The House Education Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives this week ordered the president and the deans of the state university to appear before it and explain why it is that 59 faculty members of the university oppose segregation in the public schools. The vote to do this was taken by the whole House, wherein the vote was 70-0 to put the university officials on the stand to explain this subversive attitude of certain members of the faculty.
Time here does not permit any extended examination of the nature of a university, but certainly it is of fundamental importance that such an institution be dedicated to the untrammeled examination of all points of view about basic issues in the contemporary world. Freedom of thought is indispensable to such an examination. Moreover, in our scheme of things, respect for law and order is one of the basic precepts that should be taught, whether we like a particular law or decision or not. It would be passing strange if, in a university as large as Louisiana State, some members of the faculty did not personally subscribe to segregation while some oppose it. Problems are not solved in a democracy by sticking our heads in the sand or by repressing ideas that are unpalatable to some. Academic freedom exists not for the benefit of the teacher, but that society itself may profit from the examination of all sides of all issues to the end that individuals can develop sound understanding and form valid and informed ideas about problems affecting society. Apparently the politicians in the Louisiana legislature have never heard of, or are conveniently forgetting the idea that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
And along the same line, the state of South Carolina is concerning itself not only with rooting out faculty members in the public schools and colleges who oppose segregation; it is stretching its pressure to private colleges also. Two private Negro colleges have been singled out for special attention. On May 7, Governor Timmerman was instrumental in having the board of trustees of Benedict College in Columbia dismiss three faculty members: Dr. Lewis Smith, Dr. J. Spencer Kennard, and Mrs. Marion Davis. This dismissal climaxed a year of wrangling which began when the good governor accused six professors of “disloyalty,” a handy term that may mean anything its user wishes it to mean, and called for a legislative investigation. In the process of this investigation, Allen University last September was denied accreditation. More than 85 percent of the graduates of Allen University and Benedict College are education majors, and loss of accreditation means that they cannot secure teaching jobs in South Carolina public schools.
Thus, not only freedom of thought is suppressed, but also the aspiring Negro student becomes a victim of a vicious cycle. He cannot get a better job unless he secures better training, and now the graduates of those (and doubtless other Southern schools) cannot get better jobs even with that training, because the white supremacists that hold the power of accreditation are using this power to hold in line those with whom they do not agree. One ironical aspect of the matter is that those individuals who do these ridiculous things call themselves “Democrats,” when a more appropriate label would be “Hitlerites.”
Even at least one federal agency is getting into the act of suppressing criticism. Cyrus W. Eaton, a noted industrialist, made the following statement on a public program: “… Scores of agencies are nowadays engaged in investigation, in snooping, in informing, in creeping up on people…. The scientist is conscious that the FBI is breathing down the back of his neck all the time, scaring him…. [and this despite the fact that] there are no communists in this country to speak of except in the minds of those on the payroll of the FBI.” J. Edgar Hoover and members of Congress are sure that, somehow, Mr. Eaton is disloyal, dangerous, perhaps even worse. Honest and sincere men will agree with or take issue with Mr. Eaton in his statement. But the FBI apparently agrees with him entirely, for it has called for an investigation of such a dangerous individual, thus proving itself guilty of Mr. Eaton’s charge.
Very much in the news currently is the revelation that Mr. Sherman Adams, Assistant to the President, and alleged by some to have been the acting president the last five years, had his hotel bills paid by and received gifts from a business man. The record indicates that Mr. Adams, in turn, interceded with federal agencies on his friend’s behalf, agencies with which that friend was having difficulty. Protestations by White House spokesmen that such intercession does not indicate that pressure was brought on these agencies are not convincing. This reporter served in a Washington bureau long enough to know that simply a call from a congressman, or an official of the White House staff, is enough to constitute pressure on that bureau or agency, and that goes, whether such calls were made with innocent or guilty intent.
Some of us have long memories. We remember the mink coats and deep freezes of a former administration and were disgusted. There is no differences between the mink coats of the Truman era and the vicuna coat of the present one. Both are stench in the nostrils of decent and honest men, and party affiliation has nothing to do with justifying one or condemning the other. Is this the end product of the great moral crusade we heard Eisenhower preach so much about in the campaign of 1952? And what about the statement of the Man of Galilee who, 2000 years ago, said that “Ye cannot serve two masters”?