Document 31: Report of Tenure Committee

Report of the Tenure Committee and Recommendations of UW President Raymond Allen, Communism and Academic Freedom, 29-54, 85-109.

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A majority of the Committee has agreed that there is no basis for recommending removal of respondents Butterworth and Phillips under the Administrative Code of the University. However, there is a division of opinion as to the manner of arriving at this result. Those members of the Committee who join in this statement reach such a decision for the following reasons:

Both Butterworth and Phillips admitted at the outset of the hearing that they are presently members of the Communist Party, U.S.A., and have been such since the year 1935. There is, therefore, no issue of fact as to their status as party members. However, there remain in controversy the allegations . . . which concern the nature and characteristics of the Communist Party, U.S.A.

Concerning the Communist Party, U.S.A., we find the following facts:

1. It is not a political party in the usual American sense. Rather, it is, by its own constitution, a closely knit, disciplined organization which tolerates no internal differences on points of fundamental political doctrine as laid down by the Party.

2. It is founded upon and adheres to the political philosophies of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. It states in its present current literature that there can be no watering down of these philosophies.

3. In adherence to these philosophies, it stands for the complete overthrow of the capitalistic system and the substitution in its place of a socialistic form of government. This government would be controlled entirely by, and in the interest of, a rather nebulously defined group, called the working class, under the leadership of the Communist Party. No party of opposition would be permitted. In this latter respect, and undoubtedly in other respects, it differs fundamentally from the Socialist Party of the United States and the Labor Party of England.

4. It is a matter of dispute whether the Communist Party, U.S.A., advocates the seizure of power in this country by force and violence. The writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin appear to indicate that seizure of power anywhere by force is a part of the fundamental Communist program and perhaps the only effective means of obtaining power. Some of the earlier writings of American Communists took the same line. Currently, however, the Communist Party, U.S.A., consistently denies any such intent, asserting rather that it seeks power only by constitutional means after winning a majority of the population to its support. . . . We believe it probable that propaganda for forcible seizure of power has been abandoned in this country largely because Communist Party leaders are convinced that such methods would be highly unpopular and might lead to immediate outlawing of the Party and because they believe that such a program has, for the immediate future, no real prospect of success. . . .

7. The Communist Party, U.S.A., subscribes to the Marxian concept of an ultimate Utopia in which a wholly classless society will exist, with economic equality for all after Communism is established throughout the world. . . . Communism seems to proceed on the theory that if one is given a greater share in the world supply of goods, all problems of the human race will automatically cease. This happy result is not, however, expected to ensue immediately upon accession of the Communists to power. There must first be a period of dictatorship of the working class, during which capitalism and the capitalist class are to be liquidated. This involves both the elimination of substantially the entire system of private property and the political, and perhaps the physical, destruction of persons adhering to the capitalistic system. . . .

Before proceeding to consider our immediate problem, it must be said, in fairness to respondents Butterworth and Phillips, that not all rank-and-file Communists privately subscribe unqualifiedly to all Communist doctrine or interpret it in the same way. . . . Respondent Phillips has, for example, testified that he does not believe in the violent overthrow of the government and that the Communist Party does not stand for such a program in this country. We believe that he is sincere in making this statement. . . . The respondent Butterworth did not indicate his views on this subject with the same clarity, but we shall proceed on the assumption that his views as to the impropriety of seizing power by violent means are the same.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that both of these respondents adhere to the fundamentals of Marxism. To their credit it should be said that they have frankly admitted their membership in the Communist Party and make no apologies for their beliefs. The very core of Marxist doctrine . . . calls for revolution-with or without force-after which the present form of government would no longer exist. The republican form of government, guaranteed by the United States Constitution, or, to use the more popular modern term, democracy in the American sense, would be replaced by a philosophy and a legal system utterly alien to our institutions.

We have then this anomalous situation. These respondents seek and assert the right to remain in the employ of a state which they hope to destroy and, as members of a minority group, seek and assert a right to protection when their own political faith denies any such right to any other minority once Communism becomes dominant. Only the magnanimity of a most benevolent government can be invoked to honor these requests. . . .It is not within our competence as members of this faculty Committee to form new policies as to tenure, much less as to the status of the Communist Party and its members. We are a trial committee and nothing more. We have been created a committee by the Administrative Code of the University. The bases upon which we are empowered to recommend removal of a faculty member are given to us by that Code. We cannot, however much we might desire to do so, add grounds for removal to those stated therein or ignore grounds which are so stated. Such addition or subtraction must be accomplished by some change in the Code under which we operate.

Our problem then is simply this: Taking the admitted fact that respondents Phillips and Butterworth are members of the Communist Party, U.S.A., is there a case for removal present under the Administrative Code? It must be kept in mind that nothing concerning the conduct of these respondents other than the simple fact of their Party membership, plus its necessary implications, is before us. None of their actions in the classroom or elsewhere is to be considered. All material of that character was eliminated from the case at the instance of complainant to present a "clear-cut issue."

