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Jul 5, 2007 12:43 pm

Tenure Shrugged

David Glenn,"Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity with the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Him His Job," CHE, 5 July. When the classical historian John D. Lewis hired a lawyer in response to indications that he would be denied tenure at Ashland University because of his commitment to Ayn Rand's Objectivism, they reached an agreement in which he would be awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor if and only if he submitted his resignation.

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Robert L. Campbell - 7/14/2007

There was a regime change at Ashland one year ago, when Frederick Finks became the new president. Finks wanted to crack down on anything faintly resembling irreligion at Ashland, so having a Randian among the tenured faculty was unacceptable. It didn't bother President Finks that Ashland had accepted grants from the Anthem Foundation to support Lewis's research on Objectivism. It also didn't look good when Finks lied about the grants to the Chronicle reporter.

From what has emerged so far, it's pretty clear that the Ashland administration was playing dirty on this one.

However, many in Rand-land think that Dr. Lewis was hoist with his own petard. Lewis is affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute, an organization that has no use for academic freedom whatsoever. ARI enforces a rigid Randian orthodoxy and has a history of expelling scholars for speaking in front of unapproved organizations or making purportedly heretical interpretations of small points of doctrine. Even with the ban on atheists that President Finks has now lowered into place, Ashland offers a much wider range of points of view than either ARI or the Anthem Foundation.

More on all of this at Liberty and Power...

Robert Campbell

Jim Williams - 7/9/2007

I reviewed Lewis's book on the political thought inherent in Solon's poetry. I noted as I read it that he was a disciple of Rand. That roused my skepticism, but his book's thesis appears valid. Unfortunately, he kept the monograph so tightly focused that he severely limited its usefulness to students of Greek history.

On the one hand, I believe his scholarship merited tenure. On the other hand, he was teaching at an overtly Christian institution. That institution has a right to hire and retain only faculty who will support the institution's spiritual mission. If Ashland made its values and expectations explicit verbally or in writing (as many Christian colleges do)when Lewis took the job there, he made a choice to accept the job offer and not conform. If they did not, then they are at fault.