choosing who may act as counsel. There
should be a full stenographic record of the hearing available to the
parties concerned. In the hearing of charges of incompetence the
testimony should include that of teachers and other scholars, either
from his own or from other institutions. Teachers on continuous
appointment who are dismissed for reasons not involving moral turpitude
should receive their salaries for at least a year from
the date of notification of dismissal whether or not they are continued
in their duties at the institution.
(5) Termination of a continuous appointment
because of financial exigency should be demonstrably bona fied.
CONFERENCE STATEMENT OF 1925
EDITORIAL NOTE.—Statement of principles
concerning academic freedom and tenure agreed upon at a conference of
representatives of the American Association of University Women, the
American Association of University Professors, the Association of
American Colleges, the Association of American Universities, the
Association of Governing Boards, the Association of Land-Grant
Colleges, the Association of Urban Universities, the National
Association of State Universities, and the American Council on
Education in 1925. This statement was endorsed by the Association of
American Colleges in 1925, the American Association of University
Professors in 1926, and reaffirmed by the Association of American
Colleges in 1935.
(a) A university or college may not place any
restraint upon the teacher's freedom in investigation, unless
restriction upon the amount of time devoted to it becomes necessary in
order to prevent undue interference with teaching duties.
(b) A university or college may not impose any
limitation upon the teacher's freedom in the exposition of his own
subject in the classroom or in addresses and publications outside the
college, except insofar as the necessity of adapting instruction to the
needs of immature students, or in the case of institutions of a
denominational or partisan character, specific stipulations in advance,
fully understood and accepted by both parties, limit the scope and
character of instruction.
(c) No teacher may claim as his right the privilege
of discussing in his class-room controversial topics outside of his own
field of study. The teacher is morally bound not to take advantage of
his position by introducing into the class-room provocative discussions
of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his study.
(d) A university or college should recognize
that the teacher in speaking and writing outside of the institution
upon subjects beyond the scope of his own field of study is entitled to
precisely the same freedom and is subject to the same responsibility as
attach to all other citizens. If the extramural utterances of a teacher
should be such as to raise grave doubts concerning his fitness for his
position, the question should in all cases be submitted to an
appropriate committee of the faculty of which he is a member. It should
be clearly understood that an institution assumes no responsibility for
views expressed by members of its staff; and teachers should, when
necessary, take pains to make it clear that they are expressing only
their personal opinions.
(a) The precise terms and expectations of
every appointment should be stated in writing and be in the possession
of both college and teacher.
(b) Termination of a temporary or a short-term
appointment should always be possible at the expiration of the term by
the mere act of giving timely notice of the desire to terminate. The
decision to terminate should always be taken, however, in conference
with the department concerned, and might well be subject to approval by
a faculty or council committee or by the faculty or council. It is
desirable that the question of appointments for the ensuing year be
taken up as early as possible. Notice of the decision to terminate
should be given in ample time to allow the teacher an opportunity to
secure a new position. The extreme limit for such notice should not be
less than three months before the expiration of the academic year. The
teacher who proposes to withdraw should also give notice in ample time
to enable the institution to make a new appointment.
(c) It is desirable that termination of a
permanent or long-term appointment for cause should regularly require
action by both faculty committee and the governing board of the
college. Exceptions to this rule may be necessary in cases of gross
immorality or treason, when the facts are admitted. In such cases
summary dismissal would naturally ensue. In eases where other offenses
are charged, and in all cases where the facts are in dispute, the
accused teacher should always have the opportunity to face his accusers
and to be heard
in his own defense by all bodies that pass judgment upon the case. In
the trial of charges of professional incompetence the testimony of
scholars in the same field, either from his own or from other
institutions, should always be taken. Dismissal for other reasons than
immorality or treason should not ordinarily take effect in less than a
year from the time the decision is reached.
(d) Termination of permanent or long-term
appointments because of financial exigencies should be sought only as a
last resort, after every effort has been made to meet the need in other
ways and to find for the teacher other employment in the institution.
Situations which make drastic retrenchment of this sort necessary
should preclude expansions of the staff at other points at the same
time, except in extraordinary circumstances.
STATEMENT CONCERNING RESIGNATIONS, 1929
The following statement was approved at the
1929 Annual Meeting of the American Association of University
Any provision in regard to notification of
resignation by a college teacher will naturally depend on the
conditions of tenure in the institution. If a college asserts and
exercises the right to dismiss, promote, or change salary at short
notice, or exercises the discretion implied by annual contracts, it
must expect that members of its staff will feel under no obligations
beyond the legal requirements of their contracts. If, on the other
hand, the institution undertakes to comply with the tenure
specifications approved by the Association of American Colleges, it
would seem appropriate for the members of the staff to act in
accordance with the following provision :
1. Notification of resignation by a college
teacher ought, in general, to be
early enough to obviate serious embarrassment to the institution, the
length of time necessarily varying with the circumstances of his
2. Subject to this general principle it would
seem appropriate that a professor or an associate professor should
ordinarily give not less than four months' notice and an assistant
professor or instructor not less than three months' notice.
3. In regard to offering appointments to men
in the service of other institutions, it is believed that an informal
inquiry as to whether a teacher would be willing to consider transfer
under specified conditions may be made at any time and without previous
consultation with his superiors, with the understanding, however, that
if a definite offer follows he will not accept it without giving such
notice as is indicated in the preceding provisions. He is at liberty to
ask his superior officers to reduce, or waive, the notification
requirements there specified, but he should be expected to conform to
their decision on these points:
4. Violation of these provisions may be
brought to the attention of the officers of the Association with the
possibility of subsequent publication in particular cases after the
facts are duly established.
(Reprinted from the Bulletin of the American
Association of University Professors for February 1941.)
Senator WELKER. One final question, Dr.
You realize, then, that this committee is not
interested in the thinking of liberals or the thinking of people who
might disagree with the thinking of any member of this committee. We
want them to have that freedom. In fact, our objective is to preserve
that freedom of thought.
Dr. GIDEONSE. I fully appreciate that. As I
said a little while earlier in the hearing, if I didn't have from your
hearings the strong feeling that you not only say that that is what you
believe, but that that is what you are doing, I would be myself
concerned about the kind of flurry of excitement that exists in some
quarters about this committee.. I see no such evidence at all, and I
appreciate that you are not concerned with the liberal, with the right
to be critical; with the right to hold unpopular views; that this is
not your interest at all. That you are concerned, as a matter of fact,
with protecting genuine freedom of thought against the temptation of
some few who
have sold their birthright as Americans for a mess of intellectual
pottage, to a foreign power.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, you have observed,
then, that this committee is interested only in people who are actually
formally connected with the American Communist Party and affiliated
with the international Communist organization, is that right?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir. That is all I have
seen that you have been concerned with so far.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator McCarran, do you have
any questions at this time?
Senator McCARRAN. I would like to have the
doctor tell us the first-hand experience he has had, those on his
faculty or those on his campus, that he had reason to believe were
Communists or had had Communist leanings.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Senator, the answer to that must
be very unexciting. If you have personal experience with someone who is
an honest liberal, who stands up and is flamboyantly a defender of
something that he believes in, knowing that a lot of other people
don't, then you have that kind of personal experience with that kind of
colleague. These people aren't that way. They are relatively—as you
watch them from the administrative angle in an institution like mine,
with a faculty of about 700, they are below the horizon of visibility.
They operate like moles underneath. You don't see them much. You don't
hear them much. It is rather rare that you encounter them directly out
in the open. The nature of that business is that of a disciplined
I know 1 or 2 cases to the contrary. A
gentleman that you had up here, and who now has been suspended, whose
name is Gustafson, who actually supervised the picket line in front of
my home that we were talking about a little while ago. When he was
questioned about it, of course, it was just an accident. He happened to
live in that part of the city. But he seemed to be living there all the
time and was constantly there keeping the picket line going and
marching, and things like that.
I remember one of the others who rather amused
me, because—his name was Ewen, also before your committee—in the days
of the Rapp-Coudert investigation he made a big speech when the
Rapp-Coudert investigation started, before a big audience in Brooklyn,
in which he announced, among other things, his opposition to the
Rapp-Coudert committee, of course, but he also announced that since the
committee had started, I—that is, the president of the college—had
clamped down the lid on the faculty and on the student body of Brooklyn
College. That was quoted in the press. I had clamped down the lid.
I wasn't aware of any lid or any clamping down
of any sort, so I called him in. I asked him what evidence there was
for the statement that I clamped down the lid.
He equivocated a bit here and there. He had no
evidence. There wasn't any. So he finally ended up by saying the
evidence was that I had called him in. In other words, the fact that I
asked him for evidence on a statement made the day before was evidence
for the truth of the statement made 24 hours earlier.
That kind of logic, of course, is rather
interesting. But otherwise, there are no colorful experiences. You have
to go at this sort of thing
by indirection, just as the argument, for instance, that they are
flamboyant distorters in class is false. The average member of the
Communist Party is altogether too careful to do that. No amount of
checking, if that would be desirable—and I would think it would be very
incompatible under the conditions of running a good college—you would
have to be a very learned and informed man indeed to know about the
twisting. Without any twisting of instruction, a disciplined crew of
this sort can give you concern.
To make it concrete, he may be teaching
English composition. He may say nothing about Korea or about American
foreign policy or Marxist ideology, but if he is teaching English
composition he knows enough about that class to know that those four
students there are the ones who are the most likely to be reachable by
a Communist line. All he needs to do, then, in his recruiting capacity,
is outside the class to give the names of those four to the student
organizer, and the job has been done. That has nothing to do with what
he did in his classroom as a teacher, you see.
The CHAIRMAN. Any further questions?
Senator McCARRAN. No further. questions.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Johnston, do you have
any questions at this time?
Senator JOHNSTON. Dr. Gideonse, you have
impressed me here today by your remarks and your testimony. I think you
realize fully the danger that we are facing here in the United States
at the present time, the threat of communism in the schools and
colleges. Do you. really believe that the professors in the colleges
that are opposing, say, the activities of this committee at the present
time, realize fully the danger that we are facing from communism in
schools and colleges?
Dr. GIDEONSE. No, Senator. I think the larger
number of the people. who are critical or concerned do not themselves
realize the nature of the problem. They confuse communism with
liberalism. They do not believe some of these things that I have been
discussing here as derived from a place that actually had rather a
strong dose of infiltration at that time, but which I think is very
well under control now. They don't believe those facts unless they are
really brought to them and they are shown the evidence of the details,
and then something breaks.
Senator JOHNSTON. The reason for that is
because, as you stated a few minutes ago, the Communists work in secret
all the time?
Dr. GIDEONSE. That is right.
Senator JOHNSTON. I believe you compared them
to a mole. Being from out in the country, I know a mole leaves a little
sign, and you can run them down. But do you not believe they are more
like termites than a mole?
Dr. GIDEONSE. They leave a little sign, too,
but I leave you the choice in biology that is appropriate. I have no
quarrel with it. The difficulty comes back to the same point, Senator.
If you could use the instrument of pitiless publicity by reiterating
and making available sworn testimony that shows the nature of this
conspiratorial conduct as distinct from the behavior of someone who
thinks unpopular. thoughts, who is merely unorthodox, who has ideas of
his own, then I think you will, as you clarify that, make it clear to
the country as a whole that this is something other than what they
thought it was.
Senator JOHNSTON. Doctor, what is the purpose
of the Communist Party, in your opinion, in infiltrating college
faculties and college campuses?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Purely and simply to serve the
ends of their political masters. They are an instrument of Russian
Senator McCARRAN. Mr. Chairman, I would like
to ask a question, if I mi ht.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Senator McCARRAN. I do not want to interfere
with the other Senators.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Watkins, do you have any
Senator WATKINS. I have no questions.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator McCarran.
Senator McCARRAN. Doctor, I have been very
much interested in our discussion here this afternoon. I wonder if it
is true in your experience that the American people fail to realize
that this Communist conspiracy does not work by and through the
majority. The majority of the people of Russia today are not for the
party. The minority, working continuously within the body politic, is
the thing that has brought Russia to its present condition and will
bring this country to that condition unless we are awakened to the
In other words, one Communist in a group, if
he is in a key position—and they always work for the key position—can
do more harm than the group can undo in a lifetime. Do you agree with
our theory in that regard?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes. I think it is like a rotten
apple in a barrel. We all know what happens to the barrel in no time.
I don't quite agree with you, Senator, that we
are in quite so great a danger now. I think this thing is on the run,
and we are in various ways smoking it out so effectively that I think
among young people it is losing its appeal with astounding rapidity. I
certainly do not feel unhappy about the position of American young
people today with regard to the temptations coming from that side. In
fact, I feel just the opposite. I feel happier about the present
condition than I have for a long time; and I am not just an
administrator, I also teach classes still as president of the college.
But you are quite right, they pretend to be
democrats, with a small "d." They pretend to be in favor of freedom,
and of course the literature of the party and its practice makes it
perfectly plain, if you study it a bit, that that is not the fact.
They talk about democratic centralism, by
which they mean that you take orders from the guy in the center. That
is what democratic centralism means.
They talk a great deal about membership in the
party, and that, I think, misleads a lot of American liberals who
think, "If I am a member of the Democratic Party, I do not necessarily
have to agree with Senator McCarran," which is true. "Therefore, if I
am a member of the Communist Party, I do not necessarily have to agree
with whatever the big Pooh-Bah says." That isn't so, because "member of
the Communist Party" means—and they always use this word—you are an
agent of the party, an "agent." In other words, you get orders and do
what the principal tells you to do.
That makes some liberals think that therefore,
you can be a member of the Communist Party and not be committed to a
lot of these bad things we have been talking about today, that you
reject. You can't. As far as there is evidence available-and there is
plenty of it on the books—a member of the party takes orders in
whatever it is the party wants to give him orders in and he can't even
get out without being punished.
I suppose your committee knows that it is
pretty well standard practice in the party—and this is one of the
things that always gives me great concern when I am dealing with young
people who have gotten involved in it—they make a special point of
taking a young person who is becoming a member of the party in the
sense of having been in for some months, who has gone through the.
first trials. Now they are perhaps going to charge him with
something a little more important. In order to avoid that he should be
shocked into dropping the party by the nature of the new assignment,
they make a special point of getting that person involved in something
nasty. That something nasty may have to do with taking moneys for
something that he would gladly have done for nothing; it may have
something to do with sex; with a large number of things. That is
documented, not for the public. No one is told about that except the
inner group. But the individual knows that somebody knows. So if the
time comes when the individual wants to break with the party, the
threat is held over his head, "This will be told on you."
That wholly evil force holds them within the
discipline. It is sometimes a thing that governs my behavior when I
know of some particular individual cases of this sort, because you have
an awareness of that particular hazard as one of the things that at the
age of 19 or 20 might wreck young life. You therefore have to approach
the matter with some delicacy, a delicacy which I wouldn't at all
advocate with a 50-year-old who is an old warhorse in party discipline.
Senator WATKINS. May I ask a question?
The CHAIRMAN. Had you finished, Senator
Senator McCARRAN. Just one more question.
Doctor, I am very much interested in your
optimism. I hope to share it. My experience over the past several years
does not give me quite as much optimism as you appear to have. The
experience,'"It can't happen here," is a thing that I am very much
That same expression was made in countries
today behind the iron curtain, and they were democracies, and their
people were as loyal and as patriotic as any people could be. I would
like to interest the American people in that expression, "It can't
happen here." It can happen here. I think you would join with me in
this thought; It could happen here. It can happen through a minority,
if you please, if during times when we are off guard, when we let down
our guard, when we lose the thought of the danger of this sinister
thing, this conspiracy, we allow them to take over in groups, in
colleges, in schools.
I have today in mind the fact that there is in
the schools of America in certain States of the Union, as disclosed
before another committee of which I happen to be a member, the
Appropriations Committee, a movement that is decidedly communistic in
line, and that is the so-called One World movement. I draw your
attention to that, Doctor, because you are in a position where you can
well afford to give it careful thought.
Dr. GIDEONSE. I personally, Senator, have
always been a little leary of some aspects of the federalist movement
business, which is one reason why, although I am very much interested
in the foreign policy of the United States, you will not find Harry
Gideonse's name away back in connection with that particular movement
or some aspects of it.
