1917 March 6

Columbia University to Investigate “Loyalty” of Faculty

 

With a Declaration of War that would take the United States into the war in Europe just a month away (April 6, 1917), a wave of patriotic fever swept over the country, resulting in massive abuses of civil liberties. Colleges and universities were not exempt, and Columbia University had one of the worst records (although it may be because we simply know more by virtue of its being in New York City). On this day, the university announced that it would begin to investigate the “loyalty” of its faculty.

During World War I, any criticism of the war was regarded as disloyalty. As a result of their investigation, the university fired two prominent faculty members, on October 1, 1917. The famed historian Charles A. Beard resigned in protest of the firings on October 9, 1917.

Learn more: Carol Gruber, Mars and Minerva: World War I and the Uses of the Higher Learning in America (1975)

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