1950 August 25

31 University of California Faculty Fired in Loyalty Oath Controversy

 

The University of California Regents on this day voted to fire 31 faculty members who refused to sign a Loyalty Oath. The Regents had adopted a final version of the oath on April 21, 1950 (after much protest and debate that began in 1949). The University of California Loyalty Oath was one of the major controversies of the Cold War era. The state Supreme Court declared the University of California loyalty oath unconstitutional on October 17, 1952.

The insidious aspect of the University of California loyalty oath, and of all loyalty oaths during the Cold War, was that it had nothing to do with any specific criminal or unprofessional conduct on the part of individuals required to sign it.

Perhaps the best commentary on how the loyalty oath unnecessarily harmed talented professors involves the case of physics professor David Saxon. He was fired for not signing the loyalty oath in 1950, but went on to a distinguished career in science and, on July 1, 1975, was appointed President of the entire University of California system. He served as president until 1983. Clearly, in the long run Saxon survived being fired, but his career was at least temporarily affected, and many others who were fired or left the university voluntarily suffered more lasting harm.

Another victim of the loyalty oath was Eason Monroe, who went on to serve for 20 years as the Director of the ACLU of Southern California in Los Angeles (see July 1, 1952).

Study the original documents about the California Loyalty Oath controversy: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/loyaltyoath/

Read: David Gardner, The California Oath Controversy (1967)

Learn more at a timeline on the California loyalty oath controversy: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/loyaltyoath/timeline_test.html

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