I would also say, however, that I am, from my
personal experience with a large number of its leaders in and around
New York City, convinced that that is not true of a very large group of
the most interested personnel in the movement, and that it cannot be
true that Communists have much to do with it today, because certainly
the country that is the most firm in rejecting qualified national
sovereignty in international relations is the Soviet Union. So while
there may be some fuzzy thinking, and I am certain there is, in that
movement, I can't believe, until I saw some evidence on it, that it is
fuzzy thinking of the Communist-inspired sort, because the Communist
Party must follow the Russian line, and the Russian line is very
clearly against widened, broadened international authority over
Senator McCARRAN. If you destroy patriotism,
Doctor, if you destroy patriotism in the United States—and that is
undoubtedly the teaching of this so-called One World movement—you will
have gone a long ways toward weakening our resistance to the Communist
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Watkins, do you have a
series of questions?
Senator WATKINS. I would like to inquire of
the Doctor: Have you had any instances where faculty members who have
been either members of the Communist, Party or going along that line,
have repented and recanted from their positions?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Oh, yes.
Senator WATKINS. What is your attitude with
respect to those men when they have once done that?
Dr. GIDEONSE. It is the attitude, Senator,
that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner, et cetera, than over
99 of the righteous. Compassion, I think, is supposed to be a part of
the American philosophy. For that matter, education is one of the
purposes of the college. So nothing happens to such an individual. If
he remains a live and resilient member of the faculty, he just moves
right along with the others.
You had one of those before you in this
committee, Professor Albaum. Right after that testimony, I heard—you
see, there is a lunatic fringe, Senator, on the right as well as on the
left. The lunatic fringe on the left thinks every Communist is just a
wee little liberal; and the lunatic fringe on the right thinks every
liberal is a Communist.
Senator WATKINS. I am speaking now of a
genuine Communist who has apparently repented.
Dr. GIDEONSE. They thought this man ought to
be fired, and they thought, to make it more serious, that this man
should not be promoted. He happened to be on my promotion list just at
the time your committee called him in. I put him through for promotion
on the stipulated time just about 6 weeks after he testified, and
nothing has happened, and I think the record is clear.
Senator WATKINS. Did you make any examination
or investigation to find out whether he actually has repented, or has
just appeared to?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I have known for years that he
was a trustworthy and reliable member of the staff.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse knows that he
appeared before this committee and gave full, frank, and candid
testimony, and in executive session even gave additional testimony
about his participation in the Communist organization, and therefore
did considerable damage to the Communist organization.
The CHAIRMAN. We need more of them.
Senator WATKINS. In other words, what I am
trying to find out is: The door is not closed to them if they do repent?
Dr. GIDEONSE. Not at all. I would say,
Senator, really, in handling this problem you could do nothing more
foolish than to punish people who now regret their former associations
and cooperate with you. One of the first things that you must make
crystal clear, if you want to find out about the content of a
conspiracy, is that you are going to protect all of those who now
regret their former conspiratorial conduct and cooperate with you.
Senator WATKINS. I would like to ask you about
publications on the campus of the Brooklyn College. Have you ever seen
any publications there that the Communist Party used for propaganda
Dr. GIDEONSE. Senator, their chief method of
indoctrinating the campus is an apparently unending flow of free
leaflets that are distributed at the gate. Year after year and
literally day after day, some 10,000 to 20,000 leaflets a day handed
out at the gate to the youngsters as they come on the campus.
Senator WATKINS. Can you name some of these
Dr. GIDEONSE. Oh, no. They are just
mimeographed literature or a printed folder about some specific issue.
They are not published regularly. This is a leaflet on, let's say, the
fees now charged, or it is a leaflet about Korea, or some speech that
somebody has made that they don't like, or something about the
President. Their campaign of misrepresentation, of course, is featured
by always putting the responsibility for everything they don't like on
one man, dramatize the President. In other words, every time the
faculty committee does something they don't like, the administration of
the college is blamed for it, and there is a leaflet at the gate.
This takes place now—by the way, one of the
things that made me more optimistic is that this particular flow of
literature—I used to call it the geyser of gush—at the gate has now
dried up. There doesn't seem to be the life in the show any longer. But
in the days when they were working us, when they were trying very hard
to retain hold on the campus and when they were losing it, this was the
Also, at times free Daily Workers would be
Senator WATKINS. I was going to ask you about
that, if you had received any of them. How were they distributed,
Dr. GIDEONSE. The standard distribution is
through the newsstands, of course, but there would be somebody standing
there and just giving them free.
Senator WATKINS. Would they be the same
Dr. GIDEONSE. No, I would think not.
Senator WATKINS. Could you identify any of
them with any of the subversive organizations?
Dr. GIDEONSE. No, sir. This happens out of the
jurisdiction of the college, outside the gate, and that is civil
liberties and police-protected. There is nothing you can do about that.
Senator WATKINS. Would there be any
distribution on the campus itself ?
Dr. GIDEONSE. No. That is contrary to all
Senator WATKINS. How did you enforce that
Dr. GIDEONSE. The student would be sent to the
dean's office, et cetera, but that is never necessary or rarely
Senator WATKINS. You have never had any
trouble in that respect?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I would say none to speak of,
considering the size of the institution.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Hendrickson, do you have
Senator HENDRICKSON. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Gideonse, this committee has heard a lot
lately about the subject of academic freedom. You have mentioned the
subject 2 or 3 times this afternoon.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes, sir.
Senator HENDRICKSON. Would you care to give
this committee a true definition of academic freedom as you understand
Dr. GIDEONSE. I have been a member of the
American Association of University Professors for some more than 20
years, and I was president of the University of Chicago chapter when I
was on the faculty there for two successive terms. I have served the
association on one of its most important investigating committees, on
the Yale University case. I think I know what the association means by
The association means by it that a scholar who
has acquired tenure, permanent appointment, has the right to freedom to
teach in the sense that he owes an explanation of what he does in that
capacity only to his peers, his colleagues in the profession. That if
there are any issues about that, the issues should arise before a
committee of professors who determine, in terms of their professional
understanding of his subject matter, whether or not he has sinned
against the professional rules.
I think that is the heart of it, and it is as
simple as that. In other words, it is an effort to protect the man who
thinks a thought or writes a thought in his publications that may be
provocative to the majority or dominant material or church groups in
the community against that kind of influence.
Senator HENDRICKSON. I yield to the Senator
The CHAIRMAN. You go ahead and finish your
questions, Senator Hendrickson. We are trying to conclude here.
Senator HENDRICKSON. Doctor, this question may
have been asked during my absence from the committee room. I would like
to ask if, in your opinion, an active Communist can be a good teacher
Dr. GIDEONSE. I would say, Senator, that if an
active Communist should ever come under my observation who openly
admitted that he was, it would be possible, because I think if you know
that the man has this loyalty, then you can allow for a lot of the
bias, and then you can get an interesting contribution to the diversity
of opinion that is partly the heart of good education. I have never
met, in academic life, a man who admitted that he was.
In other words, that theoretical exemption I
put it in because I can think of it as having some validity; but it
doesn't occur in practice. In practice they are always underneath, and
obviously a teacher who has underneath commitments of discipline to
someone in scholarly matters is by definition unacceptable as a
teacher. That is a kind of loyalty that is incompatible with a free
mind and a free community of scholars.
As I said, in my experience they are always
that. way. I have never met one out in the open. Theoretically, I can
think of that as. an exciting kind of intellectual experience if you
knew this man is that, "Now let's have the argument out in the open."
But you never get it.
Senator HENDRICKSON. I was glad to hear you
say, Doctor, that you agreed with Dr. Jones of Rutgers. I think he made
one of the finest statements on this subject that I have seen anywhere.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Watkins?
Senator WATKINS. I am. interested in the
affirmative side. What, if anything, is done in your college to teach
the dangers of communism, and to explain really what communism is?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I don't want any
misunderstanding about Brooklyn College as it now stands. I think this
situation, as things are now, is completely under control at Brooklyn
College. As a matter of fact, I think we have rather a healthy
reputation for being rather ruthless about things of. this sort. It is
only 2 years ago that we got blasted as being. a police state in which
fatal blows to freedom were struck, by the Civil Liberties Union,
because of the manner in which we handled some Communist infiltration
on our student paper. The situation as it stands is not a problem at
Brooklyn College at all, facultywise or studentwise.
Senator WATKINS. May I ask, do you think a
college could. properly have as part of its course to explain what
communism, is and what its dangers are?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I think any college worth its
salt probably deals with communism in a large number of courses. We
certainly do. We deal with it in Government courses, in economics
courses, in philosophy courses, wherever it is relevant. If you want to
understand the modern world—and that is presumably what a college is
concerned with—you must give your students some understanding of what
communism pretends to be and what it in fact is.
Senator WATKINS. That is why I am asking the
question. I am wondering what the college does to explain really what
communism is and what its objectives are.
Dr. GIDEONSE. Big slices of our courses in
Government and philosophy are concerned with Communist literature, the
description of the Soviet Government, its influence in foreign affairs,
and so on. I, in my own course, spend a quite considerable slice of
time on communism, and I would say that that is what a college today
It would be very silly indeed to try to fight
communism by keeping it out of the curriculum. You can't waterproof the
young American mind against the things that the newspaper every day
rains down on it all day long.
Senator WATKINS. I commend you for that point
of view, because I think there ought to be an objective approach to all
of these very problems, including communism.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Morris, do you have any
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, do faculty members
participate in the election of department heads at your college?
Dr. GIDEONSE. I think our bylaws, Mr. Morris,
governing the faculty and student organization are probably the most
democratic in the United States. Our faculty shares in administrative
responsibilities in the widest possible sense, and one of the ways in
which I have, I think, managed to overcome this difficulty in the
history of Brooklyn College is by always insisting that the policies
that were hammered out were the policies of the faculty committees.
Their effort is always to stick the president with the administration
of this. Invariably, decisions are faculty-committee decisions. That is
the way to win this fight. Give everybody a share in the experience so
they all see the facts.
It is a little hard, because most people would
like to be inert and do their own things and not be busy with it, but
have opinions about it, anyway. But our system is one of sharing.
Therefore, for instance, department chairmen are invariably based on
recommendations of the department. It is true the president has the
right to reject the nomination before it goes to the board, but I think
it is true that, for instance, of the 23 or 24 chairmen now at the
college, every single one was the choice of the department; not a
single one of them was based on a veto by the president.
Mr. MORRIS. Dr. Gideonse, at the peak of the
Communist strength in your college some years back, was the election of
chairmen of the different departments a political issue that Communists
were in fact engaging in?
Dr. GIDEONSE. At what time?
Mr. MORRIS. At the peak of the Communist
Dr. GIDEONSE. Yes. They were very much
interested in getting the bylaws revised in as extreme fashion as
possible so the staff would have the exclusive say-so. One of their
quarrels with me at the time I was being appointed—I was a professor at
Columbia University at the time—was that they apparently had heard that
I insisted unless I had, as president, some say over the matter, I was
not interested in accepting the offer. The bylaws were changed at the
time of my appointment so that this faculty participation became a
matter of recommendation to the president, which he had the right to
reject if he found reasons to state to the board for it, and, of
course, they saw in that the beginning of some reorientation.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, on behalf of the
committee, I want to thank you for appearing before this committee. You
have given us a great deal of information. I am sure it has been
beneficial to the committee and, I hope, to the public at large. Thank
you very much.
(Whereupon, at 3: 30 p. m., the hearing was
recessed, subject to call.)
(The following material was ordered printed in
the record by the chairman during a hearing on April 8, 1953.)
[Reprinted from the July 1948 Issue of the American magazine]
REDS ARE AFTER YOUR CHILD
(By Harry D. Gideonse, LL. D., president of Brooklyn
The man with whom I had lunch recently was
angry. It was about his daughter, who had just come home from college.
"Education has turned her into a Red," he
said. "She used to be a sensible kid, but now she's up in arms against
everything I've ever stood for. I wouldn't mind if education had merely
converted her to democratic socialism—or any American kind of ism—but
when it switches a youngster's allegiance from the United States to
Soviet Russia, something ought to be done about it."
That parent's story was one I had heard
before. Thousands of boys and girls are being exposed to Communism
every year in our schools and colleges, and a good many of them are
catching the virus. This is not because youth today is any more
gullible or radical than in the past, but because the Communist
leadership is shrewd enough to direct its best efforts toward our young
people, and clever and unscrupulous Communists have infiltrated our
educational system and are using every instrument at their command to
win and convert the minds of students to the doctrines of Marx and
While we are spending billions to wage the
cold war abroad and to help build a world in which there is a
reasonable chance to live in peace as well as in self-respect, our
young people are under remitting attack here at home. As my luncheon
companion said, we must do something about it.
The danger is a very real one. During the past
few years the Communists have lost ground on several fronts in this
country. Russia's international policy of ruthless aggression has
alienated many former sympathizers and fellow travelers. The labor
unions have shown an increasing tendency to expose Red conspirators and
expel them from positions of power. But in spite of setbacks on these
sectors, the directors of Communist strategy are still concentrating an
enormous effort on the youth front. They are throwing everything they
have into a drive to convert our young people to their doctrines
because they know, as Hitler did, that if they can get our youth of
today, they will have the nation tomorrow.
Nobody can tell you exactly bow many Red
teachers and students there are in our educational institutions.
Because of their false fronts, their conspiratorial methods, and their
invariable willingness to lie and commit perjury, it is often difficult
to detect a Communist professor, student, or student
organization. It can be stated with assurance, however, that
there are thousands of them in our educational system. In almost all
colleges of any size, and in many secondary schools as well, Communists
are working actively to undermine the students' faith in American
foreign policy, to intensify racial and religious friction among
Americans of diverse cultural backgrounds, and to promote the general
attitude that "Moscow is always right."
As president of Brooklyn College for the last
9 years, and before that as a member of the faculty of the University
of Chicago and of Columbia University, I have had the opportunity to
obtain a close-up view of Communist operations on the youth front. I
have seen how they recruit new members, how they manipulate innocent
organizations for their purposes, how they attempt to penetrate every
field of student activity and student thought. But when I speak of
their operations on a national scale I am not relying upon my own
Attorney General Tom C. Clark recently named a
lengthy list of civic and educational organizations which he described
as hotbeds of Communism, and reported that the Reds are not confining
their efforts to college students. "The Federal Bureau of
Investigation," he said, "has learned that the Communists have started
a campaign to recruit our children to their ideology—the younger they
are, the better."
The United States Office of Education has also
frankly acknowledged the growing menace. Admitting the grave challenge
of Communism in our schools, this Federal agency recently announced
plans to foster the teaching of democratic concepts and values on a
nation-wide scale, and to inaugurate studies which will show how
undemocratic forces are trying to infiltrate our institutions.
At the same time, the House Un-American
Activities Committee has issued a report describing the widespread
activities of a Communist youth organization . which masquerades under
the fine-sounding name of American Youth for Democracy. This
organization, which was formed in 1943 as a direct successor to the
former Young Communist League, now has chapters in 60 colleges in 14
states and a total membership of more than 16,000.
The AYD is manipulated by shrewd and specially
trained organizers operating behind the scenes, according to the House
Committee's report, and behind a veil of high-sounding slogans it
follows the Trojan Horse policy of the Communist International with all
of its characteristic underhanded and devious ability to
exploit the idealism and inexperience of young people. While it insists
that it is American and democratic, I do not know of a single occasion
on which its policies were not in strict accord with the "party line"
laid down by Moscow.
But the AYD is only one of the national
student organizations through which Communism is stalking the campuses.
The Young Progressive Citizens of America, which is an offshoot of the
Communist-dominated Progressive Citizens of America, claims members at
65 colleges scattered from Connecticut to California. During the past
year we have witnessed the unfolding of a concerted international and
national plan to capture control of the nation's largest student group,
the National Student Association.
The effort failed miserably. The spotlight was
put on the comrades and on their false whiskers, everyone was alert and
informed, and in the light of al really intelligent majority which did
not allow itself to be shaken by disruptive tactics, the National
Student Association was established as a genuinely national and
In the high schools and elementary schools
organized subversive activity is also widespread, although the
intensity of the effort varies enormously from one area to another. In
a number of states public investigations have revealed disturbing
piecemeal evidence, but it is too frequently true that the methods of
investigation are amateurish and un-American in the sense that the true
evidence for the charges is not revealed, or that no opportunity is
given for a reply by the teachers who are accused.
