A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955

The Staff on Strike: Part 1

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 Previous Chapter
10. The Postwar World (1946-1948)


Chapter 11

THE STAFF ON STRIKE (1951)

(First Part)

The Men's Lounge of Kerckhoff Hall was in the 1950s a world of massive leather chairs, pipe tobacco, polished wooden walls and noisy chess players. The balcony was a good place, in the early morning stillness, for a weary Daily Bruin night editor to sleep for a few hours before his 8 o'clock class, after he had driven the ASUCLA station wagon through darkened city streets from the print shop, in Hollywood, let himself in at the back door of Kerckhoff with his key and stumbled his way to the Men's Lounge without turning on any lights that a cruising campus cop might spot.

Occasionally the chess players were banished to another room as the Men's Lounge was subverted for use by the University's Board of Regents or, more often, by a standing-room-only meeting of the Student Executive Council considering some potent political issue. On the evening of Feb. 21, 1951, just such a crowd gathered in the Men's Lounge for an SEC meeting that had been moved from the smaller, third-floor Memorial Room. Most of the Bruin staff was there to watch a crucial vote taken on editorial appointments. Fraternity men and football players were there, too, to lobby for the Daily Bruin staff choices to go down in defeat.

At issue were two key appointments still vacant from the beginning of the semester three weeks before -- the editor-in-chief and the feature editor. In a larger sense, though, it was not a vote for or against any particular nominees but it was a vote for or against the Bruin's controversial policy of allowing all shades of political opinion on its feature page. Acting Editor Jerry Schlapik had written in that morning's Daily Bruin:
 

 One by one the lights are going out all over this country of ours. Loyalty oaths have been all accepted, political groups have been all but outlawed, speakers and writers have been all but silenced.

 The issue is not that of conservative versus liberal . . . The question before the nation is whether we shall continue to enjoy the luxury of free expression, and people of every political, economic and social belief are lining up on both sides.

 One of those lights that may be going out now is the small, wavering flame of independence still flickering in the offices of The Daily Bruin. (DB, 2/21/51.)


Most of the older staffers present could look back over many another evening of sweating out the semiannual ritual of Student Executive Council's interviewing of and voting on the staff nominees for editorial positions. Editor Paul R. Simqu (fall 1947) later called the Council meetings "the bloodiest sensitivity training type sessions I had ever experienced. Grown men and women were reduced to tears at these affairs, and several changed universities when they didn't get what they wanted -- after being eviscerated by their peers in front of their peers." (Questionnaire.)

But one facet of the selection process had changed from Simqu's time -- the Bruin began reporting in detail as much of the Council meetings as it could -- which often was not much, because the usual practice was for the Council to go into closed session to interview the candidates and debate their qualifications. Up to 1949, detailed stories about Daily Bruin editorial appointments (or rejections) were rare indeed.

It was a tougher group of student editors who controlled the Bruin after 1949, and ranged against them was a tougher, more dedicated group of conservatives who attempted to do their duty to their country at war in Korea by cutting down on any controversial topics that might give aid and comfort to the enemy. The resulting clash made a loud noise that heated up the pages of the Bruin itself.

In 1949, the Bruin got its first admitted, honest to-God, card-carrying Communist staff member. Helen Edelman was a gift to the conservatives, who finally had an albatross they could hang around the neck of the liberal Bruin. Edelman, according to Editor Martin A. Brower (spring 1951), was "an emotional, fine, artistic person who won a scholarship to USC for her music ability . . . but who grew so disgusted with the administration at USC she joined the Communist Party . . ." (Questionnaire.)

And Editor Grover Heyler (spring 1949) remembers Edelman "mostly for a marvelous evening of Chopin that she delivered at my house when I entertained members of the staff. She was an accomplished pianist. I was told later she rose to the improbable position of social editor . . it seems very funny if true." (Questionnaire.) [It wasn't true. Her nomination was rejected by the Student Council.]

