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1919: Crisis

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A pivotal event in the history of the U of S has come to be known as “the University crisis of 1919.”  The matter became public on June 28 when the Star announced that four members of faculty had been fired without explanation.  They were Samuel Greenway, Director of Extension; R.D McLaurin; Head of Chemistry; Ira MacKay, Professor of Law; and L.J. Hogg, Head of Physics. All were senior members of faculty with many years of experience.  The affair had started in March of that year when Greenway had accused President Murray of falsifying a report about University finances.  This complaint had been made to the government and not to the Board of Governors.  In early April Council voted 27 to zero “affirming its confidence and loyalty to the President” while four members abstained.  Three of those who abstained plus Greenway were dismissed as the Board put it, “in the best interest of the University.”1

The public and the press clamoured for an explanation.  When one was not forthcoming, calls for a public inquiry were loud and persistent.2   In accordance with the University Act, the Lieutenant Governor assumed the role of Visitor and through the office of the King’s Bench held a series of hearings.  The Visitor’s report was delivered in April of 1920 and vindicated the Board’s decision saying it was “regular, proper and in the best interest of the university.”  The Professors were not protected by tenure but were employed “at the pleasure of the board.”3  Their act of disloyalty was enough to cost them their jobs.

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Related Collections

President’s Office fonds, RG 2001, Series I.


1919a: Judgement of the Visitor.  Miscellaneous Collection, MGM 100. 
1919b: Saskatoon Daily Star, May 1, 1920.  J.E. Murray fonds, MG 61,file B1.
1919c: The University Trouble.   J.E. Murray fonds, MG 61,file B1.


1. Hayden, p. 85-115.
2. Kerr & Hanson, p. 218-223.
3. Judgement of the Visitor, Statutes of the University of Saskatchewan, 1920.

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