The Texas Observer APRIL 28, 1967 A Journal of . Free Voices A Window to The South Sex and the College President A Panel on Morality Causes a Swivet at Southwest Texas State San Marcos An associate professor of speech and the director of forensics at Southwest Texas State College here, Dr. William I. Gorden, has had his promotion to full professor suspended by the college president as a result of a discussion some of Gorden’s students tape-recorded on sexual morality. The program was to have been heard over a local radio station, as other programs taped by students in Gorden’s classes have been, but Dr. James McCrocklin, the president, cancelled the program, suspended Gorden’s promotion, and ruled that his students’ organized discussions thereafter would be confined to the classroom, instead of being heard on radio and in the student union. McCrocklin, without the participation of the faculty, appointed a three-member committee, including two chairmen of departments, to investigate and to recommend whether Gorden’s promotion should be reinstated. Gorden tried to get the ruling about discussions only in the classroom reconsidered and clarified to his satisfaction. He was in communication with representatives of the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who concluded that the case involved free speech and academic freedom, but the chapter of the American Association of University Professors at the college showed no interest. Gorden, contrary to the urgings of the A.C.L.U. people, has now resigned, stating in his letter that he felt he could not work under a climate of censure. The student newspaper, the College Star, did not publish the news of the cancellation of the previously announced radio airing of the sex discussion because, Porter Sparkman, the editor, told the Observer, he was told that if he published anything about it, he would be fired as editor. Subsequently, he said, he went to McCrocklin and told him that the student staff of the paper were upset and that forbidding the paper to report the matter would only make things worse. McCrocklin then told him, Sparkman said, that the threat that he woullt.lie fired was the result of a misunder-Ainding and that he could report on the case, and subsequently, although briefly, with circumspection, and late, the student paper has been taking up these events. Faculty morale here has been shaken somewhat, and some of the students are upset and puzzled. Dr. William Malone, assistant professor of history, has written a member of the committee investigating Gorden alleging that the incident is the culmination of a series of similar episodes which raise the question whether there is academic freedom at the college. The entire matter is freighted with political implications because President Johnson attended school here and was editor of the student newspaper and because concern not to “embarrass” him with incidents at the college is one motive in the Administration’s stance with respect to controversy. McCrocklin has been appointed to several posts by the President. In his office Monday morning, in an Observer interview, McCrocklin said that Gorden’s promotion was suspended “in light of the tape that was released.” He had told Gorden, the college president said, that “there was no question of his classroom work being challenged, no question of academic freedom or tenure,” but that there was a question about the release of the tape, which, McCrocklin said to the Observer, “was in some categories of it vulgar.” “The local radio station rejected it as unfit for public consumption,” he said, and told him that their playing it “would have caused a review of their license.” Asked if the Observer might hear the tape, McCrocklin said he did not have it; the investigating committee did. He said the tape was “released in the name of Southwest Texas State College without the supervision of the instructor, the college, or anybody.” He said Bruce Roche, chairman of the department of journalism, is also “being investigated ti -the same faculty committee” to find out who has responsibility in such matters. “A faculty committee of course is suspect any time you appoint it administratively,” McCrocklin said, so he had appointed the present and two former heads of the Faculty Senate to it. Why had not the faculty been given a voice in its appointment? he was asked. “This tape was released in the name of Southwest Texas State College,” he replied. “The tape starts out, ‘Southwest Texas State College presents . . ” A MIDDLE-HEIGHT, 150-pound man, Gorden is married and has two children. His manner is quick but deferential. He attended Manchester College, a pacifist college of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, and obtained his two graduate degrees in speech at Purdue. He taught first at Purdue, then at Berry College in Georgia, and in 1962 came to the college here. He has written for the academic journals in his field. He has fostered student discussions and debates, in and out of the classroom, on a variety of controversial subjects of both popular and weightier kinds. His debate teams have done very well, winning top honors two years running at the Southern Speech Convention tournaments and sweeping the 20-odd-team Stephen F. Austin tournament this year. His students have debated before Lutheran, Baptist, and other religious groups on such topics as “Resolved, that orthodox Christianity is untenable for modern man” and on prayer in the schools and before high school students in Bastrop and Kyle on whether football is overemphasized \(one of the audiences voted baters have discussed the pro and con of the propositions that “monogamy is a failure,” that “the Playboy philosophy should be adopted,” and that those who can’t do, teach. In addition they have of course debated the nationally current topics, such as Vietnam, the proposition that the U.S. is overcommitted abroad, and the world population explosion. This spring Gorden had arranged for radio panel discussions by students of his; this is the third year he has done this. The programs were played on San Marcos and New Braunfels stations. The first panel this spring concerned “the hallucinogenic generation”; according to the Star, one of the panelists said, “, . . I would like to take a trip on LSD under controlled conditions.” The 14-minute discussion on “the sexual revolution” was taped March 20 by four students, three girls and a boy. Other radio panels were scheduled on the draft and the quality of higher education. Gorden had symposia scheduled at the student union on such topics and sub-topics as “U.S. imperialism,” “the morals of our politicians,” “the state of the church,” “the soft life,” drugs and crime, morals, including affairs, church and sex, and homosexuality, “on being an object as a person,” “communism in trouble,” “LBJ in trouble,”
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