It is too easy to accuse a teacher or a
textbook of "Communism" because, say, a Federal control of money and
banking is urged. By such a standard Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson
were both Communists, and the preservation of the American system means
the preservation of the opportunity for continuous public criticism and
modification of our institutions. The difference between constitutional
democracy and totalitarianism is precisely the provision in the former
for orderly legal methods of criticism and change which are protected
by the Government itself.
Our objection to the Stalinists is not an
objection to social change, but an objection to conspiratorial and
camouflaged activity in which lies and perjured testimony are regarded
as acceptable methods of achieving Moscow's purposes.
The danger is real, but our methods should be
in accordance with our own rules of the game. A good model was set by
the New York State Legislative Investigation (the so-called
Rapp-Coudert Committee), although it was active for only a limited
period of time. Its reports are full of well-substantiated data and
incidents. They tell—one example among many—of a woman teacher in one
New York school who testified she was subjected to a virtual reign of
terror by students and faculty members alike when she refused to
subscribe to Communist views. Among other things, she found the Soviet
emblem of hammer and sickle drawn on the blackboard in every classroom.
At another high school where the former YCL
had fomented riotous disorders, a teen-age Red told the principal he
might find it necessary to kill him in the event violence was necessary
to overthrow the Government. The statement was flamboyant and puerile,
of course, but it illustrates the sort of ideas with which youngsters
are being indoctrinated in some schools.
Now, the great question is: Why do so many American students fall for
the Red line? They enjoy under our system greater advantages than were
ever offered to any previous generation of youth. How can they swallow
the totalitarian philosophy which would deprive them of most of these
I have been asked that question many times,
and there is no one simple answer. It lies partly in the nature of
youth itself, which is eternally in revolt against adult authority, but
mostly in the ingenious and often brilliant techniques which are
employed by Red organizers and Red fronters. Communists have no ethics
in our sense of the word ; they subordinate morality to the interests
of what they call "the class struggle," and there is no device they
will not use to take advantage of the idealism, inexperience, and
desire-to-join which characterize most boys and girls during and
immediately after adolescence. They have a thorough understanding of
young people and know just how to go about winning their sympathies,
and they know how to exploit the weaknesses of our educational
I have observed this often during the first
days of a college term. Our high schools and colleges have grown with
unprecedented speed in the last decades. The public complains about the
cost, but the facts are that we are almost everywhere engaged in a
diluted mass education in which principals and presidents
preside over gigantic institutions, and classes are so large that
individual contact becomes accidental and impersonal. The majority of
new students feel a bit lonely and insecure after they matriculate.
They want desperately to make friends and really "belong" in their new
environment. Many older students ignore them in a somewhat superior
manner, but not the Communists. Since they have a line of goods to
sell, they are right on hand to extend their friendship.
This is true not only in huge metropolitan
institutions like Brooklyn College, but throughout the country. At
dozens of colleges last year the Young Progressive Citizens of America
set up reception desks at registration time where they warmly welcomed
freshmen on their first day at school. They do not preach political
propaganda in their first contacts, but they offer the new students
advice on the best places to eat and to get their laundry done ; they
invite them to meetings or social affairs, and make each newcomer feel
that he has at last found a group which is warmly interested in his
individual and social welfare.
At some schools where Red groups are not
chartered or where the school itself has little or no recreational
space, the Red organizers rent halls or empty stores off the campus for
meeting places or hangouts and invite prospective members there. In
every case they flatter the new student's ego, make him feel that he is
an intellectual among intellectuals, and that he ought to join their
fine liberal group. When he does join he doesn't realize, in one case
out of a hundred, that he is getting into an organization which is
actually directed by the Kremlin. Indoctrination comes later, when
personal contacts have been established and a relationship of
confidence has been built up.
As a part of the social approach, popular jazz
bands and big-name speakers are often used by the Communists to attract
students to their parties or mass meetings. In New York colleges, "name
bands" and popular authors have been used several times as such bait.
Nor do the Reds hesitate to use sex appeal to
win recruits. If a boy is wavering about joining one of their groups
and is worth some special effort because of qualities of leadership, a
pretty girl member may be assigned to help him make up his mind. Or a
handsome youth may suddenly take an emotional interest in a girl the
Communists want to convince. This may sound a bit lurid to some people
who are not familiar with the facts, but I have seen such tactics used
many times in different places.
For example, a Communist group at an Ohio
college recently tried very hard to bring into its ranks a young
liberal who was a Phi Beta Kappa and an officer of the student council.
When ideological arguments failed, he was invited to a house off the
campus where drinks were served lavishly. He was then told he could
bring a girl to the house any time he wished to, provided he joined the
group. If he didn't happen to know any girls without bourgeois notions
of morality, he could be introduced to one. After the lad has yielded
to the temptation, they have a scandal story to scare him into
conformity if he should prove to be obstreperous on some subsequent
occasion. I cite this case only because it indicates the lengths to
which Communists will go to enlist the bright youngsters they want.
Perhaps the most effective tactic they employ,
however, is their practice of espousing popular campus causes and
protesting militantly against anything which they can make appear as
unfair practice, student exploitation, or discrimination. Since no
school is perfect—and the morale of teaching staffs is not so high as
it might be, because of inadequate salaries—they not infrequently hit
upon conditions which really should be remedied and, when their cause
has any merit, many high-minded students invariably join hands with
This policy fits in perfectly, of course, with
the general Communist strategy of creating discontent in the masses and
fomenting constant revolt against the status quo. Revolution can only
be accomplished through class struggle, they are taught, and if there
is no class struggle on a campus they start one by finding some
grievance, real or imagined, to agitate about.
I have seen them do this over and over again. If the sandwiches at a
college cafeteria are a bit thinner than those sold elsewhere, if the
price of milk includes a service charge, if the college bookstore seems
to be making a profit, if a student, teacher, or janitor appears to be
the victim of an unfair deal, the Reds can be counted on to stir up the
whole school about it, call mass meetings, circulate pamphlets, and
form picket lines.
Another basic tactic which Red student
organizers pursue everywhere is that of penetrating non-Communist
campus organizations which they feel they can manipulate or use as a
"front of innocents." These may include student councils,
Greek-letter societies, local Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A. groups, and
even church clubs. Communists scorn religion, of course, as "opium for
the masses," but since deceit and subterfuge are their principal tools,
they do not hesitate to profess belief in God if it will serve their
Sometimes special Red fronts are organized to
attract a whole new group of innocent recruits for subsequent intensive
cultivation. Within the last year I have personally observed a
song-and-mandolin and a folk-and-square-dance group which were set up
by ardent fellow travelers as devices with which to secure intimate
contact with promising new human material.
Right now, the AYD and other Red groups on the
nation's campuses are using the "Students-for-Wallace" clubs as their
main front of innocents. From coast to coast they are organizing or
infiltrating these clubs, recruiting members for them, and working to
control them. This has its amusing side, because the Young Communist
League, which fathered AYD, denounced Henry Wallace bitterly only a few
years ago as an imperialist and a warmonger. Few of today's crop of
students know that, however, and there is no question that many of
those who merely want to vote for Walace for President will be used or
manipulated as Communist pawns.
The great majority of young people who are
drawn into Communist organizations or front groups by various
subterfuges, never become actual members of the Communist Party. Most
of them drop out eventually when they are required to study and embrace
the tenets of Marxism-Leninism, but there is always a certain
percentage who develop into dyed-in-the-wool Reds.
I have noticed that most of these come from
either underprivileged or over-privileged homes. It is easier to
understand why a child of the slums might rebel against society than it
is to understand why one from a wealthy family should turn to
Communism. But many do, including boys and girls in exclusive private
colleges, and I believe the answer lies in the fact that the rich
student often suffers from a sense of guilt because he has everything,
or seeks to attract attention to himself because he has been either
neglected or overly dominated at home by his successful parents.
Whatever the reason, the underprivileged and
the wealthy produce most of the red-hot Reds on the campus, and while
they comprise but a small minority at most colleges, they can create
disturbances out of all proportion to their numbers. I have seen this
A few years ago, just before Hitler invaded
Russia and broke his treaty with Stalin which brought on the second
World War, the chapter at Brooklyn College of the American Student
Union, like other Communist groups throughout America, conducted a
militant campaign against military preparedness. A dozen or so ASU
members distributed literature at the gates of the college to thousands
of students, inciting them to "refuse to serve as cannon fodder for the
capitalist bosses." Then, at an hour they had set for a mass
demonstration, these conspirators ran through the college corridors
blowing police whistles and flinging open classroom doors. Shouting
like wild men, they ordered everybody to stop work at once and join in
a peace strike. A mere handful of well-organized Reds succeeded in
throwing the whole college into an uproar.
When Brooklyn College's faculty suspended the
ASU charter for its misbehavior, reprisals were taken against me. My
home was picketed for days by a group of party stalwarts—as far as we
could determine mostly from the city rather than from the college—who
wore gas masks and frightened my small children, and who proudly wore
"The Yanks are NOT coming" buttons. My home telephone rang all night,
and bogus telegrams were delivered announcing that deaths had occurred
in my family. I soon found ways of protecting myself from these
nuisances, but leftist papers denounced me nationally as a Red-baiter.
Even some faculty members seemed to regard me
as a Fascist reactionary, although it helped some to observe that
President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were simultaneously denounced
as "imperialist warmongers." The party line changed, of course, as soon
as Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union.
Communist professors and teachers play an
important part, of course, in the broad-scale campaign to convert our
youth to Stalinism. In some cases, they subtly disseminate propaganda
in their classrooms. In others, they cooperate closely with student
organizers. If a Red teacher discovers that one of his students has
somewhat radical leanings, for example, he may suggest that he attend
some meetings of the local AYD chapter. At the same time, he may
quietly tip off the officers of the chapter that the boy appears to be
ripe for serious Communist indoctrination.
Soon after I took my present post at Brooklyn
College, a legislative investigation was initiated to determine whether
there were subversive activities in the public school system of New
York City. Since there is always a fear that such an inquiry will curb
or punish the legitimate desire of any teacher to exercise his normal
political rights as a citizen of this country, I wanted to establish
clearly for our own faculty that I would personally co-operate
vigorously with the State's effort to curb genuinely subversive or
unprofessional activities, but that I had no sympathy whatsoever with
the view that a teacher is in some way deprived of some of the
political and civil rights which every American enjoys as part of his
birthright under our Constitution.
I called a staff meeting to invite any teacher
who was willing to admit open and aboveboard membership in the
Communist Party to consult me, and I promised that I would use the full
force of my position to protect his rights as a citizen to exercise any
political option that was open to any other citizen. I made it very
clear that I would not myself knowingly endorse the appointment of a
Stalinist or a Bundist, but that the legitimate civil rights of any
present member of the staff would be protected. No one spoke up,
although three gentlemen later resigned under charges of conspiratorial
and subversive conduct without even taking advantage of their legal
right to a public trial in which they could have been represented by
their own attorney.
The reason is, of course, obvious. The
Communists and their fellow travelers always discuss these cases as if
they involved an infringement of civil or intellectual liberties. In
fact, these folks are in trouble because they lie and perjure
themselves, and they engage in underhanded methods which cannot be
tolerated in any member of a professional group. To a good Stalinist,
"truth" and "honor" are—as Marx taught—mere "bourgeois prejudices"
or—as Lenin said—"morality is subordinated to the interests of the
class struggle" but, to a good American, anyone who regards "truth" as
dispensable in the pursuit of his political or professional purpose is
unfit to teach,.
Open Communist propaganda in the classroom is
exceedingly rare. The real hazards are far more subtle and indirect.
But in our large and impersonal modern schools and colleges
possibilities exist, and until we have more liberal budgets to staff
our educational institutions more adequately the comrades will seek to
exploit them. The New York State Legislative Investigation reports a
book called, Education and the Social Conflict, in which its author,
Howard David Langford, Ph. D., tells English teachers how to use
students' book reviews "as vehicles for clarifying the issues between
the workers and the ruling classes as reflected in the books reviewed."
He slyly advises science teachers not to put as much emphasis on the
design and operation of the dynamo, telephone, airplane, and radio as
he does on the "roles these instruments have played in uniting workers
within each country and throughout the world."
Even geography can be given a Red slant. When
discussing the products of various countries, the teacher is counseled
to talk about "the grinding poverty of millions—the peasants planting
rice in China, Cubans living on next to nothing amid endless fields of
sugarcane, Alabama sharecroppers, Pennsylvania coal miners, makers of
cheap garments in New York sweatshops."
Nobody known how many teachers in the nation's
little red schoolhouses are following Dr. Langford's handy manual, or
others similar to it. * * *
What can we do about this clever, versatile,
and well-organized Communist program which is threatening youth on so
many fronts? Well, there is one thing we must not do : We must not give
way to the hysteria which characterizes those conservative and
reactionary elements who would combat the totalitarian left by
suspending civil rights or curtailing liberal thought in this country.
The essential characteristic of the free institutions which we must
defend is that they protect the right to differ from the majority, if
the minority views are honestly and openly defended. Totalitarians
repress all deviations from party orthodoxy, and we should, above all,
be careful not to become totalitarians ourselves in our efforts to
defend our system against totalitarianism.
There are, I think, two methods of approach
which will effectively protect our interests. First of all, we should
remember that Woodrow Wilson's "pitiless publicity" is an old and tried
device in a free society's tool chest. No one need fear the conclusions
of our young people if the argument is "out in the open," with the true
labels and the real supporters visible for all observers. Secondly, we
should remember that Communist infiltration is often successful because
there are weaknesses in our treatment of young people which are
cleverly exploited by the Communists and fellow-traveler fronts. If we
find effective remedies for these
soft spots, the most attractive and insidious propaganda will fall on
How can we apply the old remedy of pitiless
publicity to this problem? Local machinery will not suffice, because we
are dealing with a national and international adversary. While I
disapprove of some of the methods which have been employed by the House
Committee on Un-American Activities, such public investigative bodies
are undoubtedly necessary, and I have no doubt that state agencies can
effectively supplement them.
We should avoid smear tactics which involve
people in public hearings with hearsay testimony without offering them
the traditional American opportunity of a day in court in which they
can offer their reply; but in coping with this problem we need the
public agency with sufficient funds to make an informed and
well-documented investigation and with full legal powers to force the
facts out into the open.
If such agencies treat testimony about a play
that is "pessimistic" as evidence of Communism, they merely encourage
sane and intelligent observers to think that the "Red scare" is only a
conservative congressman's nightmare; but if the testimony is carefully
sifted in advance and the inquiry focuses on substantial witnesses who
expose genuinely conspiratorial and camouflaged activity, the mere
publication of the facts is a powerful disinfectant, especially if the
procedure includes the opportunity to reply under the same safeguards
of tested and sworn testimony.
Public investigating bodies should always
include liberal and progressive citizens or legislators to ensure
against a confusion of liberal and progressive ideas with genuinely
totalitarian practices. If we tag every unconventional reform idea with
the "Red" label, the word will lose its value for identifying the real
thing, and there is nothing the Stalinists like better than a smear
campaign which calls every progressive or unorthodox idea "Communist."
When that happens, they can really effectively argue that "Red-baiting"
is nothing but a conservative attempt to protect the status quo and to
prevent change of any kind.
The New York State Legislative
Investigation—the so-called Rapp-Coudert inquiry—was a model of
effective and constructive public service, and it might well serve as
an example for other states and even for the House Committee.
The aim should be to smoke out the facts and
to expose false fronts and false whiskers. At Brooklyn College we
refused a charter to the American Youth for Democracy because it is
neither "American" nor "democratic," and because its officers lied to
our faculty committee about their origin and their affiliations. But we
chartered the Karl Marx Society, which is a group that openly admits it
is interested in the study of Marxist ideas in art, literature, and
No innocents are trapped when the aims and
purposes are openly avowed, and Karl Marx's ideas are obviously a
significant part of the contemporary world with which a contemporary
student or scholar should be familiar. Most of us in America have no
fear at all of the test of truth in open argument with Stalinists, but
we must be deeply concerned with the consequences of protecting liars
and perjurers with civil liberties and academic freedom which were
intended as a safeguard for honest minority points of view held in open
competition with conflicting ideas.
How can we cope with the weaknesses in our
educational system which help to give the Communists their opportunity
to reach our young people?
For one thing, we need to face the fact that,
while we offer young people more educational advantages than ever
before, we have put restrictions on many of the job opportunities which
were formerly open to them. For example, it is not nearly so easy for a
young man today to become a printer or an electrician, a doctor or a
teacher, as it was for his father or grandfather. Through trade unions,
professional associations, licensing agencies, and other devices, older
people have built higher and higher walls around their own security. If
we want to keep our young people from feeling frustrated and
rebellions, we can do a great deal through public and educational
agencies to lower some of these walls and to restore opportunity.
