Davis, Markert, Nickerson Visiting Professorship

Peggie J. Hollingsworth

The Regents of the University of Michigan at their May, 2005 meeting established the Davis, Markert, Nickerson Visiting Professorship on Academic and Intellectual Freedom. The events that led to this action began in 1954 when the University of Michigan suspended and then terminated Professors H. Chandler Davis and Mark Nickerson, a tenured faculty member, and suspended but then reinstated Professor Clement L. Markert for their refusal to give testimony during a visit to Michigan of a group from the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities. The national AAUP censured the University in 1957 and, after a new Regents' Bylaw, 5.09, was adopted, removed censure in 1958.

In 1988 Adam E. Kulakow, an L. S. & A. undergraduate at the time, prepared a video presentation, Keeping in Mind: The McCarthy Era at The University of Michigan, for his undergraduate dissertation. At the first presentation of Keeping in Mind, a member of the audience suggested that the University be asked to make amends for its treatment of the three professors in 1954. The University of Michigan Chapter of the AAUP pursued this matter, contacted various University officials, hoping that they would encourage the Regents to take appropriate action, and finally sent a proposal to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) in October, 1989. The University's Senate Assembly endorsed the proposal in February, 1990. When it became clear that the Regents would not take action, the Senate Assembly in November, 1990, passed a resolution that deeply regretted "the failure of the University Community to protect the values of intellectual freedom" in 1954 and established the annual University of Michigan Senate's Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom. The Fifteenth Annual Lecture was delivered by Floyd Abrams in October, 2005.

Thomas E. Moore, Theodore A. St. Antoine and I, as members of both the Board of Directors of the Academic Freedom Lecture Fund and of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Chapter of AAUP, prepared a proposal for a visiting professorship in honor of Professors Davis, Markert, and Nickerson, which was submitted to the University administration. This proposal was supported by the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Chapter of the AAUP. This past May, Steven L. Kunkel, Interim Dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and Paul N. Courant, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs took the proposal to the Regents for their approval.

The visiting professor will be selected by a committee appointed by the University President, will be based in the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and initially will be supported by the Office of the President. Fund raising for the professorship will be part of the University’s current Capital Campaign. The visiting professor will be expected to interact with faculty and students across campus, and each year a scholarship will be presented to a student in conjunction with the visiting professor‘s stay on campus. Success of the Davis, Markert, Nickerson Visiting Professorship will depend upon the participation and financial support of the academic community.