I am not a professor. Maybe I never will be one.
My apprenticeship was honorable, as a teaching fellow at Harvard, where I got my Ph.D. in mathematics, and as an instructor at the University of Michigan. I loved the university life. Not that it occurred to me at the time to compare it to any other; I had never seriously considered leaving it.
However, it happened that one summer ten distinguished members of my faculty convened (five at a time) and unanimously declared me guilty of “deviousness, artfulness, and indirection hardly to be expected of a University colleague.” I had refused, first before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and then before these juries of professors, to answer yes or no to the question, was I a Communist. The juries could assume (with that background and in the year 1954) that their recommendation that I be fired would mean my complete expulsion from the profession.
In fact my life as a mathematician, though attentuated, is not extinguished. I have managed to get a certain amount of research done. I show up at Math Society meetings. My fellow mathematicians, who stood up for me most gratifyingly when distinguished juries were telling them I was not fit for their company, still welcome me to their company. They gave me the pleasure and honor of a year’s fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study. Currently I have an editorial job with our reviewing journal—a position of, at any rate, responsibility.
But the universities—the universities of America have so far opened only their back door to me, only a crack, though I knocked at their front door, politely but unmistakably, for years.
So now under their window what song do I raise? A howl of grief? Have I risen to haunt you, displaying my shocking wounds to wrench your conscience? Not precisely.
To prove that I am fit to teach would be too easy to be interesting. I was exiled from academe, not as an incompetent, but as a heretic. To prove that my heresies meet your standards of tolerability or your dean’s (though it might be difficult enough, all right) would be uninteresting because too special. There is a considerable fraternity of academic exiles these days, and there is no need to single me out from it.
I propose to give an account of the fraternity. Especially its admission procedures. I will ask you to consider what the exiles were and how they were removed from the universities; and exactly how easily they can be spared.
First, though, an evaluation in general of the dissenter’s contribution to the university. This is the right decade for it. In a time when selection of academic personnel had been operating smoothly, the evaluation I mean to make might seem harmlessly truistic; today, my claims may seem tall claims indeed. The case for expelling the dissenter has been so much repeated recently; the notion that the dissenter is at any rate not important has offered such welcome consolation to the reluctant accessories to his expulsion; even the dissenter’s defense has so often fallen back on the opportunistic argument that he is just like everyone else. I argue the importance of having colleagues who differ from you.
The dissenter’s main contribution he makes only if his heresy is valid. Any university should aspire to recognize and encourage a modern Copernicus, in any field of thought. Recognition and encouragement might come too late if they waited for the innovation to be acknowledged correct by the department chairman (let alone the trustees).
This homily seems vulnerable when you think about it. If a truth is so obscure that we can’t perceive it, we professors who are specialists in perceiving truths, then isn’t the burden on its advocates to lick it into better shape? Why should they be granted academic rewards for a seedling theory, on credit against its eventual maturation?
Well, of course, the burden is on its advocates to advocate it. But in the nature of things a really significant innovation is likely to be hard to appreciate, or even understand, in the old terms. Its advocates themselves may not understand it too well. Their easily stated tenets may seem self-exposing falsehoods to normal people (particularly if they deny something economically or emotionally precious), and may, indeed, be wrong. The new generally resembles the old in one respect anyhow: not being perfect.
A valuable innovation may appear, yet its adherents remain an uncelebrated minority (even among the enlightened) for some time.
Furthermore it may need, more than an accepted doctrine, patient service by full-time acolytes. Not only because they will be better able to see its correctness; not only because their painstaking work can gather material for convincing the unconverted; but also because the main value of the innovation may consist in its application as a method of detailed analysis. What would the theory of evolution be today if there had nowhere been freedom to do anything more than believe it? It would still be, as in Erasmus Darwin’s time, an intellectually attractive fancy. It became part of science only thanks to its rich elaboration in the nineteenth century.
Here I have to distinguish between the “amateur dissenter” who believes a heresy while making his living at an orthodox vocation, and the “professional dissenter” who devotes his main intellectual effort to the heresy. What I have been saying leads to the conclusion that the universities should welcome professional dissenters, even though some of them (one can’t tell except in hindsight which ones) will turn out not to have had anything of distinctive value to contribute. This is so important that if at the moment no first-class candidates are on the market, the universities should welcome even somewhat dubious ones—just to advertise the existence of a demand for professional dissenters! The penalty for keeping these people around is small: at worst their heresy may be altogether wrong, but even in that unlikely extreme case it may, confronting truer competing ideas, help generate new and still truer ideas.
