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Reagan Library Strains Link Between Stanford and Hoover Institution

March 08, 1987|WILLIAM TROMBLEY | Times Staff Writer

STANFORD — The dispute over locating the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library at Stanford University has further strained an already tense relationship between Stanford and the Hoover Institution, the semi-independent on-campus library and think tank.

Established in 1919 by former President Herbert Hoover, who graduated from Stanford in 1895 and later served for 50 years on the university's Board of Trustees, the institution is housed in a cluster of buildings in the center of the Stanford campus. It provides Stanford with its most familiar landmark--the 285-foot Hoover Tower--and for the last quarter of a century, it also has provided a continual source of political wrangling.

Faculty critics say the Reagan Library, when added to the Hoover Institution, will compromise Stanford's independence by tying the university to right-wing Republicanism.

"A university has to defend itself from the charge of being partisan," David B. Abernethy, professor of political science, said in a recent interview. "If we are seen to be not only part of a political party but part of a particular wing of that party, then we have a problem on top of a problem and our integrity may well be questioned."

But W. Glenn Campbell, an outspoken conservative who has been Hoover's director since 1960, contended in a recent interview that "ideologically" the Hoover scholars are "much better balanced than some Stanford departments."

Campbell also charged that much of the criticism of Hoover scholarship, and of the efforts of key Hoover people to bring the Reagan Library to Stanford, amounts to an attack on free inquiry.

The roots of this dispute can be traced to 1959, when the Stanford Board of Trustees defined Hoover--its full name is the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace--as "an independent institution within the frame" of the university.

This ambiguous language has meant, in practice, that Hoover is largely free to go its own way without much interference from the Stanford administration, faculty or trustees. Its scholars, who hold the title of either Senior Fellow or Senior Research Fellow, write books and articles and participate in public debates ranging from arms control to welfare policy. Hoover has no students and offers no degrees.

Stanford provided 27% of Hoover's $12.7-million budget last year.

Many of those appointed as Fellows have been conservative on domestic issues and fervently anti-communist in international affairs. Some hold joint appointments to Stanford academic departments, but most do not and have tended to be isolated from the rest of the university's faculty.

Before the 1959 agreement, Hoover was a quiet library and archive known largely for its excellent collection of Slavic books and related holdings and for good research materials about Africa, China, Japan, the Middle East and Germany.

Among the most important materials are Russian secret police files from 1895 to 1917, known as the Okhrana archives, and the diaries of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

Ronald Reagan's gubernatorial papers are also there, as are tapes of eight seldom-seen episodes of Reagan's old TV show, "Death Valley Days."

Although the Hoover collections provided the research base for hundreds of books and thousands of articles, by the 1950s the institution was not fulfilling Herbert Hoover's hopes. It was also losing money.

In 1960, Campbell, a 35-year-old Harvard-trained economist and President Hoover's personal choice, took over as director. He quickly erased the deficit and began to build toward the institution's present $100-million-plus endowment.

Fund-Raising Methods

Because some of the money might otherwise have been given to Stanford, university administrators over the years have been less than enthusiastic about Campbell's fund-raising methods.

"He raises money by warning people not to give their money to those 'radicals' at Stanford," one high-ranking university official complained recently.

But Campbell denied this.

"There is almost no overlap between Hoover Institution fund raising and the rest of the university," he said. "Only a few of our big donors have Stanford connections."

In the 1970s, with the deficit eliminated and the endowment growing, Campbell decided to place more emphasis on Hoover's domestic studies program.

He also reached for greater academic respectability by hiring prominent scholars not necessarily known for their conservative views, including political scientist John Ferejohn, economist Robert E. Hall, sociologists Alex Inkeles and Seymour Martin Lipset, and management expert James G. March.

Moderating Influence

Many of these new Fellows held joint appointments in Stanford departments, bringing Hoover and the university closer together. Sources at the institution say they also acted as a moderating influence on Campbell, who tempered his acerbic attacks on the Stanford faculty and administration for a time.

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