A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955
Official Notices and Official Concern
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.
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Preface, Contents, List of Editors, Bibliography and Index
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6B. Bruin Spirit Vs. Council Power (1929-1940)
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. This was the administrators' viewpoint.
President Jesse Millspaugh of the Los Angeles State Normal School felt that establishment of a student newspaper was a serious enough matter that he should bring news of his approval of the Normal Outlook to the Board of Trustees on Jan. 19, 1911. (BOT, 1/19/11.) It wasn't the last time that UCLA's student newspaper was discussed in the highest echelons of the University hierarchy.
UCLA administrators sought certain characteristics in the student press over the years -- accuracy of content, calm and reflective judgment, and a mirror of prevailing attitudes on the campus or off. A common complaint by administrators was that editorials and news judgment did not reflect the opinion of the "majority" of the student body.
Student newspapers "seem to have been sent to University presidents as a penalty for their sins," President Robert Gordon Sproul once wrote an angry citizen who had complained about a poem in the Bruin. "All over the country they tend to be low in tone and provocative in character. We are not of course folding our hands and accepting the situation, but reform is slow and difficult." (Arch, Box 118.)
Past editors were insistent in their praise of the University Administration for not censoring or interfering with the Bruin. And, except for the notorious Hell's Bells edition of 1929, administrators preferred the quiet conference or (toward the end of the Thirties) pressure through the Student Council as a means of influencing Bruin content. Men of learning (and they were almost always men), the administrators were more pained about lack of accuracy, it seems, than were Student Council members, who felt more concern for their own sense of self-importance.
In 1927, Director Ernest Carroll Moore took the Bruin to task for reporting that his wife was going to be a guest at a Faculty Woman's Club event when, in fact, she was not. "I wish you would get your Bruin staff together and publicly promise to fire anyone who prints false information," Moore wrote Editor William E. Forbes on April 7. (Arch, Box 43, April 7, 1927.) A few weeks later Dr. Moore's administrative staff discussed the problem amid complaints that the Bruin editors "seldom retract or correct misstatements and in some cases have declined to do so when requested by members of the administration . . . Dr. Moore said they must retract when requested." In October of that year, the matter came up again.
The question arose of the need for supervision of the policy of the Daily Bruin in the matter of news, editorials and advertisements. Dr. Moore suggested a committee, but the deans all held that the matter would be better handled informally by the Dean of Men. Accordingly, Director Moore charged Dean Miller with the supervision of the Daily Bruin's policy. (Adm, 10/31/27.)
That was the policy from then on. Seldom did the Director (or Provost) deal directly with the Bruin editor, even though, as administrators never tired of pointing out, the newspaper was representing the University to a wide public beyond the walls. In 1932 "Deans Miller and Perigord were asked to act in the capacity of advisors to the Editor of the Daily Bruin and his staff" (Adm, 4/4/32), and in 1934 "Mr. Swingle was appointed a Committee of One to speak with the Editor . . . regarding printing of quotations without the consent of the parties quoted." (Adm, 1/22/34.) This arms-length policy was breached later that year when "Some doubt was expressed as to the dependability of the recently elected editor of the Daily Bruin" (Chandler Harris), and Dr. Moore himself decided to "interview the Editor to determine the justification of this charge." (Adm, 5/28/34.)13
The administrators found themselves in a dilemma. They needed a way to reach students with important notices, and they needed a medium to build an esprit de corps among the student body and faculty in order to weld together a functioning unit. They would have certainly been satisfied with that, but they got very much more with their student newspaper.
The Administration of the fledgling Southern Branch of the University of California learned quickly how important a campus newspaper could be. The administrative staff decided to establish an "OFFICIALS" column in December 1923, and Director Moore wrote Editor Irving C. Kramer to ask "if you cannot arrange this . . It would be very helpful to our work." (Arch, 12/5/23.)
But the plan was not successful. "Dr. Buell spoke of the attitude of the Daily Bruin, its reluctance to print official notices and give publicity to matters of importance . . ." Eventually, the solution was a policy of "reciprocity," whereby the Bruin was made the "official" newspaper of the University -- in which an official announcement would be considered legally "sufficient notice" to all students. (Adm, 10/3/27.) Since student body membership was voluntary, this policy was a big leap forward for the Associated Students, which could thenceforth point out that membership brought with it a subscription to the official university newspaper. "Daily Bruin Made Official Organ of Administration by Dr. Moore" was the banner headline in the issue of Oct. 5, 1927. Though the Daily Bruin carried "OFFICIAL NOTICES," it was never an official newspaper of the University, and disclaimers to that effect regularly appeared on the editorial pages.
But administrators were kept busy answering the insistent complaints by citizens who couldn't understand how a student newspaper could "get away" with some of the things the Bruin undoubtedly was getting away with. The Janss Investment Corp., which subdivided the hills around UCLA into lucrative single-family home sites, for example, complained in 1927 about an editorial in the "official University publication" in which Janss was criticized for some of its dealings with fraternities and sororities. (Arch, Box 46.) Other complaints were more far-ranging. Roscoe F. Allen, an alumnus, wrote to President Sproul in 1937:
May I make some frank observations about impressions of the U.C.L.A. campus as the general public get them, caused, mainly, by the campus paper -- The Bruin? Unfavorable reaction to . . . ridicule of the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] . . . not very well concealed hand of Moscow in the writings of some of the "caviar" collegians . . . advertising of strip dances and black and tan hot spots in the Bruin.
I believe much of this unhappy publicity could be traced to members of the Wandering Tribes. These people are getting themselves hated by an increasing number of real Americans. This sounds like intolerance, but it is the truth. (Arch, Box 118, Folder 40.) [Editor Roy Swanfeldt (1937-38) recalled the Bruin had a "visibly Jewish (and fairly numerous and well-placed) minority significant in those days when anti-Semitism wasn't entirely latent, and often was equated with anti-radicalism." (Questionnaire, 1970.)]
