Their fears are fueled by the recent decision by Kent State University's Dr. Timothy Chandler to turn down the provost position at Kennesaw State. He chose to stay put rather than come south after the MDJ - acting on a tip from a KSU professor - reported that Chandler had co-written an article on university governance reform for an academic journal that was underpinned by a passionate Marxist worldview and which described America as "the most violent nation-state in history." The paper was pocked from start to end with contempt for individualism, capitalism, science and the university system.
When contacted by the MDJ, Chandler admitted that yes, he had written the paper "through a Marxist lens," but said he is not a Marxist. He also said his academic specialty is as a "sport historian," as opposed to a "sports historian." Chandler seems to excel at splitting hairs.
KSU President Dr. Dan Papp was caught off guard by the news about Chandler and left it up to Chandler whether to take the job - and from there foreword essentially damned him with faint praise.
Chandler did not help his case by failing to publicly explain or defend his earlier remarks, or give any indication why the "Marxist lens" was the one he chose to look through. And funny us - we always thought that part of the academic process was the requirement to defend one's thesis.
The KSU Faculty Senate last week tabled a resolution endorsing Chandler's hiring, which the provost-in-waiting probably saw as unmistakable evidence that support for him was fast waning.
Professors and students have the right and the freedom to research and write about whatever they wish. But it flies in the face of common sense to think that the public writings of a candidate for a top collegiate managerial post are somehow off-limits because they were written in an academic setting. Especially when the writings in question are about university governance - which is exactly what Chandler would be doing as provost. Had he expressed the same sentiments in a speech, rather than on paper, they certainly would have been fodder for public comment. And his writings were not in his diary, but published in an academic journal. For he and his defenders to now claim that academic freedom is under attack is both na ve and ridiculous.
Some of those defending Chandler note that he only directly quoted Karl Marx once or twice in his 25,000-word paper. There's nothing wrong with being a student of Marx or with quoting Marx as many times as you want in the context of such a paper. The problem - at least in terms of one's fitness for a high-visibility managerial position just about anywhere in this country, academic or otherwise - comes when, like Chandler, your viewpoint (as expressed in the paper) and Marx's are virtually interchangeable.
Some of Chandler's defenders also accused his critics of fearing that he was going to start a communist revolution here or indoctrinate students. One of those at the Faculty Senate meeting was even overhead wondering if the MDJ knew the Berlin Wall had fallen.
The fact is that the Berlin Wall fell because East Germans were tired of the spiritual and material impoverishment of their Communist/Marxist system. They wanted prosperity and they wanted it right then - and they launched a bloodless revolution in order to give capitalism a try.
No one we know was afraid of Chandler or of Marx's discredited theories. Rather, they feared that his presence would be a continuing source of problems for KSU. That school relies heavily, after all, on donations from local businesspeople - a class that Chandler apparently despises, based on his writings - and on funding from the state Legislature. A Provost Chandler - a high-profile, unapologetic advocate of a failed political and economic worldview that many in this community find deeply offensive - would have been a proverbial albatross around the neck of both KSU and Papp. Chandler was well qualified for the KSU job, but it's hard to think of an academic less well suited for it.
Chandler's defenders cry "academic freedom," but words sometimes have consequences even in an ivory tower setting, just like they do in the "real" world.