urning aside charges that the controversy has already stirred a lastingly bitter mood on campus, Duke University's trustees gave the go-ahead today to negotiations for a Richard M. Nixon presidential library here.
The executive committee of the university's governing board voted 9 to 2 to donate a site for the library with the proviso that conditions "in consonance with the purposes of the university" must be worked out.
Faculty representatives protested in vain that presidential libraries are "inherently celebrative" and that one financed by Nixon's longtime friends and supporters would be sure to turn out that way, too.
The head of Duke's history department, Anne F. Scott, told the trustees she wasn't sure whether the proposed $25 million-plus library would enhance Nixon's reputation or harm Duke's, but, she warned, "it will inevitably bring the two closer together."
Trustees' chairman John Alexander McMahon, however, sought to play down the opposition, suggesting that it was largely confined to the faculty and not shared by Duke students, alumni or the community. He envisioned "very delicate negotiations" with representatives of the former president and officials of the National Archives and Record Service, but expressed confidence that the library will be built.
The main bone of contention--Nixon's insistence that the project also include museum or memorial space--appeared to have been effectively resolved in Nixon's favor. "I think it is quite likely that they library and museum will be together," McMahon said in a news conference following the vote. "A museum. . . can be a very useful part of the educational dimension of the facility under consideration."
As the trustees convened this morning in an elegantly paneled meeting room, a smattering of students and alumni collected outside for a quiet protest. They carried signs reading "Impeach the Nixon Library," "Enough is Enough" and "No Monuments for Crooks, Nix Nixon's Museum."
Duke President Terry Sanford, whose hurry-up advocacy of the project has touched off widespread resentment among faculty members, said after the vote that he thought the furor would die down.
He said he thinks the university will be able to obtain sufficient controls over the design of the library and its programs to make it a predominantly scholarly facility.
"I'd like to see it called 'The Archives of Richard Nixon,' " Sanford said. He said it should be "a place for proper preservation and utilization of extremely important research documents." While exhibits of Nixoniana will undoubtedly be set up, he said these could be minimized.
Sanford suggested that, in any case, the debate thus far has been a healthy one.
"An institution that can't carry on a controversy is a weak institution," he told reporters, "and Duke is not a weak institution." As for his own role, he said: "It's not the first time I've been criticized and it won't be the last time. I don't claim that I'm infallible. I've made a lot of mistakes, but by and large I think we've done pretty well here."
During the executive committee meeting, university counsel Eugene J. McDonald said that Nixon's representatives have made clear that some museum space was essential.
"We have been told that that is not a negotiable item," McDonald said. Sanford added that "what was negotiable was what kind of a museum."
The faculty's Academic Council voted 35 to 34 Thursday to urge the trustees to break off negotiations, but faculty representatives on both sides of that vote told the trustees today that they were united in their opposition to a combination library-museum.
English professor Carl Anderson, who sponsored an unsuccessful faculty resolution calling for continued negotiations, said, "The issue has been extremely divisive. I warn you not to discount that anger as a temporary thing. It is deep and it will not die."
The chairman of the Academic Council, economics professor E. Roy Weintraub, said he thought the pattern followed for former president Gerald R. Ford--with a library in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a museum in Grand Rapids--would be the only one the Duke faculty would support for Nixon. Anderson put it more emphatically, saying: "I don't want a memorial to one of the country's greatest rogues."
Deploring some of the facets of other presidential libraries, Scott noted that at the Truman library in Independence, Mo., the public exhibits failed to say anything about President Truman's use of the atomic bomb. At the LBJ Library in Austin, Tex., she added, "the Vietnam materials are tucked away in the attic."
"So it isn't the papers and photographs and artifacts, it's the one-sided presentation," McDonald suggested.
"That's part of it," Scott replied.
Counsel McDonald estimated that it would take perhaps three years to conclude all negotiations with Nixon, a 1937 Duke Law School graduate, and two more years for the library to be built.
The dissenting votes on the executive committee came from Granite Falls banker John A. Forlines Jr. and Isobel Craven Lewis of Lexington, a direct descendant of J. Braxton Craven, the first president (1842-1888) of Duke's Trinity College.
"I've got a gut feeling that the best interests of Duke, both long-term and short-term, would be to go back to Mr. Nixon and say, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' " Forlines told his colleagues. "It's unbelievable to me that the friends of Mr. Nixon will raise $25 million and not want to honor the man, memorialize the man and, in fact, rehabilitate him."
The majority, however, was evidently inclined to agree with trustee Nancy Hanks, whom Nixon appointed head of The National Endowment for the Arts, who said she saw no reason for Nixon's papers to remain tucked away in an obscure warehouse. She said it reminded her of the conclusion of the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"If I were President Nixon," she said, "I would be more worried about de-rehabilitation . . . . We don't know what's in those papers."