Dakota Datebook

Continued

Monday, September 5, 2011

 

If you tuned in Friday, you’ll remember that we left off in 1954 with four North Dakota Agricultural College professors at war with the college president. Their dispute would become the top news story of 1955.

After their fight burst into the public arena, the Board of Higher Education hired Bismarck attorney William Pearce to investigate. He talked to over 90 people and came up with a 400-page report known as the “Pearce Report.”

In January, 1955, the Board concluded that “drastic action is required . . . if President Hultz and his most violent opponents remain on the campus, the tension, the dissension, the bickering and quarreling … will be intensified.” Many sources say the board considered removing President Hultz, but didn’t because Hultz was so politically powerful. Instead, they called for the professors’ resignations. There was only one dissenting vote—Mrs. Mildred Johnson.

But the professors would not leave. They sought a hearing. “I love to teach and interpret science,” Professor Daniel Posin said to the Forum, “I do not plan to resign.”

On January 10th the Student Senate held a meeting of almost 1000 students, wanting to know why the four professors had been asked to resign. Meanwhile, somebody started an anonymous telephone chain that said “Get rid of the four communist professors at NDAC.”

In preparation for the hearing, the four professors and their lawyers asked to see the Pearce Report, but the Board of Education refused. To this day, the Pearce Report has never been released.

The odds were against the professors. Hultz had appointed half of the advisory committee hearing the case, and the Board of Education’s vote for firing the professors was 5 to 2. The four men went to the State Supreme Court, but it refused to take their case.

The American Association of University Professors would eventually censure NDAC for its disregard for tenure and academic freedom, but around this date in 1955, the professors had begun to accept their fate. Cecil Haver went off to the University of Chicago to get his doctorate. He taught for many years at Magill and Bishops Universities in Montreal. At Bishops, he was a long time Dean. Bill Treumann stayed in the area. He worked in gas and heating for several years, until the new president at Moorhead State University convinced him to teach again. He would become their Dean of Science and Math. Baldur Kristjanson became an agricultural advisor to the government of Tanzania and later worked in the Department of Agriculture in Canada. Danny Posin stayed in North Dakota awhile, even running for governor, but he eventually moved to Chicago and became well-known for his TV weather news, and for children’s science shows like “Dr. Posin’s Universe” and “Out of this World.”

President Hultz died in 1961. He was remembered for his efforts to renovate the campus and the name-change to North Dakota State University, but the controversy would forever smear his record.

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, one of the four professors.

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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