Edward C. Tolman (non-signer, Psychology) to
UC President Robert G. Sproul, July 18, 1950
July 18, 1950
PRESIDENT ROBERT GORDON SPROUL
University of California
Dear President Sproul:
I respectfully address you on behalf of members
of the faculty of the University of California who, for reasons
of principle, have followed the procedure for petition and review
provided in the April 21, 1950, resolution of the Regents of the
University of California. In a larger sense, our message could well
be addressed to the students, administrators and faculties of all
American universities, as well as to the people of our country.
At the outset, it is important to bear in mind
that the resolution of April 21st, a copy of which is attached,
makes it clear that faculty members who chose not to sign the prescribed
form of letter of acceptance were provided by the Regents with "the
right of petition and review" which "will be fully observed".
The stated right of petition and review was specified, by the resolution,
to consist of review of each case "by the Committee on Privilege
and Tenure of the Academic Senate, including investigation of and
full hearing on the reasons" for the failure to sign the special
letter of acceptance. All for whom I speak have, in good faith,
followed this procedure designated by the Regents and have done
so in their belief that the Regents recognized that investigation
by our fellow-teachers is at least as reliable a means of determining
loyalty as the mere signing of a statement.
Another important preliminary matter which should
be set out is this: The Regents have never repudiated either the
findings or the recommendations of the Committee on Privilege and
Tenure of the Academic Senate. The tradition has been inviolate
that, for all practical purposes, that committee determines the
fitness of faculty members.
These considerations as to the significance of
the effect of the resolution of April 21, 1950, are, it seems to
us, not only clear from the express words of that resolution, but
were made doubly so by repeated statements of spokesmen for and
on behalf of the Regents in urging faculty acceptance of the compromise
contained in that resolution.
There is a final preliminary. We do not address
you, and through you the Regents, in any legalistic manner. At the
same time, we think that some support, at least, for the views we
shall express may be found in the Constitution of our State, which
declares that the University of California is a public trust, that
it shall be kept entirely independent of all political or sectarian
influence and, in another section of the State Constitution, that
no oath, declaration or test beyond that of the oath to support
the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of California
may be required as a qualification for any public trust.
Appended is a partial list of the men and women
who address this message to you. You know them and their families
well. Many are eminent scholars and scientists; all are loyal to
the United States of America; all have served our country in or
out of uniform; all share a deep love for their University; most
have served it for years; some have dedicated their entire adult
lives to that service.
On July 21, 1950, the Regents will make a decision
of vital importance to the nation, to our University and to the
lives of ourselves and our families. That decision will bear upon
an issue which for more than a full year has profoundly disturbed
all concerned with the welfare of the University.
If the year of turmoil had clearly defined the
issue and really settled it, we would not now be addressing you.
The tragedy, it seems to us, is that it really has not been defined
and settled. Therefore, we propose to state the issue as we see
it and to submit our suggestions for fair settlement.
The one basic issue is and always has been academic
freedom--freedom to teach the truth in good conscience and without
fear. To face that basic issue, one must clear away matters upon
which there is no disagreement. May we try to do so at once?
1. Loyalty to the United States, its Constitution
and its laws is a prerequisite to the privilege of teaching. All
of us stand ready to swear to defend and support the Constitution
of the United States.
2. Membership in the Communist Party or any other
organization which advocates the overthrow of the government by
force or violence disqualifies anyone from the privilege of teaching
at the University of California. All of us recognize that loyalty
to any doctrine of totalitarianism shackles the free pursuit of
3. Final authority over all the affairs of the
University of California lies in the Regents. The Constitution of
the State of California so provides.
4. The basic issue is not changed by the crisis
in Korea. All history proves that it is in just such moments of
crisis that liberty is most dangerously threatened by fear and passion;
therefore, these are times in which it is more imperative than ever
to stand firm for the freedoms which distinguish democracy from
Recognition and understanding of the real issue
calls for our clear answer to those who ask, "Well, if you're
not Communists, and if you don't believe in overthrowing the government
by force and violence, why aren't you willing to sign up and say
To give such answer is the burden we now assume.
We believe that the one basic difference between
democracy and totalitarianism (whether the latter takes the guise
of Communism or Fascism or Nazism) is this: In a democracy a man
is judged and his rights are determined on fair evidence, fairly
considered and fairly acted upon by a fair tribunal. In a democracy,
neither a man nor his rights nor his reputation are condemned because
of mere whisper or hate or prejudice or because he refuses to tip
his hat or to bow or to scrape or to sign on the dotted line.
In a totalitarian state, any man, his rights and
his reputation may arbitrarily be destroyed for such trivial reasons.
His worth, his dignity, his conscience and his competence may be
swept aside by the nod of the head or the turn of the thumb.
