Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

April 19, 1959 - Image 9

Resource type:

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A New Study Shows What Happened
To Social Scientists During the McCarthy Era

ALL SOCIETIES view specialists entists. His recent book (with
and experts with mixed feel- Wagner Thielens Jr), "The Aca-
ings. We need the specialist's demic Mind, Social Scientists in
skills, but it makes us uneasy to a Time of Crisis" (Glencoe, Illi-
realize that he may not use his nois: The Free Press, 1958) re-
expert knowledge for socially de- ports his findings.
sired ends. Some primitives try to We should remember that the
limit the influence of their ex- crisis among the professors was
perts. The blacksmiths, though not imaginary. Lazarsfeld tabu-
well paid, may be forced to live in ated 990 incidents in which teach-
a separate enclosure and magical I er's careers were threatened for
precautions taken against the reasons other than academic in-
spread of their powers. The medi- competence. Of these, 54 per cent
cine man is honored when all involved the teacher's political
goes well; killed if crops fail or position and ideology. Another
patients die. seven per cent were probably of
Contemporary industrial socie- this nature. In 18 per cent of the
ties are thoroughly dependent up- incidents, the teacher was dis-
on the efforts of their more skilled missed. In another four per cent,
members; have a correspondingly he resigned under pressure. Seven
greater need for developing a per cent were lhited in their
workable relation between the ex- teaching or research activities.
perts and their publics. These are, if anything, conserva-j
The biting folk tales about pro- tive estimates since the outcome
miscuous priests, sadistic doctors, was not clearly described for 35
or the venal attorneys-"Why does per cent of the cases.
the hearse horse whinny whenever The average college studied had
a lawyer dies?"-are not adequate six incidents which threatened
to control the relations, of lay- the careers of members of its staff,
men and specialists. So notable a About 60 per cent of these inci-
case as that of Robert Oppen- dents concerned the political posi-
heimer's dismissal from govern- tions of members of the faculty.
ment reminds us that we lack At least thirty-four per cent of
smoothly operating rules for de- the incidents ended in the teach-
ciding these matters. er's suffering substantial depriva-
ASA PARTICULAR kind of ex-
pert, the teacher in a liberal REDUCING a history of fear and
arts college has something of the agony to numbers should not
prestige of other professionals, lead us to conclude that these
and is often the target of public crises had limited results. As any
suspicion. policeman knows, a few exemplary
One fairly recent opinion poll arrests can cow large populations.
shows that college professors are Further, if the persons threat-
exceeded in public prestige only ened are socially visible, the effects
by justices of the United States of their cases are more spectacu-
Supreme Court, doctors, governors lar It happens that, whether by
of states, members of the Presi- inadvertence or design, the likeli-
dent's cabinet, diplomats, and hood of a teacher's being attacked
mayors of large cities. (and, we may suspect, of his being
Their peers in public esteem are threatened for his political views)
scientists, members of the Con- was greater in the better known
gress, and bankers. Below them colleges than in teachers' colleges
are such important functionaries or religious-affiliated institutions.
as ministers, lawyers, directors of More than this, when size and type
large corporations, civil engineers, of college are held constant, in-
and union officials. Professors cidents are found to be more likely
command more prestige than such in the institutions with the more
"glamorous" professionals as air- distinguished faculties and the
line pilots, newspaper reporters, more abundant resources.
and Army officers. Of the 743 incidents for which
But all is not honor and pre- the instigating source is known,
ferment. There are popular images about half began with charges
of the professor as an impractical from off-campus groups (state or
egghead, a scandalous bohemian, national investigative committees,
and a dangerous radical. community groups, mass media,
From 1950 to 1954, Senator and individuals) and the remainr
Joseph McCarthy, and others with der with charges from alumni,
like views, went further. Pro- colleagues, students, relatives of
fessors at leading universities students, and the college adminis-
were, along with Army generals, tration. About a fifth of the
the Democratic Party, and an oc- charges from a known source were
casional Soviet agent, accused of instigated by governmental com-
treason or of sympathy for traitors. mittees,
The Senate's censure of McCarthy
in 1954, and, more especially, the W ERE THE SOCIAL scientists
lofting of the Russian sputniks in alarmed? More than this, did
1957, were required to change loose the incidents affect their work,
accusation into a more sober and, if so, how?
evaluation of these experts and Unfortunately it is here that
the nation's security. Lazarsfeld's data are least satis-
factory. We cannot, for example,
i ASSESS the impact of Mc- separate the impact of incidents
Carthyism on America's liberal related to McCarthyism from
arts colleges, and thereby to con- others involving politics or from
tribute to the formation of more those of a non-political character.
judicious public policy, the Fund What we can do is examine some
for the Republic asked the help consequences of all types of in-
of Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Professor of cident.
Sociology in Columbia University. Lazarsfeld has rated worry and
Lazarsfeld concentrated his atten- caution among his respondents.
tion on McCarthyism's impact on Teachers are said to be worried if
the academicians whose work they endorse more than one of the
might be most affected-the social following statements: think it is
scientists, possible that some student will re-
Field work was done in the port a warped version of their
spring of 1955. From a sample of political views, worry about the
165 accredited colleges, he inter- possibility that future employers
viewed a representative group. of might ask someone at their present
2,451 historians, economists, so- institutions about their political
ciologists, and general social sci- views; wonder if some remark of
theirs related to politics might be
Guy E. Swanson is an as- a subject of community gossip;
sociate professor in the so- fear that a political opinion might
sologyeprte n s-affect their job security; think
ciology department. that alumni might be offended by
SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 1959

