The American Association of University Professors has urged Maryland Acting Gov. Blair Lee III to stop interfering in the nomination of a marxist-socialist scholar to chair the government and politics department at the University of Maryland.
Lee said Wednesday that the appointment of New York University professor Bertell Ollman to head the department would "kick up quite a backlash." He added: "For a public institution . . . it's a question of whether it's wise to make such an appointment."
In a letter to Lee yesterday, AAUP associate general secretary Jordan Kurland said that academic qualifications, not personal ideology, should serve as the basis for the appointment.
"Equally fundamental," Kurland said, "is the principle that those who hold public political office should not offer judgments on the merits of specific academic appointments but should leave those judgments to the responsible academic offices and peers."
Ollman's nomination has been approved by university Provost Murray Polakoff and Chancellor Robert Gluckstern and awaits final action from President Wilson H. Elkins. Lee has no statutory authority to intervene in the hiring process.
Kurland, in an interview yesterday, said he was "particularly disappointed" by Lee's statement that Ollman's nomination is a "problem" because Maryland, unlike Harvard, is a state university.
"That shows very little understanding of the nature of a public university," Kurland said. "It's axiomatic that academic freedom at a public university is as important as a private one."
Ollman has been termed a Marxist in several newspaper accounts. He decribed himself as a socialist who "favors Marxist approaches to the study of politics." He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Wisconsin who holds a doctorate from Oxford University.