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September 24, 1954 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1954-09-24

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?At~ ~1X THE MICHIGAN DAILY ~1fl AV ~ WPm'1Lw'DI~'D GA I A~ 5

r *Au ..AjI3Z't"1 . tL AVAJLK .4, 1959


Special Faculty Committee Reports on Nic


(Continued from Page 1)
the Communist Party and has
been vague concerning the me-
thod and extent of his with-
"This Committee wishes that
Dr. Nickerson had been able to
demonstrate in his testimony that
at some finite date before he came
to this University he had made
a clean break with the Commun-
ist Party and had henceforth
shown no interest in it. This would
have clarified the issues greatly.
The fact is that he not only still-
holds many of the same views he
held' as a Party member but that
he finds it difficult to name any
specific date on which he ceased
to be a Party member.
. He cannot admit that there
was anything wrong with the Com-
munist Party, "as he knew it," al-
though it is significant that he
is willing to make rather objec-
tive criticismsof the Soviet Union
and some of its postwar policies
. ..The Committee does not
feel that too much importance
should be attached to discrepan-
cies in dates which may have oc-
curred in the testimony. It rec-
ognizes that under the pressure of
the hearings, errors may have oc-
curred through confusion or lap-
ses in memory. We feel that it
would be unfortunate if the Uni-
versity permitted its decision re-
garding Dr. Nickerson to rest on
such relatively minor aspects of
the total problem as occasional
failures to report dates with con-
sistency. -
"We feel that our evaluation of
the genuineness of Dr. Nickerson's
alleged withdrawal from the Com-
munist Party should depend not
so much on the gradual or abrupt
character of this withdrawal as
on the presence or absence of posi-
tive evidence indicating contin-
ued active partiipation in Party
activities after the date when the
withdrawal had presumably been
"5.) Dr. Nickerson has invok-
ed the Fifth Amendment when
asked by a duly constituted leg-
islative committee to testify
concerning his Communist Par-
ty activities, despite the advice
of officials of the University
that he should testify freely.
"We regard the behavior des-
cribed in this charge as reprehen-
sible conduct. Believing that the
facts show that he is not now and
has not been for some time a mem-
ber of the Party, and believing
that there is no evidence that he
engaged in illegal conduct during

his membership, it is our opinion
that he could have denied his pre-
sent membership and explained
his past membership without un-
favorable consequences to himself.
It would appear therefore, that he
needlessly, (in our opinion) has
brought embarrassment upon the
University. His invoking of the
constitutional guarantee against
self-incrimination, howevez, aS
carried out with advice of coun-
sel, and so far as we know, was
not invoked improperly from a
legal standpoint. The Committee
on Academic Freedom and Tenure
of the Association of American
Law Schools, in its report to the
Association in 1953, indicates that
the Fifth Amendment may be pro-
perly invoked by the innocent un-
der certain circumstances
We subscribe to this policy.
". . .While we agree with the
majority of the Special Advisory
Committee to the President that
censure for needlessly causing em-
barrassment to the University
would be in order, we do not be-
lieve that the fact of refusal to
testify before the Clary Commit-
tee is sufficient grounds to justify
"6.) Dr. Nickerson, at the time
he accepted employment in the
University, signed the oath and
failed to disclose his past Com-
munist Party activities,
"On December 25, 1950, Dr. Nick-
erson signed the oath which is re-
quired of all employees of the
University of Michigan. It states
that the signer does not belong to
"any organization which advocates
the overthrow of our constitution-I
al form of government." Dr. Nick-
erson states that it occurred to him
at the time he signed the oath
that the organizations probably in-
cluded the Communist Party.
However, because (according to
his report) his own membership in
the Communist Party had lapsed
some two or three years before,
and because the Communist Par-
ty as he knew it at that time was
not dedicated to the "overthrow of
our constitutional form of gov-
ernment" and had not been so
defined by the courts of the land,
he felt that he could legally sign
the oath. This Committee does not
believe there is any question as to
the legality of this act.
"This Committee does believe,
however, that Dr. Nickerson was
ill advised in not revealing his
past political associations to the
Univesity at the time he was of-
fered a position here. Although we
must rem ember that the national
atmosphere was not so intensely
anti-Communist in 1950r as it is

today, it still should have been ap-
parent to Dr. Nickerson at that
time that the likelihood of his ex-
posui'e was great, and that such
exposure would inevitably bring
public embarrassment to the Uni-
"... Our conclusion on the mat-
ter of the oath is as follows: Dr.
Nickerson should have made his
political history known to the Uni-
versity before he accepted his po-
sition here. His failure to do so

tions, he appears to have behaved
as a person of integrity would have
Burroughs-Wellcome Case
"The Burroughs-Wellcome case
is more revealing. In this situation
he was again offered a very at-
tractive position. As discussions
went aalong it became apparent
that classified research would play
an important part in the com-
pany's activities. According to the
company president, Dr. Nickerson

