Superb Recounting of Shameful Events
I want to compliment Nancy Wick on a superb recounting of the events surrounding the shameful Canwell episode, one made doubly painful to me as a "reader" for both Professors Melvin Rader and Herbert Phillips.
Wick is probably correct in describing President Allen's position as a difficult one, subject to pressures from both the regents and the Legislature. It should perhaps be pointed out, however, that even before the committee hearings were held he did not distinguish himself as a supporter of free and open expression. In the academic year 1946-47, I wrote a letter to the Daily questioning the University's policy on prohibiting the appearance of political speakers on campus. When I said it was inconsistent with the University's role of educating students to become well-informed citizens, I was called into President Allen's office, where he pointed out to me the "error" of my ways.
Gerald J. Oppenheimer, '46, '47
Revisionist History an Insult
The attempt of Nancy Wick to revise history regarding Professor Ralph Gundlach is not only totally misdirected but is an insult to we who spent hours in class subjected to his ranting and raving for the overthrow of the United States government.
After having spent three and a half years in the Army defending this nation and its marvelous liberties and then coming home to this nut--we, who were somewhat adult, though that the University was in a loony bin.
Gundlach's total lectures were directed toward the defeat of capitalism, the falsehoods of our founding fathers, the waste and thus elimination of churches, and his view that the control of the U.S. government was by a few European Jews.
His solution as preached time and time again in class was total Communism. His diatribe was accepted as gospel by those students who were just out of high school and were looking at this person as a mentor who was teaching the truth. The articles and booklets passed out by him in class were directly manufactured in Moscow. One of his meetings on campus, attended by me, was [held] to overthrow the U.S. government.
Three of us, who had had commanding positions in the service and were on the football team, took exception to his "teachings." In fact, one of our group threatened Gundlach physically. The three of us went to Dr. Allen with our complaints and the physical evidence to back us up. We weren't the only ones complaining, but it was our intercession which probably caused his ultimate dismissal. Thank God for people with conviction like Dr. Allen.
Nancy Wick should spend her time and the University's money in researching the advent of Communism's attempt at world domination--which is still a threat. Columns' attempt at revisionist history just ain't gonna fly. ... Stick to the facts and get out the truth--stop this trash.
James A. Thompson, '47
Professor Wasn't `Broken Man'
When I first met Joe Butterworth, I used to laugh and think he looked less like a bomb-thrower than anyone I could imagine. He was rather hunched over as if he never did anything other than read books, had humorous brown eyes and the most delicate, nicotine-stained hands I ever saw. We used to meet for lunch in the "U" District about once a month and usually go to the Blue Moon and drink beer afterwards.
When he first lost his job, he lived in a cottage in back of the home owned by Dr. and Mrs. Alex Walters. Joe lived there for many years until Dr. Walters died and the house was sold. He spent an awful lot of time at the Blue Moon. He still had a few students who kept in touch. Some of them had come across the United States to study under him.
I loved Joe Butterworth. I never heard him say anything about the UW except he didn't want them to get his library when he died. He never talked about his personal tragedies at all. To call him a broken man is insulting.
Mary Telford Gibson Hatten, '47
Excellent Reminder of Corruption
Thank you for your excellent reminder of the dark days of the Canwell Committee. As a freshman at the time, I paid little attention to Olympia politics and wondered what all the agitation was about. Student leaders led by ASUW President Brock Adams were u pset and angry that the University administration would not stand up to the bullies in Olympia. Later, as the aftermath of Canwell's work played itself out during my campus career, I realized that, even then, Adams had more brains than the entire Raymond B. Allen administration.
In December 1951, Allen left to further his own career, no matter what had happened to the national reputation of the University of Washington. I was editor-in-chief of the Daily and bid Allen an appropriate farewell at the top of page one.
It is admirable that in January campus events recognized and tried to apologize for the transgressions of a half century ago. However, the real anniversary observations ought to be occurring during the 1998 Legislative session in Olympia. I plan to hand y our December issue to every member in the hope that present-day leadership will resolve never again to permit legislative power to become so corrupted.
David G. Wood, '52,
Apology Was a Betrayal
I had personal experiences with Professor Ralph Gundlach and UW attitudes during my student years of 1938-42. ... For many of us, our world was falling apart. The economy was in a state of near collapse. Our democratic institutions and the free enterprise system seemed unable to cope and provide needed jobs. Europe and Asia were about to be consumed in the flames of war.
Some people turned to the Communists, others to Fascism, but most of us retained our faith in democracy. In my opinion, the faculty of the UW was heavily infected with Communists and many more sympathetic to the Reds. During the period of which I write, the UW as dubbed the "Little Soviet" by some journalists because of the prevalence of Reds on campus.