Does this mean embracing the angle-trisecting mathematician and the hollow-earth cosmologist? And if not, how can we draw the line? By what criterion should a department executive committee decide, among prospective appointees whose specialties seem absurd, which one to prefer? Should everyone competent to teach freshman courses become thereby the judge of the value of his own work?
The department should not, I would say, attempt to draw a boundary around the respectable portion of its field, maintaining within the boundary a “balanced department” in which rewards are dispensed even-handedly. This would lead to mechanical judgments where sensitive ones are called for. Let the department follow its own judgment as to where the greatest value lies. Let anyone adopting deviant standards resign himself to being judged by accepted ones, and accordingly expect to see himself somewhat underrated. Only let him be judged fairly and not resented. Thus A. M. Turing at Manchester—in the years before the economic importance of large digital computers made his interest in algorithms a widespread one—was accepted and respected for his excellence by standards other than his own, and supported in pursuing his lonely specialty. A less extraordinary talent might have been forced to switch to a fashionable specialty, and even Turing earned less respect than he gets in hindsight. But you can’t hope to reward a man for being ahead of his time more highly than you reward the man who is on a wrong track when you can’t tell them apart, so determine the amount of the reward by averaging the possibilities. Remember to be fairly generous in your guesswork: the number of beginning scholars is expected to increase fast, and more and more can be spared for the byways, if they’re drawn to them.
All this pertains primarily to the professional dissenter. I suppose I am an amateur dissenter myself: most of my peculiar convictions, certainly including those I was fired for, have no tendency to reflect themselves in unconventional mathematics. Still I take them seriously—as, say, a Catholic may take God seriously although he is not a priest. Let me not understate the case for the amateur dissenter.
It is a strong one. If we desire to prepare the soil for an unpredicted innovation, we have no way of providing that it lies within one of the narrow plots which are the accepted disciplines. The innovation may attract disciples long before it is recognized as a possible way to make one’s living: then it will have to begin as a hobby. Similarly, a new art form may be fun for its aficionados long before they dare to propose taking it seriously. In general, the universities can put up with much more fantastic deviation on the part of the amateur dissenter, because they lay no wager at all that he is right; having seen to it that he earns his keep, they can afford to leave his off hours up to him; thereby they are able to extend an invitation to progress further into the future.
Progress is the universities’ business; their function is not merely custodial. And I maintain that just as innovations in ideas should be fostered in the universities more than outside, so should innovations in values. In some departments (literature and philosophy, at least) this is in the nature of the announced subject matter. But as a long-time lover of the bull session let me state the case more broadly. University students are a large group of active people, at the age for deciding what they want. Regardless of how material the subject matter of their specialty may be, they are concerned with values: they have to choose one goal for their lives above another. Their parents’ choices may be, for them, wrong. They need, so that they can choose independently, an environment permissive toward the unexpected and rather charmed by it. To provide this environment is part of the universities’ function; and one ingredient is professors who, while varying widely in their professional aspect, vary still more widely extracurricularly.
The universities are hotbeds of heresy. At least they usually are; it is characteristic for them to be; they should be. They should be teeming with intellectual doctrines some of which the majority find useless or even false, and with moral doctrines some of which the majority find unattractive or even evil. And the diverse parties should dwell side by side, not with the tolerance of indifference, but embattled and cherishing each other: each should know that in its quest the contest with those who disagree will bring faster progress than would an unobstructed route.
The description does not fit the status quo. It does not ideally fit the status quo ante either. But if there is a shortage of active doctrinal challenge in the universities today, it is in order to give at least a brief, anxious look at the most conspicuous blow to academic freedom of recent years: political firings of professors.
The exiles, then. Who should I mean by “exile”? Those who were fired from university teaching jobs for their politics, surely, or forced to resign. But also it seems natural to include those who for the same cause simply were not able to find a job, or were obliged to accept jobs far below their qualifications, to accept non-academic jobs, or to emigrate. I will include anyone who qualified on any of these counts at any time during the current Red-hunt—say, from 1947 (Truman’s first “loyalty” program) to 1959 (when I am writing).
We exiles have not been systematically studied. Eminent social scientists with foundation grants have studied academic freedom by surveying random samples of working professors (which, if it is not convenient wilful blindness, is at any rate a very different approach). One professor set out to write a book on the exiles, but became one before it was finished, which interfered seriously with its progress. We have been treated, sometimes misleadingly, by a few novelists.
