Ohio History Journal

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The 1951 Speaker's Rule

at Ohio State


Like many public institutions of higher learning, The Ohio State

University's support for the principles of academic freedom has often

been limited by the political and social views of those who have shaped

its destiny. Because of the university's location in the state capital,

and certainly because of its dependence upon a penurious General

Assembly for funding, Ohio State has, over the years, generally re-

flected its origins as a land grant institution. In the spirit of the Mor-

rill Act, the University has tended to emphasize the practical arts over

the humanities and to cultivate a functional and, when necessary,

patriotic approach to education. As early as 1883, the Ohio State

Board of Trustees dismissed the University's president, Walter Scott,

because "he promulgated unsound and dangerous doctrines of politi-

cal economy," including the Henry Georgian ideas that "capital was

robbery," and "dividends were theft." In the ensuing years, however,

such spectacular incidents were few.l

After World War II, the Ohio State administration responded to the

anxieties of the Cold War with a series of policy decisions restricting

the exercise of academic freedom. Led by its Board of Trustees and

by President Howard Bevis, the University passed a series of resolu-

tions to regulate political discussion on campus, the appearance of

outside speakers, and the right of faculty members to discuss con-

troversial subjects in the classroom. Overall, these measures demon-

strated the Trustees' decision that the unrestrained exchange of ideas

must be partially curtailed in the interests of national security.

Given the Board's composition, its accommodation to the Cold War

ethos was hardly surprising. During these years the Trustees were led

by Brigadier General Carlton Dargusch, the former Deputy Director of

Selective Service, and by Senator John Bricker, a conservative Repub-


Steven P. Gietschier is Director of the Ohio Labor History Project at the Ohio His-

torical Society.


1. Alexis Cope, 1870-1910, ed. T. C. Mendenhall, Vol. 1 of History of The Ohio State

University (9 vols., Columbus, 1920-1976), 79. For a wider discussion of higher educa-

tion's sensitivity to public pressure, see Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in

American Life (New York, 1963), Chapters 12-14.