... ROTC was a requirement for all freshmen and sophomores. But Gundlach did not recognize this obligation. The first time I appeared in his class in my blue ROTC uniform, he sat on the edge of the his desk and stared at me and other cadets without saying a word for a very long, embarrassing period. Finally he told the class that we were "war mongers" depriving our fellow students of an education. He further stated there would be no lecture until we cadets had left, and that we would not be permitted back if we were in uniform.
This was shortly after Stalin and Hitler had signed a mutual agreement to enslave millions on the borders of their two countries. When we protested this arbitrary ruling to the administration, we were told to "humor him."
With the exception of the war years, when millions of young men and women like me fought to eradicate Nazism, I devoted most of my life to destroying Communism and restoring the blessing of freedom to millions of people enslaved by Communists and their sympathizers.
Gundlach acted like a Communist, he quacked like a Communist and, in my book, was a dedicated Communist. The decision to oust him was the correct one. [Former President] Gerberding should have never apologized. His act betrayed those of us who fought and bled to preserve the liberties of our country, while people like Gundlach stabbed us in the back on the home front. [President Richard] McCormick, [Regent Dan] Evans and others should not forgive these subversives.
Please make an effort to keep the times in which events occur in perspective. Too many intellectuals are trying to rewrite history as they would like it to have been rather than the way it was.
James A. Klein, '42
Masterful Exposé of Stupid Destruction
Your masterful Canwell Committee exposé revived my personal student experience of the aftermath of that stupid destruction by political hacks. Such damage occurs whenever populations allow jerks to lead, and the harm continues for decades, even centuries.
Significantly, the wishy-washy UW President of that time [Raymond Allen] segued into government and into the direction of psychological warfare. Not until many years later did another UW President [William Gerberding] finally condemn this harm as truly "un-American."
Meanwhile, many students found more real learning and freedom off campus in rooms and eateries and beer joints--including the Blue Moon, which was not "haunted" by Professor Joe Butterworth, but enriched for about 20 years by his presence. He drew papers from a bulging, beat-up briefcase and gestured with thin fingers as he imparted real intelligence to decades of respectful students, teachers, laborers, poets, poops and pedants.
One of these, poet David Wagoner, gave me a copy of his 1960s book compiled from the journals of the late Theodore Roethke, who had noted, "Teaching goes on, in spite of the administrators."
His victims are dead, but Canwell still claims nobility. If his philosophy includes religious beliefs, I suggest he worry about how God grades his finals.
Gordon Anderson, '54, '58
Rarely have I read such an interesting piece as that by Nancy Wick in the December issue of Columns. A colleague who is a U. of Washington graduate shared it with me. It was my good fortune. Please share with Ms. Wick my admiration for her research.
Responding with Cowardice
In case people missed it, the University of Washington led the way in creating a national model for purging dissidents of all types (not only members of the Communist Party) from America's campuses. Although based at Princeton, Ellen Schrecker's classic study of McCarthyism on campus, No Ivory Tower, spends more pages on the University of Washington than any other school in the country. By responding with cowardice, President Allen damaged not only the UW, but democratic education throughout the country. He also may have set an unfortunate model of timidity for the UW in general, where, with salient exceptions like Giovanni Costigan, most professors have continued to shy away from controversial public issues, and made it that much harder as a result for their students to get involved as active citizens.
Editor's Note: Paul Loeb is author of the book "Generation at the Crossroads," which covers political activism on campuses in the 1990s.
Never a Bitter Word
As a child growing up on a dairy farm in Sequim, I had the great and unique good fortune to live with [Professor] Herbert Phillips, "Scoop," as we affectionately knew him.
After he was fired by the UW, Phillips sent out his résumé to every single institution of higher learning in the United States and despite the fact that he was a well-respected teacher and philosopher and loved by his students, he did not get a single interview.
For a while he worked as a furniture delivery man but when he strained his back, he asked my parents if they could use some help on the farm. We were delighted because he was one of our all-time favorite people.
Despite his infamous treatment by academia, he remained joyful and full of life. After the milking and dinner were over, we all would sit around the table and be regaled by funny stories about--you guessed it--philosophy.
... I was only six or seven and quite small. Scoop would tighten his belly and say, "Hit me." I'd punch him. He'd say, "Harder," and I would haul off with what I thought was a terrific blow. "Oh, that didn't hurt at all," he'd say and he'd throw back his head with gales of laughter.
What a wonderful man he was. What a tragedy that all those students through all those years missed out on his great humor and wit, which was truly wasted on the cows.
Fortunately, his life in San Francisco was very pleasant. We would visit him and his wonderful wife, Helga, in the Longshoreman's Development and I never heard a bitter word from him. Let's make sure we don't make a foolish mistake like that again.