What I can tell you in a few pages is told from knowledge (even though I have made no survey, and will cite few names). We exiles know each other pretty well—partly because some of us shared political contacts in the ‘forties for which we were all punished subsequently, and partly because our shared predicament now draws us together.
To give you an idea—I sat down the other night and listed all the exiles I could think of. (I arbitrarily excluded people who lost their jobs by refusing to sign generally required oaths, as at the University of California, although a good many of them would qualify.) In about fifteen minutes I ran the list up to eighty! Not all the eighty are known to me by name, but thirty-seven of them I have met, and these include several of my close friends.
This is a good many exiles. Altogether there must be something between a hundred and a thousand—smaller, for illustration, than the number of women teaching in co-ed colleges, but much larger than the number of Negroes teaching in other than Negro colleges. Loss of a group this size is significant, at a time when universities are hard up for faculty; and some of the exiles are a good deal more than minimally competent.
But these sacrifices to the “loyalty” revival are far from a random sample. How were we selected?
Many were non-co-operators before Congressional committees. If such testimony was public, it was often followed, as in my case, by a strictly academic inquisition. These hearings provided a semblance of independence for the administration’s eventual decision to fire; for, though caused by and roughly patterned after the Congressional ones, they were carried on by university people, often the victim’s own colleagues. This very feature made them incomparably more painful. Of the two professors I can think of who went through such hearings in public universities without being fired, one quit anyhow, in disgust at the humiliating lack of confidence in him which the hearings expressed!
The majority of us became exiles more gently. An agent from the Un-American Committee or the F.B.I, would speak to a dean, who would then reach agreement with the fingered professor that it would be best for both parties if the firing was unpublicized. Or more gently yet — a thesis adviser would include in his letters of recommendation the hint that a fresh Ph.D. was “much concerned with social problems,” and with or without further inquiry, employers would pass him by. Such practices are quite general. I know of instances among our mightiest private institutions. Unquestionably, since they are secret, there are many times as many instances as I know of; and it is reasonable to assume, by extrapolation, that still milder discrimination against left-wingers, carrying too light a sentence to make them exiles, must happen still oftener.
The whole gamut of methods continues in use, too. Several of the exiles joined us with full newspaper accompaniment within the last two years; and a number of professors have been convincingly threatened with exiling during 1959–60.
Many of the exiles succeeded in returning to academic status comparable to what they lost; but most have not. This story, well worth telling, I must skip.
What sort of people were exiled? In the first place, it should be understood that among them were Communists. I know it is cried that the Red-hunters aim at a much broader target than just the Communist Party; and most of them do seem to. But if one of them aims at a peace committee, say, his attack will get more co-operation if he can find a Communist in the committee on whom to concentrate it. I know it is cried that some of the Red-hunters are plain liars and that most of them will admit fantastic “evidence” in support of a charge of Communism; and this is true, too. But the standards of evidence in these cases, though shamefully low, were at any rate such that Communists were much more likely to be fired as Communists than anti-Communists were.
Along with the Communist, the exiles include many more people who, even to objective eyes, rather resemble Communists: former Communists, members of organizations which had Communist support, former members of such organizations, non-Communist Socialists, theoretical Marxists, etc. It makes sense to class most of these in a single group, and to say that, though mostly not Communists, they were accurately accused of the heresy of leftism; for they share certain ideological tendencies which the Red-hunters systematically attempt to suppress as “communistic.” There are non-left-wing exiles who were accurately accused of such heresies as pacifism or (in the South) anti-segregationisrn, and exiles who were inaccurately accused of one heresy or another. But the non-left-wing exiles, however important, are not very numerous. For the sake of simplicity I will usually, from here on, discuss the exiles as if there were only the left-wing exiles, of which I am one.
My first conclusion is that not one of us (left-wing or other) should have been fired—indeed, indeed, that there was no prima-facie suspicion that any of us should be; hence that many distinguished juries not only arrived at wrong answers but concerned themselves with preposterous questions.
If Marxism was so crackpot a doctrine that it prevented sound scholarship, one might well investigate whether a colleague had contracted it. I have pointed out that the champion of an unrecognized doctrine must face some extra burden to establish his competence. But this is irrelevant here because the left-wing scholars I am talking about were not attacked by colleagues for professional unsoundness. Our competence was either unmentioned by our attackers or (as in my case) conceded.
