Why Did Alan Chadwick Leave Santa Cruz?
An Untold Chapter in Alan Chadwick’s History
One of the difficult questions in Alan Chadwick’s history centers around the complicated circumstances of his departure from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he built the first and perhaps finest of his teaching gardens. This project brought great notoriety and attention to the newly opened campus, which commenced operations in September 1965, just a year and a half ahead of Alan’s arrival. Between 1968 and 1971 the Santa Cruz Garden became known far and wide in the world of organic and bio-dynamic gardening as a truly extraordinary horticultural phenomenon. It was celebrated as a place of remarkable distinction and beauty, receiving major accolades and holding bright prospects for future expansion. What would cause Alan Chadwick to abandon such a stellar triumph and leave behind all his promising plans and grand vision of an even larger project?
The full answer to this complex and inadequately explored question is still hidden beneath a confusion of campus political intrigue, backroom administrative maneuvers, strong opposition forces and outright betrayal by one of Chadwick’s longtime apprentices who brashly challenged his garden master’s authority. While many of the details of this episode can be reconstructed from available sources, other remaining gaps in this part of Chadwick’s history require further analysis in order to be properly understood.
At present certain information that could shed light on several of these lingering questions is currently not obtainable, either having gone to the grave with various officials who were directly involved, or has been kept inaccessible to the public by the different parties in charge of Alan Chadwick’s archival records. For example, the University of California at Santa Cruz has declined to release any copies of Chadwick’s personnel files from the university archives. Likewise a further problem stems from the UCSC Oral History Project, which was largely limited to insider interviews. These tend to evade or give only one side of the story behind Chadwick’s departure, obscuring critical facts with misleading accounts and, in some cases, inaccurate information.
Alan Chadwick was officially fired from the University sometime around January 1972 by Elizabeth Penaat, assistant to Vice-Chancellor Harold Hyde. In the last chapter of Harold Hyde’s Oral History interview from 2001, Hyde discusses Chadwick’s involvement at UCSC, including his eventual firing. Hyde, a former military officer and career administrator, displays a fairly admiring appreciation of Chadwick’s colorful character and artistic accomplishments but was mostly detached from the general operations of the Garden Project itself, and therefore chooses to take a somewhat aloof and dismissive attitude when questioned on the more pointed topics of that period. His guarded manner and reticence on the specific question of Chadwick’s firing is particularly telling in respect to the aura of shadowy intrigue that still hangs over that rather disgraceful and unbecoming episode. Hyde’s interview is a good starting point for revisiting and investigating what happened back then.
Harold Hyde’s Account of Alan Chadwick
Harold A. Hyde was the founding Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance at UCSC. Because Alan Chadwick was not part of the faculty or any academically-related program at the University, he reported directly to Hyde's office as did other departments of the non-teaching staff. Lacking the time to personally handle Chadwick's various administrative issues pertaining to the operations of the Student Garden Project, Hyde delegated the supervision of these matters in general to his assistant, Elizabeth Penaat. She was able to win Chadwick's confidence and, for the most part, carry on a smooth and productive professional relationship with him. Due to her key administrative role in this connection, the University of California website now gives her a notable slice of credit for facilitating the development of the Farm and Garden:
“During a 17-year tenure at UCSC that ended with her retirement in 1981, Penaat helped start the campus's building, business, budget, computing, personnel, accounting, housing, and public-safety activities. She was also instrumental in the development of the campus's Farm & Garden. "Alan Chadwick, a charismatic organic gardener, had started a four-acre garden and on-campus farm using the French intensive method of cultivation," Hyde remembered. "Chadwick hated bureaucrats and reporting to anyone, but Elizabeth managed to gain his trust and cooperation and advance the project. These activities have evolved into the campus's Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.” (Ref. 1)
Since Elizabeth Penaat was the one who ultimately fired Chadwick at the beginning of 1972 under very suspicious circumstances, it now seems ironic for her to be highlighted as so prominent a figure in the enduring legacy of that charismatic and creative gardener.
Harold Hyde was interviewed as part of an Oral History Project organized by the UCSC library in 2001 and 2002. The interviewer, Randall Jarrell, asks Hyde about many of the programs that he supervised during his tenure at the university in the early days of UCSC, including the Garden Project led by Alan Chadwick.
The following excerpts are from the section “Alan Chadwick and the UCSC Farm and Garden Project,” pages 164-168 from “Harold A. Hyde: recollections of Santa Cruz County / interviewed and edited by Randell Jarrell.” The full oral history interview can be found here: http://digitalcollections.ucsc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p265101coll13/id/3676.
