Duke University's faculty council decided by one vote today to recommend rejection of a proposed Richard M. Nixon presidential library.
The university's Academic Council voted, 35 to 34, to urge Duke trustees "not to proceed" with plans to build a $25-million-plus home for Nixon's records, primarily because of fears that it would include a museum enshrining his works.
The issue will be taken up by the trustees' nine-member executive committee, which is expected to vote Friday morning.
University President Terry Sanford, who initiated the project in a discussion with Nixon earlier this year, insisted in an appearance before the council that the library would be "primarily a research facility." He said Nixon's lawyers had agreed that Duke could pick the architect and supervise construction.
But outspoken faculty members, upset by what they regarded as Sanford's one-sided representations and efforts to win hurried approval, warned that Nixon's representatives also had refused to drop from the project any aspects that could lead to its being viewed as a memorial to Nixon.
"The more you know about this latest Nixon caper, the worse it gets," said James David Barber, Duke's most prominent political science professor and author of "The Presidential Character."
"You don't have to hate Nixon to worry about linking up with him and his friends in a long and deep relationship involving legal contracts, financial arrangements, questions of the integrity of an archive and the production of 'The Nixon Story' in film and seminar and speakers' series," Barber declared.
"Nixon has a record. If you think he's changed, think again," Barber said.
"I don't see how anyone can see this as a monument to glorify him," Sanford said after the vote. "Nixon is resigned to that view himself."
Sanford assured the council and other faculty members gathered in a crowded lecture room that Duke would have no part in raising construction funds or in seeking congressional approval to move Nixon's records here.
Most of the money for the project, Sanford said, would have to come from Nixon's major wealthy supporters. The university would donate the land, but Sanford said the site would be "on the outer fringes, out on the highway system, not running through the campus."
Sanford claimed that Duke alumni were "overwhelmingly in favor" of the library for Nixon, a 1937 alumnus of the Duke law school, but several professors said they had a different impression. One said that two former alumni association presidents had told him they were "shocked at the thought of a memorial for Mr. Nixon on this campus."
History professor R. L. Watson Jr. voiced indignation at charges of "anti-intellectualism" hurled at some of the library's opponents.
"We should have the right to draw the line about who we honor on this campus without being accused of anti-intellectualism," he said. Nixon, he emphasized, was "the only president forced to resign to avoid being impeached" for dishonoring his office.
Most faculty members appeared to agree that the Nixon papers would be a welcome resource, but they appeared unwilling to trust the university leaders to conclude the project satisfactorily without "eternal vigilance" by the faculty.
The only competing resolution offered today called for a nonbinding "continuation of negotiations" on the library with the proviso that any final agreement be endorsed by a majority of the Academic Council. That was rejected, 36 to 34.
Critics of that approach had contended it would amount to endorsement of the present scheme to include some "memorial" space, perhaps akin to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, which draws far more tourists than scholars in Austin, Tex.
The most resounding faculty endorsement for the library proposal came from English professor George Williams, who cheerfully described himself as "a member of the immoral minority." He said he was persuaded of the value of the Nixon collection.
"It records a period unique, one must hope, in its corruption," he argued, and it undoubtedly "contains horrors and abominations yet unknown . . . . It is not helpful to say the collection is valuable but should be housed somewhere else. Whether we like it or not, this place is Mr. Nixon's as well as ours."