New York Times
PROF. CATTELL SUES COLUMBIA TRUSTEES
Head of Psychology Department, Ousted For War Attitude, Seeks Damages.
PENSION A BASIS OF CLAIM
Sum Demanded Not Named in Summons —Dr. Butler Made One of the Defendants
Professor J. McKeen Cattell, the Professor of Psychology at Columbia University who was dismissed in October 1917, after he had been found guilty by the Trustees on charges of doing grave injury to the university by public agitation against the conduct of the war, took legal action yesterday against President Nicholas Murray Butler and the members of the committee who reported against him.
A summons was filed in the Supreme court in behalf of Professor Cattell by his attorney, Alfred Hayes, in which the defendants named other than Dr. Butler were George L. Ingraham, former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court; John B. Pine, Francis S. Bangs, and Stephen Baker, the members of the special committee of the Trustees.
The amount demanded by the plaintiff from the defendants is not stated in the complaint, and Mr. Hayes declines to discuss the suit in any way. It is understood, however, that the amount claimed will be more than $100,000, since Professor Cattell contends that even if there was sufficient evidence to justify the Trustees in calling him to account they should have permitted him to retire on a pension because he had served the university more than twenty-five years and was entitled to the pension.
Professor Cattell is the father of Owen Cattell, the Columbia student who was arrested in the Spring of 1917 for circulating propaganda against the draft and who was sentenced to a day in prison and fined $500. He disappeared at the time and was arrested last May in New Orleans, where he arrived after spending the intervening time in Mexico. Through appeal by Professor Cattell to Attorney General Palmer the son was released.
Professor Cattell incurred the displeasure of the Columbia authorities in the Spring of 1917 when he wrote a letter to the Faculty Club referring to President Butler as "our many talented and much-climbing President." Action was about to be taken against him when he apologized. At the Commencement exercises that year President Butler gave warning that there would be no place at Columbia for any teacher or student "who opposes or who counsels opposition to the effective enforcement of the laws of the United States or who acts, speaks or writes treason" and that "the separation of any such person from Columbia University will be as speedy as the discovery of his offence."
In August of that year Professor Cattell sent letters to members of Congress on the stationery of his university department which the Trustees decided was the dissemination of doctrines tending to encourage a spirit of disloyalty to the Government. Professor Cattell insisted that he merely wrote as a private person in support of legislation designed to relieve drafter men from fight abroad against their will.
The case of Professor Cattell was referred for final action to the special committee of the Trustees named as defendants in the suit filed yesterday, and in their resolutions which were adopted by the trustees they said:
"Resolved, That the continuance of the connection of James McKeen Cattell, Ph. D., LL. D., with the University is prejudicial to the welfare of the university and that the best interests of the university require that his connection with the university shall cease and determine; and further
"Resolved, That the appointment of James McKeen Cattell as Professor of Psychology in this university be and the same hereby is terminated, and that his connection with the university shall cease and determine forthwith, and the said professorship is hereby declared vacant."
Professor Cattell has contended that the university authorities violated academic traditions maintained for 600 years by dismissing a university professor "on account of his opinions expressed in a proper way to experts in the subject." He also said:
"It is illegal to dismiss a professor in the middle of the academic year on false charges without payment for the year and without the pension which he had earned by twenty-six years of service.