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Expanded Timeline: Events of the Loyalty Oath Controversy and Historical Background

 

Introduction

1940-1948

1949
January-February
March-April
May-June
July-August
September-October
November-December

1950
January-February
March-April
May-June
July-August
September-October
November-December

1951-1956

 

May-June 1950


May 1
The Northern Section of the Academic Senate meets in Berkeley, with about 450 members present. A Special Committee on Academic Freedom is established. It is asked to begin work on procedures for hearings regarding non-signers. A motion which states that any dismissal of non-signers without a review by the standing Committee on Privilege and Tenure will be viewed as an attack on tenure is made to the Senate but, after debate, referred to the Special Committee. 

May 2
The Southern Section of the Academic Senate meets in Los Angles and instructs its Committee on Privilege and Tenure to regard those who will not sign the oath for reasons of conscience as fully protected in their tenure. 

These actions antagonize the Regents who favor the oath and highlight a difference in interpretation of the Regental actions on the oath. Regent Neylan believes that only those who refuse to take any oath for religious reasons, such as Quakers, should receive a favorable review from the Committee on Privilege and Tenure, and that all other reasons for refusing to sign the oath are invalid; this would excuse only a small minority of the faculty. In contrast, many faculty see the Committee reviews and role as much more flexible, providing a way for the vast majority of non-signers to justify opposition to the oath and still receive a favorable review from their peers. The non-signers also feel that if the Committee does not rule against them, their jobs should be secure.

May 4
The Academic Senate actions also create a rift among faculty. Some believe that the Senate actions encourage faculty to oppose the oath and continue the controversy. Professor Joel Hildebrand writes to members of the Northern Section on this date, stating that “I venture to interpret the position of a large majority of the Senate as believing that the contract form is not unreasonable, and as devoutly desiring to have an end to the turmoil, division and ill-will under which we have so long suffered.” 

May 11
The Northern Section of the Academic Senate announces new members of the Committee on Privilege and Tenure. All of them are faculty who had signed the oath. 

May 13
The Committees on Privilege and Tenure meet jointly with President Sproul in Berkeley to develop procedures for the hearings for non-signers.

May 15
The deadline for signing the oath specified by the Regents on June 24, or the new contract of employment specified by the Regents on April 21. The Committee on Privilege and Tenure hearings commence. 

May 26
Regent Neylan tells the Board that he does not believe non-signers should be retained simply because he cannot be proven that they are Communists or because the Committee on Privilege and Tenure rules in favor of them. 

June 2
Hearings begin for non-Academic Senate employees and non-academic employees who have not signed the oath. Eighty one cases are reviewed; 58 are recommended favorably, eight unfavorably, and 15 receive no recommendation. 

June 13
The Committees on Privilege and Tenure forward their recommendations to the President.

The Southern Section Committee has heard twenty-seven cases, and decided in favor of all but one of them. The Northern Section Committee has heard fifty-two cases, and decided in favor of forty-seven. A total of 81 cases are heard, and 75 of the individuals are viewed favorably by the Committees. Six individuals, both north and south, have refused to discuss the question of whether they had any connection to the Communist Party or to state directly that they oppose communism. None of the six are necessarily viewed as Communists or sympathizers; they have simply stood on principle. 

June 23
President Sproul reports his recommendations on the Committee reviews. Sproul tells the Regents that he believes that the recommendations of the Committee on Privilege and Tenure should generally be upheld; if they are not, the University would be damaged in reputation and the best faculty could not be recruited or retained. 

Sproul recommends that 157 employees, both academic and non-academic be terminated. This includes the eight given unfavorable recommendations by the Academic Senate Committees, eighteen the Committees has supported favorably, but the President had decided to oppose, 13 who had been referred by the Committees with non recommendation, and all those who had said they would resign from the University rather than sign the oath. Sproul also recommends that the favorable decisions of the Committees on Privilege and Tenure be upheld in the cases of sixty-two non-signers who are members of the faculty, and that those individuals be confirmed in their academic appointments.

The Regents are divided. One point of contention is that 62 non-signers are recommended for retention. What happens, one Regent asks, if the next year there are ten times as many? Regent Neylan says the issue all along has been whether the University can exclude employees because they are Communist. The Regents then vote unanimously to dismiss the 157 employees recommended by Sproul for dismissal, and postpone action on the others until their July meeting.

June 25
North Korea attacks South Korea, beginning the Korean War, which will last until 1953. An American-led United Nations force intervenes on June 30.

June 29
The position of the non-signers is weakened. Public sentiment is generally against them, and many of their faculty colleagues want the controversy to end. A number of non-signers decide to sign to retain their jobs. Others, including Professor Tolman, continue to stand on principle or have less economic necessity.

 

Compiled by Steve Finacom

 

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