The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities. By Ellen W. Schrecker.
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Pp. viii+437. Acknowl-
edgments, introduction, bibliographical essay, notes, index. $20.95.)
Ellen W. Schrecker's purpose is to trace the impact of the right-wing
furor of the 1950s on the nation's universities. A few hundred pro-
fessors had joined the Communist party in the 193os, often because the
Communists were offering the only effective resistance in the world to
the Nazis. Despite the image of communism in the U.S., Communist
professors did not attempt to indoctrinate their students with their be-
liefs and did not slavishly adhere to party dogma. Many dropped out of
the party after World War II. As current and past memberships were
unearthed, various faculties were quite willing to terminate and black-
list those colleagues who were unwilling to prove that they had never
been Communists. Often the faculty resolved to study the problem, or
referred it to the American Association of University Professors, which
also engaged only in studies. In the author's view, the academy shock-
ingly accommodated itself to state intrusions upon individual liberties.
Schrecker reputedly examines those cases that had the greatest effect
on the academic community as a whole, but can one imagine anything
happening at Harvard that would have an impact on, say, the average
junior college in Texas? Even if a connection is possible, one will never
know it from this book, because it deals only with northern and Pacific
Coast states. There were undoubtedly regional differences in the aca-
demic red scare. In this book's examples, non-Communist leftists con-
tributed crucial outside pressure against academic Communists, but
that could hardly have been the case in the South or Southwest. The
book implies that Communist faculty were the most persecuted acade-
micians in the 1950s. Yet while northern colleges usually followed some
semblance of academic due process in terminating Communist profes-
sors, the president of the University of Texas in the mid-195os barred
political speakers from appearing on campus and informed all faculty
that they should not even publicly endorse (much less campaign for)
Democrats and Republicans! If Schrecker had included the South in
this study, it would have given her a deeper appreciation of the overall
pressures for conformity in academia.
The author sometimes seems a bit overgenerous about the motives
and beliefs of Communists, and says nothing about the real threat of
communism in the world in the 1950s. But the book is well docu-
mented, ably written, and convincing in detailing the fragility of aca-
demic freedom and dissent in this Cold War era.

University of Texas at Arlington



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed February 9, 2016.