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UC Loyalty Oath Remembered on 50th Anniversary

Posted September 29, 1999

Edward Tolman

Psychology Professor Edward Tolman, who led the fight against the loyalty oath, was fired by the Regents. In 1964, they named Tolman Hall in his honor.

In 1949, in the midst of the McCarthy era, UC administrators proposed, and the Board of Regents quickly adopted, an anti-communist oath for all University of California employees to sign. The loyalty oath provoked an extended battle that rocked the institution. Thirty-one "non-signer" faculty and scores of teaching assistants, student employees and staff ultimately lost their jobs. The professors who had been dismissed sued and won reinstatement by the California Supreme Court.

On the 50th anniversary of those traumatic times, a two-day symposium and a series of related events on the Berkeley campus will commemorate the loyalty oath controversy and issues it raises -- including academic freedom and tenure, anti-communism and university governance.

The retrospective is organized by the University History Project and the Center for Studies in Higher Education, with a number of co-sponsors.

All events are free and open to the public.

Loyalty Oath Symposium
Oct. 7-8, Booth Auditorium
Boalt School of Law

The centerpiece of the loyalty oath retrospective will be a free two-day symposium to explore the history of the oath and its meaning today.

On Thursday, Oct. 7, the symposium opens at 1:30 p.m. with introductory remarks by Chancellor Berdahl. An address on "Academic Freedom During the McCarthy Years" by Ellen Schrecker, editor of Academe magazine, will follow.

Three past UC Presidents who were intimately connected to the oath controversy will be panelists: "non-signer" David Saxon, who was on the physics faculty at UCLA; Clark Kerr, who was involved in the Berkeley Academic Senate's efforts to resolve the dispute; and David Gardner, who wrote a history of the period. The Thursday event ends at 5 p.m.

Friday's program, from 1 to 4:30 p.m., features five professors who resisted the oath -- Howard Bern, Gordon Griffiths, Charles Muscatine, David Saxon and Howard Schachman.

Panelist discussing politics and higher education will include UC President Emeritus Jack Peltason, Berkeley Academic Senate Chirman Robert Spear, and Professor David Littlejohn, chairman of the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom.

Art Exhibit - Margaret Peterson
Sept. 27-Oct. 20
Townsend Center for the Humanities
220 Stephens Hall, lobby
Margaret Peterson refused to sign the oath and separated from the Berkeley Art Department. A noted painter, she specialized in imagery of the Pacific Northwest.

Sather Tower History Exhibit
October 7 - Ongoing
Sather Tower Lobby
An exhibit of documents, artifacts and photographs related to the oath.

University History Project Website
This Web site contains a growing archive of documents and other materials chronicling the oath controversy, as well as a complete schedule of loyalty oath symposium events and speakers.



September 29 - October 5, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 8)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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