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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, November 30, 2023

Retired history professor returns to teach course on Marxism

History Professor Daniel Mulholland has returned to Tufts as an adjunct professor this semester to teach a history course on Marxism, following his retirement in spring 2014, in order to fill what he perceives as a missing niche in the Department of History.

Mulholland, who began teaching at Tufts in 1968, said that he decided to return to the university to teach the course "HIST 100-50: Historical Marxism" after a student emailed him, asking if the course would be offered again.

“As it happened, the history department was rather depleted in European history courses that were being offered, so they were perfectly happy to have me come back again,” he said.

Mulholland plans to resume his retirement next semester, but he hopes that he can impart some Marxist thought to students in his class this semester, since he believes that Tufts lacks professors who teach Marxism from a historical perspective.

Marxism has evolved into cultural studies,” he said. “People are more interested in Marx in the English department than in the history department.”

According to Beatrice Manz, history professor and chair of the Department of History, many of the professors who specialize in the intellectual history of Europe are on leave this year.

She added that, though it is uncommon for a professor to return to teach a course after having retired, it is not unheard of.

[Mulholland] wanted to come back, and we wanted him back,” Manz said. “Since he used to teach a course on Marxism, it made sense on both sides.”

Manz added that Mulholland’s class on Marxism had developed “a real following” among some students over the course of his long career at Tufts.

Annette Lazzara, the administrator of the Department of History, said students have loved Mulholland at least since she began working for the department in 1990.

In addition to teaching the course on Marx, Mulholland has also taught courses on Russian and German history throughout his four-decade tenure, according the Department of History website.

Mulholland has also been a supporter of campus activism since his arrival at Tufts on Aug. 21, 1968.

“The first thing I saw [when I arrived] was a notice on Ballou Hall that said, ‘We ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more,’ signed by the Tufts Students for a Democratic Society,” Mulholland said.

Mulholland recalled protests by Tufts students and outside organizers over the construction of what is now Lewis Hall, since at the time the university had hired contractors that did not incorporate equal opportunity initiatives into their hiring processes.

Mulholland served as the keynote speaker a year later for a counter-commencement ceremony in 1970, organized by students who did not want to participate in the university-sanctioned commencement.

“The people building this dorm were entirely white,” he said. “[The dorm] was suddenly picketed by an organization comprised of black students from colleges and universities in the Boston area, which brought the building of the dorm to a halt and led to a major crisis and confrontation with the administration. This was part of the backdrop of why the 1970 commencement took place. The university hereafter would have no contracts for buildings that didn’t include equal opportunity.”

According to Mulholland, over half of the senior class boycotted the university's commencement and attended the counter-commencement ceremony that took place the next day. Mulholland had agreed to student requests to speak.

“I made a rather intemperate speech,” he said. “It had to do with education, capitalism, imperialism -- that kind of stuff.”

Mulholland said the counter-commencement was inspired by a series of local, national and international events taking place during that time period, including the Cambodian Campaign during the Vietnam War and the shootings of student protesters at Kent State University, James B. Dudley High School and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

“The incursions into Cambodia and the illegal activities of President [Richard] Nixon and his advisor Henry Kissinger were taking place,” he said. “As a consequence of that and other things, some graduating students decided they didn’t want to go to commencement.”

The 1970 counter-commencement event resurfaced last semester when a Tufts student contacted Mulholland about it this past spring. The student wanted to know how it had taken place, with the intention of staging a counter-commencement or protest of Madeleine Albright, the most recent Commencement speaker who received an honorary degree from the university this spring.

“I told the people who wanted to do something [last spring] that it was a different circumstance now and that if they got up and made a disturbance and fuss, they would probably be more of an annoyance to their neighbors,” he said.

Mulholland said he has watched the student body grow less excitable than it was in the 1960s and '70s, having taught at Tufts and lived next to campus for over 45 years.