Some WCU faculty members have shrugged off the power of Ayn Rand on their campus, according to “The Battle for Academic Integrity,” the cover story for this week’s Smoky Mountain News. The piece explores the $1-million donation from BB&T to the university’s College of Business and how faculty action brought about changes in the corporate demands on the money’s use. (See related story from the Dec. 23 Xpress, “Capitalism on Campus.”)
When word of stipulations in a March 2008 agreement between BB&T and WCU trickled out to faculty in April, they began to be questioned, and according to SMN, philosophy professor Darryl Hale became an unofficial spokesperson for faculty members who feared that academic freedom was being compromised as the corporation dictated aspects of curriculum and teaching practice to the school that included studying the writings and tenets of the late, controversial philosopher Ayn Rand, which was to be held “in a positive light.”
“It is clear that [the distinguised professor to be funded] will have little academic freedom to analyze critically Rand,” wrote Hale in an e-mail to the chancellor, provost and deans. His line of thinking was backed up by Leroy Kauffman (former dean of the College of Business), who told SMN, “An outside influence that would require a certain book to be read would probably be detrimental to what we’re about as an educational institution.”
The faculty’s objections, as also noted in the Xpress article on this matter, led Chancellor John Bardo to appoint a faculty task force and resulted in modifications to the agreement, eliminating the requirement of using Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged and other stipulations that seemed to compromise faculty control of curriculum. “I think the way they worked it protects the interest of the donor and the integrity of the academic institution,” Kauffman was quoted as saying. According to SMN, there had never been such a faculty debate at WCU over private donations and curriculum, and a policy was developed to provide for faculty peer review in the future.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor