New York Times
TELL WHY NEARING WAS
Pennsylvania’s Trustees Say the Professor Had the Misfortune of Being
CALL HIS EFFORTS ‘SINCERE’
But Say Public and Students’ Parents Misinterpreted His Remarks — Declare for
Special to The New York Times.
PHILADELPHIA, Oct 11. — The trustees of the University of Pennsylvania broke a silence of five months today and explained why they had dismissed Dr. Scott Nearing, Assistant Professor of Economics, from the Faculty of the Wharton School. According to the trustees, Dr. Nearing was dismissed because his public views and utterances during his connection with the university were misunderstood by the public and by the parents of students to such an extent that they reflected unfavorably upon the university as a whole.
The dismissal, the trustees said, had absolutely nothing to do with the question of “academic freedom of speech.” Dr. Nearing will not be reappointed. The fight on his behalf, it is expected, will be continued.
Another resolution, introduced by Wharton Barker, commits the university to a policy of free speech in accord with the definition of the true function of a university as described by Thomas H. Huxley of Aberdeen University. Both resolutions were adopted unanimously. Several members were absent. The Secretary said later: “The Nearing matter will not come up again so far as I know.”
The Morris resolution aiming to avoid misunderstanding of the position of the university toward freedom of academic opinion, provides for a “minute to be entered upon the records of the board,” which is summarized as follows:
The charter of the university charges the trustees with the selection of fit persons as professors of instruction. The failure renew Scott Nearing’s contract to teach has caused the assumption to be made and circulated that this action indicated a policy to restrict or prevent academic discussion. This belief is unwarranted, and nothing could be further from the truth. Continuing the minute says:
“When individual opinions of member of the teaching staff are express in a proper manner, upon proper occasions, and with proper respect for the dignity of their relationship to the university and their consequent responsibility to the institution, such opinions and utterances are welcomed as indicative of progressive growth —no matter how divergent they may be from current or general beliefs.
“In order to discharge the duty laid upon the board by the charter, the Trustees are required to observe and determine the qualifications of prospective teachers before appointing them as professors. The usual routine is an engagement as instructor, an advance to an assistant professorship, followed, if justified, by appointment to a professorship.
“Dr. Nearing followed the usual course. He was found to have an attractive personality and many good qualities as a teacher. During the entire period of the few years in which he was connected with the university, however, his efforts, although doubtless perfectly sincere, were so constantly misunderstood by the public and by many parents of students that, much to the regret of the Trustees, they felt unable to give him the promotion to a professorship which he would otherwise have obtained.
“When an individual teachers’ methods, language and temperament provoke continued and widespread criticism alike from parents of students and from the general public, who know him only by his public utterances, the freedom of choice in selection of some other person is a right equally as inherent in the board of trustees, legally charged with its exercise by the charter, as is the right of freedom of opinion and thought and teaching in the faculties. And this duty must be exercised for the good of the university as a whole.”
The following, a portion of a resolution adopted by the board in 1913, is reaffirmed in the Morris resolution:
“It is natural for some of the younger teachers to take themselves and
their opinions upon social or economic question more seriously than is
warranted by the extent of their practical experience. It is only the passage
of years which leads discreet professors as well as other workers in the world
to be tolerant of the opinions of other students of life as it exists.
“Infallible wisdom cannot be expected to hover continuously over the chairs of all professors, any more than over all newspapers or any other offices. Differences of opinion must always exist. But if sanity and good temper and sober-mindedness are kept in view by all persons, — trustees, professors, students, and public — there will seldom be any occasion for criticism and none at all for an outcry on behalf of liberty of opinion and freedom of speech at the University of Pennsylvania.”