Note: A footnote number in the text of Hyde’s statements indicates that a clarifying editorial comment follows on that subject.
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Jarrell: When we were chatting last week you referred to Alan Chadwick as a kind of Pied Piper. I thought that would be a good way to start talking about him.
Hyde: Yes, another project that developed in the 1970s (1) was the arrival of Alan Chadwick at UC Santa Cruz.
(1) Hyde here mistakenly dates the arrival of Alan Chadwick at UC Santa Cruz to the decade of the 1970’s, whereas Alan actually arrived on March 1, 1967.
Hyde: My recollection is that Page Smith was the contact and Page and Eloise Smith saw Alan as growing flowers and vegetables on the campus and teaching students and adding to the quality of life at Cowell College. Paul Lee, an assistant professor, was also very much involved. Jasper Rose also cheered him on. I’m not sure whether Jasper had some early ties in England to the man. Jasper enjoyed English gardens and all of the flowers.
Alan was fiftyish. He was gaunt, sun-tanned, had blonde cropped hair, and always wore clean, but well-worn British shorts, and stockings below his shorts and high leather boots… He was a charismatic character who immediately won everyone over. His project was turning a piece of hillside into a garden and he kind of staked out just below Crown-Merrill College a huge, but well-hidden area . . . Below this on a sloping hillside were four acres, originally a mixture of trees and chaparral that Alan deemed was just right for his project, and he set about his task. Loosely affiliated with Cowell/Stevenson College, with kind of the amused blessing of Kenneth Thimann, whose Crown College provost home was close by. (2) Alan was hard to pin down as far as whom he was reporting to.
(2) Hyde states that Alan had the “amused blessing of Kenneth Thimann.” This mildly sarcastic characterization is presumably meant to be politely evasive, but it decidedly is not correct. Thimann had become an adamant opponent of Chadwick and the organic garden project he created. As Phyllis Norris, a prominent faculty wife and longtime champion of both the campus arboretum and the Friends of the Farm and Garden, explains in her own Oral History interview from 2001:
“The aura of Alan Chadwick hung over things for quite a long time. We didn't use the word "organic" because it had a bad name. You talked about "sustainable." You still talk about sustainable. We had Kenneth Thimann, who was a friend of mine and very important to the Arboretum, but he, as a die-hard botanist and physiologist and researcher, I understand, although I never talked to him about it, that he just could hardly stand the thought of Alan Chadwick.” (Ref. 2)
Paul Lee, in his book, There is a Garden in the Mind: Alan Chadwick and the Origins of the Organic Movement in California, speaks extensively about the antagonism between Chadwick and Thimann. Additionally, Richard Wilson, in an interview with the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley says,
“[Kenneth] Thimann who was their Nobel man [a botanist], was furious with Alan talking about plants and no pesticides, and solutions. Thimann's wife was in Alan's garden and that had caused a big uproar in his family.”
Hyde: … He was kind of a Pied Piper who was a very interesting, charismatic gentleman, and he started growing flowers. He had specific rules and opinions and methods he believed in and touted the French intensive method as he called the growing of plants and flowers, sometimes called double-spaded beds, raised beds, natural manure, fertilizer, working it into the soil. Horses were okay. No machines, no rototillers. It was all by hard work, spade work, hand watering, hoses and pipes okay, all organic, no sprays. That was what he did. He was personally almost like a slave driver to willing students and apprentices. (3) He kind of hopped around and was everywhere in the garden and it all worked. There were soon arm loads of flowers being delivered all over campus by beaming, bright young people. But this was just the start.
(3) Hyde characterizes Alan Chadwick as “almost like a slave driver to willing students and apprentices.” This is a self-contradictory statement because slaves are, by definition, not willing workers. Most likely it was an off-hand and poorly chosen phrase, meant only to evoke the surprising degree of work that was achieved in the garden. It is true that Alan readily inspired his students and apprentices to push themselves beyond their ordinary level of competence and productivity, attaining better results than what an average paid-workman does. But this was entirely a matter of individual freedom. Many volunteers in the garden inevitably took a more relaxed attitude about their commitment to the place, but most worked with an ardent and spirited energy—out of pure exuberance. Alan accepted this as an individual choice. When someone showed up looking for a job, he would typically ask: “heavy or light?” If the person was in the mood for serious physical activity, Alan would put him or her to work double-digging a garden bed. If the worker said, “light,” Alan would assign something easier like weeding, thinning, or harvesting the vegetable crops that were in season.
Alan Chadwick was definitely not a “slave driver” in the negative sense. Hyde obviously was strongly impressed by the powerful motivating forces of enthusiasm in youth, when they are profoundly inspired. In a following sentence, he says,
“There were soon arm-loads of flowers being delivered all over campus by beaming, bright young people.”