We were accused of being under intellectual discipline which hindered open-mindedness. Now the fact is (I know these people, remember) that sure enough! some of us are almighty cocksure; some can irritate me even when I agree with what they’re cocksure of. I have also known cocksure conservatives, but nobody has proposed that they be fired, much less that all conservatives be fired because some are cocksure. We exiles are not subject to a single discipline; the diversity of our opinions would surprise you; more to the point, we are most of us, I would say, a more independent, contentious and open-minded lot than the professors who survived us. But even if we were on the whole much more dogma-tied, this would be no call to single us out from the other dogmatists. Particularly since diehard adherence to a heresy is in general less menacing to free inquiry than matter-of-course adherence to orthodoxy: because the heretic, being constantly challenged, is deprived of the illusion that his rut is the whole road.
Then also, we were accused of influencing students. A shocking thought! Well-meaning friends sometimes defended us with pleas that, of course, we kept our poisonous ideas to ourselves. But to us, our left-wing ideas seem true, and therefore not poisonous. We would want to avoid putting undue pressure on our students to accept them, but not to avoid even submitting them to students! In practice most of us did go to the extreme of concealing our left-wing ideas from our students—but from realistic fear for our own security, not from fear of corrupting the students. Even if our views are all wrong, it would not corrupt any thinking person just to hear them advocated.
The professional dissenters among us had not merely the right to “influence” students, but the responsibility. A philosophy professor who accepts dialectical materialism, for instance, will have difficulty in speaking honestly if he tries to speak as a philosopher without speaking as a dialectical materialist. Herbert Phillips, in this predicament, set an example of courage and fairness to shame many of his fellow Marxists as well as his enemies: presenting various positions but avowing plainly which was his. The colleagues of such a man, if they think Marxism is not good philosophy, may then regret that their Marxist is not too good a philosopher, and think to improve him by converting him; but they should remember that it will not improve him to intimidate him into donning Thomism or empiricism.
We amateur dissenters had it easier. Our only real responsibility in this regard was to avoid wasting class time on irrelevant expositions of our heresies. Most of us held to this scrupulously; perhaps if the incentive of fear had been absent, we might have produced more counterparts of those conservative colleagues who larded their lectures with irrelevant anti-W.P.A. or anti-Soviet jokes.
Then, too, we were accused of belonging to a conspiracy to commit espionage or armed revolution. A very few were actually accused of spying; but almost all of us were not, I think, even suspected of overt acts of this nature. What was the accusation, then? Merely that we supported organizations which somewhere and sometime engaged in espionage or furthered revolutions? This charge was true of some of us. A telling charge, perhaps—if it had been brought, say, by our pacifist colleagues. But a laughable charge when brought by people who consider the professor’s role perfectly consistent with supporting espionage by the C.I.A. and revolution in Guatemala.
I am not saying that Russian power politics and American power politics are mirror twins, but only that the university should not be an agent of either. It should be impartial on matters where individuals, or even the freest state, can not be impartial. However anti-Soviet some of you are, however strongly you suspect foul treason among us, you should not involve the university in fighting that non-academic battle. Counterespionage is not the dean’s job. He’s probably not much good at it anyway.
I’m afraid I have been belaboring the obvious for a couple of pages now. The standard rationalizations for firing Reds have the transparency of the emperor’s new clothes. They are never invoked against conservatives, though logically applicable; they are rarely bothered with in the quiet firings. I can’t believe that such poppycock persuaded many of our colleagues that we deserved exile. I do believe that many of our colleagues were persuaded, by seeing the poppycock most solemnly received, that they could not afford to defend us.
The only essential charge against us was heresy. From outside the universities came a clamor to dress the anti-Communist ranks; we were charged with being out of line. To fire us for this was wrong.
But I said it was wrong in every single case. Do I really mean to be so sweeping? Surely there were some incompetents among those fired? Quite likely, by chance, a few; but none, I dare say, whose incompetence was proved in the course of deciding to fire them for heresy. But surely there were some cases of political immorality? Particularly, people who falsely denied that they were Communists? Yes, a few; it saddens me that some people diminished themselves by lying in an effort to save their positions; but I remember that the test they failed most of their colleagues did not face; I think of the far more numerous people, now snug in their academic tenure, who began much earlier in response to much less severe threats to conceal and even suppress their own dangerous thoughts; and I think of Galileo; and I decide that the universities, and morality, would be best served by a lenient view of forced recantations.
