Newman Papers

Politics and the Classroom

Berkeley Law 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 Berkeley Law 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.

Berkeley Law 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

  • Max Radin
    Max Radin

    “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.”
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  • 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