This confirms the point: Slaves are rarely beaming and bright in their labors; only people who are joyful and inspired typically appear that way.
Hyde: Administratively, he was a real pain. He wanted undivided attention. His outreach was tremendous and he hated bureaucracies, something I could appreciate, but I was in the role of a bureaucrat and there were other, more important campus planning and administrative issues. There was a student-funded A-frame building which was moved from Cowell College to the garden and Elizabeth Penaat gave him an old electric stove that she had at home and soon we found that Alan was kind of camping out and living in this place. Then he began complaining of the problems that his boots were all wet all the time and he was getting fungus in his feet.
Anyway, there were all kinds of interesting things going on. Additional people were needed. Budgets were filled out but it didn’t ever mean very much. Apprentices. There were flower children flocking in from the Haight-Ashbury to Santa Cruz to Big Sur. Some were students and some were not and Alan didn’t care who were students as long as they did the work in the garden. Should students get academic credit? Should there be bathroom facilities? What about non-students? Faculty involvement. Historians and artists growing flowers. It was all pretty interesting. The regular ag people thought this was all very bizarre. (4)
(4) Hyde comments that, “The regular ag people thought this was all very bizarre.” This remark is another notably misleading understatement. Members of the agriculture department at UC Davis, as well as their sympathizers at Santa Cruz were up in arms against the organic methods employed by Alan Chadwick. In another Oral History interview, Paul Lee describes one such attempt to silence Alan’s message:
We got a letter from an agriculturalist emeritus… He wrote to the vice chancellor of agricultural sciences and complained that a cult had fashioned itself, or fixed itself, on a slope here at UCSC. And that they didn’t use scientific procedures, and they should be removed immediately, because what did the University stand for? And the vice chancellor wrote back, “I appreciate and actually concur with what you say, but I think it’s a far greater learning experience for the students to watch things die because they’re not using scientific procedures than to just kick them off.” (Ref. 3)
Huey Johnson, founder of the Nature Conservancy, links the termination of Alan from UCSC with agitations from the faculty at UC Davis who were themselves in the pockets of the agricultural chemical industry. (Ref. 4)
Hyde: What about rototillers? And whenever questions were raised, the questioners were always bought off with arm loads of flowers and later vegetables for the officer to take home. I finally stepped back and delegated most of my responsibility to Elizabeth Penaat, where I got periodic updates. She established a good continuing relationship administratively, and soon along came some young associates, I’m not exactly sure of the relationship. The names I remember particularly were Steve Kaffka and later Beth, who became his wife, and Orin Martin (5) was another one who was involved.
(5) Hyde’s reference to Steve Kaffka as an early associate of Elizabeth Penaat is significant insofar as the two of them turn out to be primary instigators in the ouster of Alan Chadwick. Orin Martin came along later as a close associate of Steve Kaffka’s at the garden and farm project, but only after Chadwick’s departure from the University.
Hyde: … I eventually resigned from the campus. After I resigned Elizabeth Penaat assumed the vice chancellorship and eventually there was a blowup of some kind, which I’ve only heard about secondhand, which involved the question of a student strike that had to do with the supporters of Steve Kaffka, and what he was doing in regularizing things and with Alan who by this time was quite bizarre in his behavior in the garden. I believe that Elizabeth Penaat finally was responsible for terminating Alan. That was not on my watch. (6)
(6) At this point, Harold Hyde is glossing over the facts in an apparent attempt to avoid speaking frankly about an awkward situation. The so-called "blowup" occurred while Hyde was still in charge, so the characterization of his involvement as “second hand” cannot be accepted as altogether correct. He also parrots the one-sided misrepresentation about Alan’s behavior being “bizarre” and a reputed “student strike” against him, which both were ostensible arguments used by a handful of people who had personal motives for wanting Chadwick out of the picture.
By 2001 this 30-year-old incident was indeed an awkward topic for Hyde to speak about, because Alan Chadwick was still widely recognized as a legendary figure and creator of the original showcase gardens at UCSC, while Stephen Kaffka and Elizabeth Penaat had mostly faded into obscurity.
By way of clarification there could be no question of a strike against Alan by “students” per se, because there were very few officially-enrolled students working in the garden. The non-involvement of students was simply a matter of academic demands and the difficulty students always had finding time to work in the garden while keeping up with their course loads. (Steve Kaffka faced the same dynamic later on at the farm project, as he describes in his own oral history interview in 2007). Every day a few students would find an hour or so to cut flowers or participate in some way, but these were casual volunteers, not regular workers.