Here in America, neither lives nor jobs nor property
are condemned without a fair hearing and fair action based upon
facts. Our very way of life and our form of government are based
upon the fundamental principle that we presume the innocence and
not the guilt of human beings; that presumption is the bulwark against
arbitrary exercise of power.
If we are "fired" from work with the
University and students to whom we are devoted only because we cannot
in good conscience sign on the dotted line, isn't that a species
of arbitrary condemnation? Isn't it the nod of the head or the turn
of the thumb?
And is it not especially so in view of the fact
that on April 21, 1950, the Regents assured us that "in any
case of failure to sign the right of petition and review will be
All of us have exercised that right and have appeared
willingly before the hearing committee specified by the Regents.
We are advised that that committee has found that
there is neither Communism nor disloyalty nor any other incompetence
in any of us. This is the solid fact as to all of us. It applies
equally to the several of us who could not in good conscience make
oral statements equivalent to the written statement which all elected
not to sign. Surely those who stood so staunchly on principle should
not be victimized. Academic freedom can be frustrated by sacrificing
a single innocent person.
Are, then, the findings of the faculty Committee
on Privilege and Tenure to be disregarded? Are we now, having followed
the very alternative offered to us by the Regents, to be discharged
from our jobs and our students because we still choose not to sign?
It seems to us that if the findings of our traditional
Committee on Privilege and Tenure are rejected and if we are told
to get out, the damaging and unfair public assumption will be that
the Regents have undisclosed evidence against us. Even more important,
if the findings of our colleagues are discarded, not only is our
individual academic freedom destroyed, but that of the faculty as
a whole is threatened.
It is threatened for a very real reason. At all
free American institutions of higher learning, the ultimate governing
authority has traditionally honored the findings of the faculty
in regard to the fitness of teachers. That tradition has been the
cornerstone of academic freedom. Arbitrary action which disregards
findings, as to fitness of teachers, made by duly constituted faculty
committees imperils the tradition and, therefore, academic freedom
No one has seriously contended that the taking
of the oath or the signing of the statement would insure the elimination
of Communists from the faculty. The Regents in their resolution
of April 21st recognized, wisely we think, that the purpose sought
could as well be served by the hearing procedure which it prescribed
and which we have followed. To us, that procedure seems not inconsistent
with academic freedom. That is why, in complete good faith, we have
This still leaves it for us to make it unmistakably
clear why we still do refuse to sign the special letter of acceptance.
We believe there are many good reasons. We state only three.
1. We choose not to sign on the dotted line
because the one thing that has kept freedom in American universities
is the traditional right of teachers to be judged by their peers
as to ability and integrity. Once the privilege of teaching the
young becomes dependent upon signing any super-imposed statements,
we believe our capacity to teach, freely and honestly, is imperiled.
The first signing on the dotted line may seem trivial and unimportant,
but in the tensions of the world today, the trivial and the unimportant
all too readily become the precedent for the dangerous and the
2. If we sign on the dotted line, we risk losing
the faith of our students. They ask us (and, more important, ask
themselves), if we are then still free to speak and teach and
write the unadulterated truth. Or, they ask us and themselves,
must we measure our words and gauge our teaching and scan our
writing to be sure that we do not offend those who required us
to sign on the dotted line.
These factors of the faith of our students are
of the utmost importance. The rights of students are profoundly
involved. Indeed, their freedom is more important than ours. It
seems to us that you can hardly have free students if they are
taught by men whose freedom to pursue the truth is impaired, no
matter how slightly, by arbitrary conditions of employment. And
in the climate of a university, where the theoretical is quite
as important as the practical, it does not suffice to say that
the letter of acceptance imposes no practical restraint.
3. We hate and deplore totalitarianism. We despise
its stifling of the individual and of freedom. Therefore, we resist
the idea that coercion of teachers is requisite to preservation
of free institutions.
If the facts have fairly established that any
of us are members of the Communist Party or of any other organization
which advocates the overthrow of the government by force or violence,
we ask the Regents so to state and to refuse us the privilege of
teaching at our University. Or if the facts have fairly established
that for any other real and substantial reason we are not fit to
teach, we ask the Regents so to state and to refuse us that privilege.
Otherwise, we petition the Regents to prove to
the nation, indeed, to the world, that the privilege of a loyal
and competent man or woman to serve on the faculty of the University
of California does not turn upon anything so arbitrary as signing
on the dotted line.
Our faith in American institutions, in the University
and in those who govern it fortifies our hope that the Regents will
continue to support the faculty committee upon which they have traditionally
relied and which they have never repudiated.
We petition the Regents not to discharge, for
arbitrary reasons, any innocent person.
Edward C. Tolman
Professor of Psychology
Carbon copy to each member of the Regents of the
Source: To Bring You the Facts, pamphlet
privately printed and distributed by eighteen alumni of the Berkeley
campus, August 17, 1950.