May 7, 1933 – Ted Dreier to his parents

  • May 7, 1933 – Ted Dreier ( Winter Park, FL) to his parents –

[Ted Dreier Letters – Transcription – January 13, 2017]

Dear mother and father.

We finally made our offer of $450 for the house and it was turned down, though they said they would reconsider it in September. Perhaps we should offer a little more, though I am inclined to wait now to see what the developments in the Rice case are.

Events here have been very exciting. I can’t remember just what I told you last, but briefly this is what has happened since April 26th. On that day, Rice told Dr. Holt that he was sorry, but in order to save his professional reputation, he would be forced to write to the American Association of University Professors unless Dr. Holt were willing to reconsider of offer a hearing. Dr. Holt therewith dismissed him immediately from the campus, and his classes were left with another (unpopular) teacher. He is ‘till getting his salary (as that is a legal obligation). Everybody was tremendously stirred up by this and for three or four days afterwards the Rices found themselves holding a continuous reception at their house to students who came to see them.

The same day even more excitement was caused by Dr. Holt’s calling in one by one each individual member of the faculty to sit before him and the Dean while he (Dr. Holt) read the faculty member a statement consisting of two parts. The first was a resolution passed by the Executive Committee of the board of Trustees giving Dr. Holt supreme power over everything. This they had no right to do, as it is certainly contrary to the by-laws of the Board of Trustees, which can only be amended by the Board, as a whole, after due notice, or by unanimous vote. The second part of the statement was about Rice and said that any further agitation would be “summarily dealt with.” After being told this, we were allowed to go; the statement covered several type-written pages, but we were refused copies of it on the ground that it was a personal matter between the president and us and he didn’t want the statement to get out! I wonder why!!

Everybody felt humiliated and enraged, especially as we had done nothing but talk among ourselves about it. Dr. Holt said later that he did not consider that agitation. The Dean in his clever, insinuating way, making it impossible to quote him to disadvantage, gave many of the students to understand that they would be expelled for drinking, etc. or that something else against them would be dug up if they didn’t quiet down. Those who have scholarships were in the same way made to fear that they would lose their scholarships. Feeling got higher and higher and a dozen of us were supposed to be arch-conspirators, though we did nothing except discuss the situation among ourselves. We did feel that we owed it to Rice to make sure he got a hearing before the Association and thought maybe we ought to write them asking them to come down. We were afraid that this would be just playing into the Dean’s hands and he wanted us all fired. We got together one evening at Professor Georgia’s house to talk it over. Apparently, the Dean’s spies were around as usual because our meeting was immediately known about and it was assumed that we were agitating dangerously. As a matter of fact, most of us had been at considerable pains to keep students from doing rash things. One of them had written a letter to the Nation telling all about it and one of us had persuaded him to telegraph them not to publish it, and there were many other cases.

John Martin, who was trying to mediate, was told by the Dean shortly afterwards that the college would never settle down until ten or twelve other faculty members had been fired. We had just heard about this, when the next day a dozen of us were called in (only 9 got the message in time) to the Dean’s office with Dr. Holt and Treasurer Brown present. We found out afterwards that this was to be an ultimatum to us; we were going to be asked to give a statement under threat of dismissal and those who wouldn’t were to be dismissed. The stage was all set and an editorial came out in the Orlando Evening paper suggesting that it might be well if a number of faculty members were dismissed.

Of course, we didn’t know what was up. We went in and Dr. Holt started by asking what we wanted. I guess he had decided at least to give us a chance to say that. But I think he expected us to be hostile and when he found that we were anxious to cooperate constructively, I think he was completely non-plussed. Not knowing what was coming we were thrilled with this beginning and Dr. Holt’s amiableness got the better of him so that everything seemed very friendly. And then, at a nod from the Dean, he pulls out this ultimatum for us to sign before five o’clock that afternoon. He said he hadn’t decided on the penalty in case we wouldn’t. (I guess he didn’t feel he could say right out then that we would be fired.) Well of course it came as an awful shock after the friendly opening, and we would have resented it tremendously no matter what the statement had been. The statement was that we agreed to be loyal henceforth to the interpretation of Dr. Holt’s power made by the Executive Committee. Most or many of us thought this to be illegal as well as bad in that it had the clear implication that we had been very bad boys up until now, but that from now on we were going to be good. We thought we had acted right along just as loyally to the best interests of the College as we could.

Well we begged him not to press it and argued and argued. It was the most exciting meeting I have ever been in. Finally, we refused to sign no matter what the penalty and handed them back to him unsigned. And then we talked and argued. It came to a crisis, over and over again, and each time we maneuvered through it. Then again, he would say, “Gentlemen, the time has come when we’ve got to have a showdown.” We gave him a vote of confidence because of his willingness to consider our proposals which had been very inadequately and extemporaneously presented without chance for thought. He thanked us but said it meant nothing, and insisted again on a showdown. The most immediate and tangible thing that we wanted was for him to write and invite the A.A. U. P. down here himself, as this would show he wasn’t afraid to have a hearing, as he insisted he was not. We told him that we felt we could cooperate with him if he would do that. He finally said he thought he would, but would let us know definitely by 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon. Thereupon Mr. Lounsbury said, “Oh, we’ll give you till 5 o’clock” (the hour he had set for us.) Everybody laughed, including Dr. Holt sheepishly, and we broke up. Apparently, he spent all afternoon with some of the Orlando Trustees. We didn’t hear from him until morning, but then he wrote us a not saying that he had written the A.A.U.P. inviting them down! It really was pretty swell. Francis, Lounsbury, and Georgia were the mainstay of the battle. Oldham, Tory, Feuerstein, were good also. Three of our best: Sproul, Bingham, and Wunsch were not there. Smith and Clarke were rather weak, and I think they were scared.

The Dean is the real villain – or at least the worst one all through this, and I hope that everybody comes to realize it. Not only has Dr. Holt acted mainly on his advice throughout, but the Dean has all but wrecked the New Plan which Rollins adopted last year. He has made it work out entirely contrary to its fundamental purposes and our actual set up is much more conservative and bad educationally than ever the Old Plan was.

If only the investigation is held and if only it shows up the Dean in his true light, there will be some hope in the place.

We thought everything was going along well, when an unfortunate thing happened. A group sponsored by the Dean passed around a manifesto for everybody to sign in commemoration of the 8th anniversary of Dr. Holt’s being called to the presidency of the College. It commended “his ideals and ideas” and promised “full support and cooperation.” Quite a few felt they couldn’t conscientiously sign it and it just drew again the lines of division. Yesterday a special college paper was published telling how marvelous Dr. Holt was, giving all kinds of cheap testimonials and poems, giving the names of all those who had signed the manifesto, etc. I think the dean and others will try to make use of the fact that some of us wouldn’t even sign this manifesto of good will to the president. It was one of those things half good, half pernicious that are very difficult to deal with. About ten of us including myself did not sign it.

We are now waiting anxiously to hear definitely about the investigation. This whole thing has kept us from getting very much work done for a long time. I hope it ends soon. Last night we had relief in the form of a good party and an exceptionally fine dance given by one of the sororities. I’ve got the car running again with new piston rings in it and valves [ground -?] and it seems as good as new.

Much love from Theodore.