demonstrates bad judgment but it was "extremely honorable"
does not necessarily prove bad throughout their discussions, mak-
faith. We feel that this failure ing it clear to them that his clear-
exposes Dr. Nickerson to just cri- ance status was questionable and
ticism but does not impugn his in- giving them a full opportunity to
tegrity so seriously as to justify assess the probable difficulties in-
his dismissal. volved in his associations with the
"7.) Dr. Nickerson failed to company.
disclose his past Communist Par- "One may imagine that the
ty affiliations to his Depart- temptation to accept this position,
ment Head, even though classi- and let the facts come out later,
fied projects were under way in must have been substantial. The
the Department. Committee finds Dr. Nickerson's
".. . In our evaluation of the behavior in this case consistent
significance of Dr. Nickerson's en- with that of a man of integrity.
tering the Pharmacology Depart- We are also impressed by the fact
ment, the following two facts have that his report to us of his nego-
impressed us. It should be noted, tiations with the Burroughs-Well-
first that the Department of Phar- come Company coincides in every
macology at Michigan did not detail with that we have received
have a major development in clas- from the Company president.
sified research at the time Dr. "8.) Even though the forego-
Nickerson was brought into it and ing items do not in themselves
it has not had since. Secondly, furnish grounds for dismissal,
there seems to be no evidence that taken in the aggregate they in-
Dr. Nickerson has made any, at- dicate a lack of integrity.
tempt to inform himself about the "... The major departure from
classified research that was in full integrity which we find in Dr.
progress. The evidence is that he Nickerson's conduct during the
was completely isolated from it. past three years lies in his failure
In other words, Dr. Nickerson had to inform the University regard-
relatively little reason to believe ing his previous political history.
that his presence would seriously We feel that he should have done
jeopardize the future of the De- this and that his failure to do so
partment because of his question- reflects on his integrity. At the
able security status. His observa- same time we recognize that there
tion of security during his three is some ambiguity even in this
years in the Department appears charge, and we have reviewed the
to have been exemplary. arguments which might be adduc-
"In this connection the Com- ed to support the contention that
mittee has given a good deal of no failure of integrity is neces-
attention to the negotiations sarily implied in his failure toI
which Dr. Nickerson carried on communicate his past record to
with UCLA and the Burroughs- the University.
Wellcome Company. In the form- "In any case, his major fault, so
er case it is clear from his cor- far as integrity is concerned,
respondence with the Department seems to be one of ommission. We
of Pharmacology at UCLA that he do not take his invocation of the
received an attractive offer which Fifth Amendment as an evidence
he turned down. His explanation of lack of integrity, mistaken as
is that he did not feel that, with we believe it was. We find no evi-
his political history, he should en- dence of wilful or malicious dis-
ter a department so heavily de- honesty during his period at Mich-
pendent on classified research. igan. There is evidence of subter-
One -may surmise that he did not fuge and questionable tactics dur-
think he would last long in such ing his period in the Communist
a situation. We do not know his Party although nothing specifi-
entire motivation, but within the cally illegal has been discovered.
limits of his disinclination volun- On the other hand, he has im-
tarily to reveal his past associa- pressed both the Special Advis-


ory Committee and this Commit-
tee with his candor in answering
questions. In his hearing with this
Committee he impressed us as a
man trying to be scrupulously
honest while laboring under the
burden of a rather shameful past.
"9.) The retention of Dr. Nick-
ersson on the Medical School
faculty would not be in the best
interests of the Medical School
or of the University.
,in evaluating the opinion on
the basis of the facts alleged by
the Medical School, or adduced in
other parts of the hearings, we re-
spectfully submit that the facts do
not, in our opinion, justify the
recommendation made.
(The Medical School Executive
Committee recommended unani-
mously that Dr. Nickerson be dis-
missed immediately.)
4. "We would invite attention
to the fact that there is no allega-
tion that Dr. Nickerson is incom-
petent in his field bf teaching, and
we believe that the whole consid-
eration of the case has proceeded
on that basis. There is affirmative
testimony that he is competent
as a scientist and as a teacher
and that he has cooperated in
taking Medical School and depart-
mental assignments. There is no
evidence that he was ever insub-
ordinate in refusing to comply with
departmental orders. There is
testimony that he has been a
"troublemaker," "arrogant," and
has a "desire to get ahead which
means tromping on everybody else
in the department and elsewhere."
While these characteristics are not
those which engender affection,
his Department Chairman (Prof.
Maurice Seevers) has testified,
that the troublemaking didn't
bother him and that the assump-
tion of "privileges that other peo-
ple do not assume" did not relate
to the particular problem.,
Employment Opportunities
"Discussions relating to the em-
ployment opportunities presented
to Dr. Nickerson: Dr. Seevers tes-
tified that Dr. Nickerson was un-
der consideration for a job with
UCLA, that "he was dropped just
like that;" that "the reason he was
dropped is because of the neces-

