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Student Committee for Academic Freedom records

 Collection
Identifier: RG-14-160
The informal group that would become the Student Committee for Academic Freedom was founded by a group of Hopkins graduate students in 1952, and lasted until 1955.The Committee was motivated primarily by the perceived threat to free research and free discussion posed by Congressional investigations into "un-American activities." The records of the Student Committee for Academic Freedom span the years 1953 to 1956. The Committee's general goal, to protect academic freedom, is well documented by records such as the constitution and aims statement, financial records, membership lists and correspondence with various faculty members and politicians.

Dates

  • 1953-1956

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

All student organization records received prior to 2017 are closed for 25 years from the date of creation to everyone except current members of the student organization, after which they are publicly available for access. Materials intended for public dissemination, such as publications, newsletters, and event flyers, are publicly available for access immediately once processed. If you are a member of this student organization and have questions about our access policy, please contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Extent

0.19 Cubic Feet (1 letter half-size document box)

Biographical / Historical

The Johns Hopkins University has always been a pioneer in the field of academic freedom, and there had been some interest in forming an official group to promote that ideal even before it was threatened by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. However, the rise of McCarthyism, coupled with allegations made against Johns Hopkins by members of Congress and the espionage indictment of Professor Owen Lattimore, Director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations, prompted a more urgent need to protect academic freedom. As a result, a group of Hopkins graduate students, encouraged by members of the faculty, founded an informal organization in 1952 which eventually became the Committee for Academic Freedom. Disagreement over aims prevented the group from gaining official status until 1953. To avoid confusion with a faculty group of the same name, the organization changed its name to the Student Committee for Academic Freedom in 1954.

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.

Scope and Contents

The records of the Student Committee for Academic Freedom span the years 1953 to 1956. The Committee's general goal, to protect academic freedom, is well documented by records such as the constitution and aims statement, financial records, membership lists and correspondence with various faculty members and politicians. The newspaper clippings of 1954 and 1955 reflect the nature of the group, which is further explained in the records of various projects which the Committee hoped to pursue, such as a speakers series and a legal handbook.

Arrangement

The records are arranged in one series and folders are filed in alphabetical order by file title.

Custodial History

Some of the records were transferred to the Archives by the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Processing Information

Processed by Sean DiGiovanna and Wendell O'Brien.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA