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Arvin, Newton (1900-1963)  
 
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Arvin also began collecting soft-core pornography, including magazines such as Trim and Grecian Guild Pictorial, which he would sometimes share with younger colleagues. As a result of his purchases of magazines that featured nude or semi-nude young men, Arvin came to the attention of postal authorities, who were in the midst of an antipornography campaign.

On September 2, 1960, three Massachusetts state troopers, accompanied by a postal inspector and a local policeman, knocked on the door of Arvin's apartment. He admitted them and gave them permission to search his premises. The police seized "obscene pictures" and twenty diaries in which Arvin had recorded the details of his sex life, as well as letters from Capote and others.

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Most puzzlingly, Arvin freely gave the police the names of friends to whom he had shown the pictures.

Arvin was charged with a felony count of possessing obscene material and also with being "a lewd and lascivious person in speech and behavior." In the days following, the police raided the homes and apartments of others, ultimately charging five other people--including two of Arvin's younger colleagues at Smith--with crimes stemming from the investigation.

The news of Arvin's arrest set off a panic among homosexuals in the Northeast. Many individuals destroyed their collections of pornography, as well as other images that might conceivably be considered pornographic.

One of Smith's most illustrious faculty members, architectural historian Henry Russell Hitchcock, was known to have a collection of magazines such as Tomorrow's Man and Strength and Health and letters from other homosexuals, including the composer Virgil Thomson, recounting their sexual exploits. Hitchcock was in Europe at the time, but his house-sitter, realizing that Hitchcock might be in danger, destroyed pictures, magazines, letters, and other documents.

Young English instructor William Stacey Johnson, who had been a close friend of Arvin and had seen some of his magazines, not only destroyed his own pornography, but discreetly left town.

As it turned out, thanks largely to a District Attorney who sensibly wanted to minimize the misery that the utterly unnecessary scandal would cause, the court proceedings turned out to be less sensational than the news accounts--with their lurid headlines announcing the presence of a vice ring in staid Northampton--promised.

Through a deal made with the attorneys of the men involved, the District Attorney agreed not to ask for prison time for the defendants, who would be subjected to suspended jail terms and fines. He also agreed not to force the defendants to endure a full-scale trial in which their sexual activities would be detailed and dissected. (This last promise was at least partially broken when the most zealous policeman involved in the investigation read a signed confession from one of the defendants admitting that he had committed homosexual acts with Arvin and another defendant over the last two years.)

Arvin was sentenced to a suspended one-year jail term, fined $1,000 on the obscenity charge, fined an additional $200 for being a "lewd and lascivious" person, and placed on probation for two years.

Arvin's two young colleagues who were caught up in the affair, Greek scholar Edward "Ned" Spofford and Shakespearean Joel Dorius, were given similar sentences, but, unlike Arvin, they reserved the right to appeal their convictions on constitutional grounds.

Spofford had been one of Arvin's closest friends. He had gently rebuffed the older man's sexual advances, but they had become confidantes. At first he assumed that his home had been raided and he had been arrested as a result of material that the police had discovered in their raid of Arvin's apartment. Only gradually did it dawn on him that Arvin had freely offered up his and Dorius's names.

The question of why Arvin would "name names" is one that continues to haunt those interested in the Smith College scandal. Arvin had followed closely the McCarthyite investigations in which former members of the Communist Party were dragged before congressional committees and pressured to reveal who else had been members of left-wing organizations, so he was not naive. He very well knew both the ethical issues involved in "naming names" and the opprobrium with which members of the Left regarded those who betrayed their friends and colleagues.

The question may never be answered definitively. The only explanation Arvin himself gave was a pregnant comment he made to Spofford on the day of their trial, "I couldn't go through this alone."

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