 Edelman figured prominently in testimony by Dean of Students Milton Hahn before the state Senate Committee on Un-American Activities in 1957. Hahn said she exerted considerable influence upon the editorial policy of the Bruin and that she held an editorial board position although, as a matter of fact, she did neither.

It is more probable that the Daily Bruin exercised its sinister influence over Helen Edelman, just as it did over many another good student writer. The Bruin allowed her to become "an excellent writer and reporter [who] worked hard, and wrote stories without slanting," as Editor Brower put it.

"She may have joined the Bruin to infiltrate, but I think she found a liberal, interesting compatible group of people and merely enjoyed her association because she was accepted as what she was." (Questionnaire.)

At any event, Edelman's coverage of day-to-day news stories (she was assigned to the Student Executive Council for three semesters) was objective sometimes to the point of dullness; subjectivity was considered bad form by Bruin editors, no matter what the color of the writer's party card. Her feature-page articles, however, were written to the Communist viewpoint, unashamedly.

Editor Jack Weber (spring 1953) believes that Eugene Blank, a night editor who was rejected for feature editor at that Feb. 21 meeting, was also a Communist. (Questionnaire.) Weber offers no proof, and Blank's own words would seem to belie this assertion: "I like the American form of government very much, so much that I feel justified in being angry with a group of people who are riding rough shod over the principles upon which it is based." (DB, 2/21/51.) Without further evidence, the most that can be said of Blank is that he was a supporter of Henry Wallace's Progressive Party, as many Americans were in 1948.

The road to Feb. 21, 1951, began, perhaps, with the Eric Julber column calling Student Executive Council a "crew of red-baiters and stallers" (see Page 89). Although Julber was ousted by the editor for incorrect reporting and the possibility of "poor taste" (SEC, 4/23/48), the Student Council nevertheless voted to reprimand feature editor Jim Garst for allowing the article to be run.

The council defeated a motion to remove Garst, but four days later petitions were circulated on campus to oust him. (DB, 4/27/48.) Nothing came of them, and Garst was reappointed feature editor for the fall term 1948. Still, he had by this time become a controversial figure, and the controversy was made no less intense when a series of articles against Universal Military Training was run on the feature page. The series led Dean Hahn to suggest in a letter to Student Body President William Keene and Editor Charles Francis that the Bruin might be "liable to prosecution" because of them. (Chanc, 1948, Folder 40, 7/27/48.)

The failure of the recall movement against Garst, however, left the Bruin in a strengthened position. In January 1949, the staff presented to the Council a single slate for its approval "for the first time since before the war . . . No alternates will be offered." (DB, 1/15/49.) Editor Grover Heyler (who later became the Alumni Association representative on Student Legislative Council) believed the reason for the break in tradition was because of the "relatively conservative cast" of Bruin nominees: "myself, Dick Hill, Len F, none of us was very wild-eyed and I recall that members of the Council . . . seemed by their comments to indicate that the 'situation' was under control." (Questionnaire.)

Heyler's assessment is sharply at odds with that of Dean Hahn, who later claimed the single slate was a method of insuring control by subversive leftists. Evidence from Daily Bruin stories indicates that the single slate was intended to be a far-reaching return to the earlier expressed principle (see Page 70) of SEC as merely an administrative rubber stamp: "Council approval came as the last step in ratification of the editorial board elected last Sunday by the newspaper's senior staff." (DB, 1/7/49.) If so, that prospect didn't last.

During Heyler's term, an attempt to remove the Bruin editor as ex officio chairman of Publications Board was narrowly averted, 501 to 538, in a student election. "Could the real reason for the proposal be that SEC is afraid of The Bruin?" asked managing editor Richard Hill. "[T]he actual operation of the Bruin . . . and especially the operation of the feature page . . . cannot be tampered with." (DB, 3/16/49.)

That result was a minor victory, though, which could easily have been lost with no danger to the Bruin's independence. More serious was the rejection by the Student Council in May 1949 of the two staff choices for editor and managing editor, Jim Garst and Clancy Sigal.