Marion Wheeler Burns, '71
Misleading and a Disgrace
Your December cover story, sympathizing with three pro-Communist professors who were victims of the Canwell Committee almost 50 years ago, would be funny if it were not so dangerously misleading. Hey, the Communists lost! Survivors of their visit to the planet recall only sheer horror.
The Canwell hearings were heated as the Soviets were blockading West Berlin at that time. Not long after the events, we were at war in Korea. Harry Bridges, incidentally, was a Communist, not an alleged Communist. So was Lillian Hellman, who may have known real scoundrels, but never told.
Has your staff never heard of Feliks Dzherhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezov, Lavrenti Beria ...? There were the chiefs of the Cheka-GPU-OGP-KNVD,MGB-MVD-KBG in the Soviet Union. There is no way to confuse them with the heads of the CIA or the FBI, as Hollywood does. There is no reliable tally or estimate of how many millions of Russians and others they killed, and it is difficult to pick a champion sadist among them.
... These enforcers of Soviet Communism, several of them so feared by their bosses that they had to be executed themselves, were also at the top of the chain of command that directed organized Communists in the United States and elsewhere. ... Your endorsement of the idea that the Canwell Committee was an outrage is a real disgrace. Be thankful that someone was awake and paying attention in 1948.
Russ Braley, '44
Simply One of Those Things
Seeing the mention of Anthropology Professor Melville Jacobs in the reprise about the Canwell Committee brought back memories of my contacts with "Mel," as he let us call him, during my graduate years at the UW. ... His immense contribution was the painstaking recording of dying Pacific Northwest Indian languages, literally saving their folklore and culture.
... I recall him referring to the Communist situation as simply one of those things young, social-minded intellectuals did in those years. For myself, I have a vivid recollection of all of us young candidates and instructors being compelled to sign a loyalty oath in about 1955. Faced with a loss of career and job, we signed with much reluctance, though we were allowed to append a note that we did so under protest.
Professor John R. Krueger, '60
What a cheery greeting from Columns in its December 1997 number! In "Seeing Red" we are not talking about Santa Claus, but, of all things, the Canwell Committee. Absolutely Dickensian!
Just a word of caution for those bent on setting us straight about a past which somehow they better comprehend than those of use who were there--and who, subsequently, have had time to reflect. History, to be sure, is replete with the foibles of mankind. ... The redoing of history, likewise, is replete with its own grotesqueries, to which you have now added. I fully expected to find members of the Canwell Committee airbrushed out of living memory. If you must rely upon Lillian Hellman and other speech communication experts in this endeavor, you really need to consider other pursuits.
Finally, not to underscore just the silliness of the young and righteous; the old and righteous are capable of going astray as well. Former President William P. Gerberding was, of course, both judgmental and pious in visiting himself back upon the events of 1948-49. It is university administrators of a later day than that of Ray Allen who have become the model of the craven.
James. M Roherty, '51, '52
West Linn, Ore.
Your editorial in the December Columns stirred me to the point of commenting on your attitude about Communism. Apparently you find not much bad about Communism.
You are willing to overlook the fact that Communism has been an evil virus in our world striving for civilization. It is an atheistic, barbaric destroyer of personal freedom and a dismal failure in economics.
I graduated in aero-engineering in 1942, and one of my few electives was a course in psychology. My professor was Ralph Gundlach. On occasion he would mention the value of a Communist publication, but was careful not to make too much of his Communist affiliation.
Our impressionistic young people should not be subjected to the anti-American garbage which flies in the face our great democracy for which so many of our young people throughout history have fought and died.
To vilify an effort to remedy this by firing professors who are of this ilk is a mistake.
Ken Coward, '42
The Price of Liberty
My son, David Mandel, '95, a Seattle landscape architect, brought your December issue along on his holiday visit. He did not know that I had been acquainted with Ralph Gundlach, fired by the UW and jailed following the 1948 witch hunt.
I showed David a letter from Gundlach, which read in part, "Mrs. James, who with her husband, Burton, was also convicted of contempt of the State of Washington's Canwell Committee, is now living with us. And she was quick to say that what a different outcome there would have been in our cases, if we had had your example before us at that time."
Gundlach was overly modest. Each successive group of "unfriendly witnesses" learned from the experience of its predecessors. My subpoena from the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee did not come until five years after the Canwell hearings.
Incidentally, I had no academic employment between my postdoctoral research fellowship at Stanford's Hoover Institution in 1947 (not renewed because of an attack on me printed in Newsweek) and an appointment in the Cal-Berkeley sociology department 22 years later (won in consequence of the student Free Speech Movement there).
