December 11, 1947, p.3
Students at 3 Colleges Fight Speech Curbs
By Louise Mitchell
Students of Columbia University, Brooklyn College and City College yesterday scheduled protest meetings in defense of free speech, as two of these institutions banned novelist Howard Fast from speaking to Marxist campus groups. Both President Harry D. Gideonse of Brooklyn College and President Harry N. Wright of City College backed the dogmatic decree. Columbia banned Fast last week.
Students planned a protest rally today at 12:30 at City College, 139th St. and Convent Ave., in the Main Building, Room 315. Campus speakers will represent the American Veterans Committee, the Marxist Cultural Society, which sponsored the Fast meeting; the American Youth for Democracy, the Progressive Citizens of America and the Independent Veterans Association.
The meeting will also assail another ban issued Tuesday against Arnold Johnson, Communist national legislative director, from speaking before the City College Marxist group.
Brooklyn College students will have their say at a civil liberties rally on Dec. 18. The rally which was planned before the Fast ban is sponsored by the Student Committee for Civil Liberties. Fast has been invited to appear.
At Columbia, the AVC Academic Freedom Committee yesterday called for a campuswide organization to defend Fast's right to speak. A protest rally is planned for tomorrow, the day the author was to have appeared before the campus Marxist Cultural Society.
The three colleges denied Fast's appearance presumably on a technicality. He is presently appealing a three-month sentence and $500 fine which resulted from his defiance of the Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunt against him and other leaders of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee.
But Prof. Lyman Bradley of New York University, also under the same sentence, has in the recent past been permitted to speak at the various colleges.
Communist leader Johnson yesterday challenged City College president Wright to a debate on the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The debate, he said, "will provide opportunity for the analysis, cross discussion and comparison of the philosophies as advocated by your statement to the press."
Wright had told the press the day before that campus meetings like the one at which Johnson was to have appeared did not permit opportunity for exchanges of ideas.
"The action of the City College administration," said Johnson, "is in itself not only a violation of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution but also a subversion of the educational process."
The college's action in this case "elevated John Rankin of Mississippi to the position of honorary chancellor of the college with absolute right to tell students what to think," he declared, adding that no one with a free mind can accept the dogmatic decree.
AVC LEADER PROTESTS
City College's capitulation to the Un-American Activities Committee's educational standards was also hit in statements by David Perlman, president of AVC, and Ed Sparer, president of the campus PCA.
The Student Council's executive committee yesterday met with Dean of Administration John J. Theobald to protest the ban. The executive committee's action contradicted a previous statement by acting president of Student Council, Ivan Schapiro, who said the administrative action was "entirely justified." Lifting of bans against Fast and Johnson was asked by the executive committee."
Prof. Y.H. Krikorian, chairman of the philosophy department, called Theobald's action "a breach of democratic rights."
"The democratic and communistic nations are the two great powers in the world today," he said, "and there should be an attempt in the college to fully understand the differences between the two philosophies."
Anatole Shub, managing editor of The Campus, undergraduate newspaper, said Dean Theobald had "made a grave mistake in making a martyr of Mr. Johnson and the ideals for which he stands."
At Brooklyn College where president Gideonse has long held autocratic sway, Ralph Schiller, president of the Karl Marx Society protested the Fast ban in a letter to The Vanguard, campus newspaper.
Fast's "crime," said Schiller was that he refused to turn over the records of Joint Anti-Fascist Committee to the Un-American Committee. Fast's action spared many Americans persecution by the witch-hunters and saved the lives of Spanish anti-fascists aided by the Anti-Fascist Committee.
He pointed out that Prof. Bradley, guilty of the same "crime" was principal speaker at Brooklyn College Nov. 17 at the International Students Day Rally sponsored by the Student Council.
"If the students of Brooklyn College are to accept as final authority the political opinion of the Un-American Activities Committee," Schiller wrote, "the time will shortly arrive when no person who disagrees with those opinions will be permitted to speak on the campus. We urge the student body to request the administration to reconsider its action."
The Un-American Committee has already announced its intention of "investigating" educational institutions and as Spectator, Columbia University newspaper pointed out, in objecting to the Fast ban, the University is showing eagerness to comply with the committee's demands.