For another thing, we would do well to give a
good, critical look at the financial provisions for American education.
Teaching salaries have not kept pace with the rising cost of living.
The average professor in the country's leading 300 colleges receives a
salary that is considerably lower than the pay of most wworkers in the
building trades in New York City, and many New York truck drivers
receive salaries that are higher than department chairmen's salaries in
a large number of universities. In the circumstances, able and
personally effective teachers are
leaving the campus for more remunerative work, and staff morale is low.
Every generation has the type of youth it deserves, and a country which
is niggardly in its provisions for teachers and scholars should not be
surprised if the chickens come home to roost.
We can also safeguard ourselves against
Communist infiltration by proper measures to protect the country
against some of the evil by-products of mass education. Schools and
colleges should have ample social and recreational staffs and
facilities. A school or a college should be a morally healthy,
intellectually exciting, and socially hospitable environment. Today. it
is often a crowded factory with standardized impersonal procedures
geared to the needs of the mediocre and second-rate. Students will be
better citizens .if they enjoy their years in school, and it is nothing
less than a scandal that ideological pressure groups should often be
able to offer more to our young people than our own educational
This is not merely a question of numbers and
of adequate space, but a matter of representative speakers, artists,
and creative talent which can enrich an educational program far beyond
its small additional cost, and which are frequently available to the
fellow travelers when comparable talent. cannot be secured by the
schools. or colleges because of budgetary limitations.
Effective protection action is essential. We
are in a war of ideas—and, in old-fashioned language, this is a
struggle for the soul of our youth.
proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 94, No. 2,
CHANGING ISSUES IN ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN THE
UNITED STATES TODAY
By Harry D. Gideonse, President, Brooklyn College
The changing issues in academic freedom
discussed in this paper are related to three new developments: (A) the
problem of teachers who accept political discipline in matters of
science and scientific opinion, (B) the impact on scholarly activities
of federal security regulations especially in the field of the physical
sciences, and (C) the changing sources of academic financial
POLITICAL DISCIPLINE IN MATTERS OF
As a by-product of the so-called "cold war"
the problems that arise in connection with teachers who accept
Communist Party discipline have immediate urgency. The present
discussion is conducted as we stand on a quicksand of verbal, as well
as factual, confusion in public opinion itself and even in academic
The changing issues in academic freedom are
perhaps most easily characterized with the bald statement that several
professors at the University of Washington have recently been dismissed
on the ground that they were guilty as members of the Communist Party
of violating the principles of academic, freedom and therefore of
"conduct unbecoming a teacher."1
formulations of the principles of academic freedom by the American
Association of University Professors contemplated no such development.
Neither the 1925 nor the 1940 "statement of principles"2
foresaw a hazard to academic freedom in the ideological commitments of
the teachers themselves. They speak of the university or the college as
the party that "may not place any restraint upon the teacher's freedom
of investigation" or "impose any limitation upon the teacher's freedom
in the exposition of his own subject in the classroom or in addresses
and publications outside the college." It is true that the 1940
"statement of principles" postulates that the "common good" of
institutions of higher learning depends "upon the free search for truth
and its free exposition," and recent experience has demonstrated with
tragic emphasis that political organizations as well as the federal
government itself may place more effective restraints or limitations
upon the teacher's freedom of investigation or his freedom of
exposition that were ever contemplated by colleges or universities
The struggle for academic freedom takes a new
form as the intellectual, ideological, and cultural landscape changes.
The essence of the tradition must be restated and redefined by every
generation in the light of current facts, current
and academic freedom, the record of the tenure cases at the
University of Washington, Seattle, Univ. of Washington Press, 1949.
in Bull. Amer. Assoc. Univ. Prof. 35 (1) : 66-72, 1949.
challenges, and current abuses: Those who live in an atmosphere that is
comparatively static will abide by the received verbal formulations.
Those who live in a climate of opinion deeply affected by new
developments—such as, say, in the modern scene, a university with a
real experience with communist infiltration or a large number of
teachers in the physical sciences affected by federal security
regulations—will find little help in a parrot-like repetition of the
old words and phrases. If they are to be a living chart—and not an
empty verbal shell covering an alien content—their meaning must be
hammered out anew on the anvil of experience. In such a period of
restatement and redefinition, it is inevitable that there will be an
interval of confusion and even chaos arising from the differences in
thought and emotion evoked by old and new verbal symbols, and only a
process of sharing and analyzing the new experience will contribute to
a basic clarification of the issues involved.3
This conviction leads me to introduce specific
illustrations throughout this discussion since a great deal of the heat
of the contemporary debate tends to subside once we are all agreed upon
the actual data of contemporary experience. Too many college teachers
without any actual experience with communist infiltration continue to
discuss genuine cases of identification with party discipline as if
they were the usual case of describing a non-conformist or philosophic
Marxist as a "red" or a "communist," and nothing in this paper is
designed to obscure the fact that there are today, no doubt, plenty of
orthodox academic freedom issues in which a teacher is dismissed
because he addresses a Wallace-for-President meeting, or in which a
trustee interested in dairy farming argues that a campus supporter of
the removal of fiscal handicaps for oleomargarine Is "promoting
communism." These are vulgar cases of reactionary constraint and they
should be resisted with all the vigor the academic profession can
mobilize. It is precisely the purpose of this paper, however, to argue
that we are likely to promote a tidal wave of such misinformed efforts
to curb freedom of thought and teaching if we do not vigorously clarify
the real meaning of academic freedom in a period when modern
totalitarianism itself regards every academic discipline as a potential
tool in the capture of power. It is not argued that the number of
communists in academic life is so large that they constitute a serious
hazard in themselves, but it is argued that the effort to protect
teachers who accept outside dictation in their academic activities with
academic freedom strengthens the appeal of conventional enemies of
intellectual freedom and diminishes the resilience with which the
normal sources of defense respond to their challenge. Putting academic
freedom to the greatest possible strain is not the most effective
method of preserving it.
The function of a university is the discovery
and the dissemination of the truth in all branches of learning and as
such the freedom of the academic teacher is essential to the
preservation of free society itself. As a social tradition academic
freedom is morally anchored in this dedication to truth. For the
academic teacher—says Paulsen in a classic passage of The German
Universities and University Study—"there can be no prescribed and no
proscribed thoughts." A member of the Communist Party, however, accepts
party discipline in intellectual as well as political matters. His
views are not the fruit of an individual scholar's rational analysis of
experience. They are prescribed as well as proscribed. They are a
matter of the party's iron discipline, changing every day with the
shifts in the party line, and his membership will cease promptly if he
deviates in any essential point. It is necessary to stress that this is
not a matter of the individual's political beliefs but a question of
deliberate action through the acceptance of disciplined submission to
the dictation of the party. There are no part-time or casual members of
the party. They are all pledged to active participation in the vigilant
and firm defense of the party line to insure the triumph of Soviet
power in the United States. An article on the role of the teacher in
The Communist (May 1937) says:
"Communist teachers must take advantage of
their positions, without exposing themselves, to give their students to
the best of their ability working-class edu-
3 There has
been considerable evidence of professional rethinking of the
fundamentals In current literature. I single out as exceptionally
useful: Sidney Hook, Should communists be permitted to teach? The New
York Times Magazine, February 22, 1949 ; Alexander Meiklejohn, Should
communists be allowed to teach? The New York Times Magazine, March 27,
1949; John L. Childs, Communists and the right to teach, The Nation (N.
Y.), February 26, 1949; Sidney Hook, What shall we do about communist
teachers? The Saturday Evening Post, September 10, 1949 ; Sidney Hook,
Academic integrity and academic freedom, Commentary, October 1949 ; and
a symposium on Communism and academic freedom in The American scholar,
Summer, 1949, with contributions by President Raymond B. Allen and
three dismissed, members of his faculty, as well as articles by Arthur
O. Lovejoy, Max Lerner, Helen Lynd, and T. V. Smith.
cation. . Only when teachers have really mastered Marxism-Leninism will
they be able skillfully to inject it into their teaching at the least
risk of exposure and at the same time conduct struggles around the
schools in a truly Bolshevik manner."
In commenting on this paragraph Arthur O.
Lovejoy, one of the founders of the American Association of University
Professors, says in The American Scholar:
"In short, a Communist teacher in a school or
university may be expected to be in fact, first and last and all the
time, a secret propagandist and an indefatigable intriguer in the
interest of the one cause to which he is devoted. Such persons are
hardly ideal members of teaching bodies." 4
These things are true not merely of the
American communist. They are characteristic of the entire movement
throughout the world. The following paragraph from a recent essay by
Harold Laski may serve as a succinct summary by an author whose record
is full of evidence of sympathetic observation of the movement he so
To this there must be added the grave issues
created by the ethical behaviour of the Communist Parties outside
Russia after 1917. The passion for conspiracy, the need for deception,
the centralized and autocratic commands, the contempt for fair play,
the willingness to use lying and treachery to discredit an opponent or
to secure some desired end, complete dishonesty in the presentation of
facts, the habit of regarding temporary success as justifying any
measure, the hysterical invective by which they sought to destroy the
character of anyone who disagreed with them ; these, in the context of
an idolization of leaders who might, the day after, be mercilessly
attacked as the incarnation of evil, have been the normal behaviour of
Communists all over the world.4
In the light of these facts which are based
upon sad experience throughout the world, it is disturbing to observe
the thick smokescreen of innocent as well as deliberately misleading
comment which obscures the real nature of the adversaries who are
locked in battle. Critical comment from those who confuse communism
with all other types of unorthodox thought can be taken for granted
without further citations, and I therefore single out discussion by
liberal observers since my principal interest is centered in the
confusion of vital issues by the use of opaque language with the
ensuing danger of weakening support for academic freedom from sources
which would normally be the chief reliance of friends of freedom. Thus,
an informed observer like Max Lerner can say of the University of
Washington cases that "the fact of belonging to a party which is meant
to be a disciplined army, and the added fact of having kept it secret
for a period, ought to be a weighty item in any calculation about a
teacher's integrity." In spite of this consideration, Lerner does not
regard such evidence as clinching because some of the teacher's
students testified "that he always made his bias clear to his
students," although the same individual admittedly concealed his
membership in the party from his colleagues, and Lerner then argues
that nonconformism is part of the great tradition of our people"
because "dissent sharpens the search for the viable truth."6
But how much nonconformism or dissent is there in the concealment of
your heresy? How can concealed dissent contribute to the search for
viable truth if party discipline compels you to lie? Another good
example can be found in the use that is sometimes made of President
Conant's statements in defense of intellectual freedom because some of
his readers have not carefully read his qualifications. In a criticism
of the University of Washington cases, I find Arthur M. Schlesinger,
Jr., quoting Conant's annual report for 1947 as follows :
The criteria for joining a community of
scholars are in some ways unique. They are not to be confused with the
requirements of a Federal bureau. For example, I can imagine a naive
scientist or a philosopher with strong loyalties to the advancement of
civilization and the unity of the world who would be a questionable
asset to a government department charged with negotiations with other
nations; the same man, on the other hand, because of his professional
competence might be extremely valuable to a university?7
Clearly, Conant is right and he is well within
the classical tradition of academic freedom. What has this quotation to
do with the defense of concealed
4 Lovejoy, op.
5 Laski, Harold
J., Introduction to Communist Manifesto, Socialist landmark, 89-90,
London, Allen & Unwin, 1948.
6 Lerner, op.
Arthur M., Jr., The right to loathsome ideas, Sat. Rev, of Lit., May
members of the Communist Party at the University of Washington who were
engaged in secret activities, assumed "party" names and accepted party
discipline? And did Schlesinger entirely overlook the sentence at the
bottom of the same page of President Conant's report in which he says :
"Granted honesty, sincerity, and ability, there must be tolerance of a
wide diversity of opinion.” In other words, Conant is saying that
intellectual freedom must be protected, granted the very qualities
which Communist Party members do not possess by definition (because
they accept party discipline in these matters). Is this a quotation
which can be used to attack a university administration which bases its
action upon the disappearance of the very qualities which President
Conant takes for granted?
An indication that a large percentage of the
current discussion would cease if the facts of the problem were more
clearly understood can be found in the views of President Harold Taylor
of Sarah Lawrence College, who—like. many other liberal
educators—believes that communists should not be excluded because if we
begin by "excluding communists, we will end by excluding any one who
says anything provocative, unorthodox or interesting." The relevant
query in reply is: Do party liners say anything provocative,
unorthodox, or interesting? Or do they rather conceal their identity
and, in the language of The Communist, inflect their views "at the
least risk of exposure"? Dr. Taylor's lack of experience with the real
problem is illustrated by his defense of the presence of communists on
teaching faculties with the plea that democratic education should
provide a "daily encounter with truth" that is "free and open."8
Such a daily encounter that is free and open is precisely the thing
that is impossible with members of a conspiratorial, camouflaged group
that have accepted party discipline in intellectual matters.
It would be easy to enumerate other
illustrations of the extent to which even academic discussion permits
terms to be used with a lack of precision, discrimination, and factual
documentation that differs shockingly from the nicety with which the
same individuals would use terms in their own professional subject
matter. Outside academic circles, we find correspondingly opaque use of
language, such as that of a recent judicial opinion on a bill imposing
penalties on members of the Communist Party in which the Court,
following traditional American use of words such as "member" and
"party," argued that "members" of a "party" do not necessarily support
its full program. In connection with members of the Communist Party,
these are questions of fact and in the abundance of contemporary
evidence they are relatively easy to document—and such a statement does
not necessarily mean that the bill in question was wise or unwise,
constitutional or unconstitutional. It does mean that it is no longer
intellectually defensible to assume that the key words in the relevant
discussion convey the same meaning that they traditionally imply in a
The statement that "membership" in the
Communist Party is like "membership" in any other legal party is
utterly misleading. To be a registered Republican or Democratic
voter—which is presumably the meaning of "membership" in such a
case—does not imply the assumption of iron discipline in executing the
party leaders' orders even in intellectual matters as politically
remote as biology, the history of philosophy, or the theory of music,
whereas "membership" in the Communist Party really means that the
individual becomes the agent of the party—this is the phrase Lenin
always used to describe "members"—in every field in which it is seeking
instruments to achieve its power purpose. It is also misleading to
speak of party membership as "guilt by association" since this would be
true of membership in the free society's sense of the term whereas
membership in the Stalinist sense means a dedicated commitment to
accept the discipline of the group, which is active cooperation and not
The moral prerequisites of freedom are usually
not "spelled out." We take them for granted; but the present situation
in free society calls for their explicit statement-if vital
distinctions in the defense of freedom against its old and its new
enemies are to be clearly made. Classically, freedom is always defended
as the best method of pursuing the search for truth in which we assume
that the truth of tomorrow may be the heresy of today, and the
constructive potentiality of heresy is therefore assumed as well as the
agreement that each is searching for the truth whatever our differences
may be as to its exact nature. It is vital to recognize that the heart
of the argument lies in the moral assumption that all of us are
dedicated to the truth wherever our individual conscience and insight
may lead us to recognize it. Traditionally, we assume that an
8 See article in
Town Meeting 14 (44) : 4-5, Town Hall, Inc., New York
a minority point of view sees truth in an unconventional way and is
courageously taking the hazard of testing unpopular positions in open
controversy on the merits of the argument.
Another cause of confusion in evaluating the
changing issues in academic freedom is the persistent tendency to
confuse issues of academic freedom and issues of civil liberties. In a
current report of the American Civil Liberties Union; "academic
freedom" is discussed under the general heading of "Civil Liberties of
Teachers and Students."9
It would seem wiser to
preserve some of our traditional verbal distinctions. The term "civil
liberties" describe freedoms which are enumerated in constitutional
provisions which assure the citizen against governmental limitations or
restrictions. There is no "civil liberty" that assures any Tom, Dick or
Harry the right to speak or teach in any college or university, or any
magazine or newspaper the right to be included in the library of a
public high school, and "academic freedom" does not—in any historic
fomulation by academically responsible bodies—assure any group of
students the right to organize on any campus, or any individual the
right to teach. on that campus irrespective of his character,
competence, or philosophical views. In fact, some of our most
significant "freedoms" in the American type of pluralist and
associational society are anchored in the right of a college or church
to deny to any individual the right to speak or teach under its
auspices, and it is a characteristic tendency of modern totalitarians
to prescribe uniform behaviors in that respect for all institutions,
and to confuse such uniformity with freedom..
