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Main Address by Helen C. White, Chairman of the University of Wisconsin English Department and President of the American Association of University Professors at Ceremonies Rededicating the Freedom Plaque, Bascom Hall, University of Wisconsin, February 15, 1957

Mrs President, Mrs Governor, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, I want to express my appreciation of the honor you have done the American Association of University Professors in asking its president to speak for the faculty of Wisconsin on this historic occasion. I am proud to remember that President Fred when he became Dean of the Graduate School defined his schedule as forty-nine per cent administration and fifty-one per cent teaching and research that he might maintain his membership in our chapter, and though as always he gave each half of his job what most of us would have considered one hundred per cent attention, his attendance at chapter meetings put the rest of us to shames And Dean Ingraham is not only one of the most distinguished of my predecessors in the presidency of the A.A.U.P., but a friend and counselor on whose never-failing interest and wisdom generations of A.A.U.P. officers, both local and national, have come to depend. This respect of the administration of Wisconsin for its professors is one of the things that has made possible our record of devotion to our common principles, and the continuing reliance of the A.A.U.P. on Wisconsin, in turn, is one of the finest evidences I know of the recognition nationally accorded to the Wisconsin tradition of Academic Freedom.

Dedications and rededications may seem a mere formality to some people, but I think they are a very important thing in family life and in community life, and still more in the life of an institution which partakes to a considerable degree of the character of both, For any real community life is based upon a great many assumptions, usually unvoiced and taken for granted, It is, therefore, a good thing now and then to remind ourselves of some of these principles that we live by that give value and direction to our common life, For it is all too easy to lose sight of them in the routines of day-to-day living, particularly on campus, where the college generations succeed each other so fast that each new undertaking is advertised as the "first annual", and if it survives,the first repetition is established as an "old custom". Under such circumstances there is something peculiarly instructive in the commemorative occasion, especially when it reminds us that this Wisconsin tradition of ours is already more than six decades old.

The "sifting and winnowing" plaque on Bascom Hall was so much a part of the landscape that most of us had ceased really to notice it as we went in and out those crowded doors. Indeed, when it disappeared last fall, there was, you remember, some uncertainty as to when it had gone. That is one of the dangers of something like freedom that is as the very air we breathe. One takes it so much for granted that one ceases to think about it. In that sense, we may even owe some debt to the various currents of suspicion and alarm that from time to time have blown up State Street to our pleasant heights. I remember a legend that was already old when I first came. It is of the professor who, during a famous Investigation of the University, was asked if he had noticed that the figure of Progress on the top of the Capitol dome had her back on Bascom Hall, The questioner mischievously wondered if there was perhaps something disparaging in that sculptural orientation.

"Thank God," said the old-timer, "there is one pair of eyes in Wisconsin that is not fixed on the University!"

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