President Sproul replied:
I want you to know that I agree heartily with your opinion that the student newspaper . . . quite frequently creates an unfavorable impression . . . the way to meet the situation is not by force but by wit. That we are trying to do, and I think you will see signs of improvement in the not too distant future. (Same source.)15Three years later President Sproul was still foreseeing improvement. He replied to a letter by Walter B. Stafford, publisher of the Antioch Daily Ledger:
I agree with you about the unfortunate conduct of liberals and worse upon the staffs of the undergraduate publications, but this is a countrywide phenomenon, and I know of no University that has handled it altogether satisfactorily . . . this is merely a reflection of the American scene, in which the radical has taken a much more prominent part. Moreover, we confidently expect to have our situation even better in hand shortly, without alienating the support of the majority of the students, as harsh measures would be certain to do, if new difficulties are not precipitated from outside the campus. (Arch, Box 207, Folder 105.)On occasion, however, President Sproul sprang to the defense of his student editors:
Thank you for your interest in the editorial columns of the Daily Bruin. As you indicate, the students do not always use the best judgment in what they write. However, in the editorial clipping sent with your letter of March 20 , I do not find anything to support your statement that the writer is a fifth columnist and either a yellow coward or a Communist. I happen to know he [Jack Hauptli] is none of the three, though he may be young, somewhat worried about the shape of the world is in [sic], and prone to speak his mind about it. (Arch, Box 226, Folder 40.)
President Sproul gave serious thought to the problems brought to the University by what he believed were the excesses of the Daily Californian and the Daily Bruin. He felt that newspaper staffers should not be paid (Arch, Box 226, Folder 40), but there seems to be no malice in his suggestion, merely ignorance. He wrote Dean Miller on March 10, 1941:
I find myself in agreement with [Student Body President James P.] Devere and [Assistant Controller] Dening Maclise and in disagreement with Mr. Hauptli. Mr. Hauptli's arguments for paying staff heads on the ASUC newspaper and year book is quite as applicable to members of the football team, for example. I believe that, during the season, these men spend far more time on the activity than does the editor of the daily newspaper, nor do they hold political jobs. Finally, those who make the Varsity are the product of a work-up system quite as much as students in the field of publications. I agree with you, of course, that if anything is to be done, it should be "brought about through the proper channels of student self-government." (Arch, Box 226, Folder 40.)The Daily Bruin found favor with an administrator on at least one occasion -- when it published a parody of the "Ham 'n' Eggs" pension plan facing California voters in 1938:
CAVIAR AND CHAMPAGNE
The GRADE A PENSION PLAN (It's the Tops) proposes an amendment to the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States of California [sic] to be known as the 50-50 Plan, to pay Fifty Dollars per week to everybody in California who is under the Age of 50.
LIFE BEGINS AT ZERO
Now, since thirty dollars per week for people over fifty will create wide-spread prosperity, we propose . . . to give fifty dollars a week to people of thirty to create still more prosperity . . .
Weekly payments will be paid with state warrants (Grade A Milk Bottle Tops) . . . (CDB, 10/10/38.)
Provost Earle R. Hedrick thought this so amusing that he sent copies of the Bruin's feature to members of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, even including a couple of the cardboard bottle caps "which you may validate if you please, by inscribing your name thereon and wearing it on your lapel." (Arch, Box 143.)
This example could be used to prove, if one were so minded, that it was not exactly the political virginity of the Bruin's feature page that counted with administrators; it was the political coloration that was all-important.
Seldom did University administrators make direct threats to Daily Bruin editors about censorship. One exception took place in October 1939, when President Sproul's office warned Editor Sanford J. Mock about controversial articles on the feature page dealing with a cotton-pickers' strike in the San Joaquin Valley. Significantly, perhaps, the letter was signed not by Sproul but by George A. Pettit, his assistant.
In view of the continued editorial page comment on the cotton-picking situation which appears in the Daily Bruin, all lacking, as far as I can see, in any effort to present both sides of what is a serious problem, I believe you might find food for thought in a letter which I recently sent to Editor Brownell of the Daily Californian . . .
The University of California leaves to its students the question of what matters are to be discussed in their daily papers. No question is raised as to what the students may consider important enough to deserve comment. In return, they are expected to observe standards of decency and, equally important, they are expected to exercise intelligence and good judgment. It is expected that they will conduct their papers so as to provide factual information upon which student readers may base their own opinions, rather than that they should continually publish propaganda on one side of a question. These expectations do not appear to me unreasonable. Do they to you? (Arch, Box 168, Folder 40.)
Finally, as World War II crept closer, President Sproul appeared to make up his mind as to his stand on student newspapers. He was provoked by the appearance of an editorial dealing with Memorial Day, which he found "distasteful," but he answered a complaining letter about the editorial in these words:
The only way to prevent young people from making mistakes of judgment and good taste such as this is to prevent them from making judgments, or from writing about them. To place such restrictions might lose the University more through lessening education by experience than we lose from the occasional outbursts . . . Recently I asked the advice of more than a thousand parents of University students whether I should censor the student paper and muzzle the students to avoid such immature cynicism, or whether I should allow them freedom to speak and to learn by experience. The vote was 3 to 1 in favor of allowing freedom of expression in spite of the mistakes. (Arch, Box 226, Folder 40.)
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8. World War II (1941-1945)
For the second time within thirty years the United States is at war. The crisis and national emergency are over, replaced by a more gruesome and gigantic phase, that of WAR with another major world power .