The essential principle was stated in
characteristically crisp style by Justice Holmes in an early
Massachusetts decision: "The petitioner may have a constitutional right
to talk politics but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman."
In other words, a man has a constitutional right—a "civil liberty" to
speak freely as a citizen. Under our present law he can "talk"
communism, fascism, etc., but there is no "civil liberty" that requires
the Department of State or a given college or university to hire
him. In spite of the clarity of our law and tradition in this
field, we find an intelligent and informed student of our freedom such
as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., discussing the University of Washington
dismissals in the light of the "clear and present danger" rule of the
Supreme Court in civil liberties cases, leading to the final conclusion
that the "monstrous fallacy" of declaring membership on the faculty
incompatible with membership in the Communist Party "puts the whole
Washington proceedings wholly outside our civil liberties tradition."
The statement is essentially irresponsible and uninformed. We do not
anticipate or prejudge the final outcome of professional deliberation
or mediation upon the University of Washington cases if we recognize
that there are some basic issues here that deserve more sympathetic"
and careful attention from a friend of freedom. No one at the
University of Washington ever claimed that the decision had anything to
do with civil liberties. They did claim that members of the Communist
Party have no right to protection under the spurious claim of academic
freedom for those who are pledged to destroy it. The argument should be
met as it was stated, and not evaded by a reference to the rights of
citizens as they confront their government. The intellectual confusion
is deepened with Schlesinger's citation of Brandeis' statement that
"only an emergency can justify epression."10
quotation is, of course, from another Supreme Court decision in a civil
liberties case. These references to Holmes and Brandeis are useful
reminders of the fact that freedom never has been an absolute. They
are, how-ever, relevant to the rights of men as citizens and not
as-scholars. - They have nothing whatsoever to do with a university's
right to say that it deems membership in a political group which
assumes the right to dictate in scholarly matters incompatible with the
responsibilities of free scholarship, or in the words of the President
of the University of Washington that "academic freedom means not alone
the right to hold unpopular views but the obligation to hold views
which, shaped by the accumulation of tested evidence, are subject to no
dictation from outside the mind of the holder." 11
Most of the confusion in our current
controversy about academic freedom and civil liberties is embodied in
the refusal to admit that today there is no agreement, in fact, on the
moral basis of our civil liberties. Justice Douglas
9 Civil liberties
of teachers and
students, academic freedom, a statement of principles, American Civil
Liberties Union, New York, 194
op. cit. See also Merritt E..Benson's reply in the same journal for
September 10, 1949.
11 Communism and
academic freedom, 19.
of the United States Supreme Court recently made an eloquent plea for
the maintenance of civil liberties; in which he made the classical
assumption that unpopular minorities consisted of people like John
Peter Altgeld, who "do not stand mute when their conscience urges them
to speak out." The trouble with our contemporary so-called subversives
is, of course, precisely that they consider the truth "a bourgeois
prejudice," that they will—as Lenin taught—"use any ruse, cunning,
unlawful method, evasion, and concealment of the truth" to help to
hasten the triumph of their cause, and that they frequently stand mute
when their particular type of conscience orders them to follow the
party line rather than the dictates of the truth in the light of the
argument and the evidence.
The same classic assumptions can be found in
Justice Holmes' statement in his dissent in the Abrams case that "the
best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted
in the competition of the market." The phrase "competition of the
market," of course, calls for open avowal of the minority point of
view, and the phrase, "test of truth," again implies a willingness to
follow the evidence and the argument wherever it may lead. The real
problem with the modern Stalinist is concealment of purpose,
camouflaged vocabulary, and avoidance of competition. Holmes' reliance
upon the competition of the market as a test of truth is simply
irrelevant in dealing with modern communists. Most of us have no fear
at all of the test of truth in an open argument with Stalinists who
believe in neither truth nor competition, but we are deeply concerned
with the consequences of protecting liars and conspirators with
academic freedom and civil liberties which were intended as a safeguard
for minority points of view that were morally dedicated to a search for
truth in an open comparison and competition with conflicting ideas.
Recently, the Committee on Academic Freedom of
the American Civil Liberties Union took action on student activities in
our colleges which is almost a textbook example of the chaotic
emotionalism that now passes for thought in this area. The resolution
had two parts. In the first, they laid down the principle that any
organization for political action, including the Communist Party,
should be allowed to organize on any campus. The second part of the
action went on to say that if such a group, after being chartered, was
proved to have lied about its affiliations, such findings should be
published on the campus, but they should not be ground for suspension
or any other disciplinary action. Now it is a clearly established
principle that an educational institution is supposed to draw some
disciplinary conclusion if a student group lies or disregards campus
rules, but here the conclusion clearly means that communists have the
right to lie without incurring the usual penalties for such behavior.
In other words, the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to impose
a uniform rule of moral indifference to untruthfulness on educational
institutions. The conventional answer to such a statement mimics
Pilate's "What is truth?" It is admittedly rather hard to determine
"the" truth in many cases. A college, however, need not inquire as to
the truth of, say, the program of the American Youth for Democracy or
the American Student Union, to mention two well-known "transmission
belts" for students. When a college charters a Newman Club, it does not
pass on the "truth" of Catholic Christianity any more than it certifies
to the truth of the Republican or Democratic platforms when the college
charters a Republican or Democratic student group. But it is easy to
determine whether the organizers of such groups tell the truth about
their sponsors, about their finances, about their national
affiliations, and when they lie about these things it may be perfectly
defensible liberal doctrine and sound educational procedure to say that
they should not be chartered. To say that the college should be morally
indifferent to such untruthfulness is to promote the disintegration of
free society, which the American Civil Liberties Union is presumably
organized to defend12
12 American Civil Liberties Union
excludes members of the Communist Party from its own Council because it
has discovered that sincere defense of civil liberties cannot be
expected from men and women who do not themselves believe in them. The
organization defends the right of communists to a place on the faculty
of educational institutions (concerned with academic freedom) since in
its judgment membership in the Communist Party has "nothing to do with
professional fitness" although in the Union's own judgment such
membership disqualifies them from participation in the defense of civil
liberties. Here, again, the facts seem to be the issue because Mr.
Roger Baldwin, the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, does
not regard a teacher's membership in the Communist Party as an
"association" which might "affect" his teaching. Why assume that people
who cannot be trusted in the defense of civil liberties are fit to
serve on the faculties of free colleges and universities even if they
define truth as that which serves the interests of one party and one
class? (See Town Meeting 14 (44) : 7.)
Let us examine another
specific case in which all the data are a matter of record. In a recent
Albany decision of the Acting Commissioner of Education, the Board of
Higher Education of the City of New York was ordered to reinstate with
back pay a teacher who had been dismissed after full and open trial by
a unanimous Board under the statutory charge of "conduct unbecoming a
teacher." The Commissioner based his decision on the argument that
membership in the Communist Party was not a ground for dismissal. The
ruling missed the entire point in the case because the Board of Higher
Education ruling on the principle in April of 1941—a ruling to which
the Acting Commissioner refers but which he does not quote—stated
explicitly that it was the Board's intention "to adhere to its
established policy not to discharge any member of its staffs merely
because of membership in a political organization." The formal legal
charges in the case made it very plain that the teacher was dismissed
because credible witnesses established to the Board's satisfaction that
the individual in question was a liar in an educational investigation
conducted under the auspices of the State Legislature, which is the
ultimate authority in control of public education, and untruthfulness
is still—until further totalitarian revision of our professional
standards—"conduct unbecoming a teacher," as defined in the law. It so
happens that the untruthfulness was established in connection with the
individual's presence at a Communist Party meeting. If the
untruthfulness had been established in connection with his attendance
of a service in a Catholic Church, it would still be untruthfulness and
not proof that he had been dismissed because he attended a meeting
under religious auspices.
The issue here was: Should teachers be
truthful? The Albany ruling seems to mean that we have amended the Bill
of Rights to say that whereas all other citizens will be punished for
perjury, totalitarians will be granted a special exemption. Can we
really expect free institutions to endure under such a perverted
conception of the moral basis of our liberties? It may be very well to
say as a matter of principle that our freedoms should be extended to
anyone, even to a citizen of totalitarian political sympathies if all
other. standards of moral and civic decency are observed, but the sober
fact of the matter is that anyone who has embraced a totalitarian party
line has also automatically adopted a form of human conduct which is
itself—by definition—subversive of the standards of a free society
dedicated to truth. It is never a matter merely of unconventional
political belief. It is always as an unavoidable byproduct of the party
discipline accepted by members of such groups, a matter of conduct and
action subversive of the moral basis of free society. I find myself in
complete accord with the New School for Social Research which has a
bylaw stating that "no member of the faculty may be a member of any
political party or group which presumes to dictate in matters of
science or scientific opinion." Such a policy seems to me a courageous
and realistic translation in twentieth-century terms of the essential
content of the classical ideal of academic freedom, which is morally
rooted in the acceptance of the ideal of truth, as the evidence and
your conscience may teach you to see it, and not as a party or
ideological discipline may force you to twist it.
It is quite unnecessary—and futile—to attempt
to remedy the situation created in public education in New York State
by the recent Albany ruling to which I referred by new legislation
forbidding the employment of communists or other totalitarians. Such
legislation may or may not be wise or desirable, but it has nothing
whatsoever to do with the principles involved in the Albany ruling, or
in the underlying decision of the Board of Higher Education. The Acting
Commissioner in Albany referred to the political rights of communists,
to the defendant's service in the armed forces, and even to the Bridges
case, which—like the flowers that bloom in the spring—had nothing to do
with the case. In passing he referred to the detailed testimony
concerning the truthfulness of the defendant which was presented by
witnesses whose credibility was repeatedly tested and accepted by the
Board of Higher Education (as well as by a Legislative Committee
designated by both houses of the State Legislature), and without any
further investigation or examination of the quality of this
testimony—which he did not hear—he merely stated that the defendant
denied that he was present at the meetings described by the other
witnesses, that he (the Acting Commissioner) was not convinced that he
was present on these occasions, and continued his essentially
irrelevant dissertation on civic rights. What we need in this specific
instance is a vigorous reminder to our public administrators that
unconventional ideological belief is no excuse for lying and perjury.
In other words—incredible as it may sound—we need to make it clear that
a communist can be dismissed for the same type of "conduct unbecoming a
teacher" which would lead to the dismissal of a teacher who happened to
be a Democrat or Republican. If the
present ruling were allowed to stand, it would lead to a situation in
which public administrators would have to insist on lower standards of
integrity and decency for communists than for all other citizens, and
in which—as a consequence—any type of misconduct would become
acceptable if the person in question claimed immunity as a communist
from the customary standards of professional honesty and conduct. This
is not a denial of the constitutional rights of communists, but the
exact opposite, to wit, a demand that they should have the same
rights—and nothing more.
Every case involving concealed party
membership with its evasive and devious techniques arouses a storm of
protest identifying the "martyrs of freedom" with all the classical
cases of the history of freedom. Thus Helen M. Lynd speaks of the
dismissal of the teachers at the University of Washington as "a threat
to every teacher who values scholarship and responsible teaching above
conformity" although the facts in the ease illustrate complete
conformity with the intellectual dictates of a totalitarian political
group. Max Lerner speaks of the "canker of terror" that we have placed
in the hearts of a "potential Galileo or Darwin, a Jefferson or
Einstein" because we have "placed political limits on teachers" when
the facts, of course, are that the University of Washington insisted on
a clarification of a scholar's responsibility for independent judgment
in the face of an effort to discipline scholarship in the service of a
Similar confusion concerning the
basic issues and principles is characteristic of every current issue of
this type in academic or in trade-union circles.
The cry of academic freedom was of course
heard in connection with every stage of the Rapp-Coudert investigation
although it was professionally encouraging to note that the American
Association of University Professors which had large chapters in the
colleges that were involved never entered the case. Committees of
fellow travelers idealized the "victims of the repression of
intellectual freedom" as "winter soldiers," as idealists who sacrificed
their careers to the truth even if it should be unpopular, and
comparisons were made with famous incidents in the repression of
minority opinion in the past. If we take a glance back at such
incidents as the episode involving the sociologist Ross at Stanford,
the economists Nearing and Patten at Pennsylvania, and Robert M. Lovett
in the disgraceful Walgreen episode at Chicago, we find in each and
every case a man of courage who—whatever we may think of the nature of
his thought—had the honesty of conviction to assert his views publicly
and to take personal responsibility for his utterances. None of these
characteristics emerged in any of the Rapp-Coudert cases.
Since the facts are almost an exact parallel
of those that are now emerging elsewhere, and it seems to be part of
the therapy of freedom to pass through a set series of stages of
illusion and disabusement, there may be some point in a reference to a
student performance of James Thurber's well-known play, The Male
Animal, which I attended in the midst of the Rapp-Coudert
investigation. Some parts of the audience apparently read a parallel to
the current investigation into the play, although even the most
superficial acquaintance with the facts would, of course, have made it
evident that the cases were almost exact opposites. In the play the
young professor got into difficulty with his college authorities
because he intended to read to his class from Vanzetti's letter written
while in prison awaiting the death penalty. The young scholar, stunned
by the challenge to his integrity as a teacher, not only did not lie
about the matter but carried his convictions in an above-board, direct,
and even provocative manner to members of the board of trustees of his
In the play: courage, honesty of conviction,
almost reckless willingness to take the responsibility for an
unconventional point of view. In the Rapp-Coudert cases: denial of
unorthodox conduct and thought, cowardice, perjury, and complete
refusal to take the responsibility for one's actions.
Personally, I had almost been hopeful that
some man or woman of courage would emerge in the Rapp-Coudert hearings
who would arise and assert his right as a citizen and as a scholar to a
communist point of view. It might be argued that such conduct would
have endangered his position but—in view of the fact that no such cases
had arisen so far—that would have to be ironed out in the actual trial
hearings and in the inevitable subsequent legal test. Such a case would
have received my prayerful consideration and it would probably have
been a case in which the accused member of the staff would have
received the support of my office. Such cases did not in fact arise.
Every single case tried
Lynd and Lerner articles can be found in the symposium on Communism and
academic freedom cited above.
involved clear defiance of the authority of the Board, perjury,
anonymous and scurrilous libel of colleagues, or other conduct clearly
unbecoming a .member of the staff. Not a single case was based upon
open and frank admission of unorthodox political and social views.
Every single case was typical of a party that has enriched our
political vocabulary with words like "party line," "fellow traveler,"
"transmission belt," "innocents front," "party name" and other terms
indicative of devious procedures. The reason for, the absence of frank
and open admission of unorthodox ideas was undoubtedly the character of
the Communist Party which would not permit independent thought or
action on the part of its members.. They must, by definition, follow
the party line, that is to say, they must resign themselves to being
intellectual and moral "yes men," and they therefore are almost
inevitably involved in conduct unbecoming a member of a college
faculty, because their party has no use for members who respect truth
for its own sake and who would pursue it even when it conflicted with
the day-to-day fluctuations in the instructions from headquarters. In
other words: the totalitarian character of the Communist Party
organization (or of Fascist organization, if such cases should arise)
makes it highly improbable that a case will arise where a member of the
staff will be accused merely of membership in the party.
Inevitably—because of the character of these antidemocratic groups—such
membership will involve the individual concerned in other activities
which by themselves are clearly conduct unbecoming a member of a
college or university staff.
It is no answer to say that we must overlook
moral niceties in the evaluation of the lunatic fringe on the left
because of the nature of the emergency or because of the hysteria which
characterizes some of the lunatic fringe on the right.
