Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Howard Schachman: UC Berkeley Professor of Molecular Biology: On the Loyalty Oath Controversy, The Free Speech Movement, and Freedom in Scientific Research

Interviewee(s):
Schachman, Howard
Interviewer(s):
Lage, Ann
Title:
Howard Schachman: UC Berkeley Professor of Molecular Biology: On the Loyalty Oath Controversy, The Free Speech Movement, and Freedom in Scientific Research
Abstract:
Howard Schachman, UC Berkeley Professor of the Graduate School in the Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was interviewed as part of a series of oral histories revisiting the attempt in 1949 by the University of California’s Board of Regents to impose a loyalty oath on its faculty members. As a young assistant professor newly arrived in Berkeley, Schachman joined the opposition to the oath, building relationships with likeminded colleagues that were maintained throughout many subsequent battles for academic freedom and free speech. The oath required faculty members and staff not only to declare loyalty to the state constitution (required of all state employees) but also to deny membership or belief in organizations (including Communist organizations) that advocated overthrow of the United States government. Many faculty, students, and employees resisted the oath, and thirty-one professors and many other employees (the non-signers) were dismissed in the summer of 1950. The oath was subsequently declared unconstitutional in 1951, and many of the dismissed faculty returned to Berkeley. Schachman himself ultimately signed the oath, urged to do so by more senior faculty whose economic status was more secure. As discussed in the oral history, Howard Schachman has continued to take an active role in matters of academic freedom and free speech on campus for more than fifty years. One session of the oral history discusses his role in the 1964 Free Speech Movement, where he was the only scientist on the steering committee of the Committee of 200, a faculty group which supported student protestors. Throughout the interviews, his many battles to promote and safeguard free scientific inquiry are discussed. In 2000, the American Association for the Advancement of Science awarded the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award to Howard Schachman for his exemplary contributions to preserving freedom in scientific research.
Subject area(s):
Education and University of California
Science, Technology, and Health
Interview date(s):
2000 2001
Project:
Education and University of California - Individual Interviews
Rights:
Schachman, Howard. "Howard Schachman: UC Berkeley Professor of Molecular Biology: On the Loyalty Oath Controversy, The Free Speech Movement, and Freedom in Scientific Research." Interview by Ann Lage in 2000 and 2001. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2007.