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








July-August 1950

July 6
Thirty-one remaining non-signers form the Group on Academic Freedom to promote their cause to the public and through legal strategies, and provide financial assistance to any faculty who are dismissed. 

July 13
Professor T.J. Kent, Tolman’s son-in-law, finds a lawyer, Stanley A. Weigel of San Francisco, who is willing to provide legal support for the non-signers. 

July 18
President Sproul meets with three of the leading non-signers and tells them the Regents will probably vote to dismiss them, because of the fear of some Regents that if they give in to a small group of non-signers this year, a larger number will refuse to sign the following year, and Regental power will be undermined. 

July 21
The Regents meet. Sproul reports there are only 84 remaining non-signers of the 157 recommended for dismissal. Sproul asks that the remaining faculty non-signers who received favorable reviews by the Committees on Privilege and Tenure be retained. Several faculty, both non-signers and signers, speak to the Regents. Professor Clark Kerr notes that the non-signing faculty are among the University’s most “independent spirits” and asks if the Regents are willing to dismiss them for their sense of independence. Regent Neylan and other Regents speak strongly against retaining the non-signers. Sproul’s recommendation to confirm the 39 faculty non-signers in their positions is approved by a vote of 10-9. Regent Neylan then changes his vote from “no” to “yes” and announces he will move to reconsider the motion at the August Board meeting.

The non-signers meet that evening and embark on a lobbying strategy to defeat any reconsideration of the Regents votes. Other faculty, however, begin to lobby the non-signers to sign the oath, hoping to avoid any further controversy. Professor Tolman says, “Personally I feel that nobody would have any respect for me if I should sign now, and I certainly would have no respect for myself.”

One non-signer says in a letter to another faculty member: “Professors come and go; Presidents come and go; Regents come and go; but a University of this size and eminence continues on. If times are favorable, this University will continue to be great. If the times are unfavorable, this University like all others in the country will suffer, but not because a few of us sticking to our principles are being fired, but because the world climate and the national climate will no longer make intellectual freedom and university greatness possible.”

August 17
The Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom meets. The feeling is that faculty sentiment has shifted to support of The Regents since the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June, and that the non-signers' position has little support on the faculty or among members of the public. 

August 21
The Group for Academic Freedom meets and hears their lawyer advise that this is the last chance to sign. If the Board votes against them, they will be dismissed without recourse within the University. The majority say they will still not sign. 

August 25
The Regents meet. All but two are present. Press reports have been favoring dismissal. The Los Angeles Examiner has editorialized, “The real question is whether educators, under the cloak of academic freedom, shall be free to poison the minds of American youth with the fallacious doctrines of a foreign despotism.” United Nations forces are facing defeat in the early stages of the Korean War, a situation which influences much public opinion. The Regents debate, and some who favor dismissal say that the matter has cone down to whether faculty should obey the governing authority of the Regents. One ally of Regent Neylan says, “No Regent has ever accused a member of the faculty of being a Communist.” The Regents vote 12-10 to reverse their July decision, and dismiss the faculty; non-signers are given ten days to change their minds, and granted severance payment of one academic year to all non-signers who choose to resign. The crucial vote in favor of dismissal comes from the new Alumni Regent who says that leading members of the alumni Committee which had tried to negotiate a compromise would support his position. 

August 31
A lawsuit is filed on behalf of 20 non-signers. 

The non-signers also start to raise money to assist those dismissed. In two weeks, $9,000 is pledged among southern California supporters, and more than $18,000 will be raised for the Southern non-signers. Ultimately more than $70,000 for the Northern non-signers will be raised from some seven hundred UC faculty, as well as many others. This money is used to support non-signers through 1950, but by the fall of 1951 only two non-signers who were part of the Northern Section of the Academic Senate remain in financial need; the others have secured employment or income elsewhere.


Compiled by Steve Finacom


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Last updated 12/15/03.