On the other hand, the group of prospective apprentices who were drawn to Stephen Kaffka and his headstrong challenge of Alan Chadwick’s authority could not legitimately be called a “student strike” either. What actually took place is still subject to debate. Alan had assembled about twenty-five full-time apprentices at that time, and Steve Kaffka had drawn about half of them into what has been termed his “mutiny” in some accounts. The other half was intensely loyal to Alan and spent all their days working on projects that he directed either at the established garden site, or down on the new farm project. The gardens were in truly excellent shape because of the large number of apprentices on hand. Everything was vibrant, healthy and highly productive —equal to or surpassing any previous time of the garden’s history. The morning meetings were attended by about twelve or fifteen apprentices every day, with the only exception being a group of mostly non-students aligned with Steve Kaffka, after he was put in charge of the farm project.
Those who tended to believe the rumor that “Alan was destroying everything that he had created,” as has been unfairly disseminated must have heard only the one-sided version from Kaffka himself or his allies, who all had ulterior reasons to denigrate Chadwick. The truth is that Chadwick’s creation had never been in finer shape. The statement that, “Alan had alienated all his students,” could only be based on obvious misrepresentations, because Chadwick had a very strong cadre of devoted apprentices during that entire time.
The claim that Alan was behaving in a bizarre manner was simply a politically motivated assertion from the Kaffka camp. Seen from a narrow conventional mindset, Alan’s behavior as a free spirit might at any given time have been characterized as bizarre; that is the nature of an artistic temperament. He had not changed. As a firsthand witness and participant, I can attest that Alan was as inspiring and charismatic as always, otherwise how would he have maintained his strong labor force? Also look how many followers joined him at his famous gardens in Covelo. People wouldn’t have stayed around if Chadwick had been as erratic and abusive as Stephen Kaffka claims in his interview, where he says:
“…there was a lot of upset and turmoil around that time. There were a lot of planning meetings, a lot of meetings that went on with the students like Linda Jolly, who was student president at the time. Dan McGuire had left, essentially because of the stress; he couldn’t take it anymore. Students and staff were getting yelled at constantly. University people who had supported [Alan] were constantly criticized.”
Because Kaffka was angling for Chadwick’s job, his opinions must be taken as strongly colored by his adversarial role. His ambition and advancement at that time depended in large measure on portraying his foe in the most negative light possible.
In truth the primary disruption to the general tranquility at that time was with Kaffka himself, who was acting like he was already in charge of the whole garden and farm project. He would arrive every day and start issuing orders to the apprentices like he owned the place. I remember him once making out a schedule of kitchen duty for all of us apprentices in which his own name was conspicuously absent. I wrote in the margin of the schedule that I would not sign up or participate unless Kaffka also took a turn. In a fit of anger, Steve ripped the schedule off the notice board, tearing away my message from the page. But I was adamant, and would not relent until he grudgingly put his name down for a day of kitchen duty like everybody else.
Kaffka behaved basically the same way toward Alan Chadwick, who consistently and naturally reacted to this insubordination as being completely out of line. Ordinarily, Alan would have dismissed Kaffka from the garden altogether, but was apparently constrained from doing so by higher administrative authority. That superimposed aberration in the normal chain of command is partly explained by Stephen Kaffka, when he says in his 2007 interview:
“Anyway, there were a lot of meetings to try to figure out how to get the Farm to start, and somehow tame or calm the mood in the project. We came to the conclusion that I would have responsibility for starting the Farm. My idea was that I would get the Farm started and then we would all work it out and Alan would be back in charge—somehow with time we would all work it out. This was very naïve.”
Those numerous meetings included Elizabeth Penaat who must have told Chadwick that Steve was now reporting directly to her and that Alan no longer had any institutional authority over him. Otherwise Kaffka would have been directly subject to greater discipline or dismissal by Chadwick. This apparent interference in Alan’s authority stands out as a clear indication that certain administrative officials had begun to side with Stephen Kaffka’s efforts to diminish Chadwick’s role. The “we” in the statement, “We came to the conclusion…” indicates how deeply Kaffka had insinuated himself into the university decision-making process by his alliance with Penaat, who presumably got all her information directly from Kaffka.
Naturally Chadwick found this painfully upsetting, and it is not surprising that he would sometimes talk about sailing off to the Seychelles Islands, or some other colorful place away from the University, where he would be free of constant headaches and disruption. Alan had, from the very beginning, occasionally vented his aggravations by envisioning idyllic far off paradises. Kaffka states in his interview that these alternative considerations were, in fact, his justification for launching his mutiny, but they might just as well be seen as Alan’s natural and understandable expression of frustration as a result of Steve’s usurpation of power within the University, making the situation insupportable for Alan.
