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No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities

av Ellen W. Schrecker

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562349,673 (3.67)Ingen/inga
Ellen Schrecker's award-winning and highly-acclaimed No Ivory Tower recounts the previously untold story of how the anti-Communist furor during the 1950's affected the nation's colleges and universities. She describes how the hundreds of professors called before the investigating committees of the McCarthy era confronted the same dilemma most other witnesses had to face, deciding whether to cooperate with the committees and "name names" or to refuse such cooperation and risk losing their jobs. Drawing on previously untouched archives and dozens of personal interviews, Schrecker re-creates the climate of fear that pervaded American campuses, as the nation's educational leaders responded to the national obsession with Communism as well as their own fears about the damage that notoriety might do to the reputations of their institutions. As a result, firings occurred everywhere--at Ivy League universities, large state schools and small private colleges--and the presence of an unofficial but effective blacklist meant that most of these unfrocked professors could not find regular college teaching jobs in the U.S. until well after the McCarthyist furor had begun to subside in the 1960s. No Ivory Tower helps to explain how the McCarthyism, which many people even then saw as a betrayal of this nation's most cherished ideals, gained so much power.… (mer)

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Ellen Schreck has given us a vivid portrait of the dilemma many college professors faced during witch-hunts of the early fifties. She begins with an extensive history of the concept of academic freedom. No consensus has ever been reached on what exactly it is.

Usually it resulted in debate on campus in response to external threats rather than internal dissent. Leading members of the academic community wanted to control behavior which might lead to outside intervention. The 1st AAUP formulation of academic freedom in fact discouraged controversy and implored the teacher to teach all sides of an issue. Unfortunately, academic freedom meant nothing to those charged with being fellow travelers or communists. One of the great "catch-22s" of this era was that by definition anyone who denied being, a communist was by definition a communist. Simply pleading the Fifth Amendment became grounds for dismissal at many institutions, as did failure to rat on one's colleagues. Even though many academics were not ultimately charged by HUAC, simply the fact they were asked to testify became grounds enough for dismissal. It became virtually impossible to defend oneself, especially when college faculty, presidents and boards, sought to avoid any hint of controversy and found it was much easier to expel the accused than try to defend him. The vaguest hint that federal funds for research grants might be in jeopardy caused the faculty to quiver with anxiety and to throw ethics to the wind. Academic freedom was used to justify firings in many case~. The reasoning was that one could not be intellectually honest if one had had anything to do with communists. Academic freedom was defined from an institutional standpoint rather than and ideological one. Paranoid professors feared that if the academic community failed to purge itself, witch-hunts would organized from the outside. Tragically, Schreck's account shows how academia's self-enforcement of McCarthyism silenced an entire generation of radical intellectuals and stifled all opposition to the official version of the Cold War. Ironically many who suffered the most were teachers who, after becoming seriously disillusioned with communism, had abandoned the party. Many were also accused of communistic leanings for campus political ends. There are all to few examples of heroic faculty who, because of support from their colleagues and/or administration, were able to keep their jobs despite tremendous pressure.

A sad episode in the history of academic community. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Ellen Schreck in has given us a vivid portrait of the dilemma many college professors faced during witch-hunts of the early fifties. She begins with an extensive history of the concept of academic freedom. No consensus has ever been reached on what exactly it is. Usually it resulted in debate on campus in response to external threats rather than internal dissent. Leading members of the academic community wanted to control behavior which might lead to outside intervention. The 1st AAUP formulation of academic freedom in fact discouraged controversy and implored the teacher to teach all sides of an issue. Unfortunately, academic freedom meant nothing to those charged with being fellow travelers or communists. One of the great "catch-22s" of this era was that by definition anyone who denied being a communist was by definition a communist. Simply pleading the fifth amendment became grounds for dismissal at many institutions, as did failure to rat on one's colleagues.

Even though many academics were not ultimately charged by BUAC simply the fact they were asked to testify became .grounds enough for dismissal. It became virtually impossible to defend oneself, especially when college faculty, presidents and boards, sought to avoid any hint of controversy and found it was much easier to expel the accused than try to defend him. The vaguest hint that federal funds for research grants might be in jeopardy caused the faculty to quiver with anxiety and to throw ethics to the wind. Academic freedom was used to justify firings in many case.. The reasoning was that one could not be intellectually honest if one had had anything to do with communists. Academic freedom was defined from an institutional standpoint rather than and ideological one. Paranoid professors feared that if the academic community failed to purge itself, witch-hunts would organized from the outside.

Tragically, Schreck's account shows how academia's self-enforcement of McCarthyism silenced an entire generation of radical intellectuals and stifled all opposition to the official version of the Cold War. Ironically many who suffered the most were teachers who, after becoming seriously disillusioned with communism, had abandoned the party.
Many were also accused of communistic leanings for campus political ends. There are all to few examples of heroic faculty who, because of support from their colleagues and/or administration, were able to keep their jobs despite tremendous pressure. A sad episode in the history of academic community. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Ellen Schrecker's award-winning and highly-acclaimed No Ivory Tower recounts the previously untold story of how the anti-Communist furor during the 1950's affected the nation's colleges and universities. She describes how the hundreds of professors called before the investigating committees of the McCarthy era confronted the same dilemma most other witnesses had to face, deciding whether to cooperate with the committees and "name names" or to refuse such cooperation and risk losing their jobs. Drawing on previously untouched archives and dozens of personal interviews, Schrecker re-creates the climate of fear that pervaded American campuses, as the nation's educational leaders responded to the national obsession with Communism as well as their own fears about the damage that notoriety might do to the reputations of their institutions. As a result, firings occurred everywhere--at Ivy League universities, large state schools and small private colleges--and the presence of an unofficial but effective blacklist meant that most of these unfrocked professors could not find regular college teaching jobs in the U.S. until well after the McCarthyist furor had begun to subside in the 1960s. No Ivory Tower helps to explain how the McCarthyism, which many people even then saw as a betrayal of this nation's most cherished ideals, gained so much power.

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