Clearly, there are some thoroughly absurd—and
even dangerous—things being said by those who, "throwing the baby out
with the bathwater," would save the country from totalitarianism by
suspending the Bill of Rights. Some months ago, one of my colleagues at
Brooklyn College invited Mr. J. Parnell Thomas, then Chairman of the
House Committee on Un-American Activities, to participate in a college
radio program on the topic, "Who and What Is Un-American?" Mr. Thomas
said that he didn't like the subject, that it was indecent and shameful
for a college to discuss such a subject, that words like American and
un-American did not require definition because everybody knew what they
meant, that we didn't have the right to discuss it, and when my
colleague urged that the Bill of Rights gave us the privilege of
discussing any subject as long as it wasn't obscene, Mr. Thomas replied
that he didn't care about the Bill of Rights. Most of us are quite
ready to grant that a tired public man may sometimes be harassed into
the use of careless language, but we may still be profoundly disturbed
about a gentleman assigned to the task of applying the yardstick of
true Americanism to the conduct and behavior of his fellow citizens,
who regards the discussion of his yardstick as shameful or indecent. In
fact, in my judgment—and, I feel happily certain, in the judgment of
the overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens—such a statement is a
perfect example of un-American activity. The fact that there are some
folks who abuse their freedoms—of whose conduct we may disapprove as
firmly as any one in the Congress—does not change our point of view. It
is quite possible to believe that there is a legitimate place for a
Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities, and to regret that
its present personnel and procedures are frequently amateurish,
ignorant, and lacking in the qualities that would make its work
We are in fact in a period in which
totalitarian and conspiratorial groups are using academic freedom and
civil liberties as a cloak to cover moral indecency totally subversive
of the ideals of liberty and truth, while some of the critics of these
groups are themselves utterly ignorant of the nature of the.
institutions they presume to defend. While the fringes grow and are
increasingly irresponsible, it is time to strengthen the center by a
vigorous reexamination of our basic concepts in the light of current
We can all agree with President Conant's
recent statement that panic may lead government to submit teachers to a
disastrous interference with freedom of teaching and thought. In a free
society we need to preserve the process of arriving at reasoned
convictions which emerge from diversity of opinions, honestly expressed
and freely argued. There are—as Whitehead has said—in every generation
those who must carry the cross uphill, and there suffer for the next
generation. Whitehead did not say that they could do that while they
pretended that the cross was an umbrella, or the painful climb upward a
pleasant descent into the valley. There is something obscene in.
attempts to justify the misconduct of a conspiratorial group of
perjurers and liars by references to
John Peter Altgeld—or even to Socrates. Socrates—and Altgeld—took
before the whole world the full consequences of their own passionate
devotion to the truth. These are sacred things to a free society, and
they do not mean that liars should be protected against the penalty for
untruthfulness, or that conspiratorial and anonymous libel of
colleagues should be tolerated in the name of the secular saints of
liberty and reason.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND FEDERAL SECURITY REGULATIONS
The second cause of changing issues in
academic freedom, that is to say, the impact on scholarly activity of
federal security regulations, has not received attention in public or
academic discussion corresponding to the significance of the restraints
that have been imposed on free science ostensibly in defense of free
society. We do not have to search far for the reasons. "Security
regulations" are in their nature not publicized and individuals who
experience their administrative application are themselves rarely in a
good position to discuss them. Even informed opinion is rarely aware of
the nature of the cultural conditions in which free science has
prospered in the past, and the restraints imposed on scientists are
accompanied by such a vast expansion of financial aid that a critical
evaluation of administrative policies seems to run contrary to the
patent facts of public support.
Science has been—and will continue to be—a
major factor in the defense of an open society. There is today an
enormous public interest in the physical and biological sciences. It
expresses itself in public appropriations that may even be in excess of
the research and creative potentialities that are immediately
available. It springs from admiration of the role played by science in
World War II, and from concern about the role science may play in a
possible World War III. It is part and parcel of the fear of sabotage
and espionage, and it expresses itself in the elaboration and
enforcement of a variety of "security" provisions. Some of these
provisions or procedures attract public attention, such as the stories
in the New York Herald Tribune about the scientist whose "loyalty" was
questioned because his landlord found a copy of The New Masses in the
family garbage (which could happen even to a rabid "red baiter" with
some slight concern for documentation), or his colleague who was deemed
unfit for national service because he had "a relative who was married
to a communist" (which could happen in the most patriotic family).
Others do not attract public attention, but their experience is part of
the atmosphere or climate of opinion in which scientists work. In the
present Cold War, concern about sabotage and espionage is certainly
legitimate. Concern about procedures designed to protect the national
interest in science that may "throw the baby out with the bathwater" is
equally legitimate—and, in my judgment, vastly more urgent.
We live in an age of fear and propaganda. Some
fifteen years ago a great President reminded us that we have nothing to
fear but fear itself. Today we live in a climate of opinion in which
the drive for security—born of fear and propaganda—has become almost
hysterical, and in which we forget that we have just come victoriously
out of a war with totalitarianism because a free society can mobilize
resources that have been destroyed in closed societies by totalitarian
Fear could lead an open society like our own
to destroy its most precious assets in a struggle with a closed society
of the Nazi or Soviet type. This is not beautiful theory or wishful
thinking, but the very essence of our own experience in the recent war.
The Germans were engaged in atomic research, and German science was no
negligible competitor. Atomic research happens to be in a highly
theoretical field in which Americans have not normally been interested
in the past because of our drive to applied science and technology. But
our doors and windows were wide open rather than closed. In accordance
with the principles of an open society, we took men and ideas from all
over the world, and as ideas from Italy, Hungary, France, Scandinavia,
and even Germany played into the customary open and aboveboard process
of scientific interchange and reciprocal criticism and enrichment, we
ended up with the ideas and the technical execution before the other
side did. We did not achieve leadership because we observed rigorous
security regulations. The opposite is true. We led because we followed
the true principles of an open society and encouraged quite consciously
an open process of exchange of ideas. Most of the ideas came from
abroad, and many of the men were citizens of other countries or even
refugees from our own enemies in the war. Security was imposed in the
final stages during
the war, but we won our leadership because we followed the principles
of free society and free science—and our enemies lost because essential
men and vital ideas did not get a full chance to play into their own
research programs. S. A. Goudsmit, an American physicist who was
officially assigned to the study of the scientific war effort in
Germany, has summarized his conclusion as follows
"Too many of us still assume that
totalitarianism gets things done where democracy only fumbles along,
and that certainly in those branches of science contributing directly
to the war effort the Nazis were able to cut all corners and proceed
with ruthless and matchless efficiency. Nothing could be further from
the truth. * * * The failure of German nuclear physics can in large
measure be attributed to the totalitarian climate in which it lived.
There are lessons we can all learn from that failure.”14
It is vitally urgent to make no mistakes about
these matters now. From my own observation of the security regulations
now in effect, I doubt whether we are getting the benefit of the
strength of our own position. It is one thing to mobilize scientists in
wartime when every one is ready to give patriotic service. It is quite
another thing to impose controls in peacetime on a professional group
which has a tradition of achievement that calls for the exact opposite.
The details of these controls and a more extensive analysis of their
full impact on intellectual freedom can be confidently left to the
authors of other papers in this program. Their impact on academic
freedom is sharp—both in teaching and in research.
Modern wars are won by "big" industry, backed
by "big" laboratories and "big" science. No one who reads James P.
Baxter's official history of the role of science in our war
effort—Scientists against Time16—can fail to be aware of the crucial
importance of the relationship, or to overlook the extent to which it
was the "open" and competitive character of our scientific life that
contributed vital ideas from all over the world. I have already
stressed the international interplay of men and ideas that made the
atomic bomb possible. Perhaps I should not forget the vital role of
Alexander Sachs' intellectual salesmanship in persuading President
Roosevelt that a gamble of several hundred million dollars might be
rewarding—the fact that an economist for a New York banking firm could
know as much as he did of recent scientific developments is itself due
to the climate of opinion of a free and open society which lends itself
to such relational cross-fertilization in scholarship, industrial
applications, and public service.
The record of our scientists in the war effort
is vaguely appreciated by the general public. There is, however, a
dangerous tendency to relate scientific activity almost wholly to its
military usefulness and there is little understanding of the type of
cultural conditions in which science flourishes, and almost no
conception at all of the extent to which a continuous flow of
achievement depends upon a constant and open process of interplay of
ideas, experiments, and discussion. Those who talk about closing doors
and keeping secrets—one Brooklyn patriot has even proposed that we
"should keep our borders closed, coming and going, to domestic and
foreign professors"—should ask themselves who would have had the key
ideas in atomic fission if foreign professors had been kept out of the
United States. Do these patriotic obscurantists realize that radar and
penicillin came from England, DDT from Switzerland and Germany? What
would be achieved by preventing the Library of Congress from publishing
its List of Russian Accessions—as seriously proposed by congressional
statesmen from the Republican (Taber) as well as Democratic (Rankin)
side—except that our scholars and scientists might be kept ignorant of
significant Russian contributions?
Security does not spring from control and
regulation. It comes to a free society because the open exchange of new
truth and knowledge affords a leader-ship that in a world of incredibly
rapid change can spring only from a rate of progress and growth which
keeps one step ahead of the "secure" and "regulated" conditions of the
police state. Scientific information is like a fish that has been
caught—it doesn't improve by efforts to keep it well preserved. We grow
in science by casting our nets out anew all the time. Our true security
lies in the maintenance of this process of casting out the net again
and again, and it does not lie in preserving the "security" of the fish
that were caught yesterday. The totalitarians had a theory that a state
that was "totally" prepared for war would inevitably conquer the
"unprepared" democracies. But the record shows that such early "total"
preparation froze the economic and technical structure in a
14 Goudsmit, S.
A., Alsos, The search
for the German atom bomb with an examination of the failure of German
science, xi, London, Sigma Books, 1947.
Little, Brown and Co., 1947.
stage of development that is inferior to that of a society in which a
large section of economic, scientific, and technical life remained open
to experiment, exchange, and discussion. It is this same society in
which, after mobilization, a vast array of new ideas and practices gave
a resilience to an eventual war effort that would not have been
available if "total" mobilization had been ordered in an earlier stage
of preparedness to provide national "security."
There are, therefore, two conditions which a
free society must meet if it is to maintain the leadership in science
which we now enjoy. The first is the preservation of the conditions
which have given us that leadership in the first place. The second is
the development of a form of administrative organization that will
preserve professional incentives and establish working conditions which
will insure the quality of public service in scientific work.
If the government wants to secure the services
of the ablest scientific personnel, it must arrange for employment
conditions that evoke a creative response on the part of first-rate
men. President Conant has recently stressed the fact that ten
second-rate men cannot take the place of one first-rate man in this
field. If we need the services of the cream of the profession, we need
employment conditions that will attract them. When scientists observe
the treatment received by men like Lilienthal and Condon in
scientifically illiterate congressional committees, they draw certain
conclusions as to their own desire to submit to comparable abuse. The
congressional assumption that you can overcome such difficulties by
appropriating large sums of money for research ignores the fact that
high scientific ability cannot be purchased like lard or pig iron, but
must work under conditions that evoke a maximum use of creative
Ours is not a totalitarian world in which men
can be ordered around from trade to trade. We would not think of
selecting a Secretary of Agriculture or of Labor who was personally
unacceptable to farmers or to organized labor. When will our public men
learn that the quality of scientific achievement depends upon the
selection of men who can evoke a creative response from professional
people? Are we, in a spurious pursuit of security, going to throw the
greatest resources of an open society away because we fear the
operation of the very principles that have given us leadership?
In a world of dangerous national and
ideological competition, there is no security in provisions that make
for secrecy about past achievements. The only security that is worth
while lies in the preservation of the conditions that have given us
leadership thus far, and those conditions call for open and creative
interchange of all the true talent, irrespective of race, creed, or
national origin. The way to defend an open society is to keep it
open—let's leave the closed doors to folks who believe in them as a
matter of principle. The history of free science demonstrates
abundantly that those who lock the doors to the laboratories are likely
to lock out more than they lock in.
CHANGING SCOURCE [sic] OF ACADEMIC FINANCIAL SUPPORT
The third cause of changing issues in academic
freedom discussed in this paper, viz. the changing sources of academic
financial support, has almost completely escaped public discussion
although few questions have been canvassed as comprehensively in
academic circles. A college president approaches the topic with due
diffidence in a period in which the public demand for higher education
presents such shocking contrasts with the volume of its financial
support. There are some issues here, however, which affect the core of
the tradition of academic freedom, and although the interrelations are
often subtle and indirect, a pattern of economic support is developing
which affects the quality of academic personnel as well as the
direction in which its creative talents are utilized. In a sense this
is simply a new form of an old challenge—although it is not generally
recognized as such—because the "jurisprudence of academic freedom"
abounds with citations of cases in which a donor sought to limit a
college's teaching or selection of students or faculty personnel by
such stipulations as required the teaching of the "fallacies of
socialism" or the "defense of free enterprise," and we are all
reasonably familiar with the difficulties inherent in the donors' terms
concerning certain types of religious bequests.
The shrinking bases of private financial
support in fees or in endowment—which typically permitted considerable
professional discretion in determining the priorities of academic
expenditure in teaching as well as in research—and the shift to support
by foundations and by a variety of government agencies have
liberties of scientists, Science,177–179, Aug. 10, 1949.
given these issues a new form which creates new hazards to free
scholarship: If these dangers are clearly recognized, we shall probably
be able to cope with them as effectively as we have in the past dealt
with similar subversive characteristics of private support. British
experience with the University Grants Committee suggests that a
democratic government is quite compatible with a degree of professional
autonomy in the expenditure of public funds which would seem almost
utopian at the moment in the United States, and my plea at this stage
is for intensive study of current practice, including the typical
stress on progress through the emulation of the "best existing
practice" which has always been such a positive force where freedom and
organization are combined in a fruitful and constructive fashion.
The subtle and indirect forces are far more
worthy of study than the more vulgar and direct issues. Practical
experience has made us all familiar with the restrictive influences
that may arise in economics, biology; or chemistry if a large "dairy"
bloc in a legislature seeks to protect itself against the competing
claims of oleomargarine or other butter substitutes, and corresponding
issues in the freedom of social scientists have left their mark in
connection with conflicting pressures on budgetary agencies from
-manufacturers' or trade union groups. Those who pay the piper and want
to call the tune are clearly visible in such cases, and while the
characters in the drama have; changed, most of us can see that the
intellectual issues raised by wealthy donors or religious groups in the
past (and in the present) are roughly similar to the pressures now
exerted by farmers or trade-union groups.
It is more difficult to see that when
government sources—either directly or indirectly—support a very large
volume of historical research, paying salaries far in excess of current
academic levels, they materially affect academic priorities and
prestige, and deflect creative and professional talent into the study
of problems and "fields" which hardly express the professional views of
historians concerning the relative value and promise of alternative
projects which may not command public support. Shifting fiscal trends
are therefore compelling some of the best of our creative talent to
devote their most fruitful years to work selected by government
agencies rather than by scholars themselves, and corresponding hazards
ensue as to qualitative standards in the remainder of scholarly
activity. It is difficult to persuade an individual scholar who warmly
welcomes the handsome increase in his meager academic salary that his
case is an illustration of a new and subtle hazard to academic freedom,
but the conclusion seems unavoidable that the tendency as a whole has
such implications, which are more dangerous precisely because they are
not recognized as such in individual cases. We do not have to accept
the vulgar Insistence that the government will seek to dictate the
conclusions of such fiscally supported research. Evidence on the whole
does not bear out such a view, but the selection of problems for
creative talent—scarce at the best—precludes the selection of Other
"free" projects, and in the long run freedom may be more seriously—and
subtly—endangered by selection than by outright censorship or
Similar tendencies are inherent in the second
category of perils to academic freedom discussed earlier in this paper.
"Defense” related research means the selection of research projects by
defense agencies, and it appears to be true that our government has
been singularly willing to support basic as well as applied research
projects. Here, too, subtle and indirect forces are at work. A
handsomely financed federal project leads to the availability of
expensive equipment—and the development of human skills and
aptitudes—which themselves have an influence on the determination and
selection of "free" projects, and the relation of this possibility to
the modification of the forces which have been the greatest single
strength of free science is clear to any student of the cultural
setting in which free science has flourished in the past. In fact, some
of the data available to me suggests that federal support of such
research has gone so far already that more basic research may be
supported today by federal fiscal resources than by all the academic
sources in the country added together. Doesn't the data suggest the
need for some comprehensive survey of the facts by an academic
group interested in the general direction of academic trends rather
than in the specific projects that are at present supported? Isn't it
at least possible that some general policies may be stated which would
protect the values of free scholarship and supply a framework for the
discussion and settlement of specific issues?