Eternal vigilance is truly the price of liberty. And academe would do well to remember that its freedom is intimately intertwined with that of the citizenry at large.
Editor's Note: William Mandel has written five books on Russia and the Soviet Union and taught at Cal-Berkeley, San Jose State, San Fransico State and Golden Gate universities. Blacklisted in the 1950s, he was called to testify before the McCarran Committee in 1952, the McCarthy Committee in 1953 and the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1960.
Following the Party Line
I never had Professor Herbert Phillips as a teacher and did not know him personally, although I did attend his presentation of his views and his situation, which I believe was held at Meany Hall. I thought at least he was sincere.
However, a number of years later, when I was a law student, a number of admitted or alleged Communists were tried in the U.S. District Court in Seattle for violation of a federal law against Communists because of their alleged support of violent overthrow of the government.
I attended part of the trial and Phillips was called by the defense as an expert on Communism and what Communists believed. He was given quotes from various people such as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin and asked whether each quote w as in accordance with the beliefs of the Communist Party.
He would not answer unless he was told the source of the quote. If it was Marx or Lenin, it was OK. If it was Jefferson or Madison, it was not. It appeared to me he could not make an independent judgment on a quote, but had to follow "the party line."
As a result, I lost whatever respect I might have had for his intellectual integrity. I would not want to take a course from a teacher who had to follow the dictates of an organization--any organization--and therefore who could not give me his honest, ind ependent opinion of what was being taught.
Homer, O. Blair, '48, '51, '53
Emeritus Professor of Law
San Angelo, Texas
Truth through Reasoning
The story on the Canwell Committee hearings by Nancy Wick stands as a tribute to Columns' committment to quality. Kudos to Wick for the thorough examination of issues and personalities invovled in the anti-Communist hysterial of the late 1940s. Likewise, Editor Tom Griffin is to be congratulated on his insightful introduction to the tragic events. He called attention to the fact that the UW is confronting the issues in a scholarly fashion through a series of speakers addressing academic freedom--and the role of a university.
I feel a twinge of nostalgia and sadness as I recall the stimulating lectures by Professor Herbert Phillips in the beginning philosophy course I took. I was impressed then, as now, at the example he set of seeking truth through reasoning. Phillips was one of several faculty who exemplified learning to think and to question that should be the teaching goals of a great university.
Archie D. McDonald, '43, '50
Condoning Witch Hunting Today
Reading your recent article about the anti-Red hysteria and resulting ruination of the careers of UW faculty members made me chuckle sardonically as I contemplated how little we have learned form this unfortunate scar on the state's history.
Recently, Marvin "Monty" Gray was denied a chance to become a federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington because he made a statement in support of segregation when he was a student at Princeton University more than 30 years ago, despite impeccable judicial credentials. If Justice Hugo Black were a candidate for the bench today, could he successfully accede to the Supreme Court? I cringe to think that his past affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan would have denied this country the advantages of having one of the greatest civil libertarians of our time interpreting the laws for the benefit of all Americans. I wonder to what degree unscrupulous politicians under the watchful eye of so-called "civil rights" groups would have hounded him into a ruined career.
It seems very ironic that we can condemn the past witch-hunting excesses of "guilt by association" professed by the Canwell Committee and condone similar activity today. Perhaps the wisest observer of this phenomenon was the person who stated: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Gregory Dziekonski, '85, '89
I read with interest your article on the firing of Communist and alleged Communist professors 50 years ago. My own UW professors included a couple Cold Warriors (remarkable scholars both), a radical feminist and one practising Marxist revolutionary. I greatly valued my experience with all of these teachers, including the low grades I got from the latter two. I would not have liked to have lost the opportunity to hear about Communism from the horse's mouth.
The "Red Scare" of a prior era should not be divorced from the fact that millions of innocent people had lost their lives to a real, world-wide Communist movement by that time. I do not think taxpayers had an obligation to pay the salary of men who willingly joined with tyrants who had overthrown every ideal of liberty and humane conduct in a large part of the world.
The lives of these three men were indeed pitiable. Yet, if Professor Phillips desired so strongly to identify with the working class, is it so great a tragedy that he finished his career on the working end of a shovel? In Communist countries, after all, thousands of his colleagues ended their careers beneath the other end. These men, while claiming to defend the oppressed, chose voluntarily to identify with and therefore share the guilt of the most heinous oppresors of the 20th century. Your sympathy should rather be placed with their victims.
