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George E. Starbuck and the Feinberg Law

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Fifty years ago this academic year, U.B. library employee and noted poet George E. Starbuck began, with others, a long legal battle against the New York State “Feinberg Law” of 1949 that ultimately led to the Keyishian v. Board of Regents case and a Supreme Court ruling against the law in 1967. See the Finding Aid for the Richard Lipsitz Papers, 1964-1967 for more information.

The article below first appeared in the UB Spectrum on February 14, 1964.

George-E-Starbuck Court Grants Injunction To George E. Starbuck


Mr. George E. Starbuck, noted poet, instructor of English and member of the UB library administration since October 1, 1963 is confronted with the possibility of dismissal from his position and ousting from the State University system because he chose to respond to one question on a Civil Service employment form with his own query rather than the customary “yes” or “no”.

The question is worded as follows: “Have you ever advised or taught, or were you ever a member of any society or group of persons which taught or advocated the doctrine that the Government of the United States or any political subdivisions thereof should be overthrown or overturned by force, violence, or any unlawful means?” It is part of the questionnaire administered, theoretically, to all state employees (although investigation by Mr. Starbuck has indicated that SOME not ALL new employees of UB hired since the state takeover have been requested to do so.) and is accepted as a legal matter of form in the hiring process, despite the fact that research by Mr. Starbuck and his lawyer, Mr. Richard Lipsitz, have failed to uncover any reference to the same in the state laws, codes or ordinances. Completion and acceptance of the form has also been thought to be a condition for employment, while, in fact, Mr. Starbuck has been on contract since last fall.

The poet’s answer to the question above entailed the following ideas: “I prefer not to answer, at least until the pertinence and necessity of such a question are properly explained to me.” The expected reaction of the university was a call for a hearing as guaranteed by the rules of the Board of Regents and Board of Trustees of the State University.

Instead, however, he was notified by the university of his dismissal as of Feb. 7, 1964. Mr. Starbuck appealed to Federal Court, where Judge John O. Henderson and the court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state from firing him, and postponing the hearing and decision until March 2.

“The issue concerned, as in the Feinberg case, is not whether or not a faculty member has Communist or Fascist leanings, but to what extent our Constitutional right to free discussion and opinion can be abridged without its being part of our political system in name only,” stated a campus official.

Mr. Starbuck as the plaintiff in the impending case, charges, in reference to the Civil Service form question the words “advised” was vague, and “ever” questioned “beyond the right of legitimate inquiry.” Defendants in the case have been listed as The Board of Regents of the State university, the Board of Trustees of U.B., President Clifford C. Furnas and J.L. Murray, head of the State University system. The plaintiff has also charged violation of the First and Fourteenth Constitutional Amendments as well as a a breach of contract.

A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters grant in recognition of his outstanding writing, Mr. Starbuck is well known in literary circles.

— UB Spectrum, February 14, 1964

New Digital Collection – Prominent Visitors to Buffalo and UB

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University Archives is pleased to announce a new digital collection: Prominent Visitors to Buffalo.  This collection chronicles many of the politicians, authors, musicians, and activists that visited Buffalo as well as UB. Documentation from the Archives includes photographs, coverage of events from the UB Spectrum student newspaper, and related ephemera.  Speakers include Muhammad Ali, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard M. Nixon, and Lyndon B. Johnson.  Additional visitors and content are regularly added to the collection.  A portion of these images are available for purchase from the UB Libraries Store

Ali_2280_26Muhammad Ali

In December 1967, Students for a Democratic Society, The Resistance, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee invited Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) to speak at the University at Buffalo.  Ali appeared in Buffalo during the time of his resistance to the Vietnam draft.  Before he spoke, he requested that antiwar signs be removed from the room, explaining that he was not in Buffalo “to promote any demonstration or support any groups fighting the draft.”  Ali answered questions from students on the proposed 1968 Olympic Games boycott, his toughest fights, and President Johnson.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader spoke at Clark Gym on the first Earth Day in 1970.  Sponsored by the Student Association, Nader had an audience of over 4,500.  The UB Spectrum reported, “Nader addressed himself to the problems of pollution and industrial violence while criticizing the major corporations, various legislatures and government regulatory agencies for carrying it out against the public.”

Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy drew a large and enthusiastic crowd during his visit to campus in the fall of 1964, speaking from the terrace of Norton Union (now Squire Hall). Kennedy was campaigning for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Kenneth Keating, who also visited campus that fall. Kennedy went on to win the election and was New York’s junior senator at the time of his death in 1968. Additional images are from RFK’s appearance at the Buffalo Model City Conference at City Hall in 1967.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s 1967 speech at Kleinhans Music Hall was entitled “The Future of Integration” and called for a “massive action program” to end an economic depression and suggested a $40-billion federal program over a two year period to wipe out slums and poverty in the United States. The UB Spectrum reported that Dr. King “castigated the national administration that is more concerned with an unjust war in Vietnam than with winning the war on poverty.”  Dr. King’s visit was sponsored by the University at Buffalo Student Association and Graduate Student Association. The collection includes audio of the speech, photographs of the event, and coverage from the  Spectrum.

LBJ_1377_29-1024x671Lyndon Johnson

President Lyndon Baines Johnson visited Buffalo on August 19, 1966.  Held outside City Hall on Niagara Square, Johnson’s speech centered on cleaning up pollution in Lake Erie and the Buffalo River.  He was accompanied by First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson.  Other speakers at the event included Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and Buffalo Mayor Frank A. Sedita.

Richard Nixon

20,000 people attended a Richard Nixon campaign rally at Memorial Auditorium on October 7, 1968.  Also in attendance were First Lady Pat Nixon, Bandleader Lionel Hampton (who sang the National anthem), Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, and New York Senators Jacob J. Javits and Charles E. Goodell.  The visit was marked by over 200 protesters, calling themselves “The United Front Against Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace.”  The demonstration was a coordinated effort of 5 student groups: Students for a Democratic Society, Peace and Freedom Party, Buffalo Draft Resistance Union, Youth Against War and Fascism, and a peace group from Canisius College.

Thanks to Kris Miller and Stacy Person of the UB Libraries Digital Team for getting this collection up quickly.  And a special thanks to Joe Patton, Archives graduate assistant for digitizing the images.

View Prominent Visitors to Buffalo

Purchase Select Images at the UB Libraries Store.



Card Playing is Not Allowed in the Main Floor Lounge

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UB did not have residence halls until 1953; before then, students lived in private homes near campus.  Schoellkopf Hall was the first dorm, followed by Cooke, Michael, and Goodyear.  In the 1950s, men and women lived in separate halls and abided by strict rules, some of which (along with helpful hints for dorm living) are listed below:

  1. Dungarees and shorts are allowed in the main lounge and in Norton on Saturday, but not on Sunday.
  2. Musical instruments in rooms may be played only between the hours of 4:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M.
  3. Card playing is restricted to the recreation room and basement lounge.  It is not allowed in the main floor lounge.
  4. The basement lounge is the place to go and relax.  Here you will find the piano, card tables, and television set.  This room is for men only except on special occasions.
  5. You know about the unpopularity of people who do their laundry in the bathroom, so you will join the laundresses in the basement when the wash must be done.
  6. Dating is, of course, an important part of college life.  You are permitted to date every night, but weekdays are usually confined to informal coffee, coke, and study dates.
  7. Hair may be worn in pin curls covered with a scarf in Norton every day only if it looks neat.  Slacks, bermudas and peddle pushers are allowed in Norton on Sundays if they look neat.
  8. When answering the telephone, if already in PJ’s, put on a coat and shoes; and if hair is set, wear a scarf.
  9. Decorating your room is fun and gives you an opportunity to use your ingenuity.  All the rooms are painted in pastel colors — pale blue, orchid, light green, and maize.
  10. Residents are to have beds made and rooms in presentable order by noon of each day.

Source: Life in a Dorm, circa 1955.  Catalogs and Handbooks, 3/0/00-7, Box 1.