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The New Southern UniversityAcademic Freedom and Liberalism at UNC$
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Charles Holden

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813134383

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813134383.001.0001

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“The Rankest Center of Communism”:

“The Rankest Center of Communism”:

The Left Comes to Campus

(p.119) 5 “The Rankest Center of Communism”:
The New Southern University

Charles J. Holden

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter discusses how New Deal-era, pro-labor activism by left-leaning UNC professors prompted new rounds of controversy for the university. UNC leaders defended their faculty's activism by invoking academic freedom to pursue their personal political convictions away from their job. The UNC began to emphasize the freedom of speech component of academic freedom rather than the freedom to develop one's academic expertise. Since most of the left-leaning activists were from the English department and not experts on economics, the UNC really had no choice. But defending academic freedom as a matter of free speech did little to persuade critics and only heightened the suspicion surrounding the idea of academic freedom itself. The suspicions were then amplified by the fact that there were a few actual communists among the UNC faculty and student body.

Keywords:   communism, labor, Great Depression, free speech, liberalism, academic freedom, radicalism, conservatism

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