A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955
Bruin Spirit vs. Council Power: Part 2
by George Garrigues
Printed edition © 1970, 1997
Internet Edition © 2000, 2001
All rights reserved, but you are welcome to download electronic copies, send e-copies to your friends or make printouts for yourself.
Go to the Front of the Book
Preface, Contents, List of Editors, Bibliography and Index
Go to the First Half of This Chapter
6A. Bruin Spirit vs. Council Power (1929-1940)
As must all academic years, however, even the eventful one of 1935-36 came to a close. The Student Council was graduated to a different world outside the gates. So was a good part of the Bruin staff. Quiet reigned for two years.
In 1938 the Student Council rejected Publications Board's unanimous recommendation of Bill Brown for editor and Everett Carter for managing editor. The Council said it also wanted to consider Dan Wilkes, a former Bruin staffer who was then the Los Angeles Times correspondent on the campus, but Wilkes said he didn't want either of the jobs, and Brown and Carter were named after all. (CDB, 5/5/38 and 5/10/38.)
That month outgoing business manager Charles Ferguson gave incoming Editor Bill Brown and incoming business manager Seymour Knee some advice on how to handle campus politicians, in what was a then-traditional last-issue-of-the-year didactic editorial:
Any influence you have upon the Bruin you must look upon as a student trust not lightly to be regarded and never to be violated. You must protect the apparent and deep potential power of the collegiate press by tactfully observing your trust at all times . . . Never knowingly stick the Daily Bruin into the lion's mouth simply because of any personal bias. Be careful not to let trivial things undermine the substance of the Bruin. Don't do as we did and alienate most of the people we had to work with by piercing their sensitive little egos. Wounded vanity will blind the average man every time so that he cannot see anything more basic than retribution. (CDB, 5/12/38.)
But troubles between the Student Council and the Daily Bruin became endemic -- and University records began to show the Administration quietly beginning to take the side of the conservative Council in its battles with the liberal Bruin.
One point at issue was the feeling by conservatives that only organizations with ASUC "recognition" should be mentioned by name in the Bruin. Since University regulations forbade the Student Council from chartering any political groups, this would effectively cut off publicity for such left-wing organizations as the American Student Union. The Council decided on Nov. 15, 1939, that "Unrecognized organizations may have their name mentioned in any and all student publications unless they have applied for and been denied recognition, or until such time as the Student Council shall request that this privilege be discontinued." (CDB, 11/16/39.) The Bruin, which had opposed the regulation, replied with a vociferous front-page editorial:
The DAILY BRUIN is now under a partial censorship . . . [It] must lower its writing standards . . . because one of the most important facts in any news story, the name of the group involved, will have to be left out. (CDB, 11/16/39.)
I have in mind the preparation of items that indicate a need for some advisory control of student publications, and, in particular, The Bruin. I would call attention just now to two phases of today's issue:
1. The editor claims that democratic procedure has been violated because he cannot act counter to an 8-3 vote of the Student Council.
2. The report of the University meeting (attended by 1800 students) omits entirely mention of [Daily News publisher] Manchester Boddy, [student body president] Fred Koebig and myself, all of whom spoke. It is given less space than the small meeting at the YMCA, under the auspices of the A.S.U. [American Student Union] (Arch, Box 153, Folder 40.)
Hedrick was referring to a meeting at the YMCA addressed by the lieutenant governor of California, Ellis E. Patterson, who spoke on "No Blackout on Peace in America."
The conservatives, however, did not win this battle. Bruin staffers and supporters circulated petitions to rescind the directive, and "unaided by any form of publicity or editorializing, they collected the signatures of nearly 3,000 students (more than the total vote cast in the last A.S.U.C. election) in one day." (CDB, 11/22/38.) This was a low point for Council power and a high point for Bruin spirit. The Student Council backed down and rescinded the resolution five days later.
The Council was not giving up. It still had its appointing power, and in January 1940 it rejected Publications Board's nomination of Michela Robbins (the Bruin staff choice) for reappointment as managing editor and Harry Landis for reappointment as business manager. It appointed Bruce Cassiday and Boyd Harris instead, on the grounds of "frequent violations" of the Daily Bruin Internal Policy, "inefficiencies in certain departments and discrimination in story assignments." (CDB, 2/12/40.)