The reasons given: "bad taste" in the printing of feature articles, "political" editorials and something called "intangibles." (DB, 5/24/49.) The rejection led to the Bruin's first strike, though that term was never used. Five editorial board members submitted their resignations, which were "accepted and the entire Daily Bruin staff appointed . . . [was] released from its appointment." A temporary staff was named to publish the Summer Bruin and "the first few issues of the fall semester until the matter . . . has been settled." (SEC, 6/16/49.) Fortunately, the strike took place over the summer, and by the fall a new Student Council was in office, one that had no particular interest in maintaining a feud it did not begin. It ratified the original Bruin staff choices and the Bruin's strike ended successfully.

With Garst and Sigal in place, the Bruin leadership swung in its arc from right-of-center to left-of-center -- a position which, in the supercharged atmosphere of the Korean War, was simply not tolerable on the UCLA campus.

The new leadership was marked by the presence of one of the most gifted writers the Bruin has produced -- Clancy Sigal -- who could be slashing and cutting, or gentle and serene, and whose best themes were tried out in the Bruin before being printed in his 513-page autobiographical work, Going Away (Houghton Mifflin, 1962.) Sigal, in Going Away, portrayed himself as a former campus editor who was rejected by a Student Council much like the one at UCLA in 1949. The book is filled with thinly disguised allusions to UCLA student politicians and people active in the Los Angeles liberal community. Sigal, for a long time an expatriate writer living in Great Britain (and now on the journalism faculty at USC), wrote about UCLA and the Bruin:
 

 [T]he university, my old university. It was spread out on green lawns, sloping easy lawns, the rustcolored neo-Renaissance buildings casting shadows on the square stone quad . . . It was a Southern California dusk and everything was dark now. Most of the students had gone home. I walked up to where The Gully had once been, to the various class buildings I remembered. I saw nobody I had known of course . . . I went back down the hill to Haines [Kerckhoff] Hall and tried to get in the back door . . . Then I went upstairs, through the women's lounge [now the third-floor study lounge], to the offices of The Daily. The entire building was deserted. I went into the editor's office and didn't turn on any of the lights but stood at the window and watched where the sun had gone down. In the little cubbyhole next to the editor's office the A. P. machine hummed and bumped. I sat down in the editor's chair, behind a vintage Underwood typewriter, and draped my leg over the typewriter rest. That was the way I used to think and write my editorials. The carrillon in the [Royce Hall] tower . . . up the hill struck nine o'clock . . . (Sigal, pp. 32-33)


Dean Hahn saw, correctly, that the single-slate nominating procedure used twice by the Bruin had tipped the balance of power to the side of the newspaper and away from SEC. Hahn outlawed the use of the single slate with a letter to Student Body President Sherrill Luke (Chanc, 1949, Folder 40, 11/30/49), calling the slate "a generally undemocratic procedure." He argued somewhat tortuously that "If it is considered a sound procedure in student government, the privilege should be extended to all activities -- athletic teams, SEC, the band, theater arts, debate. If it is an unsound procedure it should be prohibited for all activities." (DB, 12/2/49.) It was a preliminary step to a new attack on the Bruin, and Clancy Sigal, who had been nominated for reappointment as managing editor, was caught in the crossfire, to go down in white-hot blasts of withering prose.
 

End of an Era

 Wednesday night I witnessed one of the most revolting proceedings of my entire career at this University.

 Wednesday night I saw the hand of the vigilante and heard the voice of the inquisitor . . .

 When I entered the sacred chambers of Memorial room for my interview (!) by SEC, the very first question put to me was:

 "Clancy, are you a Communist?"

 (I thought to myself: Is this UCLA, an American campus, December, 1949 -- Bill of Rights week?)

 It was not the motives of the individual questioner that angered me. I believe he was honestly attempting, in his own way, to aid my lost cause by making explicit what was undoubtedly an implicit question in the minds of many Council members.

 But . . I think that the putting of this obnoxious $64 query answers any doubts I may have had concerning the real issues at stake Wednesday night.

 The real question is freedom of expression. The real question is the continued existence of a free campus newspaper.

