"I have decided it is in the best interest of Kennesaw State University for me to withdraw at this time," Chandler said in a press release issued by KSU on Thursday afternoon. "I feel strongly about the commitment that I made to elevating Kennesaw State University's academic stature. However, I have now come to believe that the recent distractions caused by external forces would interfere with my effectiveness as provost."
The release said Chandler would remain in his position as senior associate provost at Kent State University in Ohio.
Chandler's problems began when a story about his controversial writings broke in the Tribune's sister paper, The Marietta Daily Journal's March 5 Around Town column. The article resulted from a Kennesaw State faculty member contacting the Journal to complain.
Chandler published a 1998 research paper that includes scathing remarks about capitalism, competition, the military and "Western" science, describing the U.S. as "the most violent nation-state in history." It is co-authored with fellow Kent State professor Walter E. Davis, Ph.D., who has asserted in another paper that George W. Bush was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Contacted about the matter on March 4, KSU President Dan Papp told the Journal he was "blindsided," but stopped short of saying Chandler should continue to come to Kennesaw State.
Papp also said Chandler's paper "is not well written" while calling Davis's 9/11 paper "a piece of trash."
Asked if Chandler could be effective as KSU's new provost in light of the writings, Papp merely said, "I hope so."
Kennesaw State's faculty had the opportunity during its Monday meeting to vote on a resolution praising Chandler and urging him to come to KSU regardless of the controversy. But the faculty senate decided not to do that.
At the Monday meeting, Papp told faculty he would "do what is best for KSU as I see it from my perspective as president," which was interpreted by many to mean he wanted Chandler to withdraw since KSU is dependent on public funding from the Legislature and business donations to its foundation.
The Journal spoke with Chandler on March 7, but he directed calls to Papp, promising to be interviewed after Papp was interviewed first. But Chandler never lived up to his promise, declining all calls since then.
Papp has also been much more hesitant to speak. Asked if he would answer any questions about his Thursday press release, Papp said, "Nope."
On Feb. 25, Papp announced that Chandler, 59, a native of the U.K., would become the university's new provost and vice president of academic affairs, effective July 11. Chandler, who would earn $228,000, would replace, Dr. Lendley Black, who earned $189,500, and who left last year to become chancellor of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A search committee to replace Black that was chaired by Dr. Arlinda Eaton, dean of KSU's Bagwell College of Education, who chose Chandler over more than 100 other qualified candidates.
In the KSU press release, Chandler said, "I appreciate the opportunity that the Kennesaw State University appointment presented, and am truly grateful for the support given to me by colleagues at Kennesaw State University, Kent State University, and the American Association of University Professors."
Papp said in the same press release that Chandler's decision to remain at Kent State was strictly his own and is not related to any viewpoints he has expressed in previous academic work.
"Dr. Chandler is a highly respected academic and we understand his decision," Papp said. "The Kennesaw State University community wishes Dr. Chandler all the best in his future endeavors."
Papp said Interim Provost Dr. W. Ken Harmon will continue in the post. Papp earlier told the Journal that if Chandler were to decline the position, the search for a new provost would have to start all over again. He said the No. 2 and 3 candidates were off the table.
Kurt Schulzke, a KSU associate professor of Accounting & Business Law, said he was disappointed that Chandler elected not to come.
"I think it would have been to the university's advantage if everybody in the community had taken a more contemplative approach, and it would also have been nice if people here at Kennesaw who were upset by the appointment, if they had worked through the normal governance process here to have their issues addressed internally instead of creating a public uproar over it," he said.
Schulzke said he wished the faculty senate had taken a vote to endorse Chandler at its Monday meeting when it had the opportunity.
"I think it would have been a good thing," he said.
Schulzke said while he doesn't agree with some of the conclusions Chandler came to in the paper, that was no reason to disqualify him from the job of provost. If a left leaning article disqualifies a candidate, then a right leaning article could also be used to disqualify a candidate, he said.
"What are we trying to achieve here? Is this a university or a political organization," he said.
Kent State Provost Dr. Robert G. Frank, in a press release, said since Chandler was selected as KSU's provost, "there has been a sensationalized misrepresentation by local media in Georgia of one of Dr. Chandler's publications he co-authored in 1998. Dr. Chandler has been subjected to personal and very public attacks against his character and reputation. These undeserved attacks are baseless and unfounded. This unfortunate circumstance illustrates the importance of academic freedom and freedom of speech, beliefs we all hold dear and should rigorously protect. As an institution of higher learning, we challenge our students and others to examine different aspects of our world, to think critically and to expand our intellectual horizons."
But a Kennesaw State professor, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, wondered what Frank was talking about.
"There have been no personal attacks - the debate has rather focused on his public, professional writings and how they reflect on his ability to lead a university. The only personal thing I've heard about Chandler is that Papp says he's a nice guy. Hardly a scathing attack!" the professor said.
The professor went on to say that "The MDJ and its concerned readership have rescued KSU from a grievous mistake and deserve the thanks of the KSU community and the taxpayers of Georgia. Dr. Papp now has a second chance to make a good decision for this critical hire. I sincerely hope he appoints a completely different search committee. KSU deserves a provost with a vision for our continued growth as well as the means to lead us forward."