David Marshall, '79
Nancy Wick did an excellent job of confronting us with a disturbing period in our not-too-distant past. It seems quite clear, considering the power abdicated to the Canwell committee, that in the late '40s the Washington State Legislature viewed universities not as cherished institutions for nurturing thinking but merely as platforms for indoctrination. Since actual thinking could not possibly occur, even at the university level, it was essential that State Representative Canwell, exploiting his vantage point in Spokane, rush to Seattle to save impressionable students from the wrong kind of indoctrination.
Albert Canwell was elected from his Spokane district during the Republicans' 1946 sweep of the state House of Representatives (72 Republicans, 27 Democrats). Two years later (1948), an emboldened Canwell ran for the state Senate but was defeated. Canwell had campaigned on his Communist hunting merits but the political tide had turned - though the state Senate changed only slightly, in the house the Democrats reclaimed 40 seats. The wheels of destruction had been set in motion, however; three months after Canwell's defeat the three UW professors were fired.
The Red Scare could be viewed as an exercise in mimicry. Canwell played a pioneering role to the junior U.S. senator from Wisconsin. Joseph McCarthy came into the national spotlight in 1950, proceeding to destroy many more lives than did Canwell, but in December 1954 he too had a reversal of fortune - the U.S. senate voted to condemn him. McCarthy died in 1957, a discredited, and finally, ignored man.
Duane Wright, '90
Best and Worst of Nation's Culture
The response to Nancy Wick's article demonstrates the importance of reexamining the impact of the Cold War on our educational institutions. Clearly, the debate among your readers over of which political views deserve the protection of "academic freedom" indicates the issue continues to bring out both the best and worst in our nation's political culture--just as it did during the darkest days of the McCarthy Era.
Here in Oregon, Reed College followed UW's lead in 1954 and fired the only one of three professors called before HUAC who told its Trustees his political affiliations were none of their business. After the Oregon Historical Quarterly (Fall, 1996) published my article about the case, Reed President Steven Koblik invited Prof. Stanley Moore to a symposium on what lessons had been learned from his case. These events inspired a public discussion similar to the one your article provoked.
It's especially appropriate that the Northwest seems to be leading the way in taking a fresh look at the academic McCarthyism its institutions played such a major role in legitimizing. Congratulations!
Reverberations of Ironies
After reading the letters reacting to "Seeing Red," a realization occurred that demanded airing. No anecdotal moment can contain all the truth of a decade, and certainly not decades. It may provide some insight. No handful of a beach's sand can show the dramatic changes a beach may have undergone in a decade.
So no few moments in Ralph Gundlach's classroom is a telescope into the verity of his life. And no judgment of Gundlach should be the final basis of a judgment of his colleagues.
I interviewed or communicated with Ralph Gundlach, Joe Butterworth, Garland Ethel, Melville Jacobs, Melvin Rader and Harold Eby and learned how each man's life came into the crosshairs of the Canwell Committee. I also contacted the men who shaped and fulfilled the event: Ed Stone, managing editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and his reporter, Fred Neindorf. Also John Boyd of the immigration service who recruited the anti-Communist witnesses; Russell McGrath, managing editor of the Seattle Times, who found reason to wonder about the tactics of the committee, and his reporter, Ed Guthman. Also Lane Summers and his family, Albert Canwell, Ashley Holden, C.T. Hatten, Hugh Delacy, John Caughlan and Terry Pettus. Others provided more peripheral views.
The combined forces that shaped these men's lives influenced their responses to the Canwell Committee. The roots of the story, then, lie in this country's history, especially events in the 1910s and '30s. The story as it funnels through the 1948 hearings is about what makes humans vulnerable to the needs and fears created by their perceptions. I found the story so interesting I recently completed a manuscript on it called "Cold War Roots." It is about how this story began in a family, spread through the Northwest, and reverberated the ironies of the international Cold War.
As an example of what I am saying about anecdotes, here is one. It is an excerpt from a transcribed conversation between Canwell and UW President Raymond Allen.
Canwell: I would like to continue our investigations at Washington State College and Eastern Washington at Cheney.
Canwell: So that we wouldn't leave the thought in the minds of the public that the University of Washington is the only place where we have Communists.
Allen: Yes, well, I certainly would be happy if you were in charge of it, Al.
This may provide some insight. But judgments should filter through many considerations. What pressures were there on a head of a public university in the '40s? How would strong ambitions factor into that? What were the information avenues that formed Allen's perspective?
Thanks to Nancy Wick and Columns for providing all of us some insight to a very complicated story.
Richard Pelto, '61, '68, '72
Not Afraid to Examine Past
Nancy Wick's article "Seeing Red" brought back vivid memories of the late 1940s McCarthy-like hearings which descended upon the UW campus. During the Canwell Committee hearings, many World War II graduate student veterans and families lived in row-like housing in Union Bay Village.
