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










During the year. . .

In a celebrated “spy trial” Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of transmitting atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, and sentenced to death. 

The United States Supreme Court in Dennis v. United States supports the effective outlawing of the U.S. Communist Party.

The United States begins nuclear tests in the Nevada desert. Over seven years more than 100 open-air tests will be held.

January 11
All UC employees except one research assistant and eleven teaching assistants at Berkeley have signed the Levering Oath.

February 1
The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Northern Section of the Academic Senate releases a report entitled The Consequences of the Abrogation of Tenure. It argues that the University has suffered harm because of the Regents action, particularly by dismissing non-signing faculty “to whom all forms of totalitarianism are equally loathsome." It is noted that 55 courses are not being taught because their faculty were lost, faculty at more than 40 other American colleges and universities have opposed the Regents action, and 47 distinguished individuals have refused to accept faculty positions at UC because of the oath.

April 6
The District Court of Appeal rules in Tolman v. Underhill that the Regents acted improperly and violated the Constitutional requirement that the University be free of all political and sectarian influence and that faculty are public officers under the Constitution and cannot be subjected to any test of loyalty other than the State Constitutional Oath. The Regents are ordered to issue letters of appointment to the non-signers.

April 20
The attorney for the Regents files a petition for rehearing in the morning. The Regents meet in the afternoon. A motion to withdraw the petition for rehearing carries eleven to ten. Once again Regent Neylan changes his “no” vote to “yes” so he can move for reconsideration at the next meeting.

May 25
The Regents meet and by a vote of 12-10 (Neylan is not at the meeting) refuse to reconsider their votes on August 20 not to appeal the court decision. 

May 31
The California Supreme Court, on its own motion, takes Tolman v. Underhill as a case to review. This suspends the lower court decision, and the Regents are no longer required, for the time being, to re-appoint the nonsigners.

June 5
The Northern Section of the Academic Senate meets and votes 350-0 to ask the Regents to reinstate the non-signers and rescind the oath.

New appointments have shifted the power on the Board of Regents in favor of Governor Warren’s anti-oath faction.

October 19
The Regents meet. A motion is made to rescind the oath, but reaffirm the Regents policy on not employing Communists. It passes, 12-8, but is scheduled for reconsideration in November. 

November 16
The vote to reconsider the Regents’ action of October 19 fails 12-5. In essence, the University returned to its conditions of employment prior to the adoption of the special oath. However, the State’s Levering Oath was still required of UC employees: thus, the Regents implicitly accepted an oath imposed on the University by the State Legislature.



October 17
The State Supreme Court hands down its decision in Tolman v. Underhill. It states that “university personnel cannot properly be required to execute any other oath or declaration relating to loyalty other than that prescribed for all state employees.” The non-signers are ordered reinstated. 

October 31
The Regents meet and unanimously vote not to petition the Supreme Court for a rehearing in Tolman v. Underhill

California voters decide if the Levering Oath should be added to the State Constitution. They approve of the oath, 2,700,000 to 1,200,000.



February 24
Sixteen of the non-signers go to court to seek full back pay for the period they were dismissed.

The non-signers and the University settle. The Regents grant back pay for the period of July 1, 1950, through December 31, 1952, minus other income received during that period, and also grant full credit towards sabbatical leave and pension rights. The non-signers waive any claim to payment of interest on back-salaries and other considerations.



April 7
Delegates to the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors vote to censure the University of California saying that “The net effect of the (University’s action) has been to weaken academic freedom and to deny essential rights to the faculty members who resisted” the oath.


Compiled by Steve Finacom


Copyright © 2002-2005
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 12/15/03.