Victor Gordon, English Instructor, 1970
By 1970, the criteria for promotion and tenure consisted of “academic training, writing, teaching ability, and administrative ability” (see Governance Timeline in “When Rights Clash”) and had replaced the 1916 expectations of loyalty, morality, and efficiency, but this tenure policy got tested in a case involving associate instructor Victor Gordon. Mr. Gordon had been hired by the English Department as a graduate student instructor to teach courses on Black literary theory and criticism as part of the broader efforts to establish a Black Studies curriculum advocated by the Black Student Union during their 1969 sit-in.
Mr. Gordon participated in an April 1970 anti-war rally and was subsequently charged by the Deputy Attorney General for obscenity after using a 12-letter word during the rally. (The word is not shown in the archival record.) This charge then led University President James Fletcher and the Institutional Council to meet about his employment after also receiving letters from the community and from the chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee of the Utah State Legislature. After meeting in September 1970, President Fletcher mailed a suspension letter to Mr. Gordon asking that he resign based on the following reasons:
1. The obscenity charge
2. Failure to disclose two “negative” facts concerning his (Victor Gordon’s) personal life
Mr. Gordon refused to resign and appealed the suspension. The obscenity charged was dismissed in October 1970. The facts of his personal life related to the suspension are not indicated in the suspension letter. Clearly these three reasons do not match the criteria at the time: academic training, writing, teaching ability, and administrative ability. As such, the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee along with the Dean of the College of Humanities asked the President to reinstate Mr. Gordon, which he did. He taught for the remainder of the fall session.