Pledges For Paychecks
Examining the oath of allegiance taken by professors
May 9, 2006 5:28 PM
Your professors are revealers of knowledge, harbingers of truth and protectors of the United States and California constitutions. This may be a lot for one person to take on.
Since the 1950s all state employees in California, including employees of the University of California and California State University systems, have been legally required to sign an “Oath of Allegiance” before they can be paid.
The oath states that, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and that the oath is taken, “freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”
While this sounds like a critical function, most professors don’t even remember signing the oath.
According to Waldrep, who is Pasker Chair of American History at SF State, loyalty oaths became widespread in the 1950s when Republicans in the United States were trying to recover political power following 11 years of democratic presidents.
“Loyalty oaths are very politically effective,” said Waldrep who teaches courses on constitutional history.
While the oath means little to most professors, occasionally objections are raised.
The employee was instructed to attach an addendum describing their objection to the signed oath and then was allowed to work and be paid by the university.
More recently Jimmer Endres, who was hired by the UC Berkeley, refused to sign the oath, saying, “the oath was perfectly repugnant to my deepest principles, but I would be denied my livelihood until I signed it.”
Endres eventually settled on an addendum that allowed him to feel comfortable signing the oath.
However, what constitutes breaking the oath is unclear.
In 1949, when the oath was administered by individual institutions and not by the state, the University of California system included a provision saying that signers were not members of the Communist Party or any other group that advocated the violent or otherwise unlawful overthrow of the American government.
The inclusion drew protests at UC Berkeley and was eventually removed, but only after several people were let go and a number of professors refused to sign.
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