July 15, 1965


President John A. Hannah

Administration Building



Dear President Hannah:

My purpose in this letter is to convey to you the concern and carefully consider recommendations of two bodies -- the Academic Freedom Committee and the Executive Council of the A.A.U.P. -- regarding the Schiff case and related matters.

The Committees are deeply concerned about several aspects of this case. First, there is the question of the relations between faculty and administration. Our assessment of faculty reaction is that the faculty feels that the administration has refused to readmit a student who had already been accepted by the appropriate academic authority -- the department. This raises the question, under what circumstances should the administration have the prerogative of refusing to readmit a student when such a student has already been academically readmitted? A subsidiary question involves procedure: is it proper for an administrative officer of the University to veto an academic decision without consultation and an attempt to reach consensus with the academic department involved? And, finally, is there faculty representation on the committee that makes decisions with respect to readmission?

A second question involves the matter of fair and just treatment of a student in academically good standing whose politics may not be particularly acceptable to either faculty or administration. More specifically, we raise the question whether the charge "behavior disruptive t the normal functions of the University" is not setting a dangerous precedent, since its definition is vague and its determination gives the appearance of being arbitrary.

The third question we asked ourselves was whether the present action of the University Administration was desirable from the standpoint of the national and international reputation of Michigan State University. Is this action compatible with the remarkable progress which we have made in enhancing our reputation in so many other area of academic achievement?

I respectfully submit to you, Mr. President, the conclusions of the committee which deliberated these questions. Before I do so, however, I should emphasize that these are the results of committee discussions and not of the total A.A.U.P. membership. We intend to take up these recommendations at the first meeting of the A.A.U.P. in the coming Fall Quarter. However, in the interest of the University and in view of what we regard to be the emergency nature of the situation, I was urged by the members of the respective committees to communicate with you immediately.

Concerning the first question, we concluded that the Administration did indeed veto an academic decision and that we as faculty cannot accept such action on the part of the Administration without registering strong protest. We could find no evidence that this decision was made following consultation and consensus. It is our understanding that the faculty of the Department of History are deeply dismayed about the lack of consultation and we, too, Mr. President, are deeply dismayed.

Secondly, it was concluded that Schiff's non-readmittance was not based upon regularly constituted procedures but took place rather in ad hoc fashion. In contrast it was the considered opinion of the committees that no breach of policy or administrative procedures was involved in the indefinite suspension of Miss Donna Renz and Miss Erin Tucker. However, "behavior disruptive to the normal functions of the University" appears to us much too vague as a charge and unacceptable as a basis for denying a student readmission, or for dismissing him or her. Moreover, we cannot believe that any one student, acting within the laws of society, can truly disrupt the orderly process of an institution as vast, as complex, and as enduring as Michigan State University. To suggest that one could indeed be guilty of such an action belittles the greatness of this institution.

Our third conclusion is that quite aside from the justness or unjustness of the Administration's action, it has had a harmful effect upon the national image of this University. From a purely public relations standpoint it may well be that the Administration has erred. Outside organizations interested in civil liberties may become involved. Newspaper editorials have already appeared in two places. Court action is contemplated. Faculty unrest is being reported and protest action among various segments of the faculty is presently under consideration. Circulars have appeared in mailboxes.

In view of the preceding considerations, Mr. President, I have been asked respectfully to urge you to reconsider the Schiff case and to reinstate this student immediately, however repugnant he may be to the University Administration. This can be accomplished quite easily and without any reversal of previous decisions or embarrassment to the University by simply readmitting Schiff for the Fall Quarter. This action will terminate all further editorializating, interest on the part of outside organizations, circulation of petitions, and general unrest on the campus among faculty and students, and will prevent unfavorable national resulting form possible court action.

However, it is quite conceivable that there are reasons for the action against Mr. Schiff other than those that have been stated. In such a case the position of the A.A.U.P. is very clear. Reasons that cannot be stated in public do not afford basis for action. To deny readmission to a student for reasons that cannot be stated would foster the emergence of mutual suspicion and the establishment of an academic climate stifling to free inquiry in a democratic society.

It is our hope to play a constructive and conciliatory role in bringing this matter to a satisfactory and quick conclusion, so that we may all return to more rewarding scholarly pursuits.


Respectfully submitted.

Victor E. Smith, President

A.A.U.P., M.S.U. Chapter