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Mulford Quickert Sibley papers

Identifier: ua-00490

Scope and Content

This collection consists almost entirely of material pertaining the issue of academic freedom, which was initially brought to question as a result of a letter Mulford Sibley wrote to the Minnesota Daily, December 3, 1963. In the letter, he stated, "Personally, I should like to see on campus one or two Communist professors, a chapter of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, a society for the promotion of free love, a League for the Overthrow of Government by Jeffersonian Violence (LOGJV), an anti-automation league, and perhaps a nudist club".

As a result of the letter, St. Paul Public Works Commissioner, Milton Rosen demanded that the University fire Professor Sibley. A now famous debate was held between Rosen and Sibley on January 8, 1964 in Coffman Memorial Union on the issue of academic freedom. The papers contain numerous references to the Sibley-Rosen debate.

Sibley and Sociology Professor Arnold Rose also came under attack by members of a group called Christian Research Inc. One member of this group distributed a copy of a circular to the Anoka County Board of Commissioners asking them to stop an Anoka County Library lecture series on communism at which both Sibley and Rose were asked to speak. As a result, Arnold Rose brought a lawsuit against members of the Christian Research Inc. A letter from Professor Rose to President O. Meredith Wilson, dated December 23, 1963, describes the events leading up to the lawsuit. (Folder 10)

In response to criticism of the University by various groups such as the American Legion and individuals including Milton Rosen, on December 14, 1963 the Board of Regents issued a statement on academic freedom entitled "Freedom and the University". The statement was sent to members of the Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and the Association of American Universities as well as to private citizens. Letters of response to the Statement are included in Folders 8-9.

The Senate Education Committee conducted an investigation as an outgrowth of the demands by Milton Rosen and various veterans groups to fire Mulford Sibley. Its purpose was to examine the hiring and firing practices of the University and the "lack of standards of conduct, responsibility and management at the University". (Folders 4-6)

Another debate on disarmament that became controversial, was one scheduled between Sibley and Peter Reiss, a member of the John Birch Society. Sponsored by the student organization Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the debate was banned by Edmund G. Williamson, the Dean of Students, because it was scheduled on May 18, 1964, a day before the Senate Education Committee was to meet. Williamson felt that the debate might be interpreted by the Committee as an affront to its work. The Senate Committee on Student Affairs reviewed the decision and reversed Williamson's veto, upholding the University's speakers policy. President Wilson, however, upheld Williamson's decision by postponing the debate. Students held a rally on May 15th protesting the postponement, and the debate was held off campus on the scheduled date. (Folder 7)

As a result of these controversies, many individual citizens wrote letters to the Board of Regents and the University administration expressing their opinions about Sibley and his views. The University, being very sensitive to these issues, kept a tally of the letters and newspaper editorials, written around the state. This tally can be found in the collection, along with the letters and editorials. (Folders 11-14)

In addition to the material on academic freedom, there is one folder of Sibley's personal papers and correspondence. (Folder 1) Notes, which consisted of quotes from the newspaper articles and correspondence, were discarded.

In the 2014 accession the papers expanded to include reprints, bibliographies, sermons and pamphlets primarily concerned with the subject of pacifism, incluiding the modern history of pacifism, pacifism and religion, pacifism and philosophy, and pacifism as a factor in politics. There is also a privately published history of the University of Minnesota's department of political science authored by Charles MacLaughlin.


  • Creation: 1940, 1942, 1948, 1953-1968, 1982-1990


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Mulford Q. Sibley (1912-1989)

Mulford Quickert Sibley was born on June 14, 1912 in Malston, Missouri. He received a B.A. degree in 1933 from Central Teachers College in Edmond, Oklahoma, an M.A. from the University of Oklahoma, Norman in 1934, and a Ph.D. in 1938 from the University of Minnesota. After having taught at the University of Illinois from 1938-48, he came to the University of Minnesota as an Associate Professor of Political Science. He retired in 1982 as he neared 70 years of age.

Sibley taught courses on topics ranging from political ideas, to philosophical political theories, to psychic phenomena. Courses Sibley taught over the years include History of Political Ideas, Political Theory and Utopia, Introduction to Psychical Phenomena, Comparative Government, Socialist Theory, and Religion in the United States. An ardent pacifist, socialist, and Quaker, Sibley's strong values guided his teaching style and social involvement. His signature was a red tie "to remind himself and others of his solidarity with the working class and the socialist movement." The color also represents the 'common blood that flows through the veins of all people regardless of power, wealth, or station in life.'

Sibley's Conscription of Conscience, co-authored with Philip E. Jacob, won the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation prize in 1953 for the "best book contributing to an understanding of the relation of government to human welfare." Conscription of Consciencewas a study conducted on American conscientious objectors during World War II. He was the Rockefeller Fellow in Political Philosophy (1959-1960), a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (1960) and was awarded the Minnesota College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Teacher Award in 1961. Sibley was a visiting professor at Stanford (1957-1958), Cornell University (1962-1963), and the State University of New York at Binghamton (1967-1968).

Sibley was a member of many professional organizations including the American Political Science Association, American Studies Association, American Association for Advancement of Science, British Society for Psychical Research, and American Society for Psychical Research.

Mulford Sibley died on April 19, 1989 at the age of 76.


0.6 Cubic Feet (3 hollingers)


This collection contains the papers of Mulford Q. Sibley, professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Source of acquisition

This collection was pulled from the President's Papers and Central Files. Additionally, in 1975 Martin G. Pierce deposited 5 inches of newspaper clippings, which have been interfiled either in the Collection or in the appropriate biography files. In addition, material found in the American Studies records pertaining to Mulford Sibley have been added to the collection. Pamphlets and reprints were donated to the collection in 2014 by Professor Donald Irish.

Related Materials in University Archives

University of Minnesota. Academic Freedom and Responsibility Committee papers

University of Minnesota. Department of Political Science papers

Inventory of the Mulford Quickert Sibley papers, 1940, 1942, 1948, 1953-1968, 1982-1990
Karen Klinkenberg; updated by Karen Spilman; updated by Susan Hoffman
Nov 1996; updated April 2004; updated February 2008; updated July, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

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