Stephen Kaffka also claims in his 2007 Oral History interview that he had to oppose Alan because he wanted the farm project to get underway, contending that it would not have succeeded without his interference. But that is another misleading assertion born out of Stephen’s innate conflict of interest, his personal ambition and skewed perspective. The farm was already moving ahead rapidly. Fences were under construction, trees being planted, paths being created, plants were being purchased, and greenhouses dismantled for recycling. Alan had also drawn up a detailed master plan for the development of the entire fifteen acre farm site.
Another aspect to consider is the role of Kenneth Thimann in this conflict. Although Harold Hyde prefers to downplay Thimann’s involvement, the biology professor and Provost of Crown College had all along been actively opposed to Alan Chadwick, and it is unlikely that Chadwick could have been supplanted without his participation. The Chancellor had been a strong supporter of Alan’s right from the beginning. Without a concerted effort by Thimann and his allies in the science faculty, the Chancellor probably would not have allowed Elizabeth Penaat to fire Alan. Whether Thimann had any special role in the meetings between her and Kaffka, or whether Kaffka was himself a go-between, we cannot say for certain. But Thimann became Kaffka’s special mentor and role model later on, as he mentions in his oral history interview of 2007:
“I carried out the first research project ever at the Farm, or the Garden, as a senior thesis, with Kenneth Thimann being my mentor. …Thimann was a wonderful gentleman. He was a great guy.”
So it is not unreasonable to assume that Kaffka was sympathetic to Thimann’s dislike of Chadwick, insofar as that complemented his own objectives. It is clear in the statements quoted earlier from Phyllis Norris and others that the Science people definitely wanted Chadwick gone.
Given that Stephen Kaffka’s behavior was thoroughly disruptive and Alan Chadwick had obviously been prevented from dismissing Kaffka from the garden and farm projects, it is understandable that Alan would not simply be passively acquiescent. Rather, there were many heated confrontations between Alan and Steve. If this is the “bizarre” behavior that Hyde is alluding to in this interview, then it is important to realize that it was largely provoked by Stephen Kaffka himself. Kaffka was in no way “regularizing” the situation in the garden, as Hyde implies; on the contrary he was actively engaged in a deliberate personal crusade that caused significant turmoil and disruption in its wake. While he might very well have been representing himself to the University administrators as the rational peace-maker, the opposite image was the one seen by those of us who were working loyally with Alan Chadwick at the time.
Because the personnel department at UCSC has declined to allow anyone to examine Alan Chadwick’s employment file, which might shed some further light on the events of that time, we do not yet know the whole truth. But until further details emerge, one should not simply accept uncritically any of the one-sided versions as presented by Stephen Kaffka or officials who aided in that crudely implemented takeover.
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To recapitulate some of the key statements above, Harold Hyde says that the decision to fire Alan from the University—in January 1972—happened after he had left employment there.
“… There was a blowup of some kind, which I’ve only heard about secondhand… I believe that Elizabeth Penaat finally was responsible for terminating Alan. That was not on my watch.”
If that were true, then it does not coincide with Randall Jarrell’s 2002 introduction to Harold Hyde’s oral history interview, where she says that Hyde served as Vice Chancellor until 1975—three years after Chadwick’s firing.
“Founding UCSC Chancellor Dean E. McHenry appointed [Hyde] as the campus’s founding Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance in 1964 where he served until 1975.” (Ref. 5)
Or this information provided on the UCSC Library website:
“Hyde held the vice chancellor position from 1964 to 1975, a period in which the campus grew from no students and some decaying ranch buildings to an enrollment of 5,600 students with modern classrooms, laboratories, residence halls, playing fields, performing arts theaters, and administrative buildings, including those for the Lick Observatory.” (Ref. 6)
Or information on the University of California news announcement about Penaat’s death in 2002, where we are told that she took over from Harold Hyde in 1975.
“[Elizabeth Penaat was] named vice chancellor for operations and employee affairs at UCSC in 1975…” (Ref. 7)
One way to account for these discrepancies is to accept the fact that Harold Hyde was being evasive when he states that Alan’s termination was not on his “watch.” Not only did Elizabeth Penaat fire Alan while Hyde was still Vice Chancellor, but Hyde himself must have personally approved the termination. Not only was he the chief authority in charge of approving matters of that kind, he would have been the one whose duty it was to ensure that his close friend and colleague, Chancellor Dean McHenry, was in agreement as well.