In the social sciences these new fiscal
influences exercise a negative rather than a positive influence. It is
clear that the vigorous promotion by federal subsidies of research in
the physical and biological sciences—and of personnel training programs
in those fields—may widen the gap that already threatens the stability
of our society between scientific and technical change on the one hand,
and the relative inflexibility of the moral, social, and legal
framework of society, on the other hand. It is equally clear that more
intensive study of techniques of. social adjustment, including the
possibility of an imaginative and constructive program in the
humanities, might contribute to the possibility of minimum assurance of
stability. The various social sciences may have a great deal to
contribute in this field but we are politically unprepared for the
acceptance of these moral and intellectual possibilities. The same
legislators who press for large federal subsidies for additional
physical and technical research—thereby contributing to the strength of
the causes clearly working towards unbalance—refuse to appropriate
funds to study the social and economic by-products of the new
developments in the physical sciences. Our legislators find it very
hard to distinguish between the study of social change on the one hand,
and the advocacy of social change on the other. Any one who has had
experience in the legislative process knows how easily social science
and collectivist propaganda are confused. It is a large share of the
resources supporting the physical and biological sciences is to come
from federal sources in the future, academic groups may have a special
responsibility to insure that the social and humanistic studies do not
shrink to proportions that will themselves constitute a major hazard to
the future of free society, and therefore to the "freedom" even of the
fiscally more privileged physical scientists.
This paper has offered a hasty but suggestive
survey of some of the most urgent of emerging issues affecting the
position of free scholarship in our open society. The treatment has not
been "objective" and value judgments have been freely expressed. Free
men and women cannot afford to be neutral when the survival of free
society itself may be at stake. The defense of freedom will not come
from minds that are "so open there's nothing left but a draft." The
present struggle for freedom does not call for objectivity but for
reasoned prejudice—prejudice in favor of the conditions in which
freedom can continue to flourish and to grow. No pretense is made that
the issues have been discussed comprehensively and it is hoped that a
sharp formulation may stimulate further discussion and inquiry
concerning relevant facts and policies.
Freedom is first of all the availability of
choice, and the survival of freedom calls for an intellectual
understanding of the choice as well as for the development of a moral
will to choose. A free community depends upon the strength and vitality
of its shared values. Historically, freedom emerges when internal
checks can be substituted for external constraint,
and—conversely—freedom is endangered if a free community's shared
values are no longer sufficiently vigorous to create the moral cohesion
on which the discipline of free men rests. When you pulverize a rock,
you have dust. When it rains on dust, you have mud. That—in brief—is
the problem of a free community anchored in shared values when it is
tested in vital challenge by a totalitarian enemy after it has
undergone continuous erosion in a purely analytical period of
secularization. That is how a free democracy may become what Walt
Whitman called a society of men with hearts of rags and souls of chalk.
The only remedy is a resolute breed of men—resolved to think anew the
moral conditions of freedom and determined to act on the fruit of their
Frontiers of Democracy, January 15, 1941)
What Shall We Do about Academic Freedom and
By Harry D. Gideonse
Like Humpty-Dumpty, our contemporary fellow
travelers use words to mean just what they choose them to mean—neither
more nor less.
The Rapp-Coudert Investigation has revealed a
concerted effort on the part of certain groups to protect abuse of
public and professional trust by raising a smoke screen about "academic
freedom," "red baiting" and "witch hunts." In the hope of
rallying "innocents" to the defense of subversive elements, battle
cries of the past are revived without concern for their relevance. An
attack upon subversive activity is described as an effort "to abolish
the city colleges"—although the city colleges and subversive activity
are not yet synonymous, whatever our left-wing friends may say or think.
The issues are likely to be misunderstood by
those who are not familiar with the organization of the city colleges.
At Brooklyn College student activities are as nearly self-governing as
anywhere in the country. The overwhelming majority of our students are
worthy of such confidence. Peace activities of many varieties flourish
on the campus. During the past year, the college administration twice
suspended regular classes to permit participation in collegewide
"peace" programs, after the application for such recognition by the
regularly constituted student agencies and the subsequent approval of
the Faculty-Student Committee on Student Activities. The American
Student Union "demonstrations" which took place late last spring were
unauthorized and flagrantly contrary to college regulations which had
been formulated by the Faculty-Student Committee of which ASU leaders
were participating members.
The penalties that were administered by the
Faculty-Student Committees were justified because of flagrant violation
of college regulations that were formulated and administered in a
democratic fashion—that is to say, with continuous participation of
It is in the light of these facts that we must
evaluate the testimony of a leader of a so-called professional
teachers' organization that his group had supported these lawless
activities and that his only "regret" lay in the fact that it had not
supported them more fully. Crocodile tears about "peace activity,"
"civil liberties" and "academic freedom" should be judged in the light
of this violation of democratic procedures and of professional
Freedom of any sort must mean freedom under
law, and not freedom from law. Equality of opportunity implies equality
of responsibility. If administrators are to share powers with faculties
and students, then the faculties and students must share in the
responsibility of the administration as well. In the long run, no
social or academic structure can endure in which rights are exercised
without a corresponding participation in responsibility. To participate
In the formulation and administration of regulations, and
simultaneously to promote activities subversive of such procedures, is
to promote chaos and to lend support to the thesis that only crude and
autocratic patterns can be effective.
The issue in the New York public schools is
not whether a man may be an objective teacher of mathematics in his
professional capacity, and a member of the Communist Party in his
private life. If this were the issue, a legitimate question as to
constitutional rights might arise. It may be an open question whether a
man can be a "regular" Communist today without casting a reflection
upon his moral integrity or his intellectual competence. It may be
urged on the other hand that any relaxation of the rule that his
political or religious views are irrelevant, may set precedents that
will ultimately exclude other minorities. The attitude of the American
Civil Liberties Union with regard to Communist members on its own
board, shows that doubts about the wisdom of an absolute position
concerning these matters have developed even "left of center." The
provision in the constitution of the Graduate Faculty of Political and
Social Science of the New School of Social Research, "that no member of
the Faculty can be a member of any political group which asserts the
right to dictate in matters of science or scientific opinion,"
indicates that even liberals like Alvin Johnson wish to set up
safeguards against totalitarian practice.
Can we accord democratic privileges to those
who do not share democratic values? These are stirring questions that
are a matter of deep civic and professional concern to me—and I think I
have earned a right to my views in this area. But the issues that have
arisen in the Rapp-Coudert Investigation thus far, are not of this
variety. The questions here are of a more primitive type: May a teacher
continue to function if he lies or perjures himself about his political
activity? Are conspiratorial practices by a "fraction" on the staff
compatible with democratic procedures and professional trust?
These issues have been obscured in a battle of
slogans, probably quite deliberately. It is sober reality to note that
no one thus far admits membership in the Communist Party and that the
legitimacy of such membership is therefore, not under discussion. The
issue is therefore, not concerned with a noble crusade for minority
rights. It is the cruder elementary question of veracity. Either the
charges are lies—and that would be serious for those who perjured
themselves in making them. Or the charges will be substantiated; and
then the question will read: Can teachers be trusted in a public
and professional capacity if they lie and perjure
themselves—irrespective of whether they are Republicans, Democrats or
I am thankful that the issue can be formulated
in this crude manner for it gives a classroom illustration of a
fundamental thesis which I have been urging for some time, to wit: The
struggle for freedom is fundamentally a moral issue. This is so in the
area. of our political and social liberties as well as in connection
with the professional privileges associated with freedom of teaching.
It may be necessary for every generation to
restate the elementary truths that govern us in this respect, to meet
its own changing vocabulary and to find its own peculiar accent. The
central truth about all our so-called "rights" is, of course, the
obvious fact that they all presuppose common responsibilities before
there can be any question of common rights. There can be no "freedom"
for the teacher unless there is first the admitted "responsibility" to
seek and teach the truth. If a person. admits he is wearing
intellectual or moral blinkers, he is insincere in his quest for truth
from the beginning. Or if he thinks truth is just a "bourgeois
prejudice" he can obviously not be trusted with freedom, which is
morally justifiable only if the responsibility to seek and respect
truth is postulated from the beginning.1
Our difficulty today lies in these areas of
common responsibility—or, if you prefer, common loyalty. Loyalty is
frequently confused with a rather narrow spirit of patriotic devotion
to the national government and its symbols. It is of course much
broader than that. In fact, part of the contemporary difficulty with
loyalty lies in its constantly narrowing appeal. We are loyal—or should
be in a healthy democratic community—to our family, our neighborhood,
our religion, our church, our profession, and so on. The obvious fact
about contemporary loyalty is the reduction of opportunities for
loyalty that lies in the dwindling role of the family, of religion, and
of local and regional appeal. In a national emergency a society with
loyalties that are narrowed in this manner will seek its salvation in
sudden sharp stress on the loyalties that remain, and there are likely
to be overtones of chauvinism in this process.
Chauvinistic patriotism is of course only a
veneer of loyalty. It is likely to be intolerant of free personality
and, therefore, ultimately subversive of freedom in general. The remedy
is not simple. It certainly does not lie
in oratory or manifestoes about "freedom." It lies rather in the slow,
long-run process of rebuilding loyalties of the most diversified sort.
Fundamentally, loyalty means the dedication of a person to a cause or
purpose. In fact, the whole notion of personality is inconceivable
without the notion of purpose. Training the young—or retraining the
adult—for loyalty is therefore not a short-run process of routine
drill, or superficial observance of patriotic ritual. It means the
creation of opportunities for new loyalties or the reinvigoration of
old loyalties. It is impossible to force people to be loyal, but it is
possible to provide a framework for new shared experiences in
discipline and in leadership, to reveal new opportunities for loyalty
and to develop examples of various types of loyalty in the arts and
through biography and history in general. Broadly speaking, this means
a new emphasis in education on the contribution of personality and on
the opportunity for dedicated service to a value or ideal.
We are in a hurry, however, and we are likely
to narrow loyalty even further by following the pattern of European
developments where the decline of local, professional and moral
loyalties was overcome by centralized government and corresponding
national patriotism. This is a substitution of power or force for
loyalty in the old rich and diversified sense. It is the substitution
of cohesion through discipline, for the social cohesion that is built
upon shared values. It may be the easy road to a solution of short-run
difficulties in a national emergency, but it intensifies long-run
trends inimical to democratic values, and is fundamentally subversive
of responsibility and free personality.
We should keep our eyes on these basic factors
as the tension of national and international life increases. We should
not forget, however, that the society about us has a legitimate right
to expect us to "clean house," when clear abuse of professional trust
is established. The incidental encouragement to individuals and groups
that are themselves subversive of American values—including the primary
value of equality of opportunity as implemented in our public
schools—should not deter us from doing our duty as we understand it, if
and when abuse is proved on either side.
Freedom and democracy are best served by a
courageous respect for truth. Democratic is as Democratic does. We
shall be able to take care of overt
1 It is an
interesting comment on the
respect for "truth" of certain groups that bulletin boards at the
College were covered with coats and obscured in other ways to prevent
students from reading materials that did not confirm the ASU
"literature" on the subject.
enemies of our institutions when the challenge arises in due course. We
certainly should not tolerate abuses from one type of enemy of our
institutions because an attack upon its vested interests might
conceivably encourage adversaries of a different ideological hue.
Anything less than a dynamically evenhanded position will weaken our
Abuse of integrity would be harmful in any
profession, but it is fatal in a vocation that is morally and socially
anchored in a professional dedication to truth.
TOTALITARIAN ETHICS AND INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM
By Harry D. Gideonse, President of Brooklyn College
Now that the Rapp-Coudert investigation seems
to be on its way to liquidation, there would seem to be some point in
putting on record for the guidance of those in our profession who are
sincerely interested in academic freedom, and in the rights of students
and teachers, an episode involving the Board of Higher Education and
the municipal colleges. The record in this incident throws
characteristic light on the techniques used by some
self-constituted defenders of truth and freedom. If this record does
stress details, it is precisely the details that will enlighten those
who think of the Bill of Rights in abstract terms.
What follows is actually a case study.
Dean Dearborn, as National Chairman of the
American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom, recently
circulated a document dated September 24, 1941 and entitled "An Appeal
for Unity behind Democracy." It was addressed in part to the Board of
Higher Education of New York City and was sent to the members of that
body with a statement that it had been adopted "by unanimous vote" of
the members of his committee, whose names were all given on the first
page of the document.
I did not make an immediate reply, but took
pains to secure the original press statements distributed by the
committee as well as copies of the underlying analyses by Professors E.
M. Patterson and Harlow Shapley. Upon inquiry from these two gentlemen,
I found that their analyses which were widely publicized in this effort
to smear the Rapp-Coudert Committee and the Board of Higher Education,
were marked "Confidential—not for general distribution." In my
judgment, the contents of the committee's release constitutes a
reckless,. false, and silly attack upon what in all essentials
(regardless of minor errors common to such undertakings) was a common,
ordinary, decent attempt on the part of the Board of Higher Education
to hold a very small minority of the staffs of the city colleges to the
most ordinary standards of conduct normally observed by college
I was not, however, primarily concerned with
the content of the committee's document. The public hearings in the
Ackley case run to 481 pages, the trial committee report to 26 pages.
If Dean Dearborn, Professor Boas, and Mr. M. L Finkelstein were not
shocked at the evidence presented in these voluminous documents, I felt
sure I would not be able to convince them in a few words of comment. My
concern was—and is—with the method that was used to discredit the Board
of Higher Education and the City colleges under the protective
coloration of the sixty-three names that were released on the first
page of the committee document. I was shocked to think that all the men
and women listed in the committee's letter to the Board of Higher
Education, including such men as Professor Robert A. Millikan of the
California Institute of Technology and Dean Carl F. Wittke of Oberlin
College, had approved such a document, and I decided to check the
truthfulness of Dean Dearborn's statement concerning the unanimity of
approval by writing a letter to each and every member involved. In this
letter (copies of which can still be had in my office) I analyzed the
committee document. I concluded with the following two paragraphs:
"In my considered judgment this whole incident
is a perfect case of a front of ‘innocents’ misled by an inner group
that has a special ax to grind. It may even be a case of the
unauthorized use of names. I intend to clear this up either way—the
Committee will have to clarify its authority to use your names in this
matter,, or you will have to accept the full responsibility for the
manipulation and distortion of evidence that is clearly involved.
"I hope that those among you whom I and my
colleagues in the city colleges of New York have long looked upon, as
scholars and educators of unusual distinction and genuine integrity,
will make a reply that will make possible the continuance of our
respect and admiration."
The ensuing correspondence with individual
members of the committee was most enlightening. I found that Professor
Harlow Shapley, who as an analyst had not even seen the vital exhibits
in the trial, and who practically admitted the perjury of the
individual involved, was of the opinion that all the members of the
committee known to him were "anti-Bolshevist." As an outsider I could
only inform him that the founder of the committee, Professor F. Boas,
had been a supporter of American Peace Mobilization until the time of
the German invasion of Soviet Russia, when he suddenly became a leader
of those who are convinced that the war changed its character at that
point. Without mention of others—and it would be easy—I also pointed
out that the Committee's secretary, Mr. M. I. Finkelstein (until
recently a part-time instructor on an hourly basis in the Evening
Session of City College) has been definitely identified as a member of
the Communist Party in public testimony. Like all the others, he denies
such affiliation but the witness in question has stood up very well in
Some of the members apparently felt that my
description of the committee in its entirety was composed of Communists
or fellow travelers. The term "front of innocents" implies
emphatically, of course, that most of the members are "innocent."
The Committee would be of no use whatsoever
from the standpoint of the manipulating minority if the reputations of
most of its members were not impeccable in that regard. The committee
has always avoided criticism of Soviet totalitarianism in its profuse
denunciations of Fascist abuse. Such omissions are, of course, not
accidental and they serve the purpose of the insiders, even if most of
the signatories are completely unaware of such aims. Perhaps I should
say: especially because most of the signatories are unaware of such
aims. Thus, the New Times—the Communist Party faction newspaper that
was published by New York Times employees—used the omission of Soviet
Russia in the "Manifesto on Freedom in Science"—which was the keystone
upon which the American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual
Freedom was built—to prove that its signatories did not regard Soviet
Russia as comparable to Nazi Germany, where science is "frozen under a
dictator" (January 1939). The committee can only serve such purposes if
it obviously includes many members who are in no way involved in party
associations of less definite types.
The cry of academic freedom has of course been
heard in connection with every stage of the Rapp-Coudert investigation.
