Dakota Datebook

Highest Rated News Story

Friday, September 2, 2011

 

North Dakota’s highest rated news story in 1955 was chock full of slander and politics. It was around this time of year that four college professors were packing their bags to leave North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU), and the state. This controversy, later coined “The Purge,” would tarnish NDSU’s reputation for years to come.

The controversy came during the backdrop of the Cold War and the fears of communism. It involved professors William Treumann, Cecil Haver, Baldur Kristjanson, and Daniel Posin, and President Frederick Hultz. Hultz believed some of the men had communist leanings, and the professors faulted Hultz for overreaching his authority.

Hultz had labeled Posin, who was born in Russia, a potential subversive, and had told Posin to stop giving speeches about pacifism and the danger of the atomic bomb. Posin refused.

Drs. Treumann and Kristjanson served on the NDAC chapter of the American Association of University Professors. They found fault with several decisions by President Hultz. For example, they objected to the president’s attempt to get rid of an elderly professor who opposed him. Hultz had “dusted off an old but unused resolution that retirement should be compulsory at age seventy,” an act that caught five other elder faculty in the same net.

The disputes started making the papers in late 1954 when President Hultz terminated the geology department, bypassing the College Council. This meant two professors were suddenly out of a job and notified too late to find appropriate employment. Posin, Kristjanson, and Treumann were outspoken opponents of the decision.

At an October College Council meeting, Treumann objected to Hultz’s minutes of a previous meeting, saying they were not an accurate record of events. At this, Hultz took out a prepared statement denouncing Kristjanson, Posin, Treumann, and Dr. Ranier Schickle. His speech, later called “The Blast,” lasted several minutes and everyone listened in shock. No record of what he said exists today. When Hultz finished, Posin stood and asked “Did you call me vicious?” Hultz responded, “You got ears.”

Professor Cecil Haver became involved later in the week when he presented a resolution to the American Association of University Professors. He called Hultz’s actions “reprehensible and unbecoming to the office of the president,” and asked for Hultz’s resignation. Although the AAUP agreed with Haver that Hultz’s actions were out of line, they dismissed his resolution. But the whole thing was printed on the front page of the Fargo Forum. The controversy had exploded into the public arena.

Hultz fired back in a statement calling the four men devious and disloyal, saying they didn’t obey parking regulations, and implying they were anti-American. He also pointed out that Kristjanson and Haver were Canadians who hadn’t applied for US citizenship.

And this was only the beginning. Look to Monday’s Datebook to hear the rest of the story.

Dakota Datebook written by Leewana Thomas

Sources:

NDSU Institute for Regional Studies and University Archives, Controversy of 1955 Records—scrapbooks news clippings, correspondence, handwritten notes, memos, testimony, and papers written by later students on the controversy

Correspondence and Interview with Professor Bill Treumann.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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