“Publish or perish” is the cry in higher education today. For professors in Arkansas in the late 1950s, it was “Sign or perish.” Even David Horowitz might have been shocked.
During the Little Rock school integration crisis, segregationists decided that tolerance of integration might be the result of a liberal education. Attorney General Bruce Bennett proposed, the legislature approved, and Gov. Orval Faubus signed Act 10 of 1958. The law required state employees, including college faculty, to file as a condition of employment an annual affidavit listing every organization they belonged to. The idea was to identify members of the NAACP, the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors and other groups segregationists considered subversive.
Most state employees signed the affidavit in the summer of 1959, but a handful refused, including Max Carr, a professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and B.T. Shelton and J.O. Powell, schoolteachers in Little Rock. They became the plaintiffs in a suit challenging Act 10. In 1960, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law, on a 5 to 4 vote. Justice Potter Stewart wrote for the majority, “Act 10 deprives teachers in Arkansas of their rights to personal, associational, and academic liberty, protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by state action.”
That didn’t quite end the matter, though. A number of faculty had been dismissed before the decision, and the UA Board of Trustees refused to rehire them. The AAUP placed UA on its list of censured administrations in 1964. The university compromised with the dismissed faculty in 1968, and the censure was withdrawn. Guerdon D. Nichols, dean of the college of arts and sciences, received the Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom from the AAUP for his opposition to Act 10.