My second main conclusion about the left-wing exiles is that we do not now constitute a thriving heresy. What has been banished from the campuses in us is a collection of rather like-minded individuals, not a coherent ideological movement. For agreement on political and economic matters we may turn to each other, but for interesting new contributions we turn to the universities. We have the numbers and the talent to provide the nucleus of an intellectually creative heresy—why don’t we?
(1) Being exiled has hurt our output. Unaccustomed jobs, emotional stress, separation from scholarly surroundings —it is hard to keep plugging. But a lot of us do.
(2) Too few of us are professional dissenters, too many amateurs. Maybe this is because full-time left-wing intellectuals were already largely excluded from universities at the beginning of the period 1947-1959 (witness, e.g., Scott Nearing, Morris U. Schappes and Paul Sweezy), and throughout the period faced much higher barriers. Radical students felt a bread-and-butter pull toward politically neutral vocations.
(3) We lack the sectarian spirit. I have mentioned that our opinions vary widely, but I am now making a different point. Even considering only left-wingers of some single species, a left-wing mathematician has closer affinity to a conservative mathematician, in many respects, than he has to a left-wing sculptor or lawyer. Well, naturally. But this is becoming more and more the case, during the decades of suppression of the left, because we left-wingers as individuals choose to make it so. We do not accept the fate of a pariah group. Most of us yearn for the masses, for the mainstream; and lack the patience to guard a peculiar flame through generations of persecution. (Contrast the pacifists!)
(4) I must add that a healthy school of Marxist thought in the Communist countries, if there was one, might be a valuable stimulus to American left-wing thought. A serious Marxist tradition does survive in those countries, but elevation to the status of official doctrine has not helped it: it has been entangled with governmental expediencies, and most enfeebling of all, it has been deprived of confrontation by active dissenters. Caveat victor.
My friend E. E. Moïse (a tolerable maverick, no exile) remarked while the political purges were in full swing that the universities would not suffer if the victims were simultaneously and mysteriously to disappear, but would suffer seriously from the act of firing them. He should not be held to account for literal interpretation of his rhetorical statement. I have pointed out that losing our services was not a negligible loss quantitatively. I would demur more strongly that the loss of a healthy heresy is much more serious than the loss of so many individual scholars; and though I have confessed that we can’t claim to be a thriving heresy today, we might be if we hadn’t taken such a beating. The ideas we were prevented from developing may not all be developed by the unpurged, who lack our odd slant.
But let me get to the point of Moïse’s remark. We were not pruned hygienically from the academic tree but wrenched from it in violation of its orderly growth. It should be inspected for damage.
Most obvious (though not most important), and most obviously intended by the Red-hunters, is the demoralization of the unexilcd left. The lesson that they’d better watch their step or they may be next, is too obvious to be ignored. Those who have not in the past approached the left, are likewise well taught that they had better not. This, as much as the failings of the exiles, accounts for the recent decline in the left-wing intellectual movement or movements. Thousands of professors are revisiting conservatism this season, and I wonder how many of them would have been impelled to make the tour by its intrinsic charm.
A more general lesson has been taught, perhaps less consciously. It has been demonstrated that the universities cannot afford to shield a few faculty members if it means hurting the whole institution by jeopardizing bequests (this is dean’s talk; a pamphleteer would say equipollently, the universities sacrifice academic freedom to the big money). In the long run this is ominous; even immediately it may occasion perfectly realistic uneasiness in any professor, his administration being what administrations are today. Your job security is rightly envied, professors, but it is contingent on your not irritating too far (even unintentionally) too many rich.
In this direction are grave effects of the purges. But how far do they go?
In the social sciences, certain types of research motivated by Marxist or related theories, are discouraged. But far from abandoned! In sociology particularly, the development of the previously active lines of research, even apparently “dangerous” ones, has been thwarted gratifyingly little. (So, at least, I gather from rumors reaching me; I speak as an outsider to the field.) This is partly because some people are courageous; partly because the dangerousness of an idea can be camouflaged sometimes by jargon; partly because a line of research previously pursued by two hundred investigators may lose half of those without being fatally undermanned.
Gross stifling of research has resulted here and there from the firings, but only in fields obviously related to the Communist Party or to current governmental policy.
(I want to mention in passing the proliferation of social-scientific work frankly and more or less directly in the service of current governmental policy. I have suspicions that these government-screened political scientists are taking over from the more academic thinkers in their departments by force of numbers; that opposition to the trend has been deterred by the sacrosanctity of the Established Economic System and the Bipartisan Foreign Policy; that this sacrosanctity, on the campus, owes much to the firings. This is perhaps an instance, not of gross stifling, but of gross imbalance.)
