The Stanford Graduate School of Business briefly brushed its exposed derrière against the hot stove of controversy recently when it announced plans to hold a conference on academic freedom that would be closed to the media. After a predictable flurry of criticism, organizers decided to livestream the event via Zoom/Youtube “so that everyone can access the conference” (Chronicle of Higher Education, October 24th online).
Sorry, Stanford, but your attempt to shield a conference from public scrutiny pales in comparison to what transpired at Columbia University in 1956. On the evening of March 20th of that year, nearly 100 faculty members attended a secret comedy revue in the basement of Low Memorial Library. The revue consisted of satirical skits in which professors portrayed specific Columbia undergraduates whom they intensely disliked.
The depictions were merciless and cruel. Hayden Krusp, a first-year assistant professor of Romance Languages, was in the audience, and he was appalled. He informed the school’s Human Resources Department of his concerns, and the ensuing investigation resulted in 14 tenured Columbia professors being summarily fired on April 24th for “moral turpitude.”
On April 27th Hayden Krusp disappeared, shortly after he finished teaching his weekly honors seminar. No one has seen him since.
The case finally broke on February 18th, 1984 during an interview with a Mob hitman imprisoned at a maximum-security correctional facility near Florence, Colorado.
Sonny “The Snake” DeMitro, serving consecutive life sentences for the murder of three members of the Zamboni crime family in Bayonne, New Jersey, revealed to his biographer that he had carried out a contract on a professor at an Ivy League school in New York City in the mid-1950s.
According to DeMitro, “this guy had spilled the beans on some secret faculty ritual, and we were contacted by the Chairman of Columbia’s Faculty Senate. They wanted to send a message to everyone at the institution that snitching was frowned upon.
“We had done a lot of work for Ivy League schools in the past; they pay really well. But I gotta admit, when we snatched up Krusp as he headed back to his office that day, I was surprised. Such a sweet kid! There was no whining or begging when we told him what was going to happen. Absolutely none. I hate it when they whine; deans and provosts are the worst. For the love of God, just take it like a man!
“Hell, I can still recall him smiling at us as we were tying him to a cinder block, getting ready to toss him in the Hudson. It was a Friday night, and he says to me, ‘hope you have a nice weekend’. Can you believe that? I came close to shedding a few tears. I’ve dumped dozens of guys — and a few dames — in that river over the years, but he’s the only one I ever had second thoughts about.”
Academy Award nominee Timothée Chalamet will portray Hayden Krusp in Scorsese’s film version of this saga, which is due to be released in late 2023.