The Administrative Code contains only the following provisions concerning removal and discharge of faculty members:

. . . 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

. . . Incompetency, as here used, refers to the scholarship and teaching ability of a faculty member in his field of study. . . . [The administration] conceded during the hearing that the general scholarship and teaching ability of respondents Phillips and Butterworth, in their respective fields, were not challenged. . . . Under the circumstances, we cannot find either respondent to be incompetent within the meaning of the Code.

Dishonesty is doubtless susceptible of several connotations. . . . [However,] we have no reason to believe that either of these respondents is insincere. On the contrary, we believe that both sincerely accept Communism. The fact that we believe Communist doctrines to be absurd and erroneous does not mean that those who accept them are dishonest.

Immorality is also quite possibly calculated to cover a wide range of conduct. We cannot, however, believe that it was intended to apply to a political belief. . . .

There remain[s] then only neglect of duty. . . . In its most restricted form, the duty of a member of the faculty is to teach, diligently and effectively, the courses assigned to him. But duty includes substantially more than this. . . . It includes also an obligation to conduct oneself both on and off the campus in a manner consistent with the dignity of one's professional position and to refrain from conduct which would discredit the University or bring it into disrepute. . . .

We come to the vital question whether simple and unelaborated membership in the Communist Party constitutes neglect of duty on the part of a member of the University faculty. When we consider this question, we find ourselves confronted by a highly confused situation. We think that neglect of duty, as a general proposition, refers to some standard of conduct that is quite universally recognized by the faculty and public alike as being below the standard suitable for a faculty member. Our difficulty is that we find no such universality of opinion upon the subject now under discussion. . . . [N]either the faculty of this institution, the administrative officers thereof, the Board of Regents, nor the state legislature has ever categorically defined the effect of Communist Party membership upon a faculty member's right to tenure. . . . The administration of this University has, during the period of at least thirteen years in which some of its faculty members have been members of the Communist Party, taken no clear action on the subject. . . . We do know that membership in the Communist Party is not illegal in the state of Washington; that it may and does name candidates for public office; and that these candidates could, in theory and in law, be elected to the highest executive and legislative positions in the state. We do know that membership in the Communist Party on the part of a faculty member brings the University into disrepute with a large section of the public, but whether that section is a majority or not has never been authoritatively determined.

Under these ambiguous and confused conditions, it is impossible for us to say that there is or has been an established standard of duty making membership in the Communist Party ground for removal of a faculty member. . . . We are therefore unable to find a neglect of duty where no duty has been clearly established.

We again repeat, so that there may be no doubt, it is not within the power of this Committee to invent new duties or raise new standards. This Committee can only deal with duties as they exist. We believe that it is time that a policy be laid down by some competent authority, whether it be the faculty as a whole, the President, the Regents, or the legislature, so as to put this . . . subject upon a basis that cannot be misunderstood. . . .

We conclude that in the cases of respondents Butterworth and Phillips the fact of membership in the Communist Party alone furnishes no basis for removal under the Administrative Code, as presently constituted. If some other body having suitable powers sees fit to lay down a new policy, that is another matter. . . .

The undersigned members of the faculty Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom join in the foregoing statement and RECOMMEND that Joseph Butterworth and Herbert J. Phillips be not removed from the faculty.


Dated this 7th day of January, 1949.


The undersigned members of the Committee concur in the recommendations contained in the preceding majority statement, but do not agree with all of the reasoning and factual conclusions contained therein. . . .

Since [the administration] introduced no evidence to show that either Butterworth or Phillips engaged in any illegal or improper activity, complainant's position necessarily is that every member of the Communist Party is unfit to remain a faculty member, regardless of his scholarship, teaching ability, or the general propriety of all of his overt conduct. . . . Testimony of colleagues and of former and present students was introduced to prove [the accused professors'] reputation and performance as sound scholars and able and unbiased teachers. [The administration] made no effort to refute this last line of testimony.

The Committee conceives the issues of fact properly before it to be narrower than the scope of the evidence might suggest. The Communist Party is not on trial, nor are any of its members other than, for present purposes, respondents Butterworth and Phillips. Our authority is limited to determining whether they have by virtue of admitted membership in the Communist Party been guilty of conduct which in our judgment constitutes cause for dismissal as defined by the Code. . . . . We conceive that we have neither duty nor authority to make "findings of fact" completely unnecessary to the decision of cases submitted to us. . . .

Moreover, there is no controversy over any overt activity of respondents; the factual dispute centers on their subjective attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs. Hence, it is deemed desirable to evaluate the charges and the evidence in relation to each pertinent cause for removal.

