itself been dropped in academic circles. There have been two reasons stated for the inquiry and the report on Knowlton. Dr. Harry H. Ransom, chancellor of the UT system, said it was sought because there had been widespread publicity in the New Mexico press about Knowlton’s activities and Ransom believed “the central administration and the regents should be informed.” Ransom said that if there appeared to be sufficient evidence to warrant further action the report would be returned to El Paso for consideration by a faculty committee. At variance with this is the statement by regents chairman Frank Erwin, Jr., that the matter had been instituted by a request for information about Knowlton by the New Mexico attorney general, Boston Witt; that Witt had complained to him, Erwin, of Knowlton’s closeness to Tijerina; and: “. . I have asked for the information necessary to reply to [Witt],” Erwin said. But Witt has denied making such a request. And New Mexico Gov. David Cargo has characterized the inquiry as “a Texas matter.” Cargo added, perhaps significantly, that Erwin had telephoned him several weeks ago concerning Knowlton. Furthermore, when the report is finally completed it will not, so far as is known, be sent to New Mexico \(at least, neither Erwin, Ransom, document, when completed, will, if anything, be sent to El Paso; no mention is made of New Mexico anymore. Whether the report goes back to El Paso is up to Ransom to determine, the Observer has learned. THE UT REGENTS met in Houston the week after the headlines had alerted the state to the UTEP situation. But the news stories about that meeting, though they touched on a number of subjects taken up by the regents, didn’t mention the Knowlton case. Evidently, the matter wasn’t discussed officially by the regents. One UT staff member who was there, Mike Quinn, the director of the university publicity department, tells the Observer that, to his knowledge, the matter wasn’t mentioned during the official portions of the meeting. Quinn says he was on hand for virtually all of the meeting. Dr. Joseph Ray, the UTEP president, had said beforehand that he expected the regents would read the report. But if they did, this was not announced, nor was the disposition of the report mentioned. Just when and how it was decided that Ransom would determine the disposition of the report and the inquiry is not known; probably this was decided in Houston when the regents were there, probably during an unofficial time. Evidently the matter is closed. Knowlton, contacted by the Observer in Salt Lake City, where he had been called last 8 The Texas Observer week by a death in the family, said, “My impression is that the thing has been dropped.” No charges are pending, so far as he knew, and Knowlton said that President Ray, on returning to El Paso from the Houston meeting, had seemed to indicate, in an interview with the local press, that the inquiry is at an end, with no further action is contemplated. WHAT WAS there about Knowlton and his activities that prompted such an inquiry? Dr. Ray says that “some political people have complained to the chairman of our board of regents [Erwin] that Dr. Knowlton is involving himself in an unwelcome way in the affairs of the state of New Mexico.” Ray didn’t specify any names of these “political people.” The head of the American . Assn. of University Professors at UTEP, Dr. Edward J. Richeson, an English professor, said a local committee of the association had conferred with Knowlton about the situation and had been unable to determine at whose direction the inquiry was instituted. But Richeson had an idea, that it probably was started by pressure from some local officials. He, too, did not name any names. The student senate at UTEP had some names in mind, however, and named them. In a letter to the regents, protesting the Knowlton inquiry, the senate said: “We are disturbed when Mayor Judson Williams of El Paso calls upon State Reps. Ned Blaine and Ralph Scoggins to request that the chairman of our board of regents bring action against a professor who has fallen into political disfavor.” The letter asked that the inquiry be dropped, saying that the “off-campus activities of Dr. Knowlton, whether with the Mexican-Americans of New Mexico or in the slums of El Paso, are activities of his own and he should not be called on to account for them before the board of regents.” The letter characterized the regents’ inquiry as a threat to Knowlton’s “rights as a citizen” and said they posed “a threat to our faculty, but most of all, a threat to us as students.” It is quite conceivable that Knowlton has caused the displeasure of local officials. He has been earnestly at work in the barrio of south El Paso, as was discussed in Observer articles of Oct. 13 and 27, and is seeking to do something genuine about relieving the squalor and poverty of that Mexican-American slum. A key to his hopes is involving the poor in the rehabilitation. Such evidently sincere effort, as the war on poverty has demonstrated, often has caused local officials unhappiness, as this sort of activity calls attention to years of neglect of such local problems and, worse still, holds out the prospect of a political revolt in neighborhoods where activity begins stirring. Knowlton had been instrumental in conducting a series of seminars to discuss problems in south El Paso, with the residents of the barrio encouraged to attend and participate. That the seminars were looked on with disfavor by powerful persons in El Paso may be inferred from reports that, though more of the sessions were planned, they were discontinued because of pressure brought on those who participated. Tenement owners, for example, are known to have raised the rent of some families who attended, in some cases raising the rent so high that families were forced to move out. Some persons had their jobs threatened for taking part in the meetings. City and county officials of below the top echelon were advised by superiors not to participate in future sessions. Knowlton tells the Observer that, earlier this year, the mayor told a colleague of his, Knowlton’s, that the UTEP professor “had to be shut up.” Knowlton says the price for participation was driven too high for the seminars to be continued; he and others are trying to figure ways to resume the sessions if some approach can be conceived to avoid reprisals. He says photographers in plain clothes, people who were unknown to him, took pictures of those attending the seminars. El Paso’s local government is basically conservative, as is the case in most of the state. Mayor Williams was a leading advocate of the city sales tax bill that the recent legislature passed. State Reps. Blaine and Scoggins, cited in the student senate letter, are conservative leaders of the El Paso legislative delegation. I T IS SIMILARLY conceivable that Knowlton could have ruffled the fur of the state administration with a widely-circulated quote a few weeks ago. Asked about the booing that Gov. John Connally received at El Paso on being introduced by President Johnson during an important meeting to discuss the problems of Mexican-Americans, Knowlton said the booing “really surprised me. Most Mexican-Americans are very courteous and seldom, if ever, do anything like that . . . I would say that Gov. Connally is the one politician who is totally persona non grata to the Mexicans. On the other hand, [Sen. Ralph] Yarborough [who was given an ovation] is their hero.” Just what combination of circumstances led to the sudden inquiry into Dr. Knowlton’s activities may never be known. It is known that local pressure was brought against Knowlton’s most ambitious recent undertaking, the south El Paso seminars. It is known that his statement about Governor Connally and Senator Yarborough could not have been well-received in the Austin statehouse. It is known that the governor and regents chairman Frank Erwin, Jr., are close political allies. Beyond that, the rest is speculation, but speculation that leads inevitably in one general direction. “I have a great deal of gratitude to those people who rallied to my support,” Knowlton says. “I don’t think I would’ve weathered this, if it hadn’t been for them.” G. 0.
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