To the Editors:
Edward Dahlberg, adjunct professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts, was notified recently that he would not be rehired for the coming academic year. We, the undersigned students, feel that the announcement, totally unprepared for and handled in a thoroughly arbitrary manner, is a direct assault upon the artistic and academic standards of the embryonic writing division of the School of the Arts.
One would assume that the requisites for teaching in the writing school would be the same as in any other faculty of learning; a humane and subtle intellect dedicated to the informing of the subject; and a talent for awakening the senses of the students. We, the majority of the students in Mr. Dahlberg’s class, honor him as such a teacher. When we demanded to know from Mr. Davidson Taylor, Director of the School of the Arts, the reasons for Mr. Dahlberg’s dismissal, we were informed that the quality of his teaching ability was not questioned and that he was admired by both Mr. Taylor and other faculty members. We then confronted Mr. Frank MacShane, chairman of the Writing Department, who is Professor Dahlberg’s biographer. He also refused to give any reason for the decision not to rehire Mr. Dahlberg. The reasons for the dismissal we later learned issued from personal disputation between Professor Dahlberg and Mr. MacShane, that had no connection with the School of the Arts or the writing division. We were not informed how this private disputation altered the quality of Professor Dahlberg’s lectures, the robust sense of his advice, his sensual intelligence, or his fine example as a professional and humane scholar and artist.
Several of us have left the program because of the termination of Professor Dahlberg’s contract; and the others are planning to remain while Professor Dahlberg is still teaching. We plan to meet weekly with him and expect to continue to profit from his formidable genius and knowledge and sometimes (even) charming personality.
New York City
A Clear Position May 9, 1968