Feinberg oath and statement
Scope and Contents
Blank Feinberg oath and statements.
- State University of New York. Central Administration (Organization)
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Feinberg oath and statements are open for research.
Copyright is held by The State University of New York. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.
The Feinberg Law of 1949 amended both the State of New York Education and Civil Service Laws to contain provisions barring employment of persons by the state for subversive activity or background and made the public schools responsible for policing themselves against subversive employees. In 1953 the statute was extended to faculty members and other personnel of state operated institutions of higher education. The Board of Regents of the State University of New York established the signing of the Feinberg Certificate as a condition of employment in order to fulfill the requirements of the Feinberg Law.
The certificate states:
Anyone who is a member of the Communist Party or of any organization that advocates the violent overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of New York or any political subdivision thereof cannot be employed by the State University.
Anyone who was previously a member of the Communist Party or of any organization that advocates the violent overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of New York or any political subdivision thereof is directed to confer with the President before signing this certificate. […]
This is to certify that I have read the publication of the University of the State of New York, 1959, entitled Regents Rules on Subversive Activities together with the instructions set forth above and understand that these rules and regulations as well as the laws cited therein are part of the terms of my employment. I further certify that I am not now a member of the Communist Party and that if I have ever been a member of the Communist Party I have communicated that fact to the President of the State University of New York.
When in 1962 the University of Buffalo merged with the State University of New York the faculty and staff became State employees and faculty who held tenure in University at Buffalo were accorded tenure in the State University system. The certificates were not distributed for signing until December, 1963 and it was not clear at that time whether the 1962 merger agreement made explicit or implied the Feinberg Law requirement, or that faculty would be asked to sign the Regent's certificate. The Civil Service and Education Law requirements could have been fulfilled verbally or by affirmative oath as became the case for teachers in July 1965 when President Gould of the State University of New York announced the abolition of the Feinberg Certificate. However, the fundamental objection to the Feinberg Law on the grounds that it violated the First and Fourteenth amendment, remained.
When the certificates were first distributed in December 1963, the State University of New York at Buffalo chapter of the American Association of University Professors requested an extension of the deadline on signing for "purposes of study and clarification." The American Association of University Professors objected specifically to a memorandum of State Education Commissioner Allen in Regents Rules on Subversive Activities which it felt was unclear and ambiguous. The memorandum dealt with the use of communistic material in the classroom.
Late in January 1964, the American Association of University Professors Buffalo chapter passed a resolution protesting the disclaimer requirement and further resolved to protect the rights of those who would not sign.
The first challenge to the Feinberg Law on the grounds that it violated the First and Fourth Amendment came from the poet George Starbuck who was hired in the Acquisitions department of the State University of New York at Buffalo library in October 1963. He was not informed at the time that he would be required to answer a State Civil Service Commission questionnaire which included the following question:
Have you ever advised or taught or were you ever a member of any society or group of persons which taught or advocated the doctrine that the Government of the United States or any political subdivision thereof should be overthrown or overturned by violence or any unlawful means?
When he received the questionnaire in November, Starbuck answered in substance: "I prefer not to answer, at least until the pertinence and necessity of such a question are properly explained to me."
He was shortly thereafter notified by the university that he would be discharged as of February 7, 1964. He was not given a hearing as guaranteed to permanent or tenured employees under the rules of the Board of Regents and Trustees.
On February 5, 1964, Starbuck, with his attorney Richard Lipsitz, went to Federal Court and won a temporary restraining order barring the state from firing him until the trial of his complaint. In addition to the constitutional issues Starbuck charged the Board of Regents et al with breach of contract.
There was contention as to Starbuck's status (temporary or permanent) and as to the status of his job (classified or unclassified). For full discussion of this question see folder 1.15: affidavit of Joseph Tammany.
On June 18, 1964 Judge John O. Henderson ruled that the loyalty question was "relevant and constitutionally permissible," and that Starbuck's civil rights would not be violated by the dismissal.
Starbuck then joined with four State University of New York at Buffalo faculty members who had refused to sign the Feinberg certificate. Keyishian et al (Hochfield, Garver, Maud, Starbuck) filed a complaint in Federal Court in July 1964. A motion for a preliminary injunction that would have halted enforcement of the Board of Regents' loyalty procedures and preserved their jobs was denied by Judge Henderson. In February 1964 Keyishian was denied reappointment. The Judge also denied Lipsitz's request for a special 3 Judge Court to rule on the constitutionality of the statutes.
The case then went to the United States Court of Appeals, New York, in September 1964 and the appeal was won in May 1965. In November 1964, President Gould of the State University of New York directed that non-signers should not be prejudiced as to normal employment rights and, on the eve of the convening of the 3 Judge Court in June 1965, announced the abolition of the Feinberg certificate. The case was not substantially affected by the latter action as it merely altered the procedures of implementing the Feinberg Law.
In January 1966, the three Judge Court upheld the constitutionality of the Feinberg Law and this decision was appealed to the United States Supreme Court the following month. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and Lipsitz presented his argument before the court in November 1966. The American Association of University Professors and the United Civil Liberties Union submitted briefs as amici curiae.
In January 1967, the Justices of the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Feinberg Law, the Board of Regents' Feinberg certificate, the Civil Service Law amendment covering subversive activities and that section of the Feinberg Law which disqualified a Communist Party member for public employment.
Keyishian et al ended on April 27, 1967 with a Federal Court order directing the Board of Regents et al to pay the plaintiffs for their financial losses.
.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)
Language of Materials
Blank Feinberg oath and statements.
Accession unrecorded. Material was pulled from the University Archives vertical files to form this collection, April 2019.
Accruals and Additions
No further accruals are expected.
Processed by Amy Vilz, April 2019; finding aid encoded by Amy Vilz, April 2019.
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- Finding Aid for the Feinberg oath and statement
- Finding aid prepared by Amy Vilz
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