Document 26: Communism and Academic Freedom

Communism and Academic Freedom (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1949), 23-26.

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Although some publicity has attended the conduct of our hearings, we believe there is a general lack of familiarity outside University circles as to the general nature of the proceedings, functions, and procedures of this Committee. Accordingly, we make this statement to clarify the situation.

This Committee is known as the faculty Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom. It was created by and exists under the Administrative Code of the University of Washington, under which the faculty is given a substantial measure of self-government and control over the internal affairs of the University. Among many subjects covered by the Administrative Code is the matter of tenure of members of the faculty. In this connection the Code provides that members of the faculty who have attained certain stated academic ranks or in some other cases who have served as members of the faculty for a stated minimum number of years shall have tenure. Tenure is defined by the Administrative Code as the right of a person to hold his position during good behavior and efficient and competent service and not to be removed therefrom except for cause in the manner [described below]. . . .

Contrary to widespread impressions, there is no connection between the proceedings of this Committee and the hearings conducted in the summer of 1948 by the Joint Legislative Fact Finding Committee on Un-American Activities (unofficially known as the Canwell Committee). The two proceedings are entirely separate and distinct with the single qualification that certain events occurring during the Canwell hearing are the basis of some of the charges filed in this proceeding.

The . . . faculty Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom is purely and simply a trial committee which holds hearings on charges filed by administrative officers of the University against faculty members, seeking their removal from the faculty by reason of one of the causes contained in the Administrative Code. This faculty Committee is not a prosecuting agency; it is not a defense agency; it is not charged with a missionary duty for the cause of academic freedom; it is a trial committee and nothing more. Its functions are limited to hearing evidence in the cases filed with it, and, at the conclusion thereof, to the making of findings of fact and recommendations to the President of the University.

The Administrative Code prescribes certain procedures to be followed by this faculty Committee in connection with cases brought before it. . . . [T]he rules require that . . .the accused be permitted to be present throughout the hearings and confronted by the witnesses against him; that he be entitled to be represented by any person of his choice; that he shall have the right to call and examine witnesses and produce relevant documents and to cross-examine witnesses produced against him. . . . It is the design of the Administrative Code to afford a full and fair hearing to any faculty member whose removal is sought.

In the present cases the Committee has adhered to two rules which have been a matter of public comment. One is the rule that hearings shall not be open to the general public but only to the persons concerned and their counsel. The second is that witnesses appearing before the Committee need not be sworn. Both of these rules find their source in the fact that this is not a public tribunal but simply another faculty committee. Its procedures in these regards are consistent with those of all faculty committees and are, we believe, in accord generally with the practices of educational, social, and commercial organizations in the administration of their internal affairs. The fact that the functions of this Committee resemble those of a court does not make a public tribunal of this faculty Committee.

The personnel of the Committee consists of eleven members. . . . The personnel of the Committee . . . is selected by the . . . University Senate. The University Senate is the governing body of the faculty created by the Administrative Code and elected by the faculty as a whole. The present personnel of the committee is widely drawn from the faculty. No one can serve upon the Committee in a hearing involving a member of his own department.

. . . The [tenure] hearings extended through thirty-three sessions during the period from October 27, 1948, to December 15, 1948. . . . Something of the magnitude of the proceedings can be gathered from the fact that the stenographic transcript exceeds 3,000 pages. In addition, 125 exhibits were introduced in evidence. . . .


Inasmuch as the determination of each of the six cases rests in large part on the interpretation to be given to those parts of the Tenure Code dealing with grounds for dismissal, it is deemed desirable to discuss this subject before taking up any individual

The relevant provisions read as follows:

[University Administrative] Code, Ch. IV, Part I, Sec. I: Definitions

"Tenure" means the right of a person to hold his position during good behavior and efficient and competent service, and not to be removed therefrom except for cause in the manner hereinafter provided

lbid., Sec. IV. Removal for Cause

Persons having tenure under the provisions of this act may be removed from the faculty of the University for one or more of the following reasons:

(a) Incompetency

(b) Neglect of duty

(c) Physical or mental incapacity

(d) Dishonesty or immorality

(e) Conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude

[The administration] contends that the listing of causes for removal in Section IV is merely illustrative, and not definitive, of the meaning to be given to the term "good behavior." . . . . It is strongly urged that the Committee is free to recommend dismissal on any one or more of a number of grounds, not specifically listed in Section IV, which would in the opinion of the Committee render the particular respondent unfit to remain on the faculty. In particular, it is urged that any conduct bringing the University into disrepute should be deemed an absence of good behavior and hence ground for a recommendation of dismissal.

Naturally, [the accused professors] contend that the causes listed in Sec. IV are definitive [and that they therefore cannot be fired for anything other than one of the five stated reasons].

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