March 25, 1949 – U. of California Proposes a Mandatory Loyalty Oath

On this day in history, the President of the University of California proposed that all U of C employees, including faculty, be required to swear to a new Oath stating that they were not members of the Communist party. The U of C Board of Regents approved the president’s proposal.

The faculty expressed concerns and began to organize against the oath.

On April 21, 1950, the Regents agreed to a modified Oath subjecting non-signers to a hearing instead of outright dismissal. Eventually, a total of 31 faculty were fired. (Those fired included David Saxon, a UCLA professor who become U of C President a generation later.)

David S. Saxon

David S. Saxon

In August, the non-signers sued for reinstatement in the case of Tolman v. Underhill, arguing that the university was required by the state constitution to be free from “political or sectarian influence” and the Oath compromised that requirement.

On April 6, 1951, the Court of Appeal ruled against the Regents, stating that they had violated the constitutional prohibition on political influence on the university, and that faculty are public officers as defined by the state constitution. The case went to the State Supreme Court, which ruled in October, 1952 in favor of the non-signers, ordering the university to reinstate them. You can read the State Supreme Court decision (Tolman v. Underhill, 39 Cal.2d 708, 1952) here.

Cartoon from the Daily Californian, July 7, 1949

Cartoon from the Daily Californian, July 7, 1949


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