Cassiday, whom the Bruin later described archly as having taken "one of the speediest climbs to the editorial top in the history of the Daily Bruin" (CDB, 5/10/40), recalled the circumstances of his appointment:
I had gone home after a late night as Night Editor at the shop (then in Westwood Village where we used to put the paper to bed) and when I arrived at the Bruin office . . . about noon, I was still half asleep from the late work.
Sandy Mock, then editor, told me I was Managing Editor and I laughed and went on about my work. Finally Bill Brown also told me I was the up-coming Managing Editor. I said what about Mickey? . . .
The Council threw her name out, said Sandy.
I won't take the job, I said.
You'd better take it, Sandy said with a laugh. I don't want to go through another of those meetings with that bunch and try to get somebody else they'll okay.
I'll think about it, I said.
Mickey looked depressed and she said, Oh hell, take the job.
What did you do? I asked her.
How do I know what I did?
Then I was depressed, but I let it cool down awhile and talked again to Sandy and Bill and decided I'd try it.
. . . I remember Council meetings as quite political gatherings during which the people involved in both the DAILY BRUIN and the SOUTHERN CAMPUS were dissected piece by piece and one by one before they were approved . . . I do remember vividly how harried and beat to a frazzle Sandy Mock was the morning after that [all-night] Council meeting . . . the probable reason I was "eligible" was simply because I happened to be a member of a fraternity -- Theta Chi -- and most of my colleagues on the night editor level were not. But there may have been a bit of male chauvinism present in the decision, too. How does anybody really know? (Questionnaire.)
Cassiday was recalled by Editor Jack W. Hauptli as a man with a "wonderful sense of humor, able to get along with all. Hardly a typical fraternity man. Great capacity for drinking Coke in the Co-op. Dedicated to The Bruin." (Questionnaire.)
Dean of Students Hurford E. Stone was pleased with the Council action, which he called a "sound one" in a memorandum to President Sproul.
There was serious consideration of a move to place a student in the position of Editor who is not now on the staff and who has not worked through the preliminary grades for this position, but we decided that this would make the Council open to the charge of unfairness and as having abandoned the merit system . . . Richard Pryne [the new editor] . . . I believe . . . will be cooperative, and the Council made it very clear that better cooperation with the Administration and with the Associated Students will not only be expected but be demanded . . .
It is my own feeling that . . . we prepared the way for much more complete supervision of the Daily Bruin than we ever had in the past. (Arch, Box 183, Folder 40.)
It would seem to me that the youngsters have done a good job. I should be tremendously pleased if we could convert the Bruin into a responsible student newspaper without assuming jurisdiction over it, i.e., while it is still in student hands. (Arch, Box 183, Folder 40.)
Editor Pryne was willing enough to bow to the Administration on unimportant issues. He gladly agreed with a suggestion by Provost Hedrick to stop printing the words to the California Drinking Song ("Oh, they hadda carry Harry to the ferry . . .") since a Women's Christian Temperance Union unit had complained about it. And Hedrick memo'd Sproul: "I trust you will have noticed the articles in the Bruin recently. Things are going rather well." (Arch, Box 198, Folder 40.)
Still, the rancor between the Council and the Bruin continued. The Council criticized coverage of a conflict at Los Angeles City College as "in bad taste and . . . poor policy as far as the University was concerned. Attention was also called to the fact that publicity was given to the Student Teachers Group, after Council had withdrawn recognition . . . " (SEC, 3/12/40.) Later that year, football star Kenny Washington complained about sports coverage, and the Council agreed that "publicity should not be derogatory when the team lost, but that the newspaper, as a representative of the students, should stay behind the team with encouragement, as the students and other representatives of the University were expected to do." (SEC, 11/20/40.)
Under pressures like these, the Bruin staff continued to print a daily newspaper, and its spirit continued to be renewed and refreshed with each incoming batch of cub reporters. Youth replenishes itself. That's something the University Administration could never quite comprehend.
Go to the Next Chapter
7. Official Notices and Official Concern (1911-1939)
A student newspaper was no small joke for University administrators, the greatest tight-rope artists in the educational world. A young man or woman with a pen might be dangerous enough, but a score of young people with a printing press could wreak havoc, indeed.