By Alex Vavoulis
The Slow Death of Fresno State, written by Professor Kenneth Seib of the Fresno State College English Department in 1979, is a tribute to the people who joined the struggle for a better college community and a more enlightened society in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. This e-book provides an authoritative account of their struggle. The Fresno Free College Foundation’s (FFCF) board and its executive director are to be commended for having the wisdom to publish this e-book version, for the issues it raises as are relevant today as they were almost 50 years ago.
The FFCF was formed in August 1968, in response to the firing of the poet Robert Mezey, who was a member of the Fresno State English Department. In violation of his academic freedom and constitutional right of free speech, Mezey was denied continued employment at the college because of remarks he made on the marijuana laws. The FFCF raised funds to support the Mezey family and to finance his legal challenge to the decision to remove him from the faculty.
As it turned out, the Mezey case was only the first of a series of academic atrocities that occurred on the Fresno State campus during what was clearly a sustained political purge of the campus. Other members of the faculty and many student leaders (particularly minority student leaders) fell victim to reactionary forces both on the campus and in the community. Seib records these events in compelling detail and with penetrating insight into their significance.
When the FFCF was formed, it was preoccupied with pressing issues of academic freedom and academic due process as it attempted to defend Fresno State against those who would suppress critical thinking and the free exchange of ideas on a college campus. The FFCF financed a number of court cases that arose from these events.
But as time passed, it became clear to the Board of the FFCF that the community beyond the campus needed to be educated to those liberal values that nurture the rights of all its members, the expansion of social justice and the vital role of the arts and sciences in the enlightenment of social and political discourse. To contribute to the spread of these values, the FFCF has, among other things, supported the arts, filed amicus briefs in support of human freedom before the Supreme Court, established the listener-supported radio station KFCF and sponsored public forums to nurture critical thinking and the free exchange of ideas.
In the present era, when reactionary forces are hard at work to undermine the liberal ideas that the FFCF champions, the publication of the e-book version of Seib’s The Slow Death of Fresno State could not be more appropriate.
The e-book is available at www.smashwords.com/book/view/255399. Proceeds will benefit FFCF and radio station KFCF 88.1 FM.
Alex Vavoulis is professor emeritus in chemistry at Fresno State. He served as president of the Fresno Free College Foundation from 1972 to 1992 and was a Board member from 1999 to 2011. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.