The subtle inhibitions are more widespread. I call them subtle, but only in the sense that they’re petty and pass without much notice—not in the sense that they’re sophisticated. They act in little spasmodic avoidances. A professor recoils from discussing economic influences on ideology; or from detecting a pecuniary motive in the policies of a corporation president or diplomat; or from publishing an appreciation of Sean O’Casey unredeemed by a peck at his politics. Poor timid thing! You can nibble the edge of one of our ideas without obligation to accept the whole cake! But the timid things are not tempted, and circle far around. These automatic avoidances are so taken for granted that they have been made the basis of a familiar polemic technique: one sketches wittily an analogy between a Communist slogan and the formulation of one’s opponent—the latter being thereby demolished without the trouble of refuting it. The response to this technique’s effectiveness, in turn, is for formulations vulnerable to it to be suppressed in advance by their author even if there is no genuine similarity to anything left-wing at all.
Left-wing ideas are being stamped out, but by a terribly broad boot.
The subtle inhibitions are pervasive, but not omnipresent. Do they act against boldness of invention in fields far from politics? I have been observing mathematicians, and, less extensively, physicists, throughout these years. As far as they go, I venture a definite answer: No. Limitation in social thinking has not caused limitation of invention in general. I can conceive of such a relationship, but so far I have not observed it.
And I venture to favor, among possible explanations, this as the main one: Even in social thinking, the heresy-hunt does not punish originality per se, and is not perceived as threatening originality. At the instant of conception or even of first public expression, an idea is not “dangerous.” The thought-controllers are afraid only of organized heresy; likewise for scapegoat purposes an organized heresy is most attractive; and an organized heresy probably has a stabilized core of doctrine. Its adherents take the doctrine as basis for their further thinking; whether or not they take it as the exclusive basis, they may proceed to thinking of brilliance and daring, or of utter passive repetition. This will not decide their punishment. To the extent that they are punished for their ideas, it will be for their acceptance of the basic doctrine, which is not original with any of them. If the doctrine is by and large true, then the heresy-hunt will have punished wisdom, but not originality.
Of course a successful heresy-hunt, once it has dispersed organized heresy, may turn to striking at anything unexpected. Then, indeed, all experimenting with ideas is risky, and if one is to survive, one’s protective inhibitions must be more confining. The governmental “loyalty-security” programs have no doubt entered this stage; but the university aspect of the Red-hunt, my subject here, has not.
And suppose it never does. And suppose that the general paralysis infects the universities no worse than it has. And suppose that the exiles become no less dispensable than now and not much more numerous. Can you then consider the episode closed, speak of McCarthyism (and of us) in the past tense, and relax in the knowledge that your universities are fairly free (at least for everybody but the exiles, who weren’t perfect anyway)?
This is the general view. Opposition to a firing is rapidly engulfed, once the firing is concluded, by impatience to forget about it. One of the distinguished colleagues who found me fireable was elected president of the local A.A.U.P. chapter less than two years later (while the national A.A.U.P. was still in process of duly censuring my firing). Almost no administrations guilty of excluding teachers for their politics have reversed themselves. Exceptions: a very few quietly excluded scholars have subsequently been just as quietly admitted; several University of California non-signers were reinstated, of course; and there was one college which pretty explicitly repudiated a political firing quite like mine, though without offering the victim his job back. One of my friends said fervently that he would not want me to get my job back, it would be too unpleasant for everybody concerned. Unpleasant —that I grant. Most of the exiles have made it easier for the academic world to forget them by dropping out of sight to avoid unpleasantness and to avoid drawing more fire.
But it won’t do. For your own sake, for the universities’ sake, you must face what happened. More than you need the exiles in particular, you need dissent in general, a profusion of ideas richer than you have seen before. You must welcome dissent; you must welcome serious, systematic, proselytizing dissent—not only the playful, the fitful, or the eclectic; you must value it enough, not merely to refrain from expelling it yourselves, but to refuse to have it torn from you by outsiders. You must welcome dissent, not in a whisper when alone, but publicly so potential dissenters can hear you.
What potential dissenters see now is that you accept an academic world from which we are excluded for our thoughts. This is a manifest signpost over all your arches, telling them: Think at your peril. You must not let it stand. You must (defying outside power; gritting your teeth as we grit ours) take us back.
First printed in The New Professors, ed. R.O. Bowen (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston)
Copyright 1960 Chandler Davis.