Martin Rodbell, then a UW graduate student and in 1994 a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and his wife, Barbara, lived in a row house across from my then- husband, Walter Gnagy, and me. Marty and Barbara were the only couple we knew with a TV. After dinner, they would invite us over to see the replay of the day's McCarthy hearings. Marty was extremely aware of the Canwell investigations tearing the UW campus apart.
As a philosophy major, Melvin Rader was my very favorite professor. While I was a student of his, I was unaware that he had been investigated by the Canwell Committee. He was able to keep his composure in front of this students as well as in front of the Canwell Committee.
I am so happy that the University of Washington is not afraid to examine its past with the January series of lectures, panel discussions and a play about the 1948 Canwell Committee hearings
Jean Gnagy Marti, '48, '56
Pitiful Display of Subjective Journalism
Why on earth would the UW Alumni Association in its Columns magazine resurrect and regurgitate the tortured events of the 1930s-40s regarding Communism on campus? What is your goal, your objective? You state the UW "is not afraid to examine its past." That's shallow justification for a highly biased and unprofessional article. As the old saying goes, there are two sides to every question. You have ignored that other side.
What a pitiful display of subjective journalism!
I was an undergraduate student at the UW during the 1930s and while there I had some contact with one of the principals of the fracas, Ralph Gundlach. Enrolled in one of his classes, I was astonished with the anti-American tenor of his classroom remarks. Political doctrine in a psychology class? Yes, indeed. His lectures were shocking to a young guy from a rural environment where it was customary to attain a vertical posture, sans headpiece, during presentations of the "Star Spangled Banner."
It's too bad human erosion during the intervening 50 years prevents adequate rebuttal by the "cheap baddies" you castigate. Were not the UW regents persons of integrity and intelligence? From whence did rather strong support of faculty constraints originate? Many, if not most, of the good burghers of the state of Washington looked upon faculty restraints and dismissals as being a much needed catharsis. Good riddance to bad educators.
Does academe rail, now as then, against a higher authority to which they are beholden, e.g. the regents? You account of l'affaire Canwell seems incongruous with your magazine's audience of educated university folk. I am prompted to ask, as Canwell's committee might well have asked a half-century ago, just what are you up to?
Virgil G. Peterson, '39
Apology Was Late, Useless
As a student at the University of Washington during the Canwell hearings, the part of the Columns article concerning a UW apology for its past sins and omissions in this matter was interesting. Rather than making an effort to correct an injustice sometime during the past 50 years, there comes this very late apology for the University's precedent-setting leadership in destroying the jobs and reputations of innocent faculty members.
It would seem that a great university would always stand against the tyranny of a majority, or a powerful minority, in protection of academic freedom and individual liberty. Can a university be called great, or even mediocre, when it abandons the principles that are the bedrock of a free society, based on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?
Even more outrageous is that in the intervening years, apparently no thought or effort was given to correcting the sellout of the fired professors by rehiring them. This violation of human rights and policy of appeasement and cowardice by the Board of Regents, administration and Faculty Senate of that era may have been the beginning of an institutional state of devolution.
Perhaps there can never be a time for an apology for the purposeful violation of a person's fundamental rights and liberty. Of course, on the other hand, this commemorative apology is so politically correct, so '90s, so PR, so stylish, so brave--but oh so useless.
Louis Grinnell, '51
First-Rate Job on a Tough Subject
The enclosed check is to cover the cost of six copies of the December issue. My interest is stimulated by the fact that the woman in the left center of the front cover is my sister, Virginia Cole. ... I wish to add my name to the long list of people who respect Nancy Wick for a first-rate job on a tough subject.
Newest Letters on "Seeing Red"
Fellow Travelers' Graveyard
The letters in response to 'Seeing Red' provides evidence of the continuing intellectual blind spot existing among the defenders of the UW Communist fellow-travelers. These are the poor souls who will go to their grave defending the likes of Alger Hiss.
Don Butler, '47
Honor Roll for "Reds"
Your selection of comments on "Seeing Red" confirms what we already knew: the more things change, the more they stay the same. At Professor Herbert Phillips' faculty trial, testifying to the excellence of his teaching, I was startled, dismayed, terrified by the seething hatred of the prosecutor brought to the campus by President Allen. Years later, on the fourth floor of the Administration Building, I was startled, dismayed, disgusted to hear a quite high functionary interrupt a discussion of Melvin Rader's False Witness with an angry, "I still think he was a Communist!"
However, I continue to believe the University is one of the better things going in Seattle, Renton, Redmond, Federal Way, and I would hope that before you come to editorial closure, you do something in the way of an honor roll.
The University of Washington Press comes to mind, and with it, the restoration of faculty centrality in the governance of the University by President Charles E. Odegaard.
