Graphic Witness: visual arts & social commentary
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TIME WAS when the members of the Board of Higher Education were the trustees of more than the municipal colleges. Time was when they were the trustees of academic freedom. Time was when the Nation in its honor roll included a citation for “the Board of Higher Education under the chairmanship of Ordway Tead for introducing academic democracy into the colleges of New York City.”

When the Dies Committee heard witnesses attack Brooklyn College, Mr. Tead said: “Allegations of Communist activity in our city colleges are not news, nor is the fact of such activity unknown to our board. Insofar as the activities of our students are concerned . . . no one would propose any direct interference with the free expression of their personal opinion on any matters. If there are Communists on the faculty of Brooklyn College, that too, in the first instance is a matter of their personal and private conviction. The political views of the members of our faculties are naturally diverse and are not a matter which we inquire into in the first instance. Our concern is with the scholarship and integrity of our faculties. . . . Indeed, differences of opinion and attitude among faculty members are a wholesome sign of vitality, and as this is reflected in the teaching, it supplies students with a useful cross-section of the divergence of views in the community at large.”

New times—changed men. Ordway Tead now supports a resolution to remove from the college staffs all those who advocate “subversive doctrines.”  That vague and sweeping term which has been used so often to mask assaults upon the Bill of Rights, was left undefined.

But the definition was not long in forthcoming. Acting-President Wright of the City College told a delegation of union teachers that he was out to get rid not only of the Communists but of those “who act like Communists” and “those who are called Communists”. A resolution new in the history of academic life, shameful and unprecedented. A yellow sign hung over the arched doors of the colleges: “Closed to intellectual thought and free inquiry. No dissenters need apply.”

Thirty-three of the teachers named in the Rapp-Coudert hearings were suspended from their positions at the City College and at Brooklyn College.

The New York Sun headlined the resolution as a “purge”.

Are we ready for purges in America?

Harry Gottlieb