 It is my opinion that those with sensitive ears could clearly hear the death rattle of a free student press Wednesday night . . . (DB, 12/16/49.)28


Sigal's "30" editorial summed up his experience:
 

 UCLA is much too integral a part of the community not to feel the effects of the political lynchings which are sweeping the nation . . . It is the tradition of a Board of Regents, with its heart in Sacramento and its head in a bank vault, methodically teaching our faculty to live on its knees. (DB, 1/6/50.)


Nevertheless, upon Sigal's rejection, the Bruin staff determined to try to repeat its success at the polls. Feature editor Don Fanger called Sigal a "walking principle" and opined that "a man's politics, like his religion and his neuroses, are his own business as long as he can keep them out of his way in doing his job." (DB, 2/23/50.) With that, the staff circulated referendum petitions bringing Sigal's future to a student vote.

But circumstances had changed since the tepid, 1,039-vote ballot on the Publications Board issue the year before. In February 1950 the Board of Regents issued its "sign or resign" decree to the faculty in regard to the famous non-Communist oath (DB, 2/28/50); ideological rebellion had become tantamount to treason.

And just a few days later Helen Edelman was nominated social editor by the Bruin staff, only to be rejected by SEC in place of another staffer (non-Communist), Betty Gilmore. Feature editor Don Fanger and city editor Gene Frumkin said in a joint editorial that the rejection was due to an article Edelman had written claiming that women in the Soviet Union "had attained a degree of equality in advance of ours." They added: "Nobody, of course, bothers to investigate the possible truth of this statement." (DB, 3/3/50.)

Fraternity Row came out strongly against Sigal after the Interfraternity Council's publication, The Fraternity Front, claimed that Sigal's supporters were "largely Labor Youth League members." (DB, 4/5/50.) On April 5, 1950, Sigal's bid for the managing editorship was rejected, 2,272 to 676. (Note) Spurred by the success, conservative students began circulating petitions headed "GIVE THE STUDENTS A VOICE IN THE BRUIN," and 1,550 signatures called for student election of Daily Bruin editors. Though the initiative petition was never brought to a vote, this indeed was the plan that was put into effect by the Administration five years later, with disastrous results.

The Bruin itself also wanted the students to have a "voice" in the running of the newspaper -- but only through the work-up system that had been established so many years before. At the beginning of every semester a plea was made for staff writers. "Not only do we have openings, but we desperately need people," said associate editor Sonya Levin. (DB, 9/13/50.)

 
 Although the work requires several hours a week, Miss Levin emphasized, the experience one receives and the service one renders to the school is well worth it . . .

 Not only is there an opportunity to become a newspaperman, she concluded, but the Bruin staff offers unexcelled companionship and social life. (DB, 9/14/50.)


Because of the "People's Bruin" tag, there was a dearth of volunteers. But many students who gained prominence after graduation did work on the Bruin during the immediate postwar period. They included Frank Mankiewicz, screenwriter, regional director of the Peace Corps, press attache for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and a vice president with Hill and Knowlton; John and Eleanor Peterson, owners of the Calaveras (Calif.) Weekly Citizen and Chronicle; Leonard Gross, senior (European) editor of Look magazine; Charles Francis, director of communications for the IBM Corp.; Myrick Land, assistant managing editor of Look; Eric Julber, attorney and writer; Judy Sheftel (married to Jules Feiffer, the humorist), a literary scout for Playboy; Irv Pearlberg, writer and television producer; Lee Mishkin, Hollywood cartoonist and artist; Adrienne Kosches (Hall) , owner of an advertising agency; Paul Welch, director of special projects, Life; Robert Myers, chief of the San Francisco bureau, Associated Press; Joseph Lewis, staff writer, Time; Eugene Frumkin, poet and editor, California Apparel News, and Hal Watkins, staff writer, Aviation Week.

