UCOP > A Brief History of the University of California > The University Builders >
 
 

President Wheeler

The Faculty Revolution

Growth of the Campuses

The Modern University

President Sproul

The Loyalty Oath

Progress and Problems

The Chancellorship

The Multiversity

Achievements of the 1960s


 

Chapter 14: The Loyalty Oath

The postwar years, marked by McCarthyism and the Red scare, brought a painful crisis to President Sproul's administration and the University. In 1949, several controversial incidents on the Los Angeles campus roused the Regents' concern, among them speaking invitations to left-leaning British Labour Party member Harold Laski and to a professor who had been dismissed from the University of Washington because of his membership in the Communist Party. In the politically charged climate of the times, President Sproul urged the Regents to adopt a loyalty oath that would implement the University's 1940 policy prohibiting the employment of Communists, a recommendation the Board accepted in the spring of 1949. Although President Sproul soon regretted his action and faculty resistance to the oath spread, the Regents reaffirmed and upheld the oath in March 1950. Thirty-one faculty members were dismissed that same year for refusing to sign it.

When the courts ruled the oath invalid almost two years later, offers of reinstatement were made to these thirty-one faculty. In the meantime, however, the legislature voted to impose a loyalty oath of its own, known as the Levering Oath, that all state employees were required to sign as a condition of employment—and do to this day.

The loyalty oath episode was a manifestation of the politics of the times, but it also became a dispute over governance of the University, as the President found himself caught in the middle between Regents and faculty. To those members of the public who were convinced the Communist threat at UC was real, the University seemed vacillating and untrustworthy; to those worried about academic freedom, it appeared unwilling to defend its own deepest values.

 
 
 
 


 

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Last updated 09/29/05.