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Organizing Academic Repression: The California Plan

Organizing Academic Repression: The California Plan

(p.117) Chapter 5 Organizing Academic Repression: The California Plan
The Philosophy Scare
John McCumber
University of Chicago Press

The paradigm that has emerged has serious philosophical problems. To understand its quick victory in academia, attention to political factors is in order. After pointing out some of its conceptual problems, this chapter turns to these. In California they were particularly obvious because in 1952, an arrangement to combat Communism on college campuses (the “California Plan”) was introduced for all institutions of higher education in the state. It was aimed, not at professors already on campus (who had friends defending them) but on the most vulnerable of academics: job candidates. On its lowest level, University of California departments were directed to vet candidates by examining their writings for evidence of subversion. The names of those who survived this were reported to the head of the institution, the “contact man,” who forwarded them to a committee of the state senate. Though the workings of the plan were kept secret, some details can be supplied by common sense: no one wanted to forward subversive names to the next level, for example, and so there was no benefit of doubt. The California Plan was pronounced to be highly successful and to have gotten universal collaboration from California universities and colleges.

Keywords:   contact man, individualism, philosophy departments, California Plan, political vetting of job candidates, subversives

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