Stanford University's decision to consider establishing a Ronald Reagan presidential library on campus has provoked an outcry from Reagan critics on the faculty, foreshadowing what is expected to be a bitter debate this fall over conservative political ties to the university.
"I can't imagine when the students and faculty get back they are going to like this at all," said John F. Manley, a political science professor who has called for a delay in a planned ad hoc faculty committee report on the proposed library.
The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, the semi-autonomous conservative think-tank on the Stanford campus, already holds the papers from Reagan's two terms as governor of California and from his campaigns for the presidency.
A university spokesman said White House officials have been holding informal discussions "for some time" with Hoover institution director Glenn Campbell over the possibility of locating the Reagan library at Stanford after he leaves office.
"An investigation of possible sites already has begun," said spokesman Harry Press, "but no decision has been reached."
University administrators generally welcome the prospect of a presidential library on campus, for such projects often draw more scholars, students, space, money and prestige to the university.
Efforts to locate a site for the Richard M. Nixon presidential library, now slated for a non-university setting in San Clemente, stumbled recently because faculty members at some campuses said the library would be used to improve Nixon's place in history and promote his political views.
This spring Manley helped collect 84 faculty signatures on a petition calling for an investigation of relations between Stanford and the Hoover institution, particularly the lack of university control over appointment of Hoover research fellows and the alleged use of Stanford's name by Hoover scholars--many with ties to the Reagan administration--to promote partisan causes.
More than 130 faculty members signed a counterpetition defending the institution, and scholars have complimented it for its impartial and professional handling of the Reagan papers it holds. The faculty senate adopted a compromise resolution asking the university to "reassess" its relations with the Hoover institution.
University President Donald Kennedy last week announced the appointment of a faculty ad hoc committee to "give me some consultation on the kinds of academic benefits that might accrue to Stanford through the possession of papers and presence of the Reagan library on campus."
The committee also is investigating the impact of a proposed Ronald Reagan center for public affairs, which Campbell said would "bring together scholars and academicians, journalists, legislators, government policy makers, and business men and women to discuss, debate and analyze issues of domestic and foreign affairs critical to our nation's past, present and future."
Manley, in a statement joined by English Prof. Ronald A. Rebholz, objected to the Oct. 1 deadline for the ad hoc committee report. The professors said many faculty members and most students would be away until late September, making the report a fait accompli.
It would be a "grave mistake," the two professors said, "to appear to rush this proposal through before those who have legitimate questions and concerns about the deepening ties between Stanford, Hoover and the Reagan administration have a fair opportunity to be heard."
The federal government would pay maintenance and operating costs of the presidential library, which would be built through private fund-raising. "Stanford's direct costs would consist of the value of the land lease plus administrative expenses," Kennedy said.