McHenry had been a defender of Alan’s and a champion for the Garden Project since its inception in 1967. It is altogether unlikely he would have allowed Chadwick to be fired without his knowledge or consent in the matter. At the same time he was undoubtedly coming under increasing pressure from Thimann and his supporters to get rid of Chadwick, and he probably reached the point where that pressure could no longer be simply brushed aside. Vice Chancellor Hyde by virtue of his office would naturally have been deeply involved in this process, and it is implausible that Hyde could have just forgotten all about that incident. He appears instead to have avoided the truth, because he was in all probability uncomfortable answering questions about Chadwick’s firing. There is strong reason to believe that by 2001 he now recognized the events of 1971 to have been a largely disreputable mishandling of the situation and a callous abuse of one of the pioneering icons of the university’s formative years.
Jarrell: What was the relationship between Chadwick and [Chancellor] McHenry like?
Hyde: McHenry liked the flowers, thought this was a wonderful thing for students to be doing, to be working with their hands in the soil. It was reminiscent of McHenry’s own boyhood in Lompoc on a farm and his own continuing interest in his place in Bonny Doon. McHenry really appreciated this relationship of people to the land. Chadwick was a charmer, but we sometimes talked about how he was hard to manage. But Dean was willing to put up with him because the results were so good. The whole program has grown now into agroecology and sustainable food supply. The campus and I should be really proud of that particular thing. I guess I’ll end by saying that every morning I ride my bike near my home where there’s a large organic farm called Blue Heron Farms, founded by one of the people who was involved, and it’s been a great alternative success in growing foodstuffs, preserving the land, the organic movement. I share with pride this extraordinary enterprise, but I chuckle a little about how it all got started. (7) It had very modest and non-traditional beginnings, but it has now evolved into a very serious agroecology, academic component.
(7) Hyde proudly embraces his role in establishing the agroecology program. “I share with pride this extraordinary enterprise,” he says, adding that it has evolved into a very serious and productive academic department. Understandably, Hyde gladly joins in to accept some of the credit for what Alan Chadwick so famously created at UCSC. He can even “chuckle a little about how it all got started,” as if the cavalier disposal of Alan Chadwick along the way were now just an amusing footnote and faded memory from the distant past of UCSC’s origins and not an instance of rank injustice and ungrateful mistreatment.
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In conclusion, the following picture is probably the most plausible scenario of what likely occurred behind the scenes in connection with Alan Chadwick’s termination at UCSC:
- Professor Thimann, in collaboration with the prominent chemical agriculture interests at UC Davis, prodded Chancellor McHenry on Chadwick’s incompatibility with the university’s academic program, steadily urging McHenry to take measures to terminate Alan’s employment.
- In private meetings with Elizabeth Penaat, Steve Kaffka sought to take over the management of the farm project, characterizing Alan Chadwick as no longer fit for the job.
- Penaat gave Kaffka some kind of special employment status, whereby he then reported directly to her and was no longer subject to Alan Chadwick’s supervision. This empowered Steve with a position of impunity from which to challenge Alan’s leadership.
- Given that Alan Chadwick had a sharp temper, Kaffka’s higher status made it feasible to affront and provoke Chadwick, using those angry reactions as a convenient pretext for portraying him as irrational.
- Third parties (possibly including Steve’s future wife, Beth Paget) were on hand to witness these clashes and Chadwick’s subsequent irate responses, which then got reported as “bizarre and erratic behavior” to Penaat. She in turn wrote a letter to Alan citing this as the reason for his dismissal as director of the farm project.
- Harold Hyde accepted Penaat’s and Kaffka’s version and gave approval for the dismissal of Chadwick based upon McHenry’s reluctant agreement.
- When Chadwick failed to resign as a result of this disrespectful treatment, he was ultimately fired. This presumably became necessary in order to both transfer Chadwick’s salary to Kaffka and also fulfill the long-sought objective of Thimann and the science faculty in having Chadwick completely removed.
Kaffka ran the farm and garden projects for about five years before being himself fired from that position. He then re-enrolled at UCSC and studied biology, where Kenneth Thimann was his mentor and thesis advisor. Later, he was accepted into graduate school at Cornell University where he earned his PhD in agriculture. Following graduation from Cornell he obtained a job as an agricultural specialist at UC Davis, which has become his career ever since.
In recognizing the close ties between Kaffka and his mentor, it is not unreasonable to assume that Thimann wrote a letter of support for Kaffka’s graduate school application at Cornell. It is equally likely that Thimann recommended Kaffka for the job at UC Davis. The link between Elizabeth Penaat, Kaffka and Thimann in alliance against Chadwick formed a strong force within the university’s power structure, making it possible to successfully remove Alan from a position in which he had so famously excelled.