(a) Incompetency. This term obviously refers to the knowledge, skill, and temperament requisite to the adequate performance of teaching and research duties. On these points no charge is leveled at respondents Butterworth and Phillips, and the only evidence in the record is favorable to them. However, complainant's charge presupposes that the term "incompetency" has a broader meaning.

[The administration urges] that the rigid adherence to the party line enforced by strict discipline upon all members of the Communist Party renders any member "incompetent," because such member is not a free agent, free to follow truth wherever it may lead-his research is distorted into a search for evidence to support his beliefs; his teaching is slanted to induce his students to share these beliefs; in short, he is incapable of sound scholarship and objective teaching.

. . . [This argument] opens a door through which we dare not pass. Surely we may not outlaw all professors who hold beliefs contrary to whatever may be the current conceptions, superstitions, and emotions of the general populace; we must not close the academic doors to a modern Galileo or Darwin. And just as surely, we may not set up our own beliefs, or those of the University faculty as a whole, as the standard of competence. Our profession is ornamented by many men who hold religious beliefs which contravene the findings of physical science. . . .

By way of summation, the Committee concludes that complainant has failed to sustain his charges against respondents Butterworth and Phillips, because the various supporting contentions are either unsubstantiated by the evidence or involve interpretations of the Tenure Code which we deem inadmissible.

For the purpose of clarifying the important respects wherein our views differ from those of the majority, we are adding a very brief comment on the majority report on these two cases.

1. We do not believe that it is within the function of the Committee to make findings as to the general nature of the Communist Party. . . .

2. . . . We do not approve of those passages in the majority report which rather expressly suggest that the Tenure Code be amended, or the "duty" of a faculty member be defined, to clarify the position of Communism on the campus. Coupled as it is with adverse findings of fact, the suggestion amounts to a recommendation that faculty members be specifically forbidden to join or remain in the Party in the future. With that implied recommendation we do not concur, and, furthermore, we do not conceive it to be the function of this Committee to make recommendations as to legislative policy.



The interpretation placed on the language of the Tenure Code by the Committee majority has led it to conclusions which we must reject. To accept the [five] causes for removal listed . . . as definitive, and to declare all other possible grounds for dismissal outside the Committee's jurisdiction, is [mistaken].

Suppose a member of the faculty refused to support his family and neglected his children in a fashion so outrageous as to arouse the hostility of the community; that he was so irresponsible financially and so reckless in the incurring of debts, which he refused to pay, that the University Comptroller's routine was continually interrupted by garnishment actions against him. Clearly, such a person would be unfit for retention on the faculty, yet nowhere does the Tenure Code, if narrowly interpreted, provide machinery for his dismissal... .

That the Communist Party is not on trial before this Committee we readily agree; but we must insist that Communism, the Communist Party, and their relationship to University faculty members and to academic freedom are properly before us... .

The evidence in the record before us bearing on the allegation that the Communist Party of the United States is dominated by a foreign power is conflicting and inconclusive. Likewise, the evidence bearing on the allegation that the Communist Party of the United States seeks to overthrow the government of the United States by force and violence is conflicting and inconclusive. Other aspects of the Communist Party of the United States suggest a relationship quite different from membership in the traditional American political party.

There is agreement by both [the administration's and the professors'] witnesses that the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution and the protection afforded minorities under the American tradition would be done away with were the Communists to achieve control. . . . It is therefore our considered judgment that membership in the Communist Party, U.S.A., should not be regarded as similar to, or even vaguely suggestive of, membership in the traditional American political parties. It is our opinion that active present membership in the Communist Party, U.S.A., is an overt act of such reckless, uncritical, and intemperate partisanship as to be inimical to, and incompatible with, the highest traditions of academic freedom and responsible scholarship, and that such active present membership should be declared sufficient grounds for dismissal of any faculty member so committed. As a corollary it is further recommended that present active membership in the Communist Party be deemed adequate reason for refusal to employ an applicant for a position on the faculty of the University of Washington.

The strict construction placed upon the wording of the Tenure Code, in our view, does violence to the ordinary and generally understood meanings of the words employed. Webster defines "incompetence" as "unfitness," and we find no difficulty in applying these terms to the instant situations. To insist that the principles of academic freedom bar us from such a course, is to argue that we should shelter on our faculty men who believe the world is flat, and is to extend tolerance into the realm of nonsense. . . .

The respondents Phillips and Butterworth, by their active present membership in the Communist Party, U.S.A., have disqualified themselves for retention on the faculty of the University of Washington. The undersigned therefore recommend that these respondents be dismissed with such severance pay in lieu of notice as will be compatible with the principles of academic freedom and tenure laid down by the American Association of University Professors



I concur with the findings of fact concerning the nature of the Communist Party made in the majority statement signed by five members of this Committee. However, I cannot concur entirely with the interpretation of the Administrative Code as announced in that statement and I disagree with the recommendation contained therein. I join with Professors Benson and Goodspeed in recommending that respondents Joseph Butterworth and Herbert J. Phillips be dismissed as members of the faculty

. . . . My opinion is based upon two fundamental considerations.

