Politics and the Classroom

Boalt Hall During the McCarthy Era

Documents from the Frank Newman Papers

Regents' Meeting

Meeting of the UC Regents to discuss the Loyalty Oath

The 1950s saw the University of California embroiled in a series of disputes over the Cold War clash between politics and academic freedom. For the 1949/50 academic year the Regents announced that all faculty members would be required to sign a written oath swearing that they were not members of, nor sympathetic to, the Communist Party. Any faculty member refusing to sign the Loyalty Oath would be summarily fired, regardless of tenure status. By the end of the decade, government agencies were asking Boalt Hall professors if their law students had expressed unacceptable political views in classroom discussions or in written class assignments.

A new exhibition in the Main Reading Room displays documents from these controversies, drawn from the papers of Professor (later Dean) Frank Newman.

Boalt Hall Speaks Out

William Prosser

William Prosser

"I must confess that I was rather insulted, as I would have been if the regents had asked me to swear that I was not a bigamist, did not beat my wife, and was not engaged in operating a house of prostitution. But if any man in California had asked me whether I was a communist, I would have told him no; and if an oath would keep him happy, I would have given it to him; and I saw no reason to discriminate against the regents merely because they were my superiors." Read more

"The Regents do not say that they suspect any considerable number of the Faculty of being Communists or, to use their own tortuous phrases, of being under an oath or agreement or commitment in conflict with their obligation not to be a Communist.... And if they had no evidence but merely suspected, after the all too prevalent fashion of rumor built on rumor piled up on gossip and slander, the most nervously suspicious of them surely is not so naïve as to suppose that the requirement of an oath which says, 'I am not a Communist, and indeed and indeed and indeed I am not a Communist', will prevent his suspect from retaining his place on the Faculty." Read more

Max Radin

Max Radin

Frank Newman

Frank Newman

"The University can hardly dictate to prospective employers and other inquirers a list of political and religious beliefs, attitudes, activities, and associations that ought not be regarded as sinful. But many loyalty-security inquiries - whether they relate to government, private employment, military service, or other affected occupation - call for evidence of beliefs, attitudes, activities, and associations that a university should not supply if it aspires to be a free university." Read more

More information on the Loyalty Oath Controversy