Letters to and From the Editor

Academic Freedom

The three articles by Howard Mumford Jones, Joseph Alsop, and the University Presidents, respectively, in the June Atlantic are distinguished contributions to the discussion of a critical problem. However, academic freedom is also threatened from within the institutions of higher learning.
The average member of a faculty knows that it is not expedient for him to speak his mind, even within his field of competence, on political or social questions in the outside community. If the college administration or board of trustees has a point of view differing from his own, it is discreet for him to remain silent or to maintain an attitude of judicious impartiality.
No one tells him what to say, of course. In fact, if the matter were brought up, he would be told that he is free to exercise his prerogatives of citizenship. But he knows that promotions— or even tenure —are seldom granted to those who have a reputation of being “unstable” or too active in areas outside the precincts of scholarship.
The faculty meeting is another situation where freedom is limited. On purely curricular matters, a faculty member can express himself freely, but if the issue is one on which administration policy has crystallized, he is on dangerous ground if he becomes even a “loyal opposition.” A university is a community of scholars, and it seems to be assumed that such a community should restrict its debates to the issues of scholarship. Whenever the scholar presumes to speak critically on the practical matlers affecting conditions under which scholarship can thrive, or upon policies which affect campus life, someone will charge that he is disloyal to the administration, and that he is dost roving the unity which is essential to a successful academic institution. It is difficult to know where the limits are in such a discussion, and when one begins to be a troublemaker and ceases to be a conscientious teacher.
Anyone who is intimately associated with contemporary students is startled by the caution which seems to rule them. Youth, which used to be radical, no longer dares to express itself. Juniors and seniors sign nothing, join nothing, say nothing, lest they jeopardize their futures. There arc exceptions, for certain campuses are marked with the old-time freedom of expression on the part of students, which leads one to ask whether responsibility for this caution may not be laid at the door of the colleges and universities themselves.
Division of Christian Education
Congregational Christian Churches
Chicago, Ill.

The current unacademic brawl over academic freedom is a stimulating experience. The best of the three articles on the subject in the June Atlantic is “The Present Danger,” a Report from the University Presidents.
In “What Is Academic Freedom?” Joseph Alsop, charging Congressional committees with an outrage against the spirit of the Constitution, complains that one committee had as a witness someone whom he had “publicly accused as a probable perjurer.” That is conviction by publication. Alsop would exempt Harvard professors from Congressional inquiries. If applied generally, this would kill all Congressional investigations. Is this what he wants? Or would he exempt suspected Communists?
Most professors are not afraid of Congressional commit tees. From 1935 to about 1948, Communists and their friends on and off the campuses did their best to destroy academic freedom. Thousands of professors were either intimidated into signing manifestoes in support, of Moscow’s foreign policy or forced to keep silent. Yet there was no public brawl over academic freedom. Where were the defenders of academic freedom then?
Jersey City, N.J.

A whole group of people — those who have the most understanding of the impact of social forces on social institutions — is being disqualified for creative action. And the University Presidents hedge.
The investigating committees are creating a climate hostile to change, to new ideas, to new adjustments — for these are “subversive.”
All this repression, widespread fear of any change or new idea, intimidation and discrediting of those qualified to make creative solutions, strict maintenance of the status quo, is dangerous because in the long run it is impossible as a policy for survival. Nations as well as individuals incapacitated for adjustment will perish.
Stehekin, Wash.

Air. Alsop fails, I think, to face forthrightly the question of the right of a Communist to teach at Harvard or any other university. He says, “We cannot start disciplining a man for his political ideas after we have appointed him.” Nor would he deny a man freedom to join the Communist Party so long as it is a legal party, for that would infringe upon the man’s freedom of thought, Mr. Alsop’s second principle of academic freedom. Yet Mr. Alsop “would not knowingly give a Communist a Harvard appointment.”
What Mr. Alsop seems to be saying is that he would now deny the benefits of his second principle of academic freedom to all except those members of the faculty holding permanent tenure. What reasons can he find for disqualifying a Communist seeking an academic post which would not apply with equal force to a Communist holding permanent tenure? Or has the second principle simply fallen a victim to the “cheap and self-defeating expediency” which Mr. Alsop deplores?

I Personally

Allow me to commend you and Judge Elijah Adlow, the author of “Our Something-for-Nothing Age” (May Atlantic), for a forthright contribution to an evil that has long needed just such an attack as Judge Adlow’s article provides.
Many physicians have been aware of the rackets that have developed around claims for damage in accidents and are willing to take their share of the blame along with the legal profession and the public. However, each erring individual, whether he be claimant, attorney, physician, judge, or jury, can be made to see the danger of his contributions to it only by such able and pointed expositions as those in this article.
Austin, Tex.

I wish to tell you how much I enjoyed the Report on Israel in the June Atlantic. As a former government official of Israel, I felt that you presented an authentic picture and a realistic account of conditions there.
Boston, Mass.