In the first place, I do not accept the exclusively legalistic basis taken in the majority report. . . .

In the second place, my opinion is based upon the consideration of the nature, functions, control, and administration of American public education. Public education in the United States is . . . a social enterprise in which the general welfare is one of the prime considerations. Public educational institutions are instruments created by legislation at the behest of the public on the assumption that they will perform their public functions in terms of the spirit, philosophy, and under the general climate of ideas acceptable to the government of the people who create, patronize, and support them.

The people are sovereign in respect to American public education. They have the right to establish the policies governing the conduct of educational institutions. One well-established policy, generally accepted in the United States, is that one of the functions of education is that of training for citizenship. I have no doubt that it is the expectation of the parents of students at the University of Washington that their children shall not be instructed by members of the Communist Party, U.S.A. I hold that a member of the Communist Party is incompetent to teach in a publicly created institution of learning because such membership is incompatible with citizenship in a government such as ours founded upon democratic principles and unquestionably opposed to the rule of any one class as advocated by the Communist Party.

I do not question the right of an instructor to entertain a belief of his choice, but active membership in any organization incompatible with the government of the United States is disqualifying and is ground for dismissal.


President's [Raymond Allen's] Analysis

I am confident that a full and fair hearing on the charges has been given [by the] Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom. . . .

The [accused professors] contended that the [five] causes listed in [Administrative Code as reasons for dismissal] are definitive and all-inclusive. A majority of the Committee is of the opinion that the latter is the correct interpretation of the Code in this respect. [Allen disagreed with the majority's interpretation of the Code. Indeed, he went so far as to suggest that the Board of Regents could interpret the Code any way it like or even ignore it all together:]

I respectfully invite [the Regents'] attention to the fact that the Board of Regents never at any time specifically approved . . . the Administrative Code. . . . The Board of Regents is by law the governing body of the University of Washington and, as such, retains clearly within its power the right to determine the conditions of employment of the faculty and staff generally.

Therefore, I urge that the Regents study the findings of the Committee with great care and in their own best judgment arrive at a conclusion as to the validity of any and all findings and recommendations placed before it in these cases.

[President Allen's Recommendations Regarding Butterworth and Phillips]

. . . In my opinion, a teacher may be rendered incompetent, even within the restricted legal meaning of the term, by any action, condition, or attitude which interferes with the proper and adequate performance of his duties... .

I would point out that the teacher and the scholar have special obligations with respect to the sincerity of their convictions which involve questions of intellectual honesty and integrity. Men in academic life—teachers, scholars, and scientists—are engaged in a vocation which is concerned with the finding of truth and its dissemination, with the pursuit of truth wherever it may lead. Is it possible for an individual, however sincere, to embrace both this unhampered pursuit of truth and, at the same time, the doctrines and dogmas of a political party which admits of no criticism of its fundamental principles and programs? Put in another way, a teacher may be sincere in his belief in Communism, but can he at the same time be a sincere seeker after truth, which is the first obligation and duty of the teacher? My answer to these questions is, "He cannot." Therefore, I believe these men, by reason of their admitted membership in the Communist Party described in the above findings, to be incompetent, intellectually dishonest, and derelict in their duty to find and teach the truth. . . .

I concur in the findings and recommendations of . . . committee members Benson and Goodspeed. . . . I concur also with Professor Williams' analysis of the facts and his recommendation.

. . . I recommend that the Board hold . . . that respondents Butterworth and Phillips are disqualified from membership on the faculty of the University of Washington on the ground that they are members of the Communist Party, U.S.A. . . . and therefore are unfit for faculty membership. In these proceedings it has been adequately proved, in my opinion, that they are incompetent, that they are intellectually dishonest, and that they have neglected their duties as members of the faculty.

In conclusion I wish to emphasize what I have said elsewhere:

Freedom is essential to sound education. That academic freedom must be maintained in any university worthy of the name is beyond question. But academic freedom consists of something more than merely an absence of restraints placed upon the teacher by the institution that employs him. It demands as well an absence of restraints placed upon him by his political affiliations, by dogmas that may stand in the way of a free search for truth, or by rigid adherence to a "party line" that sacrifices dignity, honor, and integrity to the accomplishment of political ends. Men, and especially the teacher and the scholar, must be free to think and discover and believe, else there will be no new thought, no discovery, and no progress. But these freedoms are barren if their fruits are to be hidden away and denied. Men must be free, of course, but they must also be free, and willing, to stand up and profess what they believe so that all may hear. This is an important, if not the most important part of our American heritage of freedom. It is this American heritage of freedom that must be cherished and sustained by our systems and institutions of education if they are to survive.


January 17, 1949

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest