Publication date: 2004
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Academic Freedom Imperiled
The McCarthy Era at the University of Nevada
The University before and during World War II was a small (fewer than 2,000 students) school offering basic programs to a largely Nevada-based student body in the nation’s least-populated state. The campus was quiet, secure, traditional, and generally conservative. The postwar years brought booming enrollments and new faculty members, many from outside Nevada, imbued with a sense of the importance of shared academic governance.
Soon, the university found itself embroiled in an intense controversy that threatened its academic integrity and even raised concerns about its future as a viable institution. The 1952 appointment of Minard W. Stout as president triggered the crisis. Mandated by a conservative Board of Regents to "clean up" the university, Stout brought to his new job an authoritarian, top-down chain of command. His subsequent battles with faculty and students over their role in university governance and over the very nature of higher education soon degenerated into angry accusations of faculty Communist sympathies and bitter confrontations over academic free speech, academic freedom, and loyalty.
J. Dee Kille’s lively and insightful account of the crisis "on the hill" rests on a wide range of archival sources, interviews and oral histories, university records, and published sources.
"Well researched and written, Academic Freedom Imperiled provides a portrait of a public university attempting to adjust to change under stress."
—The Journal of American History
List of Illustrations
1: Dictators and "Reducators"
2: Who Is the Boss, Anyway?
3: Let the Investigations Begin
4: Out with Stout
"I guess you're wondering what kind of S.O.B. I am." This was exactly the statement with which Minard W. Stout opened his first faculty meeting on September 12, 1952. For the faculty members, whether they had been wondering or not, the remainder of Stout's addresss clarified matters. He stated that "he assumed that all faculty members felt that a president had to be some kind of overbearing character to get to be president.... While that might be true, he would try to make himself clear and understood at all times....To be a president, you might have to rough at times." Upon completion of his speech, he immediately left the room without acknowledging the faculty, neither asking for their reactions nor answering questions. On that late-summer day, the new president of the University of Nevada left no doubt that he was a man on a mission. Stout, in a 1972 interview, confirmed that he had, indeed, been given a mandate by the Board of Regents to "clean things up."