Committees of fellow travelers have idealized the "victims of the
repression of intellectual freedom" as "winter soldiers," as idealists
who sacrificed their careers to the truth even if it should be
unpopular, and comparisons are made with famous incidents in the
repression of minority opinion in the past. If we take a glance back at
such incidents as the episode involving the sociologist Ross at
Stanford, the economist Nearing and Patten at Pennsylvania, and Robert
M. Lovett in the disgraceful Walgreen episode at Chicago, we find in
each and every case a man of courage who—whatever we may think of the
nature of his thought—had the honesty of conviction to assert his views
publicly and to take personal responsibility for his utterances. None
of these characteristics have, of course, emerged in any of the
Recently I attended a student performance of
James Thurber's well-known play, "The Male Animal." Some parts of the
audience apparently read a parallel to the Rapp-Coudert investigation
into the play, although even the most superficial acquaintance with the
facts would, of course, make it evident that the cases were almost
exactly opposite. In the play the young professor gets into difficulty
with his college authorities because he intends to read to his class
from Vanzetti's letter, written while in prison awaiting the death
penalty. The young scholar, stunned by the challenge to his integrity
as a teacher, not only does not lie about the matter but carries his
convictions in an above-board, direct, and even provocative manner to
members of the board of trustees of his college.
In the play : courage, honesty of conviction,
almost reckless willingness to take the responsibility for an
unconventional viewpoint. In the Rapp-Coudert cases: denial of
unorthodox conduct and thought, cowardice, perjury, and complete
refusal to take the responsibility for one's actions.
Personally, I have almost been hoping that
some man or woman of courage would emerge in the Rapp-Coudert hearings
who would arise and assert his right as a citizen and as a scholar to a
communist viewpoint. It may be argued that such conduct would endanger
his position but—in view of the fact that no such cases have arisen so
far—that would have to be ironed out in the actual
trial hearings and in the inevitable subsequent legal. test.
Personally, I can say , that such a case would get my prayerful
consideration and—although I cannot state it unqualifiedly until the
facts and circumstances are clearly establishedit would probably be a
case in which the accused member of the staff would get the support of
my office. Such cases have not in fact arisen. Every single case tried
thus far involves clear defiance of the authority of the Board,
perjury, anonymous and scurrilous libel of colleagues, or other conduct
clearly unbecoming a member of the staff. Not a single case is based
upon open and frank admission of unorthodox political and social views.
Every single case is typical of is a party that has enriched our
political vocabulary with words like "party line," "fellow traveler,"
"transmission belt," "innocents front," "party name" and other terms
indicative of devious procedures. The reason for the absence of frank
and open admission of unorthodox ideas is undoubtedly the character of
the present Communist Party which would not permit independent thought
or action on the part of its members. They must, by definition, follow
the party line, that is to say, they must resign themselves to being
intellectual and moral "yes men," and they therefore are almost
inevitably involved in conduct unbecoming a member of a college
faculty, because their party has no use for members who respect truth
for its own sake and who would pursue it even when it conflicted with
the day-to-day fluctuations in the instructions from headquarters. In
other words: the totalitarian character of the Communist party
organization (or of Fascist organization, if such cases should arise)
makes it highly improbable that a case will arise where a member of the
staff will be accused merely of membership in the Party.
Inevitably—because of the character of these anti-democratic
groups—such membership will involve the individual concerned in other
activities which by themselves are clearly conduct unbecoming a member
of the staff.
My correspondence finally elicited the crucial
information from a member of the committe that the vote of the
Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom was not unanimous but
that thirty-eight members voted "yes" and twenty-six members did not
vote at all. The use of the term "unanimous vote" is now apparently
explained as an "error" that occurred in one communication whereas "in
all public statements" the words "without dissenting votes" were used.
Of course, efforts to poll those members of the Committe who did not
originally vote on the appeal for unity, subsequent to the challenge of
the use of the phrase "by unanimous vote" are completely and utterly
irrelevant. The fact still remains that these members of the Committee
had not expressed an opinion at the time their names were used.
If I should notify a public board that John
Doe had falsified justice, it is hardly an adequate remedy to report
later on, and privately, that I made an error about the word
"falsified." In this case, wide publicity was secured for an attack
upon the Board of Higher Education and the New York City colleges
entitled "An Appeal for Unity." The basis for the publicity was the
letter by the Chairman of the Committeee, Dean Dearborn, to the members
of the Board of Higher Education. This letter—the important document in
the whole affair—gave the names of all members, and of some former
members, and stated that the members of the committee had adopted the
enclosed "Appeal for Unity" "by unanimous vote."
Those of us in the New York picture who are
deeply aware of our responsibility in a situation in which certain
elements are prepared to call anyone a "red" who does not conform to
their conception of orthodoxy, while others apparently try to cover any
type of abuse—up to and including anonymous libel and perjury with an
appeal to academic freedom and intellectual liberty, were— deeply
impressed by the unanimous action of the committee. Here was a document
that carried respected and distinguished names, and it said that this
statement had been unanimously approved. If it had said: "Thirty-eight
of the sixty-three individual names appearing on this statement have
approved its contents," we would have glanced at the list, recognizing
some of the old familiars in the line up, and then we would have gone
on with the day's work. Dean Dearborn's document explicitly stated that
it had been approved by every one—and we therefore took it seriously.
Now the sad truth stands revealed in all its
shabby detail. My correspondence reveals that Professor Robert A.
Millikan and Dean Carl F. Wittke—not to speak of others—were not even
members of the committee at the time the statement was released.
Twenty-six of the names used to draw attention to the document were
names of individuals who had not approved the statement.
So far the officers of the committee have not apologized for their
tactics. So far they have not written to the members of the Board of
Higher Education informing them of Dean Dearborn's error and revealing
the names of those who are in fact prepared to take responsibility for
their attack on the Board and on the city colleges.
We have no quarrel with anyone's right to a
responsible opinion. If Dean Dearborn and his associates believe that
the conduct revealed in these hearings is "conduct becoming a teacher,"
that is their privilege. If they believe that anonymous libel and
perjury are a matter of "intellectual freedom," that may be. their
privilege. If they believe that analyses of trial conduct and hearings,
which overlooked essential exhibits, are a valid basis for the use of
terms like "mock trial," that, too, is their own personal
There can be no difference of opinion,
however, as to the irresponsible tactics that were employed in this
case under the protective coloration of twenty-six names of which the
use had not been authorized. At the very least, Dean Dearborn and his
associates should issue a public apology for their error—and seek to
give it as wide publicity as they gave to the original falsehood which
was the basis of the attention this statement attracted in the first
Dean Dearborn ignores all this in his
communication to our faculty. The Committee argues as if the issue were
the merits of the Ackley case. Insofar as I did touch upon the merits
of the Ackley case, it was merely as an approach to my real charge, to
wit: that the methods used by Dean Dearborn and the American Committee
for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom were spurious and fundamentally
(Reprint from The New Leader, February 28, 1948)
TRUTH IN THE MARKET PLACE—ARE TOTALITARIANS SACRED
By Harry D. Gideonse, President of Brooklyn College
and of Freedom House
Just as it is one thing to cry "Fire" in
Central Park, and another to do so in a crowded theater, it is one
thing to be subversive in a time of ideological peace and national
solidarity and another to be subversive in a period of cold war in
which the idea of infiltration and ideological camouflage has become a
recognized weapon of power politics. Those of us who are concerned to
preserve a Bill of Rights America cannot do so effectively by a mere
reiteration of old texts. The basic ideas have to be rethought in terms
of new facts and circumstances.
Classically, freedom is always defended as the
best method of pursuing the search for truth, in which we assume that
the truth of tomorrow may be the heresy of today, and the constructive
potentiality of heresy is therefore assumed as well as the agreement
that each is searching for the truth whatever our differences may be as
to its exact nature. It is vital to recognize that the heart of the
argument lies in the moral assumption that all of us are dedicated to
the truth wherever our individual conscience and insight may lead us to
recognize it. Traditionally, we assume that an individual taking the
hazard of testing unpopular positions in open controversy does so on
the merits of the argument.
Most of the confusion in our current
controversy about civil rights is embodied hr. the refusal to admit
that today there is no such agreement, in fact, on the moral basis of
our civil liberties. Justice Douglas, of the United States Supreme
Court, recently made an eloquent plea for the maintenance of civil
liberties, in which he made the classic assumption that unpopular
minorities consisted of people like John Peter Altgelt, who "do not
stand mute when their conscience urges them to speak out." The trouble
with our contemporary so-called subversives is, of course, precisely
that they consider the truth "a bourgeois prejudice," and that they
frequently stand mute when their particular type of discipline requires
them to follow the party line rather than the dictates of the truth in
the light of the argument and the evidence.
The same classic assumptions can be found in
Justice Holmes' famous formulation that "the best test of truth is the
power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of .the
market." The phrase "competition of the market," of course, calls for
open avowal of the minority point of view, and the phrase, "test of
truth," again implies a willingness to follow the evidence and the
argument wherever it may lead. The real problem with the mod-
ern "subversive" is concealment of purpose, camouflaged vocabulary, and
avoidance of competition. Holmes' reliance upon the competition of the
marketplace as a test of truth is simply irrelevant under these
circumstances. Most of us have no fear at all of the test of truth in
an open argument with Stalinists who believe in neither truth nor
competition, but we are deeply concerned with the consequences of
protecting liars and conspirators with civil liberties which were
intended as a safeguard for minority points of view that are morally
dedicated to a search for truth in open comparison and competition with
There is a deep-seated and dangerous confusion
in our present controversies about "loyalties," "subversives," and
"civil liberties,'' and only a vigorous argument clarifying these
conceptions in the light of present facts will help us to hammer out
working definitions designed to preserve the essentials of a free
Recently the American Civil Liberties Union
took action on student activities in our colleges which is almost a
textbook example of the chaotic emotionalism that now passes for
thought in this area. The ACLU laid down the principle that any
organization for political action, including the Communist Party,
should be allowed to organize on any campus; although I think it can be
discussed whether any totalitarian group whose primary loyalty lies
elsewhere should be included in such action, I accept that for the sake
of discussion as a typical "civil liberties" point of view. The ACLU
went on to say that if such a group, after being chartered, was proven
to have lied about its affiliations, such findings should be published
on the campus, but they should not be grounds for suspension or any
other disciplinary action. Now it is a clearly established principle
that an educational institution is supposed to draw some disciplinary
conclusion if a student group lies or disregards campus rules, but the
Civil Liberties Union is saying that Communists have the right to lie
without incurring the usual penalties for such behavior.
Similarly emotionalism seems to underlie the
recent Albany decision of the Acting Commissioner of Education ordering
the Board of Higher Education to reinstate with back pay a teacher who
had been dismissed after an open trial by a unanimous Board under the
statutory charge of "conduct unbecoming a teacher." The Commissioner
based his decision in the Thompson case on the argument that membership
in the Communist Party is not ground for dismissal. This ruling missed
the entire point in the case. The Board of Higher Education, ruling on
the principle in April, 1941, stated explicitly that it was the Board's
intention "to adhere to its established policy not to discharge any
member of its staffs merely because of membership in a political
organization." The formal legal charges in this case made it very plain
that the teacher was dismissed because credible witnesses established
to the Board's satisfaction that the individual in question was a liar
in an investigation conducted under the auspices of the State
Legislature, and untruthfulness is still—until further totalitarian
revision of our professional standards—"conduct unbecoming a teacher,"
as defined in the law. It so happens that the untruthfulness was
established in connection with the individual's relationship to a
Communist organization and his attendance at its meetings. If the
untruthfulness had been established in connection with his presence at
services of the Catholic Church, it would still be untruthfulness and
not proof that he had been dismissed because he is a Catholic.
The issue here was simple: Should teachers be
truthful? The Albany ruling seems to mean that we have amended the Bill
of Rights to say. that whereas all other citizens will be punished for
perjury, totalitarians will be granted a special exemption. Can you
really expect free institutions to endure under such a perverted
conception of the moral basis of our civil liberties? It may be very
well to say as a matter of principle that our freedoms should be
extended to any-one, even to a citizen of totalitarian political
sympathies if all other standards of moral and civic decency are
observed, but the sober fact of the matter is that anyone who has
embraced a totalitarian party-line has also automatically adopted a
form of human conducts which is itself—by definition—subversive of the
standards of a free society dedicated to truth.
There are some thoroughly absurd, and even
dangerous, things being said by those who, "throwing the baby out with
the bathwater," would save the country from totalitarianism by
suspending the Bill of Rights. Some weeks ago, one of my colleagues at
Brooklyn College Invited J. Parnell Thomas, the chairman of the House
Committee on Un-American Activities, to participate in a college radio
program on the topic "Who and What is Un-American?"
Thomas said that he didn't like the subject, that it was indecent and
shameful for a college to discuss such a subject, that words like
American and un-American did not require definition because everybody
knew what they meant, that we didn't have the right to discuss it. When
my colleague urged that the Bill of Rights gave us the privilege of
discussing any subject as long as it wasn't obscene, Representative
Thomas replied that he didn't care about the Bill of Rights. Most of us
are quite ready to grant that a tired public man may sometimes be
harassed into the use of careless language, but I am profoundly
disturbed about a gentleman assigned to the task of applying the
yardstick of true Americanism to the conduct and behavior of his
fellow-citizens, who regards the discussion of his yardstick as
impermissible. In my judgment, and, I feel happily certain, in the
judgment of the overwhelming majority of my fellow-citizens, such a
statement is an example of un-American activity. If Representative
Thomas and his Committee would like a fight about that, I am sure that
there are many of us who are sufficiently true to the spirit of our
institutions to let him have it, and the fact that there are some folks
who abuse these freedoms, of whose conduct we disapprove as firmly as
anyone in the Congress, does not change our viewpoint. There is a
legitimate place for a Congressional Committee on Un-American
Activities, but I regret that its present personnel and procedures are
frequently amaturish, ignorant, and lacking in the qualities that would
make its work fruitful.
We are in fact in a period in which
conspiratorial groups are using civil liberties as a cloak to cover
moral indecency totally subversive of the ideals of liberty and truth,
while some of the critics of these groups are themselves utterly
ignorant of the nature of the institutions they presume to defend.
While the lunatic fringes grow and are increasingly irresponsible, it
is time to strengthen the liberal center. The best way to do that is to
re-examine our basic liberties in the light of current facts and
current abuses. There is very little help in a parrot-like repetition
of the old words and phrases. If they are to be a living chart, and not
an empty verbal shell covering an alien content, their meaning must be
hammered out anew on the anvil of experience.
It would be futile to attempt to remedy the
situation created in public education by the recent Albany ruling in
the Thompson case, by new legislation forbidding the employment of
Communists or other totalitarians. Such legislation may or may not be
wise, but it has nothing to do with the principles involved in the
ruling, or in the decision of the Board of Higher Education. The Acting
Commissioner in Albany referred to the political rights of Communists,
to the defendant's service in the armed forces, and even to the Bridges
affair, which—like the flowers that bloom in the spring—had nothing to
do with the ease. What we need is a vigorous reminder to our
administrators that unconventional ideological belief is no excuse for
lying and perjury. If the ruling in this case were allowed to stand, it
would lead to a situation in which public administrators would have to
insist on lower standards of integrity and decency for Communists than
for Republicans or Democrats or other citizens, and in which any type
of misconduct would become acceptable if the person in question claimed
immunity as a Communist from the customary standards of professional
honesty and conduct.
We can all agree with President Conant's
recent statement that panic may lead government to submit teachers to a
disastrous interference with freedom of teaching and of thought. In a
free society we need to preserve the process of arriving at reasoned
convictions which emerge from diversity of opinions, honestly expressed
and freely argued. There are in every generation those who must carry
the cross uphill, and they suffer for the next generation. There is
something obscene in aattempts to justify the misconduct of a
conspiratorial group of perjurers and liars by references to John Peter
Altgeld—or even to Socrates and Gallileo. Socrates and Altgeld and
Gallileo took before the whole world the full consequences of their own
passionate devotion to the search for truth. These are sacred things to
a free society, and they do not mean that liars should be protected
against the penalty for untruthfulness, or that conspiratorial and
anonymous libel of colleagues should be tolerated in the name of the
secular saints of liberty and reason.
There is no method more certain to create
distrust of the social function of freedom of teaching and of inquiry,
than the establishment of the principle that the common standards of
moral and professional decency, integrity and truthfulness do not apply
when a teacher accepts an unorthodox political faith or
ideology. What is sauce for the Republican or Democratic goose should
be sauce for the Communist gander.
Civil liberties and rights will have become a
fit subject for Gilbert and Sullivan when it becomes necessary to argue
that the First Amendment did not establish special exemptions for lying
and perjury on condition that the defendant embrace a totalitarian