sity for high security clearance,"
and that "when they looked into
his security background, they
dropped him." Dr. Seevers further
testified that Dr. Nickerson in-
formed him that he didn't want
the job and dropped it.
"There is an implication in this
testimony that UCLA was the
prime mover in severing the po-
tential employment. Wenbelieve the
facts to be that Nickerson was of-
fered the job, and that he did in
fact turn it down. We have a let-
ter dated Jan. 12, 1953, from the
Dean of the Medical School at
UCLA to Dr. Nickerson which
seems clearly to reflect those facts.
We have questioned Dr. Nickerson
concerning the matter and he as-
serts that he turned the job down
for tyo reasons: (1) because the
department depended for its sup-
port on classified federal grants,#
and he did not like that kind of
research as well as the unrestrict-
ed research; and (2) that he fully
appreciated that employment un-
der such circumstances would
necessitate security clearance, and
that he did not want to ask for
security clearance.
The first reason is clearly un-
derstandable, and reflects not at
all upon the motives or character
of Dr. Nickerson. It is a choice of
opportunities at the respective
schools. We fully appreciate that
one possible interpretation of his
second reason is that he did not
want to ask for security clearance
because he knew he could not get
it and therefore declined the job
to avoid disclosure of his past
Communist affiliations. In our
judgment, such a motive is con-
sistent with integrity. We would
consider that an individual, naw
ambitious to succeed as a pharma-
cologist, but having a past record
of affiliation with the Communist
Party, which is. in today's climate;
of opinion, capable of misinterpre-
tation, could reasonably, and with1
integrity, prefer to refrain from
classified governmental research.'
Indeed, there is inherent here an
erement of intergity, and full rec-
ognition of the government's right
and duty to maintain rigid secur-
ity on classified projects which is

implicit in such action. We ser-
iously question that "security
clearance" should be made a con-
dition precedent to employment in
the University except for those
who are to be engaged specifically
in classified projects. It should be
borne in mind that in many cases
inability to get security clearance
carries no implication of subver-
sion or failure of loyalty.
"With- reference- to -the -Bur-
roughs-Wellcome opportunity, as
stated earlier, we called the Presi-
dent of the company to ascertain
the facts of the negotiations. He
corroborated the testimony of Dr.
Nickerson in all essential aspects,
indicating that they had ap-
proached Dr. Nickerson; that the
discussions had proceeded to a
point where Dr. Nickerson might
well have concluded that the job
had been offered to him; that Dr.
Nickerson voluntarily disclosed the
fact that his past political activi-
ties might give rise to some trouble
in connection with the interna-
tional nature of the job and the
fact that he would be director of a
research program which would
embrace, in part, classified pro-
jects; that the Company president
came to Ann Arbor even after the
disclosure and talked with Dr.
Nickerson and was about ready to
go ahead; and that subsequently,
because of the potential difficul-
ties which would be involved in
cimpartmentalizing their research
among classified and unclassified
projects, they had decided against
the appointment. He stated that
he wanted to emphasize that Dr.
Nickerson was very open, candid,
and acted in a very honorable
way throughout the negotiations,
and that they appreciated his
openness. He added that Dr. Nick-
erson had raised the question of
security clearance at the very be-
ginning of the negotiations.
Medical School Decision
"We now return to the recom-
mendation of the Medical School
Executive Committee that Dr.
Nickerson be dismissed, and its
significance in this particular pro-
ceeding. We must repeat that we
believe there are not facts other
than those involving the Com-

munist Party affiliation of Dr.
Nickerson, his refusal to testify
before the Clardy Committee, his
failure to disclose his past activi-
ties, etc:, which would support this
recommendation. Were this dis-
missal based upon incompetence,
insubordination, failure to coop-
erate in the departmental duties,
or the like, then we would be deal-
ing with matters which were with-
in the peculiar competence of the
School or Department. Were we
dealing with a question of the mis-
use of his position as a teacher
for indoctrinational purposes, the
judgment of the particular col-
lege or department would be of
great weight.
"But this case involves matters
of University-wide policy with ref-
erence to a subject which trans-
cends departmental and college
lines. It involves questions of the
freedom to hold unpopular ideas.
It involves questions concerning
the relations between the faculty
and legislative bodies. It involves
the meaning of tenure and the ob-
ligations of candor to the Univer-
sity. These are matters in which
no department, no school, no col-
lege, as such has any peculiar
competence. There, it seems to us,
are matters 'which must properly
be considered at the University
level. We believe this was recog-
nized when this action was begun
under Section 5.101 of the By-
laws, through the action of the
President, rather than being in-
itiated at the departmental level.
... "We believe that it would be
in keeping with the traditions of
academic freedom, as they have
long been practiced in this Uni-
versity, to reinstate Dr. Nicker,
The 30-page report by this Com-
mittee was submitted to the-Presi-
dent when completed. Following
his receipt of the document, Pres-
ident Hatcher recomminded Prof.
Nickerson's dismissal to the Re-
(Tomorrow's article will include
information on the Regents' de-
cision and Prof. Nickerson's pub-
lie statement after the dismissal
was announced.)



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