Matthew C. EhrlichMar 10, 2022
Dangerous Ideas on Campus
Sex, Conspiracy, and Academic Freedom in the Age of JFK
In 1960, University of Illinois professor Leo Koch wrote a public letter condoning premarital sex. He was fired. Four years later, a professor named Revilo Oliver made white supremacist remarks and claimed there was a massive communist conspiracy. He kept his job.
Matthew Ehrlich revisits the Koch and Oliver cases to look at free speech, the legacy of the 1960s, and debates over sex and politics on campus. The different treatment of the two men marked a fundamental shift in the understanding of academic freedom. Their cases also embodied the stark divide over beliefs and values--a divide that remains today. Ehrlich delves into the issues behind these academic controversies and places the events in the context of a time rarely associated with dissent but in fact a harbinger of the social and political upheavals to come.
An enlightening and entertaining history, Dangerous Ideas on Campus: Sex, Conspiracy, and Academic Freedom in the Age of JFK (University of Illinois Press) illuminates how the university became a battleground for debating America's hot-button issues.
Matthew C. Ehrlich is a professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His books include Kansas City vs. Oakland: The Bitter Sports Rivalry That Defined an Era and Radio Utopia: Postwar Audio Documentary in the Public Interest, winner of the James W. Tankard Book Award.
Tom Discenna is Professor of Communication at Oakland University whose work examines issues of academic labor and communicative labor more broadly.