Frumkin, the poet, was Bruin editor during the semester that led up to the tumultuous Student Council meeting described at the beginning of this chapter. It was a semester that saw the virtual adoption of the right-wing "Crusade for Freedom" by the University Administration. The Crusade was a non-governmental organization designed to counter Communist propaganda in Europe with a program of its own. Members of the National Council included L. M. Giannini and John Francis Neylan, two highly conservative Regents. Editor Frumkin wondered "what kind of freedom men like" Giannini and Neylan advocated. "We are afraid that our ideas . . . about the meaning of democracy differ greatly" from theirs. (DB, 9/22/50.)

The Administration-planted Saturday Evening Post article broke during Frumkin's semester, and reporters Eugene Blank and Jack Hefley developed solid features quoting all shades of student and faculty opinion about the controversial article. (DB, 10/20/50.) A lengthy editorial by Frumkin answered the charges raised by the Post, ending with the admission that
 

 The Bruin has never been perfect, is not perfect now, and never will be perfect, and, therefore, will always be open to criticism. However, an honest check of the record would avoid the childish charges which have been and are being made against The Bruin. (DB, 10/23/50.)


The Post article, however, gave added strength to a new drive to trammel the Bruin -- this time by direct election of the Publications Board chairman. A fact sheet entitled "Did you Know?" was circulated with a referendum petition, listing many of the points later raised in Dean Hahn's Un-American Activities Committee testimony. One claim was that ballots for Daily Bruin staff positions were "taken into a back room by two graduating seniors, counted, destroyed and reported to the Daily Bruin staff." Editor Frumkin denied the charge, said the ballots were kept for later checking if necessary and added that "the 'back room' is really not that sinister; it is only the editor's office." ("They were honest elections," said Editor Heyler in his 1970 questionnaire.)

Martin Brower, who was editor in 1951 and later a public relations writer, recalled that Frumkin was a "deeply sensitive, intelligent and capable journalist" who "permitted his staff a free hand under general guidance, permitting great creativity. He was highly liked and respected." Brower wrote 19 years after his term that the Bruin "was merely ahead of its time," with editorial interest centered on "ridding the University of Regulation 17 which did not permit on-campus political or religious speakers" and opposition to the University loyalty oath. "Since political and religious speakers of interest to the students could not speak on campus, the Bruin covered their speeches off campus, which at the time seemed way out and radical." Brower also touched on another source of discontent with the Bruin -- anti-semitism.
 

 Beneath much of the mistrust of the Bruin was the fact that at times the entire editorial board and much of the upper staff were Jewish. I was asked several times why this was so. The fact was that Jewish students tend toward writing, enjoyed the company of one another, but welcomed and encouraged non-Jews to join that staff . . . The resulting group of working journalists was termed by Dean Hahn as a self-perpetuating group, but he did not have the guts to use the word Jews. (Questionnaire.)

[The anti-semitic view of others toward the Bruin was reflected in a satire printed by Scop in 1947, "A Bruin Editor Is Born," after which the magazine was suspended temporarily by the Student Council for being anti-semitic, anti-fraternity and anti-intellectual. (DB, 12/5/52.) The cartoon featured a character with a hooked nose.]


"Clancy, are you a Communist?" Sigal finally answered that $64 question in a New York Times op-ed piece on Nov. 27, 1993. He was indeed a Communist. In the article, he was ruminating about Watergate figures Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, both of whom had graduated with Sigal, then 23, in 1950. He told of a reunion in 1975 “partly organized by the ex-Greek Row types who had hounded me off The Daily Bruin . . . and beat me up” over an editorial in which he had described “the sun-blessed quad at noon [as] neatly divided between gentiles on the Royce Hall steps and Jews on the Powell Library steps.” Return to story.

Sigal's bid for the managing editorship was rejected, 2,272 to 676. It was the second election loss for Sigal within four months. The preceding December he had lost a campus "Great Lover" contest by a much narrower margin. Return to story.


Go to the Second Part of This Chapter
11B. The Staff on Strike

In the midst of an anti-Communist hysteria that was at its height, President Sproul abandoned his earlier insistence on allowing student newspapers to settle their own problems.