The band of professors and staff who took it upon themselves to contribute to "retirement" support of [Professor] Joe Butterworth after he was cast out into destitution by Allen.
The distinguished faculty who declared the President's Mansion out of bounds and thereby drove Allen in disgrace to Southern California.
The ex-students and friends who, when in San Francisco, checked in with "Scoop" [Herbert Philips].
The Blue Moon regulars who considered it not a charity but an honor to buy Joe Butterworth a beer, and if there were space at his booth, enjoyed the pleasure of his company.
The "All Powers Project" commemorating the 50 year anniversary, of course, and while we're at it, put "Seeing Red" on the honor roll too.
Harvey Manning, '45
Editor's Note: Manning was editor of the Washington Alumnus, precursor to Columns, from 1962 to 1968.
Another Scoundrel Time
Let me put my vote in as one who appreciated the enlightening retrospective on one of the more shameful periods for the UW and the Washington legislature--the "communist" purges of the '40s and '50s.
Labels change, but agendas and purges are periodical, so our younger contingent needs the occasional strong reminder of what can happen, even in America, even in Seattle, even at the UW. I was in the class of '70, which hasn't had a reunion yet because we found out first-hand what happened when two or more of us gathered in one place--the Seattle Tactical Squad was there first, hidden in back closets, ready to burst out with batons and tear gas.
And they were there because some among us were "outside agitators"--translate that as FBI informants who chose to make news rather than to wait for it. Yes, the truth did out, after years of beatings, expulsions and needless criminal charges, and during that time there were no more reasoned voices of sanity in the mainstream media than Canwell found in the '50s.
Going to school (and holding down a job, and raising a family) while the FBI informants were touching off bombs on one side and the tactical squad was wholloping us on the other was no mean feat. This time the vitriol was not aimed at faculty, but at the students, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for all of us who earned our degrees in that hostile, physically dangerous climate. I got beaten, along with my classmates, for being in our scheduled classroom at our scheduled time with our professor while opposing forces fought over the front door. We were warned that Loew Hall was scheduled for "occupation," but we chose to meet as usual, since we had paid good money for that right. The fight was over the front door, but the back door was open.
What we didn't know was that the tactical squad was already in place on the top floor. They came down and beat anyone they encountered in the building, because all students were the enemy to them. Well, that was the kind of indiscriminate treatment that created enemies. When we complained, we were told that we were lucky that the UW wasn't Kent State.
Well, perhaps someday someone who is less emotional than I will do a bang-up article on those days--lord knows, there's plenty of material.
Evergreen State College
After reading the shamelessly biased "Seeing Red" by Nancy Wick in the December 1997 Columns a few months ago, my immediate impulse was to write a letter of complaint to the editors. I decided such a letter would be useless; Wick's "account" is so transparently tendentious on so many levels as to be immune to criticism. Anyone who could read such trash approvingly must be so blinkered to the history and enormities of Soviet Communism that they would be uncomprehending of anything that hasn't been thoroughly pre-soaked in popular leftist ideology... they would have long since lost the ability to digest anything other than propaganda of the sort churned out by the callow Wick and others of her ilk. Worse, the UW is such a hothouse for brain-dead leftism that I despaired I would be a solitary, dissenting voice.
So it was with some relief that I found a few disgruntled (though cleverly edited) letters in response to Wick's little travesty. They made some good points-- mostly with regard to the murderous nature of Soviet Communism-- but none I read pointed out what I found most appalling about the piece: Wick's self-righteous conceit that some exalted principle of "academic freedom" was at stake, and that the faculty bullies and buffoons who justifiably lost their jobs for their execrable political affiliations were some sort of victims of a less enlightened time. One need only imagine that, if these had been card-carrying Nazis rather than card-carrying Communists, Wick would hardly be blubbering today for the cause of their academic freedom. Clearly, Wick and her lefty friends have a soft spot for some totalitarian butchers but not for others.
And no, I'm not impressed that Wick's item won some awards from organizations which no doubt share her political biases. Lefties-- especially lefty journalists-- congratulate themselves endlessly in this way, and have done so for decades. There's certainly nothing noteworthy in that.
Patrick Deshaye, '81
Editor's Note: "Seeing Red" has won four awards in journalism competitions sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Washington Press Association, and the Council for Support and Advancement of Education (CASE). The CASE award was a Bronze Medal as one of "the best articles of the year" to appear in any North American alumni magazine.
In response to Mr. Deshaye's letter in the June '98 Columns:
"Seeing Red" was a great article. The last time I checked Americans are allowed to believe whatever they want. Perhaps Mr. Deshaye has more in common with repressive totalitarian regimes than he would like to believe.
