rapp-coudert committee

Rapp-Coudert Committee Immediately following the furor over Bertrand Russell and during a period of heightened anti-communism, state legislators in Albany decide to create a joint legislative committee, the Rapp-Coudert Committee (1940-42) to examine the extent of “subversive activities” in the state’s schools and colleges.

The Rapp-Coudert Committee holds private hearings from September 1940 through December 1941. More than five-hundred public college faculty, staff, teachers and students are subpoenaed and interrogated about a wide range of political activities, including Communist party membership. People called before the committee are encouraged to reveal the names of colleagues who also participated in such activities.

The Committee believes that democratic reforms achieved by the College Teachers Union can be used by the Communist party to “capture” CCNY and eventually to impose “democratization” at the Board of Higher Education.

“Now if your dog had rabies you wouldn’t clap him into jail after he had bitten a number of persons—you’d put a bullet into his head, if you had that kind of iron in your blood. It is going to require brutal treatment to handle these teachers….”

-- Frederic Coudert, NY Republican Senator (New York Times, June 3, 1941)

Egleson The first act of the Rapp-Coudert Committee is to subpoena the membership lists, financial reports, and minutes of meetings from the New York Teachers Union and the College Teachers Union.

subpena A subpoena is issued to the College Teachers Union on January 27, 1941.

Mervin Jules Students, mainly members of the American Student Union, are subpoenaed to appear at private hearings of the Rapp-Coudert Committee. They are told to disclose their political activities, name other students, and report on their professors. Students are not allowed to have either their parents or a lawyer present at these hearings.

William Gropper College faculty and staff as well as public school teachers are subpoenaed to appear at private hearings of the committee; they, too, are denied the right to legal counsel. If two informers accuse an individual of Communist party membership, that individual is called to testify in public hearings.