This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

46 years ago

UB 5 stand up for their rights

In 1963, a year after UB joined the SUNY system, faculty members were asked to sign the Feinberg Certificate stating they were not involved with the Communist Party and were familiar with the Feinberg Law that made it possible for faculty to be dismissed for belonging to organizations considered subversive by the New York State Board of Regents.

Four faculty members felt this limited their academic freedom and infringed upon their First Amendment rights. Professors Harry Keyishian, George Hochfield, Newton Garver and Ralph Maud refused to sign the certificate; poet George Starbuck (pictured here), hired to work in the acquisitions department of the University Libraries, refused to answer a question on his civil service application.

In 1964, with support from other colleagues, the ACLU and the American Association of University Professors, the five took their case to federal court (Keyishian et al. v. Board of Regents) to contest the constitutionality of the Feinberg Law. A year earlier, the House Committee on Un-American Activities had come to Buffalo and subpoenaed UB professor Paul Sporn about his truthfulness in signing the Feinberg Certificate.

In July 1965, New York State eliminated the need for faculty to sign the Feinberg Certificate. However, the Keyishian case continued to be pursued on constitutional grounds and was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966. The court’s decision, on Jan. 23, 1967, found the Feinberg Law unconstitutional.

The UB 5, as they came to be known, had stood up for their rights and the rights of all public employees.

Nathan Tallman, University Archives