Page 10


The changing of the UT guard Austin Frank Erwin, chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents, has now successfully completed a purge of the highest levels of the state university system’s administration preparatory to the hard-line repression of student dissent and the more complete conversion of the college system to his and his friends’ political purposes. John Silber, the strong-willed and independent dean of the 14,000-student College of Arts and Sciences, was summarily fired late in July by Erwin and his compliant new top-level administrators. Nothing like this has happened at the University of Texas since Dr. Homer P. Rainey, then president of the university, was fired by the regents in 1944, setting off an openly political two-year controversy that resulted in the university’s academic blacklisting and Rainey’s losing campaign for governor in 1946. The faculty committee that will recommend a new permanent president of UT-Austin to the regents has already decided to recommend, among others, Law School Dean Page Keeton and Silber. What effect Silber’s firing as dean will have on the committee’s recommendation of him as president remains to be seen. It can be said authoritatively that none of the committee’s nominees, up to the time of Silber’s firing, would be considered “Erwin men.” The regents, however, are not bound to choose the new president from the faculty choices. Silber is no flaming liberal and often has angered many radical students, for instance in the Larry Caroline case \(Obs., Oct. 24, campus. He has taken a hard line against violence in protests and stresses Gandhi’s axiom that if a person commits civil disobedience, he should submit to legal punishment passively. But Silber also upholds the right to dissent by peaceful means and has crossed Erwin on a number of issues, notably unlimited enrollment at the university, which Erwin favors. Where Erwin is conservative on issues but rough and radical in his methods, Silber is liberal on issues but a stickler for respecting the rights of the faculty in academic matters. SILBER WAS invited to resign, but not in writing. He was given no reason for his firing. He was simply canned. The coup to grace was given so suddenly, he had to work through the weekend to get out of his offices by last Monday morning. A member of his staff said she felt like she was “watching the death of a member of my family.” The regents were to meet July 31 in Corpus Christi, after the Observer’s deadline for this issue. They were expected, earlier in the week, to confirm, if it was challenged, Chairman Erwin’s latest move, which leaves him now in authoritarian control over the University of Texas System. The full story of Silber’s dismissal may or may not come out. Silber wasn’t talking for publication with the regents’ meeting pending. Some members of the press have become aware of a meeting that occurred between Erwin, Silber, and a friend of Silber’s, Donald Weismann, university Professor in the Arts. It was held in Weismann’s office just. before Silber was fired. Erwin reportedly told Silber that if he did not resign, he would be fired at once. Just after the meeting, the president ad interim and the new chancellor formally fired Silber. Publicly Erwin confined his remarks to a prim statement that the regents had complete confidence in the two men who had just fired Silber. All Jordan would say publicly was that he fired Silber in the best interests of the university and that Silber had not been cooperative. Silber said he was summarily dismissed without any reason given. He, added that there are “two different visions” for the university’s future, and “mine is held by a vast majority of faculty and students.” Silber planned to address the July 31 regents’ meeting, but it was not certain that he would be allowed to do so. Erwin had been reported saying to some people that Silber had to be fired and trother people that Silber was the ablest at most dedicated man in the administration. The evidence is strong that Erwin respected Silber, knew he was independent of Erwin, and fired him outright, by giving the order or signal to his chancellor and interim president, as soon as he was sure that the regents would back him up. Contributing Editors: Winston Bode, Bill Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Lee Clark, Joe Frantz, Larry Goodwyn, Harris Green, Bill Helmer, Dave Hickey, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Larry Lee, Dave McNeely, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, James Presley, Charles Ramsdell, Buck Ramsey, John Rogers, Mary Beth Rogers, Roger Shattuck, Robert Sherrill, Edwin Shrake, Dan Strawn, John P. Sullivan, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with her. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that she agrees with them, because this is a journal of free voices. THE TEXAS OBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co. 1970 Ronnie Dugger, Publisher A window to the South A journal of free voices Vol. LXII, No. 16 Aug. 7, 1970 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in Om incorporated the Austin ForumAdvocate. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas 78705. Telephone 477-0746. EDITOR Kaye Northcott EDITORS AT LARGE Elroy Bode, Ronnie Dugger, Bill Hamilton, Bill Porterfield GENERAL MANAGER C. R. Olofson OFFICE MANAGER Irene Wilkinson EMERITUS BUSINESS MANAGER Sarah Payne The Observer is published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly from Austin, Texas. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Single copy, 25c. One year, $7.00; two years, $13.00;. three years, $18.00; plus, for Texas addresses, 41/4% sales tax. Foreign, except APO/FPO, 50c additional per year. Airmail, bulk orders, and group rates on request. Change of Address: Please give old and new address, including zip codes, and allow two weeks. Form 3579 regarding undelivered copies: Send to Texas Observer, 504 W. 24th, Austin, Texas 78705.