Capitalism just happens to be one mode of thought and academics that are searching for a possible better system shouldn't be fired for their ideology.
Nicholas Hart, '96
Your answer to Patrick Deshaye's letter does not make sense. Defending "Seeing Red" by citing awards given by three organizations full of Brain- Dead Leftists is illogical. Don't you see the irony?
It is easy to feel superior when looking back 50 years. It is easy because Nancy Wick did not have the one ingredient she needed to complete the puzzle ... the fear of actually being there.
Richard S. Hartwell Jr., '75
It is very clear that the UW badly needs true history classes on Communism. The facts are these--starvations, deportations, killings of at least 100 million people by those barbarians, etc., etc. But you would allow the Communist teachers to paint a glorious picture of that "paradise" and poison young students' minds. Apologize? Unbelievable-- stop that trash!
You should be very thankful that there were people in 1948 who were aware and intelligent enough to see the truth. Let us hope the same for today!
Fareeja Yafiss, '65
Reading the letters on the "Seeing Red" article that appeared in December 1997 was fascinating. James A. Thompson's letter was great and although he graduated 40 years before me, it was as if he was in one of my classes that I took because it was a requirement for graduation from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Without naming the professor and the department, this class and this whole department was nothing but a jobs program for a bunch of burned out Marxist radicals from the 1960s. After several weeks of trying to figure out what the course was about I went--in frustration, but with an open mind and attitude--to the professor's office hours. I sincerely wanted to try and determine where we had been and where we were going with this class. The meeting went downhill right after the introductions and the professor was obviously incensed that someone would dare ask him what the purpose of his class was. I brought the meeting to a close when it was clear that the professor wasn't going to break out of his practiced steady drumbeat of politicized gibberish. I was also concerned that he was going to leap across his desk screaming, "counter-revolutionary--you must be silenced!" His piercing and smoldering glare reflected a man consumed with political warfare. Also someone who attacked an imaginary status quo to legitimize himself. He was the status quo!
Personally, I think he missed his calling. He would have been great as some Ministry of Information party hack in the former East Germany or former Soviet Union. I guess he could still put in a few good years in Cuba or North Korea.
As opposed to the "Seeing Red" era, I think the only McCarthyism present when I was going to the University of Washington was ostracism for anyone who dared oppose a professor's ranting and raving. Clearly a lockstep, group-think environment existed in this department. I don't think that anyone from the college or university was going to try to tell this department how to run things. But I think this department needed and probably still does need a reality check. There's a difference between freedom of speech and iconoclastic drivel paid for with public funds.
John R. Mills, '87
Poisoning Our Democracy
Born in 1914, my life was on the bottom of the economic ladder. I went to work after seventh grade. At age 16 I worked in the Merchant Marine under inhuman conditions, yet I managed to become the ship's radio operator, then third mate. Eventually I had a radiotelegraph first class (and third mate) license for any ocean. In World War II I earned a Meritorious Conduct Medal in the Navy, but while the commanding officer recommended me for a commission, the Navy turned it down because of my "Communist" connections.
When the McCarthy Terror poisoned our democratic values, the Federal Communications Commission issued me a questionnaire that I refused to comply with, so renewal of my licenses were denied. At that time I was working for CBS's Philadelphia station, WCAU-TV. Without a license, I was forced into retirement at the age of 53. CBS evidently had some sympathy for me and gave me a pension. The chief engineer under whom I worked told me that he was approached four times by the FBI to discharge me, but his position was that there was nothing wrong with my work. He would not discharge me. However, when the FCC denied renewal of my license, I could not continue my work.
So there it is, denied a commission and forced to retire at an early age. I thought you would like to see how the poisoning of our democracy hit the bottom of the education ladder. ... I enjoy reading Columns and in particular you are doing a good job as editor. Thank you.
Every Citizen Should Read It
I'll be the one to push responses to this fine article over the 60 mark. I thought Nancy Wick's article a superb revisiting to those evil days of the Canwell Committee, a subject about which I knew nothing but the name. The information regarding how a steamroller can get going and the damage it can do was most enlightening. Every Washington citizen should have to read this as part of his/her education; thank you very much for printing it.
The Most Rewarding Class I Took
I read with interest the article "Seeing Red." As a wartime (1945-46) Science/NROTC student, I did take the course "History of the English Language" that was taught by Professor Butterworth. Looking back some 52 years now, I felt that class was one of the most rewarding, if not the most rewarding class, I took as an undergradute in three universities. At no time was anything other than the expected subject matter discussed in class. As another person who has been prosecuted by the draconian U.S. Dept. of Justice, I can appreciate what those accused when through.
Hjalmar Rathe, '46
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