Edward C. Tolman (non-signer, Psychology) to UC President Robert G. Sproul, July 18, 1950

July 18, 1950

University of California
Berkeley, 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 truth.

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 totalitarianism.

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 so?"

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 fully observed"?

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 itself.

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 followed it.

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 evil.

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 University

Source: To Bring You the Facts, pamphlet privately printed and distributed by eighteen alumni of the Berkeley campus, August 17, 1950.


uchp.gif (7316 bytes)


Copyright © 1999-2005
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 11/19/99.