Controversy of National Defense Education Act

The NDEA includes Title X, Section 1001 (f), a mandate that all beneficiaries of the act complete an affidavit disclaiming belief in the overthrow of the U.S. government. Some in higher education opposed the disclaimer affidavit, as it came to be called, because they said it attempted to control beliefs and as such violated academic freedom. Initially, a small number of institutions (Barnard, Yale, and Princeton) refused to accept funding under the student loan program established by the act because of the affidavit requirement. By 1962, when the disclaimer affidavit was repealed, the number of schools protesting the clause was 153.

After four years of seemingly ineffective protest, the disclaimer requirement was repealed in the Fall of 1962 by President John F. Kennedy who was spurred by an incident extraneous to universities' protests. In particular, following the public disclosure of the case of a National Science Foundation Fellowship recipient who had run into trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee, and had been convicted of contempt of Congress. Kennedy interpreted this case proved the affidavit clause to be ineffective, and, in spite of--rather than because of--protest prior to 1961, the disclaimer requirement was excised.