Legislator and judge of what knowledge is valuable.
some political remark of theirs; We learn something of special distinguished, public institutions
wonder whether the college ad- interest from examining the dis- or large private colleges which de-
ministration has a political file on tribution of worry and caution by pend on public support for con-
every faculty member. quality of college, siderable proportions of their in-
Professors are classified as cau- Lazarsfeld has formed four come. Such schools are prominent
tious if they subscribed'to two or groups of colleges by the distinc- enough to be visible as targets for
more of the following practices: tion of their social science faculties accusations, their secular status
sometimes go out of the way to and the institutions' resources: may open them to charges' of
make it clear that they have no low, medium low, medium high, political unorthodoxy that would
extreme political leanings; some- and high. (Teachers colleges, those be less likely at denominational
times refrain from expressing affiliated with a religious body, colleges, and their immediate de-
opinions or participating in activ- and small public liberal arts col- pendence on what seem to be po-
ities that might ernbarrass the col- leges are likely to be rated low or tent segments of public opinion
lege administration; exercise more medium low.) make their administrations pliant.
care than before in bringing up The social scientists in colleges In any event, it is these colleges
political topics with colleagues; of high and medium high quality of medium high quality where
take greater care that students are are more likely than others to be worry and caution are at their
not referred to controversial read- worried, although the percentage highest.
ing; tone down things they have worried does not drop below 40 in
written because they might cause any quality grouping. It is, how- ON THEIR FACE, these several
controversy. ever, those in colleges of medium findings do not encourage the
high quality who are most likely to belief that America's social sci-
U SING Lazarsfeld's criteria, we be worried (49 per cent). entists were free to pursue their
can explore the anatomy of proper intellectual tasks.
academic apprehension. AGAINST the distribution of But, is this true? What are the
It is not a picture reassuring for worried teachers, we may con- proper intellectual tasks of social
scholarly freedom. Forty-seven per sider the following percentages of scientists and what loss of freedom
cent of the respondents were wor- cautious teachers: low quality col- did they suffer? We also may ask,
ried. Twenty-two per cent were leges - 23 per cent, medium low how much of any such loss was
cautious. At the extremes, 48 per quality-22 per cent, medium high associated with McCarthyism and
cent were neither worried nor quality-27 per cent, high quality whether the public gained by ex-
cautious while 17 per cent were -19 per cent. posing traitors or by the suppres-
both worried and cautious. Only As Lazarsfeld's other data show, sion of tendencies toward treason.
five per cent showed caution with- the colleges of high quality are Lazarsfeld and Thielen's find-
out worry. likely to be the larger and wealth- ings support the following conclu-
Worry and caution, like the ier private institutions. Their sions:
frequency of incidents, are not dis- trustees and administrations take 1) The administrations of some
tributed at random among social a protective view toward the fac- colleges prevent social scientists
scientists. They are positively re- ulty. Their social scientists were from performing what the profes-
lated to the teachers' tolerance of likely to be alarmed about the im- sors considered to be legitimate
divergent views, to their produc- pact of criticism on the profession, professional functions. We do not
tivity, to the number of liberal as- but not as likely as others to be know how common this is. We do
sociations they have had, and to cautious. not know how serious was the loss
their professional eminence. Worry By contrast, the colleges of to knowledge from these interfer-
and caution are negatively related medium high quality are likely to ences.
to age and tenure. be the larger, but somewhat less (Continued on Nent Page)
Poge Nine

Back to Top

© 2023 Regents of the University of Michigan