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In the interest of accuracy at Alan-Chadwick.org we welcome any verifiable information that might shed further light on these events in Alan Chadwick’s history, either confirming or modifying the analysis above. Any relevant materials can be sent to the email address shown in the “Contact Us” tab at the top of this page.
Since Stephen Kaffka played such a pivotal role in the dismissal of Alan Chadwick from the university, a few months ago we sent a series of questions to Steve on a number of these related points. Any answers from him would significantly help to fill some of the obscure gaps in the details of Chadwick’s history at that time. So far no response has been received.
Unless Steve is able to provide insights to the contrary, our best option at this time, given the nature of the evidence available so far, has been to present the conclusions outlined above. However, we remain prepared to modify our understanding of this episode if presented with any factual or persuasive information that would warrant a further reassessment.
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(3). The Early History of UC Santa Cruz’s Farm and Garden, p. 18
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A copy of the email letter sent to Stephen Kaffka, PhD, is reproduced here:
January 3, 2014
Dear Dr. Kaffka,
My name is Greg Haynes. I am the editor of a website dedicated to Alan Chadwick, located at www.alan-chadwick.org. At the moment, I am preparing a commentary on the 2001 Oral History interview given by Harold Hyde, UCSC Vice-Chancellor for Business and Finance. He makes reference to the firing of Alan Chadwick from the University and how that was handled by his former assistant, Elizabeth Penaat. In your own Oral History interview from 2007 you also refer to those events. As I look back, I remember that your relationship with Alan at that time was decidedly strained, while at the same time you seemed to have had unusually strong connections with influential University administrators. Given your key role in the matter, you probably have the most detailed insider information of anyone still alive about the circumstances relating to Alan Chadwick losing his position as Director of the Farm Project and his subsequent ousting from the University.
Since one area of interest of our website is Alan Chadwick’s history, it would be helpful to get a deeper understanding from your point of view of what exactly transpired during the time between the summer of 1971 and when Chadwick left the University early in 1972. If you are willing to share your perspective on various details pertaining to that era, I would be very grateful for whatever insights you might provide.
If undertaken in the spirit of an interview, the following questions represent certain gaps in the overall picture where your firsthand knowledge could shed welcome light on this complex period.
1. In your 2007 interview, you describe a series of meetings that involved you, Elizabeth Penaat and others to discuss the future of the Farm and Garden projects. Can you recall who the other participants were in those meetings and approximately how many were held during that time period? Alan Chadwick apparently was not a participant of those meetings. Was that by his own choice, having declined an invitation, or was he intentionally not included in those sessions? If the latter, who actually made that determination and at what point in time? Could it possibly have been the case that the University administration had already decided to discharge Alan or diminish the scope of his activities prior to these meetings?
2. It was generally known that UCSC Professor of Biochemistry, Kenneth Thimann, held Alan Chadwick in very low regard and had long advocated his removal from the University. Was Thimann a participant in those meetings with Elizabeth Penaat or perhaps a representative of his? Were you possibly acting in that capacity? Did you ever have occasion to discuss Chadwick with Thimann and, if so, did those discussions possibly address any kind of strategy or process for removing Alan from his position as Director of the Farm Project or from the University altogether?
3. I personally witnessed many heated confrontations between you and Alan Chadwick in the fall and winter of 1971. You were clearly challenging his authority in the garden and farm projects, and he responded much like a military officer would toward a defiant subordinate. What were your primary intentions or justifications in confronting Chadwick during those episodes? In provoking him that way, were you acting on your own initiative or were those encounters coordinated by the administrative meetings being held, with you perhaps acting as the emissary? In other words, on what authority were you challenging Alan Chadwick, who for all outward purposes was still the official leader of the Garden and Farm Projects? Did you or anyone else (perhaps your future wife, Beth Paget) report Alan’s legitimate vexation at being accosted this way to Elizabeth Penaat or to any other administrator?
4. Under ordinary circumstances Chadwick would certainly have dismissed you from the Garden Project at this point, since your conduct was both disobedient and upsetting to the regular operations of the garden and the proper solidarity among apprentices. However, he seemed constrained from exercising what would otherwise be his normal authority to remove a disruptive assistant. Can you explain what the nature of your status was with Elizabeth Penaat and the university administration that prevented Alan from removing you from the project? Was he possibly informed that you reported directly to her and that he therefore no longer had any authority over you? You apparently had some unique standing that allowed you to challenge him with impunity. Assuming that to be true, can you recall when that special status first took effect?
5. When you said in your Oral History interview that Alan Chadwick was alienating long-time supporters within the administration, who else were you specifically referring to besides Elizabeth Penaat? If it were the case that she was the primary person responsible for placing you above Alan’s authority, then that action in itself would appear to constitute a major cause for serious estrangement between Alan and her. Can you see how for many of us it might appear that you actively cultivated close ties with administrators so that you could more effectively challenge Chadwick by working from the inside to turn them against him?
6. I am aware that there had been rumblings and demands for Alan Chadwick’s removal made by certain faculty members at UC Davis, where mainstream chemical agriculture was fully established as the dominant teaching. Was this subject mentioned in any of your conversations with Thimann or with Elizabeth Penaat? If so, was it also a factor in Alan’s dismissal or in his prior demotion from the position as Director of the Farm Project?
7. Do you remember the date when it was decided that you would take over as Director of the Farm? Can you say who was responsible for making that determination and who else was consulted or involved in that decision? Do you recall how that was communicated to Alan Chadwick and what reasons were given to him?
8. Can you shed some light on the financial arrangements of that time? Did the decision to take the Farm Director position away from Alan Chadwick affect his salary or other terms of employment? Was a separate budget item created to cover your salary or was it the understanding that Alan’s budgeted salary would be transferred to you? If on the other hand a separate budget item was created, where did the money come from to cover that expense? At what point in the process did you receive your first check, and what was the amount of your salary at that time relative to Alan Chadwick’s?
9. Had you been receiving a salary prior to taking over the farm project? If so, was that still part of Alan Chadwick’s salary that he had transferred to you under the old arrangement with Stephen Decater, Greg Hudson, and Michael Zander that you described in 2007? If some other arrangement had been set up, what was the definition of that position and your pay scale?
10. When you became Director of the Farm, who was designated to be your supervisor, and what was your job description?
11. Elizabeth Penaat has been quoted as saying: “Alan had alienated all his students,” and that “he was destroying everything that he had created.” Would it be accurate to assume that those representations came from you? If so, can you explain in what way you considered Chadwick to be destroying everything he had created? These statements appear to be unfair exaggerations. There were approximately as many loyalists to Alan as there were those willing to follow you (or simply attracted to the new farm project irrespective of who was in charge).
12. Was Vice-Chancellor Harold Hyde involved in any of the meetings with you and Elizabeth Penaat or in any other aspect of Alan Chadwick’s demotion from the Farm directorship? If not, did you have any other outside talks with him about that situation?
13. The Chancellor, Dean McHenry, had been a staunch supporter of Alan Chadwick and all his accomplishments at the Garden Project for over four years. At what point did he agree to Alan’s demotion as Director of the Farm? Did you have any direct contact with him on this matter? If so, how would you describe your interaction with Chancellor McHenry?
14. Later, after you yourself were dismissed from the job as Director of the Garden and Farm, you spent some time again as a student at UCSC. You have described how Kenneth Thimann was your mentor and thesis supervisor at that time. When you subsequently applied to graduate school at Cornell University, did Thimann write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, either to Cornell or to any other university? After graduating from Cornell with your PhD, you applied for and received an appointment at UC Davis where you have continued to work during your academic career. Did Thimann write a recommendation on behalf of your job application to UC Davis?
15. Despite your assertion that you acted out of a selfless dedication to the development of the Farm Project, there are elements in the role you played at that time that give the impression of personal ambition as well as possibly some degree of hostility. Since for three years Alan was your mentor and benefactor, a man who heroically created the brilliant and famous project at Santa Cruz, is there anything else that could help explain why you turned so completely against him, i.e. something perhaps personal that might further explain or justify your administrative overthrow of his position? From my perspective, given my more sympathetic affiliation with Alan, he clearly saw all this as a betrayal, and his subsequent expulsion from the UCSC Garden Project he worked so hard to create deeply wounded his spirit, compromised his health, and potentially contributed to his premature death. In this context I and many others continue to find your actions difficult to understand or defend.
Obviously I still harbor certain harsh judgments underneath these questions and the subtext of your allegiance to Elizabeth Penaat and Kenneth Thimann over Alan Chadwick. That was a contentious time, when two conflicting approaches to life reached a crisis point with your role at that critical juncture being particularly significant. I certainly respect your right to defend it with whatever pertinent facts or refutations you can call forth that might shed further light on your actions. That would be a valuable service to the historical record.
If you are inclined to respond, I will publish your responses exactly as submitted. Although my sympathies clearly lie with Alan Chadwick, I nevertheless recognize there are two sides to every story. I believe it is only fair to extend the opportunity to explain your position, your role and your unique perspective in this important turning point of Alan Chadwick’s history. Thank you for any assistance you can provide in clarifying these matters.
— Contributed by Greg Haynes, May, 2014