My dear Mr. Nearing,
it said. As the term of your appointment as assistant professor
of economics for 1914-15 is about to expire, I am directed by the
trustees of the University of Pennsylvania to inform you that it
will not be renewed. With best wishes, I am, Yours sincerely, Edgar
The news came as a
shock to the 31-year-old Nearing, who was the only assistant professor
with a favorable recommendation from the faculty not to be rehired.
But it was hardly a surprise. For several years he had, in effect,
been standing on top of the academy hurling denunciations at the
gods, and he had no intention of heading for shelter just because
lightning was forking down and his mortarboard was made of copper.
His dismissal set off
the worst moral and public-relations crisis of the Universitys
history, one that would only be rivaled in recent years by the Water
Buffalo incident. In both cases, the University acted as a lightning
rod for highly charged political currentssome national, some unique
to the academy. And in both, the tremendous public outcry and Penns
reluctant self-examination would lead to a healthy reassessment
of its principles.