Student Committee for Academic Freedom records
- Student Committee on Academic Freedom (Corporate Entity)
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0.19 Cubic Feet (1 letter half-size document box)
Biographical / Historical
The Committee was motivated primarily by the perceived threat to free research and free discussion posed by Congressional investigations into "un-American activities." The Committee believed that such investigations constituted harassment and bordered on illegality. They were, however, concerned with academic freedom in a broader sense, and sought to promote the view that a free flow of ideas is essential to a democratic system.
The Committee consisted almost entirely of a small number of graduate students. No effort was made to attract undergraduates; one early proposed draft of a constitution even proposed that undergraduates be ineligible for full voting status. As a result, undergraduates were not very active in the organization. Close contact was maintained with members of the faculty and the surrounding community. Some early proposed drafts of the constitution called for a faculty advisor and a liaison, but the group settled on informal ties. The number of students in the group ranged from nine to about twenty-five, but most of the work was conducted by four or five of the most active members.
The Committee conducted a variety of activities. The major effort was a speakers series which lasted over two years. Although most people contacted by the group refused to speak, several well-known and controversial figures, such as Professor Broadus Mitchell of Rutgers (formerly on the Hopkins faculty) and Professor Corliss Lamont of Columbia University, did speak. Another large project was to compile a comprehensive legal handbook for those called before Congressional hearings. This project ran into financial difficulties and was never completed. Other projects included forums and bibliographies on academic freedom as well as extensive correspondence with similar groups, newspapers and magazines.
In October 1955, the Committee dissolved, feeling that recent court decisions and increasing criticism of Senator McCarthy had significantly reduced the threat to the rights of professional scholars. A standing committee of five members was established to complete unfinished business and to continue to protect academic freedom.
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