Nearly 200 George Mason University students yesterday protested the firing of Edmund F. (Fred) Millar, 35, a sociology professor who contends he is being dismissed because he is a Marxist.
Yesterday's confirmation of Millar's firing by the University's acting president, Dr. Robert C. Krug, heightened a controversy on this normally complacent campus in Fairfax County.
While 200 students is not exactly a massive turnout for the 8,700-student University, many observers agree with 29-year-old graduate student John Southard that "for this college that (number) is impressive."
The students rallying to Millar's support in the courtyard of the university's administration building spoke about alleged violations of academic freedom and called for an open public hearing at which the administration should explain its decision.
"I'm tired of getting only one viewpoint, a narrow, conservative viewpoint, on this campus," said Wes Lee, a 21-year-old English major.
Millar was notified that he would be given a nonrenewable contract for the next school year, in effect, terminating his employmnet at Mason in June, 1978. The reasons given for the decision were the he "does not reach even minimal standards (of teaching established by our profession" and that he "has made only minimal efforts in research activity."
Millar, a professed Marxist, says his firing is "political" and that he is being let go because of his Marxist views and activism on campus.
Since joining the sociology department in the fall of 1972 Millar has established a reputation for unorthodox teaching methods and for energetic contributions to a great number of campus and community activities.
A 1975 peer evaluation within the sociology department cited Millar for his work on the Admissions Advisory Committee, the Minority Relations Council and the sociology department's ad hoc organizational review.
While on this last-mentioned committee, Millar said he helped push through procedural reforms on contract renewals within the sociology department that allowed all professors in the department, including nontenured ones, to vote on contract renewals.
"From that point on, I knew I was in trouble for my attempts to democratize the department and also for my Marxist scholarship," Millar said yesterday.
His department evaluation in 1975 described Millar as "an enthusiastic teacher, skillful writer and powerful communicator." The report concluded that "Dr. Millar's strength is his teaching, his intellectual honesty and his willingness to give time and energy both to other classes and to committee service. While some questioned whether his scholarship was affected by his biases, the department expressed itself positively that an articulate Marxist perspective is an asset."
Last spring the sociology department reversed its position on voting procedure on contract renewals and eliminated the participation of junior or nontenure professors.
Last February the three tenured senior professors in the department recommended that Millar not be given a renewable contract. The professors cited content overlap in his courses and student complaints about Millar's handling of class assignments and grading.
"Excessive classroom time is used on matters which are not sociological or related to the discipline in any clear fashion," their recommendation explained."
The acting chairman of the department, Dr. Anthony A. Hickey, approved the recommendation, noting that was "consistent with the opinions of the majority of the assistant professors." Assistant professors do not have tenure.
There is one other professed Marxist on the Mason campus. He is Patrick L. Story, an assistant professor of English, who said he has had no problems since he came to the university last September.
A university spokesman said Millar is one of four staff